Wed. Jun 19th, 2024


The US soldier who illegally crossed the heavily armed border into North Korea from South Korea has returned home.

Private Travis King crossed the border into the North while on a tour of the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that separates the secretive state from the South in July.

Following his return, he was taken to a Texas army base for medical checks and interviews, the Pentagon said.

Sweden, an ally of the US, and China, a rival to the superpower, organised his return, the White House confirmed.

North Korea had said on Wednesday it would deport the serviceman.

Officials said the 23-year-old is in good health and the immediate focus will be on caring for him and reintegrating him into US society.

A US soldier who ran across the border into North Korea is now in American custody.
King returning to America

However, they added that his troubles are likely far from over.

Private King could face disciplinary proceedings such as military jail or being dishonourably discharged due to his crossing.

He had been expecting to face disciplinary action over a confrontation with local police that landed him in Korean custody for a month and a half, according to a South Korean government official.

But instead of getting on a plane at Incheon, near Seoul, to fly to Texas, Pte King apparently slipped away and joined the private tour group at the DMZ – before crossing the border without permission.

He was declared absent without leave from the army (AWOL) but not considered a deserter.

Private Travis T King, 23, who is currently being held in North Korea after crossing over the country's border
The 23-year-old was being held in North Korea after crossing over the country’s border

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The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) had questioned King and said he confessed to illegally entering the North because he harboured “ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination” within the US Army.

He was also “disillusioned about the unequal US society”, KCNA added.

King became the first American to be detained in North Korea for almost five years.

Several US soldiers stationed in South Korea have attempted to desert or defect to North Korea, but King’s expulsion came relatively quickly compared to others who spent years there before being released from the reclusive state.

In an interview last month with The Associated Press, Mr King’s mother, Claudine Gates, said her son had “so many reasons” to want to come home.

“I just can’t see him ever wanting to just stay in Korea when he has family in America. He has so many reasons to come home,” she said.

In July, King’s sister said he was “not the type to get into trouble“.

Jaqueda Gates told NBC News: “This is crazy. I was just talking to him, literally 48 hours ago (before the DMZ incident).

“My brother, he’s not the type to get into trouble like that. It all just sounds made up.”


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