Travis King: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

travis king

Military photo Travis King

Travis King has been identified by multiple news sites as the U.S. soldier who crossed the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) into North Korea.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed in a news conference that a service member “willfully and without authorization” entered North Korea across the MDL. He was on a “tour,” Austin said.

“We believe that he is in DPRK custody,” he said, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He said authorities were working to notify the soldier’s next of kin.

Authorities have not named King, but U.S. sources named him to a variety of news sites, including ABC News and Fox News. Both news sites called him a private in the U.S. Army.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. The United Nations Command Tweeted That Travis King Crossed the Military Demarcation Line Without Permission

travis king

Facebook (Travis King)Travis King

On July 18, 2023, the United Nations Command tweeted that an U.S. soldier was in North Korean custody.

“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),” the tweet says. “We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA counterparts to resolve this incident.”

On Facebook, King has a single profile picture (see above) and a cover photo showing a tiger.

2. Travis King Has Been a Cavalry Scout for the Army Since 2021

According to ABC News, citing the U.S. Army, King has been “a cavalry scout in the Army since January 2021 and has no deployments.”

He is a private second class, according to CBS News.

According to the Associated Press, King had “joined a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) border tour.” The width of the DMZ on either side of the Military Demarcation Line is about 1.2 miles, according to Britannica.

3. Travis King Was Facing Assault Charges, Reports Say

ABC News reported that King “had served 47 days at a South Korean detention facility following an altercation with locals.” According to the Associated Press, King “was facing disciplinary action after he had been held in South Korea on assault charges.”

King “was supposed to board a flight” to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he was going to be released from the military due to a foreign conviction, ABC News reported.

According to BBC, King gave his “escort the slip at customs at Incheon Airport instead of boarding a flight.”

4. Travis King’s Mother, Who Lives in Racine, Wisconsin, Expressed Surprise

ABC News spoke to King’s mother, Claudine Gates, who lives in Racine, Wisconsin.

She expressed shock, the network reported, quoting Gates as saying, “I can’t see Travis doing anything like that.”

On Facebook, Gates describes herself as a “transportation driver” who is from Little Rock, Arkansas originally.

According to The New York Post, King is 23 years old.

5. A Witness Heard Travis King Laughing Before Making a Run for the North Korean Border, Reports Say

Kim Jung Un

GettyNorth Korean leader Kim Jong-un in April 27, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea.

According to BBC, “an eyewitness on the same border tour described hearing the soldier laughing loudly before making a run.”

“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,” a witness told CBS News.

Other U.S. soldiers have defected to North Korea. According to the AP, Charles Jenkins did so in 1965 and ended up in “North Korean propaganda films.”

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