American Soldier Believed to Be in North Korean Custody Following Unauthorized Border Crossing

The soldier has been identified as Travis King, 23, who has served in the U.S. Army since January 2021, army spokesperson Bryce Dubee told CBS News.

An American soldier crossed into North Korea "willfully and without authorization" and was believed to be in the custody of the country's forces, U.S. and international officials said Tuesday.

The United Nations Command, which operates the Joint Security Area (JSA) within the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, first confirmed on Twitter that an unidentified U.S. national had crossed the border.

“A U.S. National on a JSA orientation tour crossed, without authorization, the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

"We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA counterparts to resolve this incident,” the UN Command wrote on Twitter.

U.S. officials tell CBS News the soldier in question is Private 2nd Class Travis King, 23, who had served time at a military detention facility in South Korea and was released about a week ago to officials at U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, the hub of U.S. forces in the country.

King was escorted to the airport in Incheon, near Seoul, for a flight back to the U.S. to be separated from the army, the U.S. officials said. He parted ways with his escort at Customs and then didn't board the plane, CBS News reported.

After going through airport security, he somehow returned and managed to join a border tour group before crossing into North Korea, officials told CBS News.

King had served about two months in a South Korean jail on assault charges, CBS News reported.

South Korean media outlets reported that King had allegedly punched a South Korean national in a club last September, according to NPR. King had also been fined 5 million won ($3,942) for causing public damage and being uncooperative with police during his arrest, NPR reported.

King has served in the U.S. Army since January 2021, army spokesperson Bryce Dubee told CBS News.

It's unknown why King crossed into North Korea – was it something he planned or something he did on a whim?

Some experts say that the trip just to the Demilitarized Zone takes days of planning, NPR reported.

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