The US military has apprehended an Army soldier who ran to North Korea and is holding him for desertion.
Travis King, a 23-year-old soldier, returned to the United States earlier this month.
King is charged with eight counts, including desertion and having sexual photos of a child. The arrest was confirmed by officials, according to the Associated Press.
Claudine Gates, King’s mother, told the outlet in a statement that her son should be “afforded the presumption of innocence.” She went on to say, “A mother knows her son, and I believe something happened to mine while he was deployed.”
According to a report from the Associated Press in September,“King, who had served in South Korea, ran into the North while on a civilian tour of a border village on July 18, becoming the first American confirmed to be detained in the isolated country in nearly five years. At the time, he was supposed to be heading to Fort Bliss, Texas, following his release from prison in South Korea on an assault conviction.”
“He was declared AWOL from the Army, but not considered a deserter,” the report continued. “Punishment for going AWOL can vary, and it depends in part on whether the service member voluntarily returned or was apprehended. King’s two-month absence and ultimate handover by the North Koreans makes that more complicated.”
After being held in North Korea for two months, Pyongyang stated that he would be returned, and he was taken to an Air Force installation in Texas.
“At the time, officials said they did not know exactly why North Korea decided to let King go, but suspected Pyongyang determined that as a low-ranking serviceman he had no real value in terms of either leverage or information,” the AP report says.
Deserters risk up to three years in prison, or the death penalty, in times of war.