Private 2nd Class Travis King, 23, was serving in the U.S. Army and U.S. Forces Korea before being detained in South Korea for 50 days for getting into an altercation. After his release, he was held at a U.S. base in South Korea for a week for observation.
According to a senior U.S. defense official, King was due to face disciplinary action from military officials. He was escorted to the airport to board a flight back to the U.S. However, King entered the airport alone, as the military escort was unable to go beyond airport security.
King then left the airport to go on a tour of the joint security area when he went across the Military Demarcation Line “willfully and without authorization,” according to U.S. Forces Korea spokesperson Col. Isaac Taylor. He was dressed in civilian clothes when he crossed the Military Demarcation line, as tours of the joint security area are open to the public.
The joint security area has no physical barrier and is part of the 160-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone that separates South and North Korea. Most of the demilitarized zone, created in 1953 at the end of the Korean War, is patrolled by soldiers on both sides of the line and has miles of barbed wire as well as landmines.
King, who has been a cavalry scout since joining the military in January of 2021, was going to be separated from the military once he was back in the United States.
It is reported that while he was in custody in South Korea, King stated he did not want to go back to America.
The United Nations Command said it is believed he is “in DPRK custody” and that they are working to resolve the incident “with our KPA counterparts.”
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