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North Korea breaks silence on detained US soldier

North Korea's Kim Jong Un before a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on the south side of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea, in the Joint Security Area of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone on June 30, 2019. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
August 16, 2023

North Korea claimed Wednesday that Private 2nd Class Travis King, who ran across the Military Demarcation Line and disappeared in North Korea, was motivated by the “mistreatment and racial discrimination” he allegedly experienced in the U.S. Army.

Wednesday’s comments mark the first official statements North Korea has made regarding King’s detention, following his crossing of the North Korean border while touring a village on the border of North and South Korea on July 18.

According to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), King allegedly told North Korean investigators that he ran across the border into North Korea because he “harbored ill feeling against inhuman mistreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army.”

KCNA also claimed that King expressed “willingness” to find refuge in North Korea or a different country, adding that he was “disillusioned” by the “unequal American society.”

READ MORE: Pentagon confirms new details on US Army soldier who ran into North Korea

Despite the publication of statements allegedly attributed to King, U.S. officials have not verified the authenticity of the claims. According to Military Times, North Korea’s state-run media often reflects the official views of the authoritarian government, which has been known for coercing statements from American captives in the past.

“We remain focused on his safe return,” a U.S. Defense Department official stated. “The Department’s priority is to bring Private King home, and we are working through all available channels to achieve that outcome.”

Prior to King’s shocking bolt across the Military Demarcation Line into North Korea, the U.S. soldier was scheduled to board a plane and return to the U.S. for disciplinary action after being released from a South Korean prison due to an assault conviction.

The Military Times reported that U.S. officials have declared King AWOL, or absent without leave, as a result of his actions.