Private Travis King, who made headlines for dashing into North Korea this past July, has been returned to U.S. custody after North Korea expelled him, U.S. sources confirmed. North Korean state media, KCNA, reported that King had been released after confessing to an illegal border crossing due to his dissatisfaction with racial discrimination within the U.S. military and broader societal inequalities.
U.S. authorities confirmed King’s custody upon expulsion to China, with further details pending. The latest on this incident was published by KCNA, revealing that King’s venture into North Korea was driven by alleged mistreatment and racial bias during his army service.
The news outlet detailed, “King confessed his illegal entry into DPRK, citing his grievances against the treatment and racial prejudice in the U.S. military and his disillusionment with U.S. societal disparities.” DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official title.
Citing North Korean laws, KCNA said King’s expulsion was legal. The U.S. State Department, the White House, U.S. Forces Korea, and the United Nations Command have not given their remarks.
The incident began on July 18, when King rushed into North Korean territory during a civilian border tour. Although there are records of U.S. military personnel trying to desert or defect to North Korea while posted in South Korea, King’s case is notable for the speed of his expulsion; previous defectors often spent extended periods detained in North Korea.
King’s family indicated racial issues during his deployment. His uncle, Myron Gates, shared with ABC News that King, an African American, encountered racism during his service. Following an imprisonment period in South Korea, King’s demeanor had changed noticeably.
Upon joining the U.S. Army in 2021, King faced allegations of assault while in South Korea. One assault charge he admitted to involved damaging a police vehicle during a heated altercation. On returning to the U.S., he was set to face additional disciplinary actions.
After completing military detention, King was transported to the U.S. However, instead of boarding his flight, he ventured to the border, where he crossed into North Korea despite intervention attempts.
Professor Lim Eul-chul of South Korea’s Kyungnam University speculates that North Korea might have decided that holding King had diminishing diplomatic benefits compared to potential U.S. pressures.