Bruce Harrison, ex-Korea reporter, breaks down Racine soldier's run for North Korea

In the days since Travis King disappeared on Monday, we've learned more about where he was and what happened.
Posted at 11:12 AM, Jul 21, 2023

RACINE, Wis. — The U.S. government hasn't commented yet on why a soldier from Racine decided to run across the border into North Korea.

But in the days since he disappeared on Monday, we've learned more about where he was and what happened.

Reporter Bruce Harrison spent nine years based in Seoul, working for South Korean national media and as a foreign correspondent. He made many reporting trips to the demilitarized zone, including several to the Joint Security Area, the area Private 2nd Class Travis King was last seen.

Watch this report for a photo and video breakdown of the area King visited.

According to the U.S. Army, King had served time in a South Korean prison for assault and was supposed to board a flight home to face disciplinary action. U.S. officials say instead, he joined a tour group.

Eventually, he wound up at the JSA, according to the UN Command (UNC), an area within the DMZ managed by the UNC and North Korea. It's where the North and South hold talks, though those are rare these days.

King, Harrison said, would've seen the iconic blue buildings within the JSA on what's called conference row. The middle building, called T2, is the most well-known and open for tourists.

Inside, King would've seen a long wooden conference table where dialogue is held, according to Harrison.

Harrison said King would've also had the chance to walk to the far side of the narrow building to be able to say, as many tourists do, that they've stood in North Korea. The building on conference row straddles the military demarcation line (MDL) that separates the two Koreas.

A tourist on the same trip as King told the Associated Press that after they left the building, King took off running. That tourist, according to the AP, said he ran between two of the two blue buildings.

He would've crossed a concrete strip, which marks the MDL, said Harrison.

With a valid passport, visitors to South Korea can join a trip to the DMZ.

Within the borderland are hundreds of thousands of landmines. The edges are lined with fences and razor wire as well as heavy guns. But that space, Harrison said, is off-limits to tourists.

The JSA and other locations along the DMZ are available for tour and safe.

The U.S. government has said King was detained by North Korea. But the North Korean government, at least in its own state media, has yet to acknowledge that.