Travis King: US soldier who dashed over border to North Korea deported and in custody

Army private crossed from South Korea in July while on a civilian tour of the Joint Security Area

The US soldier who illegally crossed the heavily armed border into North Korea is in American custody, US officials said.

One official said that Travis King was transferred to US custody in China.

Earlier, North Korea had said it would deport the soldier who crossed from South Korea in July.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said that authorities had finished their questioning of Mr King.


It said that he confessed to illegally entering the North because he harboured “ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination” within the US Army and was “disillusioned about the unequal US society”.

Verifying the authenticity of the comments attributed to Mr King is impossible.

Mr King, who had served in South Korea, sprinted into North Korea while on a civilian tour of a border village on July 18, becoming the first American confirmed to be detained in the North in nearly five years.

At the time he joined the civilian tour and crossed the border, he was supposed to be heading to Fort Bliss, Texas, following his release from prison in South Korea on an assault conviction.

Following weeks of silence, North Korea confirmed in August that it had detained Mr King and was questioning the circumstances surrounding his border crossing.

In an interview last month with The Associated Press, Mr King’s mother, Claudine Gates, said her son had “so many reasons” to want to come home.

“I just can’t see him ever wanting to just stay in Korea when he has family in America. He has so many reasons to come home,” she said.

The 23-year-old was among about 28,000 US troops stationed in South Korea as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea.

US officials had expressed concern about his well-being, citing the North’s harsh treatment of some American detainees in the past.

They also said that Mr King has been declared Awol, which can be punished by time in detention, forfeiture of pay or dishonourable discharge, with the severity based on the amount of time away and whether the service member was apprehended or returned on their own.

Unauthorised crossings of the Koreas’ heavily fortified border are extremely rare.

The few Americans who crossed into North Korea in the past include soldiers, missionaries, human rights advocates or those simply curious about one of the world’s most secret societies.