King is the 5th American and 6th US Army soldier who ended up in North Korea during the Cold War (the 6th was a Korean serving in the US military. See the mystery about PFC Ryeu Sup “Roy” Chung’s fate here.)
The 5 Americans all defected. See declassified files on them here. They were all relatively low-ranking and were facing disciplinary or other problems.
One thing missing in media coverage about King is coverage of the unique legal issues raised by North Korea’s control of a US soldier versus the American civilians held by North Korea in recent decades. For information on some of these legal issues, see this report and declassified document. While King appears to be voluntarily crossed over, some Korean Armistice and Geneva Conventions issue may still arise.
BTW, the last Army defector, Joseph White in ’82, potentially faced charges up to Article 104, aiding the enemy, which carries a sentence up to death. White never returned. North Korea said he drowned several years after his defection.
US Army Pvt. Travis King, 23, has not been seen since he crossed the border between North and South Korea last week after skipping his flight to the US where he was facing disciplinary action