Back in the DPRK

It’s a big world out there, and I’ve seen my fair share of it. If there is one place that I would not be interested in making a mad dash across the border and wanting to be integrated into society, that would be the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or the DPRK. It’s more commonly referred to as North Korea, so we’ll stick with that.

Twenty-three-year-old Army Private Travis King is obviously not me. On a sightseeing tour of Panmunjom, he dashed across the border and into a nation that is technically still at war with the South.  This, of course, is not normal behavior. I mean, most people don’t make mad dashes into the “Hermit Kingdom” unless they are Dennis Rodman. But I digress.

King at the border
King, highlighted, wearing a black shirt and a black hat that reads “DMZ” on the front, is shown here shortly before he made a run for it. Screenshot from YouTube

A little digging revealed that King was having some issues, as they say. He had just done a two-month stint in a South Korean prison while being held on assault charges. The young soldier was supposed to be heading back to Fort Bliss in the States, where he was looking at facing additional disciplinary measures and possible discharge from the service. King had been escorted to the airport Monday, where he was to catch a flight back to Texas.

Instead of taking that flight, he bolted and decided to take a tour of the border city of Panmunjom. Panmunjom used to be a quiet farming village, but it now finds itself as a kind of bizarre tourist attraction smack dab in the middle of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas.

In addition to his recent incarceration and potential pending disciplinary action, King was grieving the loss of his young cousin.  Members of the press immediately began speaking to King’s relatives, asking to speculate on his possible motivation for taking such a desperate act. Lest we forget, North Korea has a dark history of holding Americans against their will and using them as human bargaining chips. It usually does not turn out well for the captives.

A Long History of Mistreating Americans

Remember, if you will, the sad case of Otto Warmbier. He was the 22-year-old American who was being held by the North Koreans for subversion. He was eventually released to the United States, albeit in a vegetative state. Six days after being returned home, young Warmbier died. His alleged crime? Attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his North Korean hotel. For his conviction on this charge, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.  And don’t forget about Jeffery Fowle. He was held by the North Koreans for six months for leaving a bible behind in a hotel where he has been staying.

Kim Jong Un pointing
SOFREP’s AI rendering of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

Going the other way, you may recall way back in 2017, of hearing the story of a North Korean soldier who made his own mad dash across the border heading south. The soldier’s name was Oh Chong Song, and he was stationed at a guard post on the North Korean side of the DMZ. Song just could not stand being so close to sweet freedom day after day, so he decided to take a Jeep and try to cross into the South. His plan got stuck in the mud when the Jeep he was driving got literally stuck in the mud.