American Soldier In North Korean Custody Was Facing Disciplinary Action Over Assault
North Korea South Korea Border
Photo by Park Tae-hyun-Korea – Pool/Getty Images

The U.S. soldier currently detained in North Korea after crossing into the communist nation at the DMZ line was facing disciplinary action for alleged assault, according to military officials. 

The soldier, identified as 23-year-old Travis King, willingly crossed the border into North Korea, according to Pentagon officials. King had reportedly been disciplined for assault in South Korea and was facing further disciplinary action in the U.S. 

King was involved in at least two separate episodes where Korean police were brought in to intervene, including incidents in September and October 2022. 

In September, King had a case settled after he was accused of punching a man in the face at a South Korean club. The following month, he was accused of acting aggressively toward police officers responding to a call about a fight, court documents obtained by Reuters show. 

The Korean court said that King then shouted expletives aimed at police and Koreans and damaged the police car when he was taken in for questioning. In the aftermath, King reportedly paid to repair the vehicle and was fined $4,000 by the Seoul Western District Court in February after he pleaded guilty to assault and destruction of public goods. 

He spent almost two months in detention for the assault charge, according to The Associated Press. The news agency reported that he had been released on July 10. Officials have said that King was going to be sent back to America before he crossed into North Korea. 

“We believe he is currently in [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] custody and are working with our [Korean People’s Army] counterparts to resolve this incident,” U.S. Forces Korea spokesperson Col. Isaac Taylor said, adding that the entry into North Korea was done “willfully and without authorization.”


One witness said that King ran across the border yelling “ha-ha-ha,” according to The New York Post. 

“I assumed initially he had a mate filming him in some kind of really stupid prank or stunt, like a TikTok, the most stupid thing you could do,” a New Zealand tourist named Leslie told the AP. “But then I heard one of the soldiers shout, ‘Get that guy.’”

The detention comes just days after the U.S. sent the USS Kentucky to South Korea, the first time a nuclear-armed submarine had been sent to the area in more than 30 years. 

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