Travis King crossed the border into North Korea on July 18 while on a tourist trip of the Joint Security Area (JSA), which separates the two nations. The remarks, which were released in state media on Wednesday, were Pyongyang’s first statement to the world about King.
King reportedly admitted to unlawfully crossing the border with the intention of remaining in North Korea or in a third nation, according to North Korea.
Travis King admitted throughout the investigation that he had chosen to go to the DPRK because he harboured resentment towards inhumane treatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army,” state news agency KCNA reported, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name. “He also expressed his willingness to seek refugee in the DPRK or a third country, saying that he was disillusioned at the unequal American society.”
KCNA said the 23-year-old was “kept under control by soldiers of the Korean People’s Army” after his crossing and the investigation continues.
The border between the two Koreas is heavily fortified but at the JSA, the frontier is marked only by a low concrete divider and is relatively easy to cross, despite the presence of soldiers on both sides.
US authorities have refused to designate King as a prisoner of war because they believe he crossed the border knowingly.
King escaped as he was about to face disciplinary proceedings following a wild pub brawl that resulted in an encounter with South Korean police and a stay in a South Korean jail.
The Pentagon stated that it was unable to confirm King’s remarks as reported by KCNA and that his safe return was still its top priority. If new information from North Korea had been received, it was not mentioned.
Myron Gates, King’s uncle, told news channels earlier this month that his nephew had encountered bigotry while serving in the military and did not sound like himself after being imprisoned.
July’s incident came as relations between the two Koreas are at one of their lowest points, with diplomacy stalled and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un calling for increased weapons development, including tactical nuclear warheads.
Earlier this month, the UNC said North Korea had “responded” to efforts to discuss the case.