A US soldier illegally enters North Korea 2:40
(WABNEWS) — New details have emerged about a US soldier who crossed into North Korea on Tuesday, but his exact whereabouts remain a mystery as the secretive country hasn’t said a word about the incident.
Court documents show that Private Travis King, believed to be the first US soldier to cross into North Korea since 1982, had a record of assault, faced disciplinary action for his conduct and was due to return to the United States the day before the incident. An Army official told WABNEWS that the soldier was going to be administratively separated from the US Army.RELATED
Details about exactly how King ended up on the North Korean side of the border remain unclear.
King was visiting a border area as a civilian when he crossed the demarcation line.
His motive is also a mystery. King’s mother, Claudine Gates, told ABC she was “shocked” when the US military told her her son had crossed into North Korea.
“I can’t imagine Travis doing something like that,” Gates told ABC, adding that he heard from his son several days ago and he told him he was going back to his base at Fort Bliss.
The United States has actively contacted North Korea to resolve the situation, but has not yet received a response, a defense official said Wednesday, adding that it often does not respond to attempts to reach out.
Admiral John Aquilino, head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, said Tuesday that Washington has had “no contact at this time” with North Korea regarding King. In his speech at the Aspen Security Forum, Aquilino stated that King “crossed the demilitarized zone in the Joint Security Area, was picked up by the North Koreans, and as of now, we haven’t had any contact.”
What is the Korean Peninsula Demilitarized Zone? 1:47
Aquilino added that he “has not received reports” that King was sympathetic to North Korea.
The US military identified King as a cavalry scout who joined the military in January 2021. US officials did not say how long King had been in South Korea, but at some point he faced disciplinary action for assault and he spent about 50 days in a detention center.
The officials added that King was being held at a designated detention facility under the Status of Forces Agreement with South Korea, which is an agreement that defines how United States service members, their family members, and other Department personnel of Defense are treated and prosecuted in a foreign country, including its justice system.
A US official told WABNEWS that King was released on July 10 and was scheduled to fly back to the United States on Monday.
Another official told WABNEWS that King was escorted to the airport by military officers, but the escorts were unable to escort him to the gate and he ultimately did not board his flight.
history of aggression
King appears to have a history of violent behavior. South Korean court documents show that he was charged with assault twice last year, and received a fine for one of the incidents.
Last October, he was accused of repeatedly pushing and punching a victim in the face at a club in Mapo-gu, Seoul, after being denied a drink he had ordered, according to documents from the Seoul Western District Court.
Following the alleged assault, King was detained by police and placed in the back seat of a patrol car, when he allegedly used offensive language against the South Korean military and police while in a rage, according to the court document.
He then allegedly kicked the door of the patrol car several times, causing 583,959 won (about US$461) worth of damage, according to the court document. King was fined 5 million won (about US$4,000).
The court document also referenced a previous assault case against King from September 2022, which was dropped after the alleged victim expressed her intention not to press charges against King. South Korean police told WABNEWS that King was transferred to the US Military Police following an investigation into an assault in September. It is not clear if the incident they were referring to was the same case that was dismissed by the court.
It is also unclear whether the time he spent in detention was related to these incidents.
WABNEWS’s Haley Britzky, Oren Liebermann, Natasha Bertrand, Gawon Bae, Brad Lendon, Rob Picheta, Kevin Liptak and Simone McCarthy contributed to this article.