Travis King, an American soldier, had been jailed in South Korea for getting into fights.
According to court records, he allegedly caused damage to a police vehicle and recently served time in a Seoul detention center.
When the 23-year-old serviceman broke free, he was being sent back to the US after being recently freed.
He took part in a tour of the Joint Security Area before escaping into North Korea, which as of now has not responded.
What motivated him to cross the border is still a mystery. He acted “willfully, of his own volition,” according to US authorities, who also expressed fear for his safety.
In September 2022, Private 2nd Class (PV2) King, allegedly, was the subject of an assault investigation in South Korea. He was suspected of hitting a Korean national in a Seoul nightclub, according to the local media.
He was fined 5 million won (£3,000; $3,950) for “repeatedly kicking” a police car’s back door and yelling “foul language” at the officers attempting to take him into custody.
After spending two months in jail on assault allegations, according to local sources citing officials, he was freed on July 10th, although the reports provided no further details.
He spent nearly a week in South Korea under military watch after being freed.
He was escorted to the airport in Incheon, close to Seoul, where he would catch a flight back to the US and face disciplinary punishment.
But he didn’t get on the aircraft. According to an airport official quoted by The Korea Times, he arrived at the boarding gate by himself since military police officers were not permitted to accompany him all the way to the aircraft.
He reportedly approached an American Airlines representative at the gate and said his passport was missing. Then he was led away from the departures area by an airline representative.
He is said to have departed the terminal after saying goodbye to his escort to begin a tour of the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, between North and South Korea, which is open to international visitors.
It is unclear how PV2 King was able to board one of these tours considering that it often takes three days to a week to authorize someone to travel on one of these trips, which are normally tightly watched.
An observer on the same border tour claimed to have heard the soldier laughing aloud before he dashed across it.
The military command that manages the demilitarized zone (DMZ) stated that it thought the soldier was now in the North’s custody. According to a senior US commander, the soldier had not been in communication and US Forces Korea was looking into the matter.