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US Soldier Travis King 23, Crosses North Korea Border

July 20, 203 | By Kali Girl

In a startling turn of events, Private Travis King, a junior enlisted soldier from the US Forces Korea, made a daring escape to North Korea while on a tour of the Joint Security Area (JSA) inside the demilitarized zone.

According to CNN, this incident unfolded just a day after King had informed his US military handlers of his arrival at Incheon Airport in Seoul and his imminent return to the US.

King, who had been facing assault charges in South Korea, was slated for removal from the US military upon his arrival at Fort Bliss, Texas. However, despite clearing customs at the airport, he deviated from his scheduled flight on Monday, according to US officials briefed on the matter.

His escorts were unable to verify his boarding as they could not accompany him all the way to the gate.

On Tuesday, as tourists captured memories with their cameras, the unexpected unfolded. Eyewitnesses, including a fellow tour participant and US officials familiar with the case, disclosed that King suddenly took off across the demarcation line into North Korea within the JSA, an area that lacks a physical barrier unlike the rest of the heavily fortified zone.

Initial reports indicate that King initially attempted to enter Panmungak Hall, a North Korean facility within the JSA. However, finding the front door locked, he swiftly made his way to the building’s rear.

At this juncture, North Korean guards apprehended him, whisking him away in a van, as confirmed by a US official.

“Get him!” a soldier on the South Korean side yelled, according to the eyewitness, Sarah Leslie. But it was too late.

“He was going so fast, and we were so close to the border, that he was gone by then,” Leslie added.

US military and South Korean officials discovered King went missing after failing to appear at Fort Bliss and not boarding a plane. Authorities are investigating his unauthorized entry into a hostile country. The White House is currently trying to locate King and assess his condition.

“We are still gathering all the facts, it is still very early on,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “The administration has and will continue to actively work to ensure his safety and the return of Private King to us and to his family,” she said.

The administration confirmed collaboration with South Korea and Sweden to address the issue. Sweden acts as a representative for US interests in North Korea due to the absence of diplomatic ties. Despite attempts by the US military to contact the North Korean government, no response has been received.

The US believes the individual remains in North Korean custody but lacks information regarding their well-being or status.

King “made a run across the demilitarized zone in the Joint Security Area, was picked up by the North Koreans, and we’ve had no contact at this point,” Adm. John Aquilino, commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, said at the Aspen Security Forum on Tuesday. “But we’re still doing our investigation to find out exactly what happened.”

US authorities are working diligently with their South Korean counterparts to ascertain the circumstances leading up to King’s escape and to address the potential ramifications.

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