Family Of American Soldier In North Korean Custody Reveal Their ‘Worst Fear,’ Call For U.S. To ‘Fight For Him’
North Korea South Korea Border
Photo by Park Tae-hyun-Korea – Pool/Getty Images

The family of the American soldier who “willfully” crossed into North Korea earlier this month is speaking out, revealing what their “worst fear” is and encouraging the U.S. government to do more to bring him home. 

Travis King, a 23-year-old U.S. Army private, was with a tour group at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea when he ran across the border into the North. On Wednesday, some of King’s family members spoke with NBC News about the situation and the efforts to get him back. 

“When he went to the Army to fight for America, America should fight for him, fight for him to come home,” Myron Gates, King’s uncle, told NBC. The comments from Gates came after a U.S. State Department spokesman told reporters in a press briefing that he had “no updates or news to share” on the situation. 

“At the end of the day, I just feel like it should be no men left behind,” King’s sister, Jaqueda Gates, added. 

Since his detention, King’s family has reportedly been in contact with the parents of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was arrested and imprisoned in North Korea after he was accused by the government of stealing a propaganda poster. In June 2017, Warmbier was returned to the United States in a coma, where he died within six days. 

King’s uncle told NBC that his “worst fear” was that his nephew would return to the U.S. in a “vegetative state” like Warmbier. “I hope he comes back the same way he went in,” he said, adding that Warmbier’s parents had been helpful to the King family by giving them advice. 

“The days are getting longer, nights are worse,” Jaqueda Gates said about the time her brother has been gone. “All I think about is what he can be doing.”

She also told NBC that she had spoken with King just 48 hours before he crossed the border, calling the event “crazy.” She said King isn’t “the type to get into trouble like that,” and said it all sounds “made up.” 


Prior to his dash across the DMZ, King was facing disciplinary action over a confrontation with South Korean police. He was supposed to fly back to Fort Bliss and was at the airport — but not in custody — in Incheon, South Korea. He didn’t board his plane but instead left the airport, Newsweek reported

On Monday, American officials confirmed that there had been no communication with North Korea since last week. Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, said that an initial message from the United Nations command had been acknowledged by North Korea, but that has been the extent of communications, NBC News reported.

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