An American soldier who was facing disciplinary action over an assault charge has been detained in North Korea after crossing the border into the country.
Private 2nd Class Travis King, 23, was released from a South Korean prison on July 10 after serving his time for the assault charge. He was then being sent back to the United States, but instead of getting on the plane, he joined a tour of the Korean border village of Panmunjom and ran across the border into North Korea.
The United States military has confirmed that King is in North Korean custody, and is working with the North Korean government to secure his release.
King’s mother, Claudine Gates, told ABC News that she was “shocked” by her son’s actions. “I can’t see Travis doing anything like that,” Gates said. “I heard from him several days ago and he told me that he’d be returning to his base in Fort Bliss.”
It is unclear why King crossed into North Korea. Some experts believe that he may have been trying to defect to the country, while others believe that he may have been attempting to commit suicide.
North Korea has a long history of detaining foreigners, often on trumped-up charges. In some cases, detainees have been subjected to torture or other forms of abuse.
The United States government has urged North Korea to release King immediately and unharmed.
“We are deeply concerned about the welfare of our service member,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. “We are working with the government of South Korea and other partners to resolve this situation as quickly as possible.”
King’s detention is a further escalation of tensions between the United States and North Korea. The two countries have been engaged in a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and there have been fears of a military conflict.
The detention of King is a reminder of the risks that American citizens face when traveling to North Korea. The country is one of the most repressive in the world, and foreigners who are detained there are often subjected to harsh treatment.
— New York Post (@nypost) July 19, 2023