Light Wave

U.S. News

US Soldier Who Crossed Into North Korea ‘Will Face Military Justice’ Upon His Return

By Belal Awad · July 19, 2023

A view from South Korea towards North Korea in the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom.  Wikimedia Commons

A US Soldier who defected to North Korea “was in a lot of trouble” and could face harsh “military justice” if he returns, according to military expert and former Marine Lt. Colonel Hal Kempfer. US military officials say Private Second Class Travis King “willfully and without authorization” crossed into North Korea while on a tour of the Joint Security Area within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea.

The incident - which took place Tuesday - comes amid rising tensions on the Korean peninsula. It coincides with the arrival of a U.S. nuclear-armed submarine in South Korea, a rare visit widely seen as a warning to North Korea over its own military provocative activities. King crossed the at Panmunjom, a village located inside the DMZ.

Providing context to King’s situation, Kempfer told Fox News, “He was pending some sort of judicial punishment… From that, I can discern that he was in a lot of trouble and he was going to get into more trouble with his judicial situation.” King’s fear of impending legal woes and sense of desperation is why Kempfer believes his unauthoriaced border crossing was likely a defection. He added that King’s actions will almost certainly classify him as a deserter in the US military, which will lead to more serious charges if he ever returns.

While North Korea has a history of kidnapping Westerners, this case stands out as King crossed the border voluntarily. “North Korea has no reason to return him anytime soon,” Kempfer said.

While US policy is the safe return of its citizens from rogue states such as North Korea, Kempfer warned that King will have significant legal challenges upon his return. “We try to bring everybody home… But he is going to face military justice when he gets back.”

The diplomatic efforts to secure King’s return will be closely monitored in the coming weeks. There is speculation that former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson, who has a history of dealing with North Korea, may be asked to handle the negotiation.

Light Wave commentary

This incident serves as a reminder of the complex and tense relationship between the US and North Korea. It also underscores the extreme lengths individuals might go to when faced with a personal crisis. As the situation unfolds, it will be crucial to observe how both countries navigate this delicate issue, balancing national security concerns with the life of a single individual.