North Korea has decided to expel Pvt. Travis T. King, the American soldier who fled across the inter-Korean border into its territory on July 18, the North’s state media said on Wednesday.
After 70 days of investigation, North Korea found Private King guilty of “illegally intruding” into its territory and decided to expel him, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
The news agency said that Private King had confessed to illegally entering North Korea because, it said, he “harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army and was disillusioned about the unequal U.S. society.”
North Korea did not immediately release details on its plans to deport Private King, including whether he would be sent back to South Korea through the Demilitarized Zone, which separates North and South Korea. Private King fled to the North through the DMZ.
Private King, 23, had been assigned to South Korea as a member of the First Brigade Combat Team, First Armored Division. After he was released in July from a South Korean detention center, where he spent time on assault charges, he was escorted by U.S. military personnel to Incheon International Airport outside Seoul on July 18 to board a plane to the United States, where he was expected to face additional disciplinary action.
He never boarded the plane. Instead, he took a tour bus the next day to the border village of Panmunjom.
The soldier “willfully and without authorization crossed the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Col. Isaac Taylor, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Forces Korea, said at the time.
Last month, North Korea said Private King wanted to seek refuge in the isolated Communist country or a third country. In its announcement on Wednesday, it did not elaborate on why North Korea decided not to grant his wish.
Private King was the first known American held in North Korean custody since Bruce Byron Lowrance was detained for a month after illegally entering the country from China in 2018.