On January 24, the White House proposed to appoint a North Korean special envoy for human rights to a post that had been vacant since 2017.
He served as a diplomat for many years, working under the Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy. The White House issued a statement announcing that President Biden had nominated Julitana, the Human Rights Department’s director for East Asia and the Pacific Labor Affairs, to the post.
Tanner speaks Korean and previously worked as an assistant to the North Korean Special Representative for Human Rights.
Senate approval is required, but there is little opposition. The ambassador-level position was created under a congressional mandate enacted in 2004 to draw attention not only to security, but also to North Korea’s alarming human rights record. The position has been vacant since Robert King passed him under President Barack Obama in January 2017.
President Donald Trump’s first appointee, Secretary of State Rick Tillerson, sought to abolish the position in a reorganization that would consolidate diplomatic posts.
Tillerson’s successor, Mike Pompeo, has not named a successor to his post as President Trump seeks to establish diplomatic ties with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un three times to defuse tensions, but no deal was reached.
Incumbent President Joe Biden, who has pledged to focus on human rights issues, has proposed a special envoy for North Korea’s human rights envoy after more than two years in office. The Biden administration offered to limit diplomatic relations with North Korea, but North Korea vehemently rejected the offer and conducted several missile tests, including testing an ICBM capable of reaching the United States. It has repeatedly denied allegations of human rights violations.