July 13, 2024

King sprinted into North Korea across the heavily fortified border between the Koreas more than two months ago.

The American soldier released from North Korea’s custody has returned to the United States.

Travis King sprinted into North Korea across the heavily fortified border between the Koreas more than two months ago. On Wednesday, North Korea said it “decided to expel” King after concluding an investigation over his entry into the country.

After completing its investigation, the “relevant organ of the DPRK decided to expel Travis King, a soldier of the US Army who illegally intruded into the territory of the DPRK”, the Korean Central News Agency reported, using the formal name for North Korea.

King bolted into North Korea in July while on a tour of the southern side of an inter-Korean truce village. He was serving nearly two months in a South Korean prison for assault.

The soldier was released on July 10 and was to be sent home to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he could have faced additional military discipline and discharge from the service.

He somehow managed to leave and instead, joined a tour of the demilitarised zone (DMZ) on the inter-Korean border in the village of Panmunjom, where he sprinted across the border on July 18.

Panmunjom is located within the 248-kilometre-long (154-mile-long) DMZ that divides the Korean Peninsula.

The border between the two Koreas is heavily fortified but at the Joint Security Area (JSA), the frontier is marked only by a low concrete divider and is relatively easy to cross, despite the presence of soldiers on both sides.

North Korea release King to the US

According to United States officials, North Korea received nothing from the US for his release.

“We made no concessions as part of securing his return,” US Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters.

On Wednesday, US officials thanked Sweden and China for facilitating King’s release but stressed that the move does not represent a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea.

In a statement published on Wednesday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan confirmed that US officials had “secured the return” of the American soldier.

Previous cases of US detainees in NK

  • Otto Warmbier was arrested for allegedly removing a political banner from a North Korean hotel and sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour.
  • US-Korean tour operator and missionary Kenneth Bae was arrested in November 2012 and was released two years later after a secret mission to Pyongyang led by then-US intelligence chief James Clapper.
  • TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee were detained by North Korean guards in March 2009 while on assignment on the China border. Three months later, they were sentenced to 12 years of hard labour until their release was secured when former US President Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang.
  • Missionary Evan Hunziker swam naked and drunk across the Yalu River from China to North Korea in August 1996, when he was arrested and charged with spying. He was released three months later after US congressman Bill Richardson travelled to Pyongyang.
  • The drunken US soldier Charles Robert Jenkins crossed into the North in 1965 while patrolling the DMZ in an attempt to avoid facing combat duty in Vietnam. Jenkins was held for decades until he was eventually allowed to leave in 2004.

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