It marked North Korea’s first confirmation of the status of Travis King, who crossed the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) into the country during a tour to the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the DMZ on July 18, Yonhap news agency reported.
“Travis King confessed that he had decided to come over to the DPRK as he harboured ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the US Army,” the country’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a report.
DPRK stands for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“He also expressed his willingness to seek refugee in the DPRK or a third country, saying that he was disillusioned at the unequal American society,” it added.
The KCNA said its soldiers took custody of King after he “deliberately intruded” into the North’s side of the JSA and the investigation by a “relevant organ” is ongoing.
US officials have said King “willfully” crossed the MDL “without authorisation” during the group tour and North Korea has not made any substantive response to its inquiries over his status.
The US-led UN Command, which oversees activities in the DMZ, has said it is working with its North Korean counterparts to resolve the incident but has declined to provide details.
King has faced legal trouble after being stationed in South Korea, being detained in a prison workshop for 48 days earlier this year after failing to pay a fine on charges of inflicting damage on a police patrol car.
He had been set to be sent home on July 17, where he could have faced additional disciplinary action, but he did not board his flight and took part in the JSA tour the next day.
The incident came as tensions have run high due to North Korea’s continued weapons tests, including a Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile launch last month.