Testimonials began to come out of what had happened. Sarah Leslie thought the man was joking when he started running towards North Korea.
Leslie and her father, both tourists from New Zealand, were part of a group that left Seoul on Tuesday morning to visit the Demilitarized Zone that separates South and North Korea.
The American soldier, 23-year-old Travis King, was part of the group of 43, according to Leslie. He was dressed casually and Leslie did not know he was a soldier.
The tour is almost over
This private guided tour visited the border city of Panmunjom. There, tourists have the chance to tread North Korean soil inside a building. To participate in such a tour, you need to hand over your passport and obtain permission in advance, Leslie says.
Sarah Leslie noticed that King was traveling alone and that he didn’t seem to be talking to anyone.
The ride was drawing to a close and the group had just left the building and were taking photos when they saw Leslie King running “very fast”.
“I assumed at first he had a friend who filmed him in some kind of really stupid prank or stunt, like a Tiktok video, which is the dumbest thing you can do,” says Leslie.
– But then I heard one of the soldiers shout: “Take that man away.”
Finished in seconds
But it was over in just a few seconds. According to Leslie, King ran about ten meters down a narrow passage between the buildings and was already over the line. There he disappeared from sight.
And according to Leslie, on the North Korean side, no one was seen. Not many in the tour group saw what was happening.
– People couldn’t believe what happened, says Sarah Leslie.
It remains unclear what King was doing in the hours leading up to his participation in the guided tour. His name was announced by the US Army after his family received information about the incident.
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