A South Korean post is seen at Imjingak Park near the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Paju, Gyeonggi-do Province, South Korea, 20 July 2023. EFE/EPA/FILE/JEON HEON-KYUN

Pyongyang says US soldier who crossed border has sought asylum in North Korea

Seoul, Aug 16 (EFE).- North Korea is investigating an American soldier who crossed the border into its territory last month, the country’s state-owned media reported Wednesday, adding that he has sought asylum after feeling mistreated in the US army.

“During the investigation, he confessed that he decided to come over to the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea), opposed to inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination in the US army,” read a press statement released by KCNA agency.

This marked the regime’s first public confirmation of King’s situation, after he crossed the demilitarized zone or DMZ on July 18 and entered North Korea while touring the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the heart of the border between the two Koreas.

Pyongyang, however, was in contact with the United States about the situation of the soldier, who was believed to have been detained by the regime since crossing the border.

“Travis King, second class private of the US army in South Korea, illegally intruded into the territory of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the joint security area of Panmunjom,” said KCNA.

King “was disillusioned at the unequal American society, he expressed his will to seek political asylum either in the DPRK or in third country,” said the statement by the North Korean authorities, adding that “the investigation continues.”

Following the media announcement, Washington, on its part, said it had not been able to corroborate Pyongyang’s claim, and said that it was still working to bring King back to his country.

A member of King’s family urged the North Korean authorities to allow him to speak to his mother, and to treat him humanely.

King, 23, crossed the border to the North after spending 48 days in a South Korean prison for not having paid a fine in February over an incident with police in Seoul.

As a disciplinary measure, the authorities decided to send him back, but King ran away from the Incheon International Airport, where he was due to take a return flight to the United States.

The next day he booked a tour to the JSA and crossed over to North Korea.

Analysts have pointed out that North Korea could use the soldier for propaganda purposes or as a currency with Washington amid heightened tensions in the Korean peninsula.

Pyongyang’s statement also comes just days ahead of the summit between the leaders of Japan, South Korea and the United States in Washington, in which North Korea is expected to be one of the central issues.

Next week will also witness the start of the Ulchi Freedom Shield joint military drills between South Korea and the US, criticized by North Korea considering it to be a rehearsal for invasion into its territory. EFE