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US solider defected to North Korea over race issues in Army

North Korea confirms US soldier Travis King defected over ‘racial discrimination’ in Army and he is now seeking refugee status

  • Private Travis King dashed over the border into North Korea in July 
  • In its first statement about the incident, Pyongyang said Wednesday that King did so to escape the ‘racial discrimination’ of the US Army

North Korea said that Travis King confessed to crossing into the country because of mistreatment and ‘racial discrimination’ inside the US Army.

The report came from North Korean state media on Wednesday, and is the first public acknowledgement of the American’s defection into the North’s territory by North Korean.

The US soldier, Private Travis T. King, fled to North Korean territory while he was on a civilian tour of the Joint Security Area along the heavily fortified border between the North and South in July.

US officials say they believe he crossed intentionally, one day after he was supposed to report to an Army base in the US.

US Army Private Travis T. King fled into North Korea last month a day after he was supposed to travel to a base in the United States

The heavily policed Military Demarcation Line that separates North and South Korea

North Korean investigators now say they have concluded that King crossed the border deliberately, illegally, and with the intent to stay in the country or flee to a third country.

Wednesday’s report from state news agency KCNA added that King fled to the North due to the ‘inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the US Army.’

‘During the investigation, Travis King confessed that he had decided to come over to the DPRK (the initials of the North’s official name) as he harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the US Army,’ KCNA reported. 

‘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 statement concluded by noting that the investigation will continue. 

King had been facing facing disciplinary action for a string of alleged crimes in South Korea when he dashed past the demilitarized zone and into the communist country.

Near the left side of the photo, in the black shirt and cap, Private King is seen taking a tour of the Joint Security Area between the two Koreas on July 18

In July, Representative Michael McCaul said he was concerned the North may capitalize on the 23-year-old’s defection and set a price for his return.

‘We see this with Russia, China, Iran: When they take an American, particularly a soldier, captive, they exact a price for that,’ McCaul said on ABC last month. ‘And that’s what I worry about.’ 

Speaking of King’s decision to enter the communist country, McCaul suggested ‘he was running away from his problems.’

‘He was facing disciplinary charges, and was gonna get a flight back to the United States,’ McCaul explained.

That plane would have brought King to Texas, where he would face a ‘ending administrative separation actions for foreign conviction’ hearing, after he had already served 47 days in a South Korean detention facility.

‘But instead, he did not board the plane, went with a tour group to the DMZ and then ran across the line,’ McCaul said. ‘That’s something you just don’t do.’

King had been fined for assault while stationed in South Korea and had been detained for more than a month before being escorted to Incheon International Airport by the U.S. military for a commercial flight to Dallas, Texas, according to U.S. officials.

Once past security checks, he told airline staff at the departure gate he had lost his passport and returned to the terminal, an airport official said on condition of anonymity.

King then joined a civilian tour of the Panmunjom truce village when he dashed across the Military Demarcation Line that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War ended with an armistice in 1953.

King had been scheduled to board a flight back to the United States to face a disciplinary hearing

A sightseer on the border tour captured King in a photograph moments before he bolted into the secretive communist state.

King was seen wearing a black t-shirt and hat purchased from a gift shop at the demilitarized zone as he peers across the border into the secretive communist country.

Witnesses said he laughed hysterically as he made the mad dash after fleeing his military superiors and joining the tour.

The tourist who witnessed King’s crossing and took the photo of the soldier, Sarah Leslie from New Zealand, said she initially believed it was a stunt ‘for TikTok’.

The group left Seoul by bus in the early morning, and Leslie noticed that King was traveling alone and didn’t seem to talk to others on the tour. At one point, she said, he bought a DMZ hat from a gift shop.

The tour was nearing its end Tuesday afternoon — the group had just walked out of the building and were milling about taking photos — when she saw King running ‘really fast’.

‘I assumed initially he had a mate filming him in some kind of really stupid prank or stunt, like a TikTok, the most stupid thing you could do,’ Leslie said. ‘But then I heard one of the soldiers shout, ‘Get that guy.”

King had been fined for assault while stationed in South Korea and had been detained for more than a month

Last month, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said the U.S. Army’s counter-intelligence office and U.S. forces in South Korea are now carrying out an investigation into what drove King to make such a puzzling decision.

Singh declined to directly respond to a question about whether the Pentagon believed King was still alive. She said the U.S. military could not offer any information at all about King’s status.

‘We don’t know his condition. We don’t know where he’s being held. We don’t know the status of his health,’ Singh said, describing his formal status in the military as ‘AWOL,’ or absent without leave.

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