A US soldier has been detained in North Korea after launching a daring odyssey by sprinting across the border. Private 2nd Class Travis King, 23, had been on a tour of the ultra-high-security region when he made the mad dash on Tuesday and escaped his military superiors.
Fears mount for King’s wellbeing as North Korea has still yet to produce the soldier or acknowledge his arrest.
The incident has placed Washington in a precarious predicament in its dealings with the nuclear-armed state. US officials say King crossed ‘willfully and without authorization.’
The US Army has launched an investigation into the soldier’s conduct as new revelations have surfaced about King’s possible motives for his high-stakes gambit. Court documents reveal that prior to the incident, King had faced two assault allegations and was fined by a South Korean court for damaging a police car. He had recently finished serving two months in prison for the charges.
King was reportedly escorted to an airport by US Army officials that same day to return home. However, the soldier had other plans in mind and left the terminal undetected, eventually arriving at the tour where he was photographed moments before the crossing wearing a black t-shirt and hat.
The mysterious nature of King’s actions has led to speculation from fellow tourists Sarah Leslie and her father. The two were part of the South Korean tour group on the day of the incident and captured the only known photo of King at the joint security area.
Leslie said she had no clue King was a soldier, or in any sort of legal trouble, and detailed the crazy scene of the sprint across the border.
The tour group had just finished up inside one of the buildings, allowing them to effectively step on North Korean soil when she saw King running ‘really fast.’ Leslie said she assumed it was a stunt for social media but her suspicions were quickly dispelled when an American soldier shouted ‘Get that guy!’
The incident left tourists ‘really shocked,’ she said, and the group was soon hurried into a building and given statements. It remains unclear what they told authorities.
Meanwhile, King’s mother Claudine Gates implored her son to come home and expressed shock at his ‘out of character’ actions. Gates said, ‘I can’t see Travis doing anything like that.’
The US Army has yet to confirm the soldier’s actions or the consequences he may face for his daring dash. Until then, the fate of Private 2nd Class Travis King desperately remains a mystery.