Travis King: North Korea says US soldier blamed discrimination


Travis King US soldiers who crossed border to North KoreaImage source, Reuters

North Korea has said US soldier Travis King crossed into its territory last month because of “inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination” in the army.

The 23-year-old private dashed across the border from South Korea on 18 July while on a guided tour.

Private King “expressed his willingness to seek refuge” in the North, the country’s state media said.

The claims, which are the North’s first public comments on the case, could not be verified independently.

US officials said earlier they believed the soldier had crossed the border intentionally.

Private King is a reconnaissance specialist who has been in the army since January 2021 and was in South Korea as part of his rotation.

Before crossing the border, he served two months in detention in South Korea for assault charges and was released on 10 July.

He was supposed to fly back to the US to face disciplinary proceedings but managed to leave the airport and join a tour of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), which separates North and South Korea.

“During the investigation, Travis King confessed that he had decided to come over to the DPRK [North Korea] as he harboured ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the US Army,” North Korean state news agency KCNA said.

“He also expressed his willingness to seek refugee in the DPRK or a third country, saying that he was disillusioned at the unequal American society.”

The DMZ separates the two Koreas and is one of the most heavily fortified areas in the world.

It is filled with landmines, surrounded by electric and barbed wire fencing, and monitored by surveillance cameras. Armed guards are supposed to be on alert 24 hours a day.

One person who said they were on the same tour of the South Korean side of the area as Private King described how the group had just visited a building at the site when “this man gives out a loud ‘ha ha ha’, and just runs in between some buildings”.

“I thought it was a bad joke at first, but when he didn’t come back, I realised it wasn’t a joke, and then everybody reacted and things got crazy,” the unnamed witness told the BBC’s US partner, CBS News.

They added that there had been no North Korean soldiers visible when the man crossed.

“It was on the way back in the bus, and we got to one of the checkpoints… someone said we were 43 going in and 42 coming back,” they said.

Concerns have been growing for the US soldier’s welfare. Negotiations between the North Korean authorities and the UN command on the Korean peninsula have been ongoing.

Media caption,

Watch: What’s next for captured US soldier in North Korea

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