Private 2nd Class Travis King, the“voluntarily and without authorization” on Tuesday, according to US officials, he made the right decision to be transferred back to the US and dismissed from the military.
U.S. officials said Tuesday that King, 23, was believed to be in the custody of North Korean forces. The North Korean government has not said anything about King since he was apparently arrested.
What motivated the American soldier to cross the border into an isolated and authoritarian country considered one of the world’s greatest threats to peace remains unclear, but here’s what we know so far from of statements made by military officers, witnesses and relatives of King. in the USA
How did King cross the DMZ into North Korea?
King crossed the border in one of the few places where it would have been possible without the risk of being shot or quickly blown up. Thethat separates North and South Korea is one of the most fortified and militarized borders on the planet. The vast majority are marked off with multiple lines of barbed wire and guarded by heavily armed North and South Korean soldiers on either side.
But in the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the “peace village” of Panmunjom, guns and barbed wire give way for a short distance to a simple line on the ground: the Military Demarcation Line. Soldiers on both sides have long guarded the line, within inches of each other, although North Korean troops were pulled back further during the COVID-19 pandemic and have not back to the symbolic confrontation.
King was escorted to an airport in Incheon, near the South Korean capital Seoul, for a flight back to the United States to be “separated” from the military, US officials told CBS News, but after parting ways with his escort at customs, he didn’t. don’t get on the plane After going through airport security, he somehow made it back and managed to join a civilian tour group going from Seoul to Panmunjom.
Britain’s CBS News, BBC News, spoke to a man who worked for a company that made JSA tours for US troops serving in South Korea.
He is now the host of North Korea’s NK News Podcast, Jacco Zwetsloot he told the BBC “There was no way this person could sneak out of the airport one day and book one of these tours the next day.”
He said it generally takes three days for someone to be cleared for one of the trips, and his former clients should submit passport information and military identification to the UN Command, which operates the JSA, in advance.
“When I was running the tours, we had to change the response time from 48 hours to 72 hours because there were too many errors,” he told the BBC, adding that it had become even more difficult to join tours since of the pandemic He said booking a spot on one of the limited tours being run would have required research and planning.
A witness who was in King’s tour group told CBS News on Tuesday that the American suddenly left the others, laughed and then ran across the military demarcation line before anyone could act to stop him .
King’s Brief History with the US Army
King has served in the U.S. Army since January 2021, Army spokesman Bryce Dubee told CBS News. He had not been deployed for active duty, but was sent to South Korea as part of the Pentagon’s regular Force Korea rotation, assigned to the 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division .
Dubee said King had received the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal and the Overseas Service Ribbon.
U.S. officials told CBS News that King had served time in a detention center in South Korea and was turned over to officials at U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, the center of U.S. forces in country, just a week ago.
He had spent about two months in a South Korean prison after an arrest on assault charges, a South Korean official told the Agence France-Presse news agency. According to South Korean media, he was accused of kicking the door of a police patrol car and shouting abuse at the Korean officers.
“I am absolutely concerned about the well-being of our troops, and so we will remain focused on that,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday at the Pentagon, without naming King specifically.
What King’s family says
King’s mother told ABC News on Tuesday that she was shocked to learn that her son had crossed into North Korea.
“I can’t see Travis doing any of this,” Claudine Gates of Wisconsin he told the ABC.
She said the last time she heard from her son was “a few days ago” and she just wants “him to come home.”
The The Daily Beast quoted King’s uncle Carl Gates said Wednesday that the young soldier had been emotionally “disintegrated” by the death of Gates’ 7-year-old son, King’s cousin, earlier this year.
“His mom came down on a few occasions, and then she talked to him and let him know what was going on with my son. And he seemed to be breaking down. It really affected Travis,” Gates told The Daily Beast. “Because he couldn’t be here. He was in the army, overseas.”
The news outlet said Gates’ youngest son died in February after a prolonged hospitalization for an untreatable genetic disorder.
“When my son was on life support and when my son died … Travis started [being] imprudent [and] crazy when he found out my son was about to die,” Gates told The Daily Beast. “I know it was related to what he did.”