North Korean soldier Travis King – Learn more with Healthier Veterans Today! Travis T. King is a United States Army soldier who crossed over the Military Demarcation line in the Joint Security Area (JSA) into North Korea on 18 July 2023 while on a civilian tour of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
North Korean soldier Travis King was facing dishonorable discharge from the United States Army due to legal charges in South Korea, the country he was deployed to at the time of the crossing.
Travis King is currently being detained by North Korean authorities. King is the only U.S. national known to be currently detained in North Korea and the first known detention of a U.S. national since Bruce Byron Lowrance in November 2018.
Table of Contents
1. Family Background
Travis King was born in 1999 or 2000 to father Thomas King and mother, Claudine Gates. He grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, and attended Washington Park High School, graduating in 2020.
Sources also revealed that Travis spent his entire childhood in Racine, where he completed his schooling at a local school in 2018.
2. Military Service
Travis King enlisted in the United States Army in January 2021. Upon his arrival in South Korea in February of 2022, he was assigned to the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team as a cavalry scout.
As a cavalry scout, his responsibilities included gathering and reporting information about the enemy’s movements and positions and identifying potential threats and obstacles on the battlefield. He worked closely with his fellow soldiers to plan and execute reconnaissance missions.
He was trained in various tactics and techniques for operating in different terrain and weather conditions.
As a 1st Brigade Combat Team member, he participated in training exercises and drills to improve his combat readiness and teamwork skills.
On 8 October 2022, North Korean soldier Travis King was involved in an altercation with South Korean locals in Mapo, Seoul.
When police officers tried to question him, he continued with his aggressive behavior without answering questions from the officers.
He was placed in the backseat of a police car, where he shouted expletives and insults against Koreans, the Korean Army, and the Korean Police.
He also kicked the police vehicle’s door several times, causing about (US$458) in damages.
He later pleaded guilty to assault and destruction of public goods and paid (US$783) to fix the vehicle.
Because of this incident, North Korean soldier Travis King stayed behind in South Korea when his unit returned to the United States.
4. Detention in South Korea and crossing to North Korea
Following charges of assault, North Korean soldier Travis King was fined($3,950) on 8 February 2023 by the Seoul Western District Court, which he failed to pay.
He was then held for 47 days at a South Korean detention facility in Cheonan. Before being released on 10 July 2023. After his release, King spent a week at a United States military base under observation.
He completed out-processing from the facility on 17 July 2023 and was escorted to Incheon International Airport the next day, as far as the customs checkpoint.
The military escort had no ticket and was not allowed past the checkpoint. King continued into the terminal alone as a result.
Travis King was to board a flight to Fort Bliss, Texas. Travis King told airline workers his passport was missing to avoid boarding the flight.
After leaving the airport, Travis King joined a group of tourists on a civilian tour of the (DMZ) and, on 18 July 2023, crossed the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) in the Joint Security Area (JSA) into North Korea.
The US soldier detained in North Korea after sprinting across the border was photographed moments before the incident as he enjoyed a tour of the ultra-high-security area.
Private 2nd Class Travis King, 23, is 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 claim that Travis King, dressed in black, suddenly ran to the North Korean side of the Military Demarcation Line while the tour was ongoing, making a loud “laughing” noise while running.
Soldiers from the southern side chased after Travis King. It is believed that King was taken into North Korean custody.
A U.S. Forces Korea spokesperson stated that King “willfully and without authorization crossed the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
And on 20 July 2023, the United States Department of Defence declared Travis King to be absent without leave (AWOL).
5. Time in North Korea
On 24 July 2023, the United Nations Command stated that they were in communication with the North Korean Government regarding Travis King.
Two weeks later, on 1 August 2023, the North Korean government acknowledged the United Nations Command’s request for information regarding Travis King.
They stated that they were investigating the incident but stopped short of providing detailed information about King’s current status in North Korea.
As of 4 August 2023, the United States refuses to classify North Korean Soldier Travis King as a prisoner of war because he decided to cross into North Korea of his own free will while in civilian attire.
On 15 August 2023, the Korean Central News Agency, the primary news outlet of North Korea, confirmed that Travis King was in the country, stating that Travis King illegally crossed into the nation due to “inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the US Army.”
KCNA further noted that King “expressed his willingness to seek refuge in the DPRK or a third country, saying that he was disillusioned at the unequal American society.”
However, according to the Associated Press, the KCNA is a North Korean propaganda outlet that serves as “an official voice of leader Kim Jong Un’s government.”
This makes any alleged statements by North Korean Soldier Travis King “impossible” to verify as they are attributed to state media.
6. Awards and Decorations
The North Korean Soldier Travis King received the following accolades:
- National Defence Service Medal (2021)
- Korean Defence Service Medal (2022)
- Overseas Service Ribbon(2022)
While former presidents and diplomats have engaged in high-level talks before to secure the release of American detainees, Howell told Forbes there hasn’t been “any signal at all” that North Korea is interested in engaging with U.S. officials and that he doesn’t expect the North Koreans to use Travis King as an opportunity to further improve relations.
What Happened to North Korean Soldier Travis King…
Claudine Gates, King’s mother, told ABC News that she couldn’t see her son “doing anything like that” after Army officials told her he ran from custody.
U.S. authorities said Travis King is believed to be in North Korean custody, the first American in nearly five years known to be detained in the country.
Family members of the US Army private Travis King, who defected to North Korea last month, say they have not heard from the White House and wish the executive branch was doing more to ensure the young soldier’s release.
King’s bizarre disappearance is taking a severe toll on his loved ones, who are struggling to sleep while they wait for updates, according to Travis King’s sister, Jaqueda Gates.