In this photo taken in Seoul on August 16, 2023, a man walks past a television showing a news broadcast with a photo of US soldier Travis King (C), who ran across the border into North Korea while in from a tour group visiting the capital. Demilitarized zone on the border of South Korea on July 18.
Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images
Seoul, South Korea – Travis Kingthe private general of the US Army deliberately crossed the border go inside North Korea he will be back in U.S. custody this summer, a U.S. official said Wednesday, shortly after the isolated East Asian country said it would deport the soldier.
King, 23, fled across the heavily armed border on July 18 during a public tour of the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea.
A statement released by state news agency KCNA said King admitted he had “illegally invaded” North Korean territory because “he was disillusioned with the inhumane treatment and racial discrimination” in the military, as well as the “inequality that existed within the U.S. army’. Society,” KCNA said.
The United States has not yet officially responded to these claims.
Before crossing the border, King had not long been released from a South Korean prison and was escorted by the military to Incheon International Airport near Seoul, where he may face further disciplinary action in the US.
King had violated part of the joint security agreement and was escorted to the airport after serving his sentence, a senior administration official said.
The official told NBC News that King instead joined a commercial tour group heading to the Joint Security Area, an area administered by the United Nations between the North and South.
King’s detention comes at a time of heightened tensions between the isolated communist state, its southern neighbor and the US
Pyongyang has escalated its nuclear threats and embarked on a campaign of weapons tests, while North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently embarked on a rare trip outside the country for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Growing ties between the two regimes have fueled Western fears that Kim might be willing to provide ammunition for the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine in exchange for military technology or economic aid that would negate international sanctions.
North Korea remained silent about King for weeks until it confirmed his detention in August with a statement criticizing the US.
King’s mother, Claudine Gates, later questioning every suggestion that her son may have defected due to dissatisfaction with life in the army.
“I can’t imagine him ever wanting to just stay in Korea when he has family in America. He has so many reasons to come home,” Gates, of Racine, Wisconsin, told The Associated Press.
— Stella Kim reported from Seoul and Patrick Smith from London.
—Daniel Arkin contributed.