US soldier detained in N. Korea was in prison workshop in South

Seoul, Jul 20 (EFE) – The U.S. soldier who remains detained in North Korea after sneaking into the country on Tuesday spent 48 days in a penitentiary workshop in the South because he failed to pay a fine in February for kicking and damaging a police car in Seoul, Yonhap news agency reported.

Pvt. 2nd Class Travis T. King, 23, crossed the Military Demarcation Line and entered North Korean territory while on a sightseeing tour of the Joint Security Area at the heart of the border between the two Koreas, which are technically still at war.

Unnamed sources with knowledge of King’s legal situation told Yonhap News Agency that after being fined KRW 5 million (about $3,900) for damaging the car door of a police patrol that stopped him in February, the military officer did not pay the penalty.

A court said King should be placed in a penitentiary workshop, where he had to work to pay the fine at a rate of about KRW 100,000 per day worked.

The soldier finally spent 48 days, from May 24 to July 10, in a penitentiary in Cheonan, 85 kilometers south of Seoul, and was then sent to a U.S. base in South Korea, where he stayed for a week.

US media reported that, as a disciplinary measure in connection with assault charges, the military decided to repatriate him Monday but King allegedly fled Incheon International Airport, which serves Seoul, where he was to catch a flight to Dallas.

It is unknown whether the soldier had booked Tuesday’s guided tour of the security area in advance and took the opportunity to run across the demarcation line, which divides it in two.

Washington said Travis is in the custody of North Korean authorities and that the Pentagon has contacted the Korean People’s Army with no response so far.

North Korea has been closed to the outside world since the start of the pandemic in 2020 and has not even allowed its diplomats or overseas workers to return to the country since then.

The country, which has obtained an unknown number of Chinese vaccines, maintains its strict border protocols to this day. EFE


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