Nearly a full month after the bizarre defection incident involving US Army soldier Travis King, North Korea has for the first time belatedly acknowledged it has King in custody.
King, a private in the US Army, was attending a guided tour of the Joint Security Area inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Koreas, before he broke from the group and sprinted across the border. North Korea, not willing to waste a good propaganda moment, said the US soldier felt “disillusioned” with an “unequal American society.”
But despite the supposed “racism” rationale, King was actually facing disciplinary and legal action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). He has already spent tow months in a South Korean jail for assault, as Reuters reviews:
U.S. officials said he had finished serving time in detention in South Korea for an unspecified infraction and was transported by the U.S. military to the airport to return to his home unit in the United States, when he apparently decided to join a tour to the North Korean border.
King pleaded guilty to assault and destruction of public goods stemming from an October incident, and on Feb. 8 the Seoul Western District Court fined him 5 million won ($4,000), according to a copy of the ruling reviewed by Reuters.
An eyewitness had said King was actually laughing as he bolted from the group and cross the border. By all appearances, he simply wanted to escape further legal action awaiting him in the US and will now disguise his actions as “noble”… because “racism”.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a statement after King’s entering North Korea said the army private did it “willfully and without authorization.” US officials have made repeat attempts to contact Pyongyang over his fate but to no avail.
Likely the Kim Jong-Un government will continue to use King as a propaganda tool, and might soon even parade him in front of cameras, especially if he is a willing participant.