North Korea claims US soldier crossed border seeking refuge from racism


North Korea has announced that a United States soldier crossed the border into their territory last month, allegedly seeking asylum from what he described as “inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination” within the US.

The revelation, conveyed through state media on Wednesday, marks North Korea’s first public acknowledgment of the incident involving Travis King. King’s crossing took place on July 18th when he was on a tourist excursion to the Joint Security Area (JSA), a demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea.

“According to North Korean sources, Travis King confessed to illegally crossing the border with the intention of remaining in North Korea or potentially seeking refuge in a third country. The state news agency KCNA reported, “During the investigation, Travis King confessed that he had decided to come over to the DPRK as he harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army”.”

The agency went on to state that King expressed disillusionment with the unequal American society and expressed his willingness to seek refuge in North Korea or another nation. The 23-year-old soldier was taken into custody by soldiers of the Korean People’s Army following his border crossing, and an ongoing investigation is underway.

The heavily fortified border between North and South Korea is known for its strict security measures, but at the Joint Security Area, it is demarcated by a relatively low concrete divider, allowing for easier movement despite the presence of military personnel on both sides.

“US officials have weighed in on the incident, asserting that they believe Travis King deliberately crossed the border and have refrained from designating him as a prisoner of war”.

Travis King’s decision to cross the border followed disciplinary proceedings resulting from an altercation in a pub, which led to a confrontation with South Korean police and subsequent incarceration in a South Korean jail. While the Pentagon could not verify the specifics of King’s statement as reported by KCNA, their primary concern remains ensuring his safe return. The Pentagon has not addressed whether it received additional information from North Korea.

In an earlier statement to ABC News, “Travis King’s uncle, Myron Gates, revealed that his nephew had encountered instances of racism during his military deployment. After his time in jail, King’s behavior and demeanor reportedly changed”.

“The classification of Travis King by the US military has been a subject of debate. Given that the US and North Korea are technically still at war since the Korean War ended in an armistice, King’s status as an active-duty soldier could potentially make him eligible for prisoner of war status. However, US officials contend that King’s voluntary border crossing while dressed in civilian attire may disqualify him from this status”.

“This incident comes at a time of strained relations between the two Koreas, marked by stalled diplomatic efforts and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s pursuit of enhanced weapons development, including tactical nuclear warheads. In recent developments, the United Nations Command (UNC) has revealed that North Korea has “responded” to efforts aimed at discussing King’s case”.

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