He and three other American soldiers disappeared in 1965 while patrolling along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing North and South Korea.
The pair had two North Korean-born daughters and Jenkins was reunited with them in Indonesia in July 2004. Jenkins, who married a Japanese abductee and lived in Japan after their release in the 2000s, has died.
Jenkins was found collapsed outside his home in Sado, northern Japan, on Monday and rushed to a hospital and later pronounced dead, a group representing families of Japanese abductees to North Koreas said Tuesday. "I never had drunk so much alcohol", he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
After he was dishonourably discharged and served a 30-day sentence for desertion, Jenkins moved with his family to Sado, Soga's rural hometown, late in 2004.
"I know I was not thinking clearly at the time and a lot of my decisions don't make sense now, but at the time they had a logic to them that made my actions seem nearly inevitable", Mr Jenkins wrote in his 2008 memoirs, "The Reluctant Communist: My desertion, court-martial and 40-year imprisonment in North Korea".
North Carolina-native Jenkins was court-martialled by USA officials in 2004 and was sentenced to 30 days in prison.
Instead, he spent 39 years in Pyongyang, where he taught English to spy cadets in his North Carolina drawl and played a Yankee villain in propaganda films. Jenkins and their daughters followed in 2004. "I wasn't letting her go", he told CBS.
"You don't say no to North Korea". Mr Jenkins said that as foreign prisoners, they were treated better than ordinary North Koreans and given rations, even during the starvation that swept North Korea in the 1990s. He then returned to Japan to be with his wife, eventually finding work at a tourist attraction in Sado.
Soga was abducted to North Korea in 1978 and repatriated in 2002 along with four other Japanese citizens after then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il met with then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Pyongyang and apologized for the abductions of Japanese citizens.
"In North Korea, I lived a dog's life".
In November 2004, a US court-martial found Jenkins guilty of desertion and sentenced him to 30 days in prison.