According to CNN, US Army Private Travis King has returned to a US military facility in Texas after being expelled from North Korea. King arrived at Kelly Field on a US military flight on Thursday, two months after his daring crossing of the heavily fortified border.
Television broadcasts shows a group of people deboarding an aircraft at the base. It is anticipated that King will undergo a medical evaluation at the Brooke Army Medical Center, located within Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. Notably, this medical centre was the facility where basketball star Brittney Griner received treatment in December following her release from Russian detention, a development that followed a prisoner exchange with Russia and ended her ten-month period of incarceration.
The US government has announced that upon his return, King will undergo an initial assessment followed by a reintegration process aimed at reuniting him with his family.
At the age of 23, King made a dash into North Korea from South Korea on July 18 while participating in a civilian tour near the heavily fortified border, leading to his immediate arrest by North Korean authorities.
It remains unclear whether King will face disciplinary actions from the US Army, which has handled his case with caution. Thus far, the Army has refrained from labelling him as a deserter, despite his unauthorised border crossing while on active duty.
North Korea, on the other hand, appears to have treated King’s case as one of illegal immigration. North Korea’s KCNA state news agency reported that King had informed Pyongyang that he entered North Korea illegally due to disillusionment with the unequal aspects of US society.
The Swedish government, acting as the representative of US interests in North Korea, facilitated King’s return from North Korea and transported him to China.
The US State Department confirmed that US Ambassador to Beijing, Nicholas Burns, met with King in Dandong, a city bordering North Korea. From there, King travelled to Shenyang, China, and then to Osan Air Force Base in South Korea before making his journey back to the United States.
King enlisted in the US Army in January 2021 and faced two allegations of assault during his time in South Korea. Court documents indicate that he pleaded guilty to one instance of assault and damaging public property, related to an incident involving the destruction of a police car during a profanity-laden confrontation with Koreans. Further disciplinary actions awaited him upon his return to the United States.
In July, King had completed his military detention and was awaiting US military transport to rejoin his home unit in the United States at the airport. Instead, he chose to leave the airport and participate in a tour of the border region, ultimately crossing into North Korea despite attempts by South Korean and US guards to prevent him.