At first, tourists who saw a soldier sprinting from South Korea to North Korea in plain clothes thought it was an act.
New Zealanders Sarah Leslie and her father were part of a tour group that left Seoul on Tuesday to visit the Military Demarcation Line which separates the countries. Leslie gave her account in an interview given to The Associated Press. Travis King ran into North Korean territory, leaving the other 43 tourists behind. He is currently being detained.
Leslie said that she didn’t know King was an American soldier because he was wearing jeans and a T-shirt casually.
A senior defense official stated that King had just finished about two months in a South Korean detention facility following a physical altercation with locals. After King was arrested and throughout the time he was held at the facility, he made comments that he did not want to come back to America, according to the official.
According to the Associated Press, King would be returning home to Fort Bliss (Texas) after his release from prison on 10 July. He would then have to face additional military discipline and possibly discharge.
According to the U.S. he “willfully crossed Military Demarcation Line (MDL) without authorization” into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Forces Korea spokeswoman.
Leslie told The Associated Press her tour group went above and beyond most others in visiting the Joint Security Area of the village Panmunjom. Tourists were able to enter North Korean territory in a jointly-held building.
Leslie, a tourist on the tour, commented that King appeared to keep himself to himself. He did not appear to be speaking to anyone.
The tour was nearing its end Tuesday afternoon – the group had just walked out of the building and were milling about taking photos – when she saw King running “really fast.”
Leslie said, “At first, I thought he was being filmed by a buddy in some kind of stupid stunt or joke, like a TikTok. This would be one of the most stupid things anyone could ever do. “But then I heard one of the soldiers shout “Get That Guy”.
Leslie said to The Associated Press, that a South Korean Soldier, who was part of a patrolling group in the area, gave the order for King to be chased.
King is just too fast. According to her, he ran 30 feet through a narrow passageway between two blue buildings at the DMZ and disappeared before anyone could stop him.
U.S. Officials are confident that King is being held by the DPRK, and are working with North Korean officials to resolve the matter.
Leslie reported she had not seen anyone from the North Korean side. It was explained to the tour group that the North Koreans were staying away from the area after the COVID-19 outbreak.
Leslie reported soldiers taking the tourists to a center for information to give statements. Leslie claimed many tourists including her father were unaware of the event, but she said a military officer told how King fled to North Korea.
Leslie said that “people could not believe what happened.” The people in the room were stunned. They stared at each other as we boarded the vehicle.
Leslie is a lawyer from Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, who told The Associated Press she was interested in Koreas as she had studied politics in university and seen South Korean movies.
She didn’t understand why King fled North Korea.
She said: “I couldn’t believe that anyone would do such a thing”.