Patterns of Impunity

Human Rights in North Korea and the Role of the U.S. Special Envoy
April 23, 2021
3D cover of the book "Patterns of Impunity" by Robert R. King

As the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights from 2009 to 2017, Ambassador Robert R. King led efforts to ensure that human rights were an integral part of U.S. policy with North Korea. In Patterns of Impunity, he traces U.S. involvement and interest in North Korean human rights, from the adoption of the North Korean Human Rights Act in 2004—legislation which King himself was involved in and which called for the creation of the special envoy position—to his own negotiations with North Korean diplomats over humanitarian assistance, discussions that would ultimately end because of the death of Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un’s ascension as Supreme Leader, as well as continued nuclear and missile testing.

Beyond an in-depth overview of his time as special envoy, Ambassador King provides insights into the United Nations’ role in addressing the North Korean human rights crisis, including the UN Human Rights Council’s creation of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK in 2013–14, and discussions in the Security Council on North Korea human rights.

King explores subjects such as the obstacles to getting outside information to citizens of one of the most isolated countries in the world; the welfare of DPRK defectors, and how China has both abetted North Korea by returning refugees and enabled the problem of human trafficking; the detaining of U.S. citizens in North Korea and efforts to free them, including King’s escorting U.S. citizen Eddie Jun back from Pyongyang in 2011; and the challenges of providing humanitarian assistance to a country with no formal relations with the United States and where separating human rights from politics is virtually impossible.

"King is realistic about how painstakingly difficult it is to achieve progress on these issues ― but he illustrates that pressing for change can yield results. He points to the improvement of rights of the disabled in North Korea as one victory."

Haley Gordon, Stanford University

Read the complete book review via The Korea Times >> 

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