Family Members Left Puzzled as American Soldier Rushes into North Korea

by Madison Thomas
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soldier's dash into North Korea

On Wednesday, family members of a U.S. Army private who hastily crossed the border into North Korea expressed their bewilderment, suggesting that he may have been overwhelmed by legal issues and the imminent possibility of being discharged from the military.

Relatives described Pvt. Travis King, aged 23, as an introverted individual who abstained from vices like drinking and smoking, instead finding solace in reading the Bible. Having grown up in southeast Wisconsin, he had been enthusiastic about serving his country in South Korea. Now, King’s family is grappling with the question of what triggered his impulsive decision to enter a country notorious for holding Americans captive and using them as bargaining chips.

“I can’t imagine him doing that intentionally if he was in his right mind,” King’s maternal grandfather, Carl Gates, shared with The Big Big News from his home in Kenosha, Wisconsin. “Travis is a good guy. He wouldn’t do anything to harm anyone, and I can’t see him trying to harm himself.”

King was scheduled to be repatriated to the United States this week to face military disciplinary action after serving nearly two months in a South Korean prison on assault charges. However, instead of boarding a flight to Texas on Monday as planned, he evaded authorities and quietly joined a civilian tour group on Tuesday morning, headed for the Demilitarized Zone separating South and North Korea.

Even with the burden of legal troubles looming over him, King’s family is at a loss to comprehend his actions.

Myron Gates, King’s uncle, questioned whether his nephew might have been grappling with a mental health issue.

“I don’t understand why he would do that because it seemed like he was on his way back here to the United States,” Myron Gates stated. “He was on his way home.”

Another relative mentioned that King was despondent following the recent loss of his young cousin. Lakeia Nard revealed that King was close to her 7-year-old son, King’nazier Gates, who passed away in February due to a rare genetic disease.

According to Carl Gates, his grandson joined the military three years ago out of a sense of duty towards his country and a desire to improve his life. King has an older brother who serves as a police officer and a cousin who is in the Navy.

King served as a cavalry scout with the 1st Armored Division.

“He’s a polite and reserved young man,” Carl Gates added. “He keeps to himself and doesn’t cause trouble for anyone.”

North Korea has remained silent regarding the highly unusual entry of American soldier Travis King across the heavily fortified border between the Koreas (July 19) (AP video/Yong-ho Kim).

King faced discharge from the Army due to his conviction of a crime in a foreign country, according to an anonymous U.S. official due to the sensitive nature of the matter.

In February, a court fined King 5 million won ($3,950) after finding him guilty of assaulting an unidentified person and damaging a police vehicle in Seoul last October, as stated in a transcript of the verdict obtained by the AP.

The court also mentioned an accusation of King punching a 23-year-old man at a Seoul nightclub, although the charge was dismissed because the victim did not wish for the soldier to be penalized. King served 47 days in prison.

As per the U.S. official, King was accompanied to the airport on Monday by two U.S. service members. His intended destination was an American Airlines flight to Texas scheduled to depart at 5:40 p.m. Military personnel were supposed to meet him upon arrival and escort him to Fort Bliss.

During the journey to the departure gate, King was escorted as far as customs but left the airport before boarding the plane. It remains unclear how he spent the hours until he joined the tour group in the border village of Panmunjom and sprinted across the border on Tuesday afternoon.

Sarah Leslie, a tourist from New Zealand, mentioned that King was part of her tour group and was traveling alone. Initially, he appeared like any other tourist, even purchasing a DMZ hat from a gift shop. He was casually dressed in jeans and a T-shirt.

As the tour concluded, group members were taking pictures and milling about when Leslie witnessed King sprinting “really fast.” Initially, she assumed it was some sort of prank or stunt.

“I initially thought he had a friend filming him in some incredibly foolish prank or stunt, like something from TikTok, the most absurd thing one could do,” Leslie recalled. “But then I heard one of the soldiers shouting, ‘Get that guy!'”

Before the soldiers could apprehend him, King had already crossed the border. It happened in a matter of seconds.

U.S. officials provided minimal details regarding the possible motivations behind King’s actions.

“We are still in the process of gathering facts,” stated State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre mentioned that the administration was working to determine King’s location, condition, and reasons for crossing into North Korea. She assured that officials would strive to ensure his safe return to his family.

King’s mother, Claudine Gates, pleaded with reporters outside her residence in Racine, Wisconsin, expressing her sole concern: bringing her son home.

“I just want my son back,” she said in a video posted by Milwaukee television station WISN. “Bring my son home.”

King’s grandfather called upon his country to assist in rescuing his grandson.

“We’re the United States. We make things happen. If they can get him out of there, our family would be grateful,” Carl Gates urged. “Save my grandson.”

Note: Some minor edits have been made for clarity and coherence.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about soldier’s dash into North Korea

Why did the American soldier dash into North Korea?

Family members believe that the soldier may have felt overwhelmed due to legal troubles and the possibility of discharge from the military. They are still trying to understand what changed before his impulsive action.

What were the soldier’s legal troubles?

The soldier had served nearly two months in a South Korea prison on assault charges. He was facing military disciplinary action and potential discharge from the Army because of his conviction in a foreign country.

Was the soldier’s behavior influenced by mental health issues?

Family members, including the soldier’s uncle, questioned whether he may have been experiencing a mental problem that led to his unexpected actions. However, the exact influence of mental health on his behavior is not yet confirmed.

Did any personal circumstances contribute to the soldier’s decision?

According to a relative, the soldier was distraught over the recent loss of his young cousin, who passed away from a rare genetic disease. This personal tragedy may have added to his emotional state at the time of the incident.

What were the soldier’s intentions before dashing into North Korea?

The soldier was scheduled to be returned to the United States to face military discipline. However, instead of boarding a flight as planned, he slipped away and joined a civilian tour group heading towards the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea.

How did the soldier manage to cross the border into North Korea?

While in a tour group near the border village of Panmunjom, the soldier sprinted across the heavily fortified border and entered North Korea before soldiers could apprehend him.

What actions are being taken to resolve the situation?

U.S. officials are working to gather information and determine the soldier’s location, condition, and reasons for crossing into North Korea. The administration is committed to ensuring his safe return to his family.

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1 comment

PatriotSoldier July 20, 2023 - 6:53 pm

smh, can’t believe he did that! a soldier shouldn’t betray his own country like that. hope they figure out why he did it and bring him to justice.


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