The US soldier has detained in North Korea after he unauthorizedly crossed the Military Demarcation Line, has been identified according to a report by CBS News. The individual, who was on a tour of the joint security area between North and South Korea, is now believed to be in North Korean custody. The US State Department, when contacted, reiterated its travel advisory against Americans visiting North Korea due to the high risk of arrest and long-term detention, as the US lacks diplomatic or consular relations with the North.
According to CBS:
U.S. officials told CBS News the soldier in question was Private 2nd Class Travis King, who had been released from military detention in South Korea and was being escorted out of the country for disciplinary reasons. After going through airport security to leave, he somehow returned and managed to join a border tour group before crossing into North Korea, the officials said.
Local media said the man, who was visiting the Military Demarcation Line at Panmunjom with a civilian tour group, crossed the border at 3:27 p.m. local time (2:27 a.m. Eastern).
A person who said they witnessed the event and was part of the same tour group told CBS News they had just visited one of the buildings at the site when “this man gives out a loud ‘ha ha ha,’ and just runs in between some buildings.”
The witness said military personnel reacted within seconds to the man’s actions, but at first, there was confusion. “I thought it was a bad joke at first, but when he didn’t come back, I realized it wasn’t a joke, and then everybody reacted and things got crazy.”
The U.N. Command released a statement saying:
“A U.S. National on a JSA orientation tour crossed, without authorization, the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our Korean People’s Army counterparts to resolve this incident.”
The US State Department, when contacted, reiterated its travel advisory against Americans visiting North Korea due to the high risk of arrest and long-term detention, as the US lacks diplomatic or consular relations with the North. The Demilitarized Zone, overseen jointly by the UN Command and North Korea, is the site of the Korean border village of Panmunjom, established following the Korean War. Instances of Americans or South Koreans defecting to North Korea are rare. However, over 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea to escape political repression and economic hardship since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
This is a developing story.