The American soldier who willfully ran across the North Korean border is now in the custody of the United States.
Private Second Class Travis King ran across the Military Demarcation Line in July and was taken into the custody of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. At the time, King was scheduled to be escorted back to Fort Bliss in Texas to face military disciplinary actions after being charged with assault while stationed in South Korea.
North Korean authorities ultimately confirmed King was in its custody and had reportedly told investigators that he “harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army.”
“He also expressed his willingness to seek refuge in the DPRK or a third country, saying that he was disillusioned at the unequal American society,” noted a report published by the North Korean media.
The Pentagon confirmed on Sept. 27 that King was once again in American custody after 71 days of detainment.
“U.S. officials have secured the return of Private Travis King from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” said Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder in a press release. “We appreciate the hard work of personnel in the Army, United States Forces Korea, and across the Department of Defense, along with our State Department colleagues, to bring Private King back to the United States, and we thank the governments of Sweden and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for their assistance.”
“I just can’t see him ever wanting to just stay in Korea when he has family in America,” said Gates during the interview, per CBS News.
Gates also cast doubt on statements North Korean media had attributed to her son.
“My son, he was proud to be American. He’s not even a racist type of person. That’s why I can’t see him saying that,” she said. However, Gates said she was “kind of told that he said a little something like that to his uncles.”
She also said that King had become less communicative in the weeks leading up to his July crossing and that his family was concerned he may have been “overwhelmed” by his legal issues which could have prompted his discharge from the Army, per CBS News.
“In the end, the North apparently concluded that King simply wasn’t worth keeping, possibly because the costs of providing him food and accommodation and assigning him guards and translators when he was never to be a meaningful source of U.S. military intelligence,” per PBS News.
King was one of approximately 23,000 service members stationed in South Korea. He was a cavalry scout at Camp Bonifas and received the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal and the Overseas Service Ribbon during his service.