27th September 2023 – (Pyongyang) Wednesday, North Korean state media announced that U.S. soldier Travis King would be “expelled” from the country after being in custody for two months. The North Korean news agency KCNA reported that King is being removed from the country due to his “illegal entry” in July when he broke away from a tour group visiting the DMZ and made a dash towards the communist nation.
According to officials in North Korea, they have completed their questioning of King and stated that he sought refuge in their country due to “ill feelings against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination” in the U.S. military. As of now, there have been no statements from the U.S. regarding King’s impending release.
The destination of Private King, aged 23, upon his release remains unclear, as does the exact timing of his release. The rogue state is notorious for having almost non-existent diplomatic relations with its neighbouring countries, with the exception of Russia and China. No details have been released regarding King’s health, and he has not been seen since July.
King was originally scheduled to return to Texas to face assault charges stemming from an incident that occurred while he was stationed in South Korea.
Relatives describe King as a quiet loner who did not drink or smoke, and who enjoyed reading the Bible. Having grown up in southeast Wisconsin, he was enthusiastic about serving his country in South Korea.
King’s family is unsure of what was going through his mind when he ran into a country that has a history of holding Americans as bargaining chips.
Initially, King was supposed to be returned to the U.S. the same week he crossed the DMZ in order to face military discipline after spending nearly two months in a South Korean prison on assault charges.
A photo of King wearing a black t-shirt and a hat purchased from a gift shop at the demilitarized zone was released shortly after his unusual act, as he peered into the secretive communist country. Witnesses reported that he laughed hysterically as he made his mad dash in July, fleeing from his military superiors and joining the tour.
Concerns have been mounting for King’s well-being as North Korea has not provided any updates on his condition.
It is unclear whether the statements attributed to King by the North Koreans are legitimate.
In August, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby informed CNN that holding a U.S. soldier for propaganda purposes would align with North Korea’s typical behaviour. Kirby stated, “They certainly could… We haven’t seen any indication that that’s exactly what’s afoot here, but it certainly would not be out of character for them. What we’re focused on is trying to make sure we can get information about him.” Kirby also mentioned that officials were completely unaware of King’s condition and whereabouts within North Korea.