FORT BLISS, Texas (KVIA) -- A U.S. Army soldier that was supposed to board a flight from South Korea to Fort Bliss, Texas Tuesday willingly walked into North Korea instead.
"One of our service members, who was on a tour, willfully and without authorization crossed the military demarcation line," said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a presser Tuesday.
Army spokesperson Bryce Dubee said 23-year-old Private Travis King served 47 days in a South Korean detention facility. ABC News reported that King was serving time as a result of an altercation he had with locals in South Korea.
"The soldier was pending administrative separation actions for foreign conviction," Dubee said of what was awaiting King upon his arrival at Fort Bliss.
According to ABC News, King had recently been released from the South Korean detention center and was escorted on Tuesday to an airport to board his Fort Bliss-bound flight. However, King's military escort was not allowed past the security checkpoint because they did not have a ticket, so King proceeded to the terminal alone. King ended up leaving the terminal and joining a tour of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. He then illegally crossed the border.
"We believe the soldier is currently in DPRK custody, and are working with our North Korean counterparts to resolve this incident," said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a press conference Tuesday.
U.S. officials said they are concerned about the implications of King's actions.
"In terms of my concerns, I am absolutely, foremost concerned about the welfare of our troops," said Austin.