(HorizonPost.com) – A US soldier stationed in South Korea who was to return home to face disciplinary action escaped from the airport and crossed into North Korea on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
The US Army identified the soldier as Pvt. 2nd Class Travis King, 23.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters in a press briefing that there is still much the Pentagon is trying to learn. According to Austin, King “willfully and without authorization” crossed the DMZ into North Korea.
Austin said it is believed that King is in North Korean custody and the Pentagon is “closely monitoring and investigating the situation.”
The Associated Press reported that King had just been released on July 10 after being held on assault charges. He was scheduled to return to Fort Bliss, Texas on Monday where he would likely face additional disciplinary actions and discharge.
According to Pentagon officials, King was escorted to the airport in South Korea until he reached customs. At that point, rather than board the plane home, King left the airport. He later joined a tour of the Korean village of Panmunjom along the border with North Korea. While there, King rushed across the guarded border into the North.
One woman who was on the same tour as King told the Associated Press that she thought his bolt across the border into North Korea was a “stupid prank” that was being filmed for something like TikTok. It wasn’t until she saw the reaction from the soldiers guarding the border that she realized it wasn’t a stunt.
Col. Issac Taylor, a spokesman for US Forces Korea, said the military is working with the North Korean People’s Army to resolve the issue.
In a press briefing this week, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Pentagon officials, as well as officials from the US State Department and United Nations, were working to “ascertain more information” to resolve the issue.
Jean-Pierre said the primary concern is to determine King’s “well-being.”
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