US Soldier Expelled From North Korea

( – In July, a US Army soldier made national headlines for leaving an airport where he was supposed to head back to the United States to face disciplinary action after being jailed in a South Korean prison. Instead, he absconded into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK-North Korea) after joining a civilian tour of the Demilitarized Zone. After months of negotiations, Private King is finally back on US soil.

Who Is Travis King?

Travis King, 23, is a US Army private who was released from jail in South Korea, where he had served as a reconnaissance specialist. He was booked on assault charges for damaging a police car. That landed him in a labor camp where he was sentenced to serve more than 40 days in the country’s Cheonan correctional facility. When he completed his sentence, he was in the process of being sent back to Fort Bliss in Texas to face disciplinary action, but he chose to flee instead.

North Korean authorities quickly detained King, but Washington never declared him a prisoner of war or hostage. In the Asian nation, he was treated as an illegal immigrant, according to Reuters. It’s very likely he underwent questioning to determine if he could be an asset.

North Korean state media reported that King complained of injustices he experienced at the hands of the US military, including “inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination,” according to NBC News. US officials have not responded to the claims.

Bringing King Home

There were worries that North Korean officials would use King as a bargaining chip, but those notions were quickly dispelled. The New York Times reported that it’s likely the Asian nation saw the private as less of a benefit and more of a burden because he didn’t have access to any highly classified information. Therefore, expelling him from the country was the safest move.

Swedish officials helped to negotiate King’s release and were instrumental in transporting him to China where he was turned over to US officials, including US Ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, who was accompanied by at least one person from the Department of Defense. The US made no concessions in King’s release.

King landed back in San Antonio, Texas, on Thursday, September 28. He is slated to go through physical and mental evaluations as part of reacclimating to the US.

It’s not clear yet whether King will face disciplinary action for his assault charges in South Korea or for fleeing to North Korea. Additionally, a US official refused to comment on whether he would face a court martial.

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