North Korea has openly acknowledged that American soldier Travis King, 23, entered the country last month after crossing the border from South Korea. King entered the nation illegally, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a state-run publication in North Korea, because of claims of mistreatment and racial discrimination in the U.S. military. The incident has sparked diplomatic talks between the two countries and marks a rare instance of North Korea acknowledging such an occurrence.

The official stance of North Korea

The first results of an official investigation into King’s case were presented in detail in the KCNA report. It said that King acknowledged entering North Korea without authorization and gave his reason as “ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army.” According to the report, King was disenchanted with American society due to his perception of inequality, which led him to contemplate taking refuge in North Korea or another country.

American Reaction and Diplomatic Attempts

In response to North Korea’s statement, the United States expressed its focus on ensuring King’s safe return. A spokesperson from the State Department emphasized that the priority is to bring Private King home, and that the department is working through available channels to achieve this outcome. However, Washington also mentioned that it could not independently verify the comments attributed to King.

The situation is made more difficult by the U.S. and North Korea’s lack of diplomatic ties. Although the Swedish Embassy offers certain consular services to American citizens in North Korea, communication and intervention are further restricted because most foreign diplomats are away because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The History and Crossing of Travis King

Travis King enlisted in the United States Army in 2021 and was assigned to the 1st Armored Division as a cavalry scout, holding the rank of Private 2nd Class. After his arrest last October for assaulting a South Korean citizen and other charges, King was convicted and detained in South Korea. Despite his planned return to his U.S. unit, he did not board the flight and instead joined a tour of the demilitarized zone on the Korean border. He subsequently crossed into North Korea and was apprehended by North Korean authorities.

Historical Context and Propaganda

King’s case is not the first instance of a U.S. soldier crossing into North Korea. Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, a few U.S. soldiers have entered the country, occasionally becoming subjects of North Korean propaganda. The North often criticizes racism and inequality in American society while defending its own human rights record from international scrutiny.