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U.S. Soldier Travis King Charged with Desertion in North Korea Defection



Travis King

A U.S. soldier who defected to North Korea faces multiple charges, including desertion, assault on fellow soldiers, and soliciting child pornography. Pvt. 2nd Class Travis King, aged 23, was expelled from North Korea in late September and taken into U.S. custody in neighboring China. He was released two months after crossing the heavily fortified border separating North and South Korea, where he had been stationed.

According to the charging sheet, King is confronted with eight counts, which encompass desertion related to his escape into North Korea, one of the world’s most secretive nations. Furthermore, he faces allegations of soliciting a Snapchat user to produce child pornography and possessing a video depicting what appears to be a minor engaged in explicit sexual conduct.

Other accusations against him include an attempted escape from U.S. military custody in October 2022, leaving his base after curfew, assaulting fellow military personnel, and violating orders by consuming alcohol, according to the document.

King made his daring run across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), separating North and South Korea on July 18. Earlier on that day, he had been escorted to an airport outside Seoul by the U.S. military, with plans for him to return to the U.S. for possible further disciplinary action, after serving 48 days in a South Korean prison in lieu of a $4,000 fine. His charges in South Korea included damaging public property.

However, instead of boarding the plane, King joined a civilian tour group heading for the joint security area along the DMZ. During the tour, he abruptly broke away from the group and willfully crossed the border without authorization, as confirmed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the time.

Travis King

Details regarding King’s treatment during his North Korean detention remain limited, and he has not publicly explained the motivations behind his actions.

Upon his return to the U.S. on September 28, King underwent reintegration procedures at Joint Base San Antonio before being transferred to Fort Bliss, Texas, on Wednesday. He was subsequently placed in pretrial confinement following a military commander’s order, an action that King’s legal team believes to be an error. A hearing, expected to take place next week, will determine whether he remains confined. Franklin D. Rosenblatt, the lead counsel for King’s legal team, and an assistant professor at the Mississippi College School of Law, stressed the importance of withholding judgment and treating returning captives with fairness.

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King’s mother, Claudine Gates, expressed concern for her son’s mental health and emphasized his presumption of innocence. She remarked, “A mother knows her son, and I believe something happened to mine while he was deployed.” She also expressed gratitude for the legal team representing her son and looked forward to his day in court.

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