In a strange turn of events, North Korea released a U.S. soldier to American officials in China two months after he ran across the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea in an attempt to escape custody in America.
King was set to be transferred to Fort Bliss and reportedly faced a dishonorable discharge for an assault charge when he ran over the DMZ into North Korea. He was released after spending nearly two months in a North Korean detention center.
ABC News reported that on Sept. 4, 2022, King missed daily formation and without authorization, traveled to Uijeongbu, a city approximately 25 miles from the camp.
In July of 2023, wearing civilian clothes, King, laughed as he ran across the demarcation line separating North and South Korea. The Private 2nd Class attempted to take refuge in the nearby village of Panmunjom, but was quickly taken into custody.
North Korea took more than a week to confirm that King was in custody and alleged that he fled to the country because he was “disillusioned at the unequal American society.”
U.S. officials reported that King had made a “deliberate decision” to enter North Korea.
The New York Post reported the “Wisconsin native was transferred to China after North Korean officials determined King was not a spy and the best course of action was to “expel” the soldier.
According to the Yonhap News Agency, North Korean officials released the following statement: “The relevant organ of the DPRK 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 unusual dash to North Korea caught the attention of officials in the White House, forcing comments from the secretary of state and the Pentagon.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken referenced King during the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado: “We are very concerned, of course, about his well-being. We’d like to know his whereabouts,” Blinken told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “We’ve communicated to North Korea, seeking that information. I don’t have anything more at this point.”
The Pentagon declined to grant the soldier “prisoner of war status,” but stated it was communicating with North Korean officials to ensure King was “treated humanely in accordance with international law.”
CBS News reported that King claimed he was mistreated and discriminated against by U.S. Army Officers.
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