North Korea Verifies Detention of U.S. Soldier


us soldier detained in north korea photo ahn youg-joon
North Korea has officially acknowledged that Travis King, an American soldier, is in their custody, marking the first instance of a US soldier crossing into North Korea in four decades. The confirmation was relayed by the UN Command, the multinational military group overseeing the demilitarized border zone. The BBC reports that the UN Command utilized a direct phone line to communicate with the North Korean Army, leading to Pyongyang’s unprecedented admission of detaining the 23-year-old private. Travis King had crossed the border from South Korea while participating in a tour.
However, the UN Command refrained from providing extensive details at this time to avoid hindering efforts to repatriate him. The State Department characterized the communication as non-substantive, not indicative of progress, and pointed out that diplomatic channels remain unanswered.
King was observed crossing the DMZ on July 18, shortly after his release from a South Korean prison where he had served a two-month sentence for assault. He was due to return to the US, potentially facing further consequences. Upon reaching the airport’s security checkpoint, he claimed to have lost his passport and was permitted to leave. Subsequently, he joined a tour to the Panmunjom border village. Although officials and witnesses state that King crossed into North Korea voluntarily, his family disputes this claim. Jaqueda Gates, King’s sister, shared with CNN that her brother’s disappearance goes against his character, indicating a deeper story. Uncle Myron Gates also attested to the unusual behavior, attributing it to the emotional impact of the death of Gates’ 6-year-old son in the US earlier that year.
Gates assured King through a CNN interview that the family would persistently strive for his return and are eager to receive communication from the Biden administration. In parallel, North Korea seized the opportunity to criticize Julie Turner, the new US special envoy on North Korean human rights issues, interpreting her prior critiques as a sign of US animosity toward Pyongyang. The AP reported that North Korea cautioned that persistent US criticism could have adverse repercussions, potentially leading to significant security concerns.

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