United States officials have confirmed that one of their soldiers was detained in North Korea this morning. He has also reportedly defected.
CBS News reported that the soldier in question is Private 2nd Class Travis King. Before his detainment, he was being escorted back to the United States from South Korea for disciplinary reasons.
The illegal crossing reportedly occurred at 3.27pm local time (2:37 AM ET) according to the Daily Mirror. King was visiting the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) at Panmunjom with a civilian tour group before leaving their sight.
The MDL marks the border between North and South Korea. The line is surrounded by a demilitarized zone and is one of the most heavily guarded areas in the entire world.
The United States maintains a presence of approximately 28,500 forces along the North Korea-South Korea border.
The United Nations command, which operates the Joint Security Area (JSA) within the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, released the following statement:
A U.S. National on a JSA orientation tour crossed, without authorization, the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA (North Korean army) counterparts to resolve this incident.
Newsweek revealed that the Korean -language version of the message said that King “had defected to North Korea.” This news has not been confirmed by American authorities at this point.
A witness, who was part of the tour group with King, gives credibility to the report that King was trying to defect. He explained to CBS News that they had just visited one of the buildings at the site before King laughed and disappeared from the group.
This man gives out a loud “ha ha ha,” and just runs in between some buildings.
The witness said that he thought the whole episode was a joke at first. There was confusion amongst military personnel as well.
I thought it was a bad joke at first, but when he didn’t come back, I realized it wasn’t a joke, and then everybody reacted and things got crazy.
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