April 24, 2024

Why Travis King, the US soldier who went into North Korea, could be a “nuisance” for Kim Jong Un’s regime

The US military in Korea is examining the possibility that Private 2nd grade Travis king he had planned for some time to blame North Korea.

That may be unwelcome news to Kim Jong Un’s regime.

Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korean diplomat who defected to South Korea several years ago, wrote on Facebook:

“US soldiers crossing/faulting into North Korea are an unavoidable nuisance because the cost-effectiveness is low in the long run.”

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An undated file photo obtained by Reuters shows US Army Private 2nd Class Travis King.

Reuters


Thae, who is now a lawmaker, recalled another case of defects whose care and management was a costly burden for Pyongyang.

“A professional security and monitoring team had to be established … an interpreter, and a private vehicle, driver and accommodation had to be arranged,” he wrote.

Although the King decided to make a dash into North Korea Kim Jong Un may have some propaganda value, the soldier also poses a problem for a regime bound by its own strict rules.

First, his entry broke North Korean law.

It is illegal to enter North Korea without official documents or permission. While this may seem absurd to most people, Pyongyang believes with some justification that it is necessary to deter people who might have a mission – think religious aid groups – from sneaking into the Hermit Kingdom.

One former US official who specialized in North Korea told CBS News that when the US complained about the treatment of some Americans who entered the North illegally, Pyongyang responded by asking the US to do a better job of keeping its citizens under control.

That means the King’s fate will not be decided in a hurry. At the very least North Korea must go through the motions of trying and sentencing him for illegal entry. Until then, perhaps, it will send him back across the border – technically known as the Military Deterrence Line – to face the music at home.

Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul told CBS News that even if King were to blame for his intention to stay, he is likely to change his mind.

“He would not blend into North Korean society and would ask to be sent back to the States,” he said.

Over the past thirty years, 11 US citizens have been detained, either accidentally or intentionally, after entering North Korea illegally. All were eventually released, although some required high-level diplomatic intervention.

Since then times have changed. Diplomatic intervention has been almost impossible since North Korea sealed off its borders at the start of the pandemic. Almost all foreign officials were forced to leave the country. That includes representatives from Sweden, the “protecting power” for the United States in the North who could lobby for access to the King.

Although as a private person, he has limited intelligence value to the North Koreans, the King is bound to be declassified by state security.

They’ll consider if he really is a bugger, and if his amazing story about slipping out of the airport and onto a DMZ tour bus is up. They will also have to satisfy the leadership that he is neither a provocateur nor a secret agent.

Only then would he be allowed to stay. One expert suggested that he could be useful as an English teacher, or perhaps as a copywriter for the English versions of the state media. In the 1960s after the Korean War, some of the US military defectors ended up playing the roles of ugly American Capital Cities in North Korean movies.

If Pyongyang decides that it is more trouble than it is worth, Professor Yang suggested that Kim Jong Un could even use it to start negotiations.

North Korea could welcome a high-level US envoy to negotiate the King’s return, Yang suggested, and use it as a catalyst for direct US-DPRK talks.

But the United States says it is already open to talks. It’s just that Kim Jong Un isn’t interested right now. The unexpected arrival of a 23-year-old American perfumer is unlikely to change his mind.

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