North Korea makes first comments on U.S. soldier who crossed the border

SEOUL, South Korea  – North Korea said Wednesday that a U.S. soldier who bolted into the North across the heavily armed Korean border last month did so after being disillusioned at the inequality of American society.

Private 2nd Class Travis King entered North Korea while on a tour of a Korean border village, becoming the first American detained in the North in nearly five years.

“We can’t verify these alleged comments,” a U.S. Defense Department official said to CBS News. “We remain focused on his safe return. The Department’s priority is to bring Private King home, and that we are working through all available channels to achieve that outcome.”

“According to an investigation by a relevant organ of the DPRK, Travis King admitted that he illegally intruded into the territory of the DPRK,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

According to KCNA, King told investigators that he had decided to enter North Korea because he “harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army.”

The U.S. in July said North Korea responded to outreach about Private Travis King, who crossed into North Korea the same month. The statement marked the U.S.’s first public acknowledgment of Pyongyang’s response to the situation. The Pentagon said it used established channels with North Korea at the United Nations Command to make the requests about King.

King had been scheduled to go back to the U.S. for separation from the Army after serving time in a South Korean detention facility for assaulting two South Koreans and kicking a patrol car. The soldier was being escorted to the commercial airport outside Seoul. He parted ways from his escort — and skipped his flight — before making his way to North Korea. KCNA said King accompanied tourists to the joint security area of Panmunjom on July 18.

It says King also expressed his willingness to seek refuge in North Korea or a third country, saying that he “was disillusioned at the unequal American society.”

North Korea says an investigation into King would continue.

The statements marked North Korea’s first official comments on King since his entrance to the Nort

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