Report: Soldier Who Crossed Into NK Was Facing Disciplinary Action

Witness says man laughed before he ran away from tour group in border village
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2023 2:37 PM CDT
Report: Soldier Who Crossed Into NK Was Facing Disciplinary Action
Surveillance cameras on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone face the truce village of Panmunjom.   (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

American officials have confirmed that a US soldier crossed into North Korea Tuesday "willfully and without authorization." Officials did not release the soldier's name at a briefing Tuesday afternoon, but outlets including CBS identified the man as Private 2nd Class Travis King. The AP, citing US officials, reports that King had just been released from a South Korean prison where he had been held on assault charges. The officials said King was due to face further disciplinary action in the US and had been taken to an airport by military personnel. But he managed to avoid getting on the plane and joined a tour group that went to the border village of Panmunjom in the Joint Security Area between North and South Korea.

The soldier passed through airport security before somehow leaving the airport and joining the tour group, officials said. A witness who was part of the same tour group tells CBS that the man gave out "a loud 'ha ha ha'" before running between some buildings. "I thought it was a bad joke at first, but when he didn't come back, I realized it wasn't a joke, and then everybody reacted and things got crazy," the witness says. The witness says there were no North Korean soldiers visible where the man ran. Members of the tour group were required to provide identification before they boarded their bus in Seoul, the witness says.

Col. Isaac Taylor, a public affairs officer for US Forces Korea, said authorities believe the soldier is in North Korean custody, the New York Times reports. Asked at Tuesday's briefing whether the soldier had defected to North Korea, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said, "All I will say ... is that it's clear that he willfully, of his own volition, crossed the border," the BBC reports. Asked whether the soldier was being forcibly detained by North Korean authorities, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Pentagon is closely monitoring the situation and he is "absolutely foremost concerned about the welfare of our troop." (More North Korea stories.)

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