'He's in a Real Bad Place': US Makes Little Progress in Getting Pvt. Travis King Back from North Korea!
2023/07/31

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More than a day after Pvt. Travis King ran into North Korea, efforts by the Pentagon and State Department to get him back have made little headway -- and the reasons for the troubled soldier fleeing across the border into the authoritarian state remained mostly a mystery.

The State Department said Wednesday on the unusual case of the soldier, who had reportedly in a South Korea entertainment district, served six weeks in jail and was supposed to be flown back to , Texas, to face discipline when he fled across the demilitarized zone during a public tour.

Meanwhile, defense officials told Military.

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com that multiple groups and agencies are working together to secure King's release. But , and King's physical status, as well as any conditions of his captivity, remained unknown.

"We are engaging all levers of government, but we have not heard anything back yet," a senior defense official told Military.com.

American captives have not been well-treated in North Korean custody. King's family spoke out about the incident and his safety on Wednesday.

"I know he's in a real bad place, a bad situation," King's uncle, Myron Gates, told The Associated Press.

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"And I'm hoping that they let him come home and he'll be back around his mama or get him some help or something like that. Just be back around his family. That's what I'm hoping."

Miller said the Defense Department reached out to "counterparts" in the North Korean Army on Tuesday, but his "understanding is that those communications have not yet been answered."

Another defense official said that in addition to the Pentagon and the State Department, the United Nations and the White House were also involved in the effort to learn more about King's situation.

Ellen Kim, a senior fellow and the deputy director of the Korea chair at the nonprofit Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Military.

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com that King's status as an active-duty soldier may have unnecessarily complicated the initial efforts to learn more about his situation.

"Travis is a soldier, so I guess that from the State Department's perspective ... it's under [the Department of Defense's] responsibility," Kim said in an interview with Military.com. "Usually, when there's diplomatic communication, it's the State Department, it's under their responsibilities ... There's a little lack of interagency cooperation about how both agencies can deal with this."

Also complicating the situation is King's reported criminal conduct. The enlisted soldier served almost two months in South Korean jail before he was to be flown to the U.

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S., but he only made it as far as customs at the Seoul airport, according to the AP. King somehow left and ended up on the tour of Panmunjom, a popular attraction on the tense border with North Korea.

Stars and Stripes, citing records from Seoul Western District Court, reported that Seoul police arrested King just before 4 a.m. on Oct. 8 in Mapo and placed him in a squad car. He reportedly refused to answer questions, kicked the car's doors and ranted: "F--- Korean, f--- Korean army, f--- Korean police."

Those court records redacted the names of the victims and the defendant, but a court official confirmed to the military newspaper that King was the defendant.

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He reportedly was fined about $3,950 and had paid nearly $800 for damage to the police car.

King was also accused of assault on Sept. 25, according to the paper, citing court records, and Seoul police alleged he pushed and punched a patron at a Mapo bar who refused to buy him a drink.

Gates, King's uncle, told the AP that he was also aware of his nephew being involved in an altercation in Korea, but said it was out of character for the quiet and timid soldier.

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