U.S. Soldier Who Entered North Korea Is Charged With Desertion

Pvt. Travis T. King, the American soldier who returned to the United States last month after crossing into North Korea in July, has been charged in military court with multiple offenses, including desertion, assaulting other soldiers and child pornography.

Private King, 23, is being held at a civilian jail just outside Fort Bliss, near El Paso, according to a family spokesman. He was moved there from Fort Sam Houston, near San Antonio, where he had been undergoing reintegration procedures.

The charges were filed on Sunday by officials at Fort Bliss. Private King was made aware of them on Wednesday, the family spokesman said.

Private King’s mother, Claudine Gates of Racine, Wis., said in a statement that her son should be presumed innocent and that she was “extremely concerned about his mental health.”

“The man I raised, the man I dropped off at boot camp, the man who spent the holidays with me before deploying did not drink,” Ms. Gates said in a statement. “A mother knows her son, and I believe something happened to mine while he was deployed.”

The charges against Private King, detailed in a charging document obtained by The New York Times, include desertion for crossing into North Korea while with a tour group in mid-July. The document also details charges of punching an officer in the head and kicking a staff sergeant in the head in October 2022.

The child pornography charges relate to his activity on the social media platform Snapchat, where he is accused of soliciting a minor to post partially nude photos.

The offenses Private King faces were reported earlier by Reuters.

Private King had been assigned to South Korea as a member of the First Brigade Combat Team, First Armored Division. After being released in July from a South Korean detention center, where he had spent time on assault charges, he was escorted by U.S. military personnel to Incheon International Airport outside Seoul to board a plane to the United States.

Instead of boarding the plane, he fled to the North through the Demilitarized Zone, which separates North and South Korea, by taking a bus the next day to the border village of Panmunjom, which is inside the DMZ and allows tourists to visit.

Much remains unknown about Private King’s time in North Korea. Officials there expelled him in late September, saying that they had found him guilty of “illegally intruding” into their territory, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

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