Becoming the United States Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues
This episode of Living History features part two of two interviews with Robert R. “Bob” King. Ambassador King served as special envoy for North Korea human rights issues from 2009 – 2017, leading efforts to advance human rights and humanitarian conditions in North Korea, secure the release of U.S. citizens held in North Korea, and represent the United States in international organizations dealing with these issues.
In this episode, Ambassador King shares how he became the first (and only) U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean human rights issues under the Obama administration. He recalls how he used his unique position to coordinate efforts with U.S. and foreign government agencies, as well as with non-governmental organizations, to advance North Korea’s human rights. In this interview, Ambassador King also recounts his experiences going to North Korea to intercede in U.S.-North Korean affairs and shares one of his most memorable experiences as special envoy.
Ambassador Robert R. King served as special envoy for North Korea human rights issues at the U.S. Department of State. He was nominated by President Barack Obama, confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and served in that position from November 2009 to January 2017. Ambassador King led U.S. efforts to press North Korea for progress on its human rights, U.S. humanitarian work in North Korea, and the treatment of U.S. citizens being held in the North. He represented the United States in international organizations dealing with these issues.
Earlier, Dr. King was staff director of the House Foreign Affairs Committee under Chairmen Tom Lantos and Howard Berman and prior to that was a senior professional staff member of the committee (1993–2009). He was concurrently chief of staff to Representative Tom Lantos (1983–2009). In the 1970s, as a White House fellow, he was a member of the National Security Council staff working with Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski in the Jimmy Carter administration. He was also assistant director of research and senior analyst at Radio Free Europe in Munich Germany (1970–1977).
Dr. King holds a Ph.D. in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a B.A. in political science from Brigham Young University. An adjunct professor, he has taught courses in international relations and U.S. foreign policy in a number of graduate and undergraduate programs. He was awarded the Knight’s Cross Order of Merit by the president of the Republic of Hungary.