Report of the Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights Issues Pursuant to Provisions of the North Korean Human Rights Act (PL 108-333 as amended by PL 110-346; 22 USC § 7817 (d)) March 2011-March 2012

Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
November 8, 2012


Section 107 of the North Korean Human Rights Act (NKHRA or the Act) of 2004 and its 2008 reauthorization specifies that the Special Envoy shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on the activities undertaken in the preceding 12 months under subsection (c) of the Act.

(c)(1) Participate in the formulation and the implementation of activities carried out pursuant to this chapter.

The Special Envoy, Ambassador Robert King, is an active participant in the formulation and implementation of activities carried out in the furtherance of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as part of overall U.S. policy regarding North Korea. Ambassador King’s office is in the suite of the Office of the Special Representative for North Korea Policy, which includes the offices of the Special Representative for North Korea Policy, Glyn Davies, and the Special Envoy for the Six-Party Talks, Clifford Hart. Ambassador King worked closely with bureaus and agencies involved in the formulation and implementation of our DPRK human rights policy, including the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP), particularly the Office of Korean Affairs; Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL); Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM); Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO); and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In addition, he worked cooperatively with the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) on issues relating to broadcasting to the DPRK. He also participated in meetings with the National Security Staff at the White House.

(c)(2) Engage in discussions with North Korean officials regarding human rights.

The Special Envoy discussed human rights issues directly with North Korean officials, including First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye-gwan, on three occasions: in Pyongyang in May 2011, during the first round of U.S.-DPRK bilateral meetings in July 2011 in New York, and in Beijing in December 2011. The Special Envoy’s May 2011 visit to Pyongyang was the first time the DPRK granted entry to the Special Envoy on North Korea Human Rights Issues since the NKHRA established the position in 2004.

(c)(3) Support international efforts to promote human rights and political freedoms in North Korea, including coordination and dialogue between the United States and the United Nations, the European Union, and the other countries in Northeast Asia;

In addition to participating in discussions during official sessions of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, he also engaged in one-on-one conversations with Ambassadors to both bodies from the Republic of Korea (ROK), Japan, Russia, China, and the European Union, as well as with many others, including in HRC leadership positions. The Special Envoy also met with the Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and representatives of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN World Food Programme (UNWFP) responsible for DPRK programs. The Special Envoy consulted regularly with the current UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the DPRK.

The Special Envoy met in Brussels, Washington, New York, Geneva, Seoul, and Pyongyang with representatives of the European Union (EU) and its individual member countries as well as and with leading members of the European Parliament. In March 2011, the Special Envoy testified in Brussels before the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament, and he met with the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Korean Peninsula. In Brussels, he met with senior officials of the European Union’s External Action Service dealing with East Asia, including the ROK and the DPRK, human rights, humanitarian assistance, and with officials of the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO).

The Special Envoy consulted regularly with the ROK. In September 2011, he met in Seoul with officials in the ROK President’s Office, including the National Security Advisor; senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including the Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs; and senior officials of the Ministry of Unification. In addition, he met regularly with a broad range of human rights and humanitarian NGOs, as well as academic researchers, private think tanks, and government research institutions.

The Special Envoy continued to meet with senior Japanese government officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who cover Northeast Asia. In Washington, he met with Japanese Cabinet officials responsible for the issue of Japanese abductees taken by the DPRK. He met with Japanese NGOs concerned with the abductions issue, family members of abductees, and other human rights issues.

In his meetings with Chinese officials, the Special Envoy urged the People’s Republic of China to adhere to its obligations as a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol to not: 1) expel or refoule North Koreans protected under these treaties; and 2) to cooperate with the UNHCR in the exercise of its functions.

(c)(4) Consult with non-government organizations who have attempted to address human rights in North Korea;

Many kinds of NGOs deal with North Korean human rights – think tanks and academic institutions that analyze human rights issues; advocacy organizations that take action to call attention to human right concerns; organizations that seek to promote freedom of information and document abuses occurring in the DPRK; humanitarian assistance organizations that provide food, medical aid, and other assistance to the DPRK; educational, cultural, and scientific organizations that seek to engage the DPRK; churches and religious organizations; and Korean-American organizations that are interested in family reunions with relatives living in the DPRK. The Special Envoy met with representatives of these organizations in the Washington, D.C. area, participated in conferences and meetings across the United States, and held meetings during visits to Seoul, Beijing, Geneva and Brussels. He delivered keynote addresses for various organizations and engaged in roundtable discussions with representatives of many NGO groups.

(c)(5) Make recommendations regarding the funding of activities authorized in sections 7812 and 7814 of this title;

The Special Envoy worked closely with DRL, EAP, and the U.S. Embassy in Seoul to select and shape DPRK human rights programs as specified in the NKHRA. The Special Envoy also briefed House and Senate staff on issues relating to funding for DPRK human rights programs.

(c)(6) Review strategies for improving protection of human rights in North Korea, including technical training and exchange programs;

The pilot program WEST (Work, English, Study, Travel) for North Korean defector youth to study in the United States that the Special Envoy, with Embassy Seoul and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, helped develop brought the first cohort of five North Korean-born youth to the United States. WEST participants improved their English language skills, gained substantive internship experience, and were exposed to an array of cultural, educational and social events in the United States, helping to empower these youth to take future leadership roles in their community. In collaboration with NGOs and academic institutions with longstanding partnerships with the DPRK, the Special Envoy participated in discussions on deepening educational exchanges and technical training opportunities in the areas of agriculture, education, food security, science and technology.

(c)(7) Develop an action plan for supporting implementation of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2004/13.

The UN Commission on Human Rights and its successor body, the UN HRC, as well as the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly have continued to adopt annual resolutions on the human rights situation in the DPRK, updating the UN Commisson on Human Rights Resolution 2004/13.

The Special Envoy coordinated with the EAP, DRL, and IO bureaus at the State Department on the U.S. recommendations and voting strategy on resolutions considered in the UN HRC and in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly. In addition, he met with the EU delegation that annually sponsors the DPRK resolutions in both UN bodies to discuss the text of resolutions and devise a strategy for winning their passage in 2011 and 2012. He also met with delegates of a number of countries to the UN HRC, including HRC leadership, and the UN General Assembly to advocate for their support of the resolutions.

  • UN General Assembly resolution 66/54 “The situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” was adopted on December 19, 2011, in the General Assembly by a vote of 123 in favor, 16 against, and 51 abstentions. This resolution was passed by the strongest number of votes to date.
  • UN HRC resolution 16/8 “The situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” was adopted on March 24, 2011 by a vote of 30 in favor, 3 against, and 11 abstentions. This resolution renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the DPRK.