Travis King, seventh American soldier to travel to North Korea

North Korea had failed to react on Thursday 20 July to the arrest on its territory of US soldier Travis King two days earlier. The 23-year-old soldier had taken advantage of a visit to the Joint Security Area (JSA) to cross the border that separates the two Koreas. A neutral space, the JSA is the only direct point of contact within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that has formed the inter-Korean border since the end of the Korean War (1950-1953).

“The Pentagon has contacted its counterparts in the People’s Army [nom officiel de l’armée nord-coréenne]but received no reply”said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, who stressed the administration’s willingness to do everything “to ensure safety and return to his family” of the military. Also mobilized was the United Nations command in Korea, which is in regular contact with the North for everything that touches the DMZ, and would no longer have any information.

Mr. King’s motives remain unknown. More than a defection for ideological reasons, he could have acted to escape the justice of his country. Assigned to the US 1st Armored Division deployed in the South, he was convicted in February of damaging a police car. He later served two months in prison for assaulting a South Korean man at a club near Seoul’s bustling Hongdae district.

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Seventh American to cross the North

Released July 17, he was to be sent to Fort Bliss, Texas for further disciplinary action. Escorted to customs control at Incheon Airport (west of Seoul), he escaped. The next day, he was touring the JSA. Its presence among visitors may come as a surprise, as access to the ACC is subject to strict controls and requests to participate in visits take several days to process.

However, he took the opportunity to cross the demarcation line, materialized in the JSA by a simple concrete wall. It was there that Donald Trump became the first American president to enter North Korea, in 2019 during a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Military guides attempted to arrest Travis King, but were unsuccessful. A 2018 inter-Korean agreement mandates that soldiers assigned to the JSA be unarmed. Passed to the North, Mr. King was immediately arrested. They “voluntarily and without permission crossed the demarcation line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (official name of the North), he then recognized Colonel Isaac Taylor, of the American forces in Korea.

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