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Biden nominates Turner as North Korea human rights envoy

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Julie Turner, U.S. President Joe Biden's nominee for special envoy for North Korean human rights
Julie Turner, U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee for special envoy for North Korean human rights.

U.S. President Joe Biden nominated a new special envoy for North Korean human rights, the White House announced Monday, moving to fill a post that’s been vacant for six years.

The nominee was identified as Julie Turner, who now serves as director of the Office of East Asia and the Pacific in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the Department of State.

She previously was the director for Southeast Asia at the National Security Council.

According to the White House, Turner served more than 16 years in the Office of East Asia and the Pacific, “in positions of increasing responsibility, primarily focused on initiatives related to promoting human rights in North Korea,” including a stint as special assistant to the special envoy on North Korean human rights issues.

Turner speaks French and Korean.

She earned her bachelor’s at Pepperdine University and a master’s at the University of Maryland at College Park.

The post, which has the rank of ambassador, requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed Biden’s nomination, saying in a Tuesday statement that it looked forward to an early start of the mission.

The ministry continued that with Biden’s recent nomination, South-U.S. cooperation to improve North Korea’s human rights situation will be strengthened.

If appointed, Turner will be succeeding Robert King, who served nearly seven years in the Barack Obama administration from November 2009 to January 2017. The post has been empty ever since – all throughout the Donald Trump administration and two years into the Biden administration.

While the Biden administration has insisted to place human rights and democracy back at the center of U.S. foreign policy, it has failed to fill the post halfway into Biden’s term, prompting concerns and urgent calls from human rights groups, who say North Korea has one of the most egregious human rights situations in the world.

Pyongyang has for decades denied its human rights abuses, calling it a part of a smear campaign.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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