Recently, a US soldier crossed the inter-Korean border into North Korea after spending 48 days in a Seoul prison workshop. The soldier, Pvt. Travis King, had been detained for failing to pay a court fine resulting from an incident where he kicked and damaged a police patrol car in Seoul. According to legal sources, he received a 5 million-won fine ($3,955) for the offense. After not paying the fine, he was held in the prison workshop for a day for each 100,000 won he owed.
Before his defection to North Korea, Pvt. Travis King was stationed in South Korea. During a tour to the Joint Security Area, he willfully crossed the inter-Korean border without authorization. Now, he is believed to be in North Korea’s custody, as confirmed by the UN Command and American defense authorities. Prior to his defection, he was also facing disciplinary action and assault charges in South Korea.
The initial incident that led to his legal trouble occurred on October 8, 2022, when he was accused of repeatedly kicking the back door of a police patrol vehicle in Seoul’s Mapo district, causing damage that amounted to 584,000 won in repairs. Police investigations revealed that King was apprehended for suspected violence at a nightclub, during which he refused to cooperate with officers and used offensive language against Koreans and the Korean military.
After being detained from May 24 to July 10 in a Cheonan penitentiary, located 85 kilometers south of Seoul, he was eventually released and temporarily relocated to an American military base in South Korea. However, he managed to escape from Incheon International Airport while attempting to board a flight to Dallas. This escape led to his eventual defection to North Korea.