US Denies ‘Prisoner of War’ Status to Soldier Detained in North Korea

Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

( – Last month Army Pvt. Travis King was detained in North Korea after illegally crossing into the country. However, the United States has not labeled him a prisoner of war (POW).

According to a defense official, a final decision regarding King’s status had not yet been made. If POW status is not granted to King 23, then he would not be protected by the Geneva Convention stipulations that apply to such individuals.

Reuters was the first outlet to report on King’s situation, which is rather sensitive as the man had willingly crossed North Korea’s territory while not wearing a uniform during a civilian tour that he took of the demilitarized zone. However, while King was not in uniform, he was an active-duty soldier, and as Pyongyang and Washington are technically at war since there was not a peace treaty but rather an armistice was used at the end of the Korean War in 1953, King can be considered a POW.

Defense officials have not provided any further insight into the internal debates regarding King’s status but have noted that the Department of Defense’s primary focus is on bringing King home, and they are using all possible channels to achieve this. They have also stated that King’s treatment must be in accordance with international law and humane.

This is the first detainment of a U.S. citizen in North Korea in five years. His location is unknown as North Korea has not provided any of the information requested by the U.S.

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