Mom of U.S. soldier who defected to North Korea says she can't imagine son 'doing anything like that'
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The mother of the U.S. soldier who crossed into North Korea has shared her shock.
Army private Travis King, 23, was stationed in South Korea and was on a tour of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea on Tuesday (July 18) when he strayed from his group and ran across the border to North Korea.
Claudine Gates, King’s mother, of Racine, Wisconsin, said the risky and strange move was unlike her son’s typical behavior.
“I can’t see Travis doing anything like that,” she told ABC News on Wednesday.
The concerned mother said the army informed her on Tuesday morning that her son had crossed into North Korea. Gates last heard from her son ‘a few days ago’, when he told her he was set to return to his base in Fort Bliss, Texas, soon.
She told ABC News she just wants ‘him to come home’.
King has been a cavalry scout in the Army since January 2021, and has no deployments according to service information provided to ABC News by an Army spokesperson.
The soldier had served 47 days at a South Korean detention facility after an altercation with locals, according to a U.S. Official.
King was released from the detention facility before spending about a week at a U.S. base in South Korea under observation, two other U.S. officials confirmed to ABC News.
He finished out-processing from the facility and was escorted to the Incheon International Airport on Monday (July 17) as far as the customs checkpoint. He continued into the terminal alone because his military escort didn’t have a ticket and was not allowed past the checkpoint.
King was supposed to board a flight to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he would be met with disciplinary charges for the previous incident.
Instead, he ended up leaving for a tour of the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin addressed the strange incident during a news conference on Tuesday, where he was joined by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.
Austin said: "We're very early in this event and so there's a lot that we're still trying to learn.
“What we do know is that one of our service members who was on a tour willfully and without authorization crossed the military demarcation line. We believe that he is in DPRK custody.
“We're closely monitoring and investigating the situation, and working to notify the soldier's next of kin and engaging to address this incident."
The White House has now said it’s working with the Department of Defense, the State Department and the United Nations to King’s detainment in North Korea.