Pvt. Travis King, the U.S. soldier who dashed across the border from South Korea and disappeared on July 18, is in U.S. custody, the Associated Press reported, citing U.S. officials.
North Korea said it had finished interrogating the 23-year-old soldier and planned to expel him earlier on Wednesday, according to a translation of state-run media KCNA. King was transferred into custody in China, one U.S. official told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcement.
U.S. officials said King crossed the border through the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea into the communist country “willfully and without authorization” when he was slated to be flying back to the U.S. to face disciplinary action.
“The investigation into Travis King, a soldier of the U.S. Army who was detained after illegally intruding into the territory of the DPRK in the joint security area of Panmunjom on July 18, has been finished,” KCNA reported.
“According to the investigation by a relevant organ of the DPRK, Travis King confessed that he illegally intruded into the territory of the DPRK as he harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. army and was disillusioned about the unequal U.S. society,” the report continued.
North Korea “decided to expel Travis King, a soldier of the U.S. Army who illegally intruded into the territory of the DPRK, under the law of the Republic,” the statement concluded.
KCNA reported similar statements about King’s ill feelings about discrimination in his home country, adding that King “expressed his willingness to seek refugee in the DPRK or a third country.” That was the first time North Korea publicly acknowledged harboring King.
While serving in the Army’s rotational force in South Korea prior to his disappearance, King had sent messages to family members indicating struggles with racism. King’s mother rejected suggestions that he crossed the border intentionally.
King was released from a South Korean jail on July 10 after spending 48 days in a local detention facility for an October incident where he resisted law enforcement, damaged public property and shouted vulgarities about South Korea and the Korean military, according to NBC News and other media reports, citing government officials and legal documents.
U.S. officials said he was slated to fly home to Fort Bliss for administrative separation when he exited the Seoul airports and joined a tour of the Joint Security Area dividing the two countries. From there, he dashed across the border where witnesses saw him swept into a North Korean guard vehicle.
DOD did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
Micaela Burrow on September 27, 2023