US Top Envoy for North Korea Steps Down Without Successor

Wed Jul 10 2024
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WASHINGTON: Jung Pak, who served as the United States’ top diplomat for North Korea issues, has resigned from her position, leaving a crucial vacancy at a time when talks between Washington and Pyongyang remain at a standstill since President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021.

Jung Pak’s resignation is noteworthy within the context of the Biden administration’s approach, which has seen several similar positions downgraded or left unfilled. This trend has notably affected the role of the US special representative for North Korea, which has remained vacant since December 2023. Pak had assumed responsibilities as the deputy US Special Representative for North Korea under an alternative title.

The US State Department confirmed on Tuesday that Jung Pak had stepped down from her roles as the US Senior Official for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, effective July 5.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller expressed appreciation for Pak’s dedication and leadership on DPRK issues since taking office in 2021. He announced that Dan Kritenbrink, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, would oversee North Korea policy at the Department of State following Pak’s departure.

Ambassador Julie Turner will continue to serve as the special envoy on North Korean human rights issues, while Seth Bailey will remain as the deputy special representative for the DPRK within the Office of Korean and Mongolian Affairs.

Miller clarified that there were no immediate plans for additional personnel appointments related to North Korea policy at this time.

The role of US special representative for North Korea has been vacant since Sung Kim, who held the position from May 2021, retired at the end of 2023. Kim had also concurrently served as the US Ambassador to Indonesia during his tenure under the Biden administration.

Stephen Biegun, who preceded Kim, initially assumed the role of special representative for North Korea in August 2018 following the Singapore Summit between then-US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

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