Ambassador Robert R. King is the Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues at the United States Department of State in Washington D.C. In 2004 Congress adopted the North Korea Human Rights Act, which established the position of Special Envoy to “coordinate and promote efforts to improve respect for the fundamental human rights of the people of North Korea.” Bob was nominated for this position by President Barak Obama in September 2009, confirmed by the United States Senate, and sworn into office on November 23, 2009. Thus far, the highlight for King was bringing an American citizen back from North Korea, where he had been held in prison for seven months.
Both of Bob’s parents are graduates of Rock Springs High School, and Bob was born in Rock Springs. He attended Washington Elementary School and he is a graduate of Rock Springs High School, class of 1960. Rock Springs swept most state-wide competitions his senior year – state champs in football, basketball, track, swimming. Bob’s contribution was winning the state debate championship. He and his partners Jim Magagna, Ken Dye, and Frank Lebar defeated Cheyenne in a unanimous decision in the championship debate. This should have been expected with the outstanding work of debate coach Frank Prevedel, but Prevedel was as shocked as everyone else in the auditorium when the win was announced.
At Brigham Young University, Bob majored in political science and was a member of the university debate team. His senior year he was one of the four college teams from the Western United States which won the right to participate in the national debate championships at West Point, New York. He served a two year LDS mission in Eastern Canada and New England.
Bob attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, a graduate school of international relations of Tufts and Harvard Universities. He received a Ph.D. from Fletcher in 1970. His first job was Assistant Director of Research at Radio Free Europe in Munich, Germany. The Radio was a U.S. government effort to broadcast news and information into the communist countries of Eastern Europe. In 1977, he was selected as one of 14 White House Fellows from 1,400 applicants, and he served as a member of the National Security Council staff in the Jimmy Carter White House.
After the White House, Bob spent 25 years on Capitol Hill as Chief of Staff to Congressman Tom Lantos, Democrat of California. When Lantos became Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, King served concurrently as Staff Director of the Foreign Affairs Committee (2001-2009). He supervised the Committee’s legislative, oversight and investigative work, and he was heavily involved in Chairman Tom Lantos’ human rights agenda. He left his position with Congress in 2009 when he was asked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to serve as Special Envoy for North Korea Human Rights Issues.
In addition to his full-time jobs King has also taught courses in U.S. foreign policy and international relations at the University of Southern California German Study Program, Brigham Young University Study Abroad Program, American University in Washington, D.C., and New England College in New Hampshire. He is author of five books and 40 articles on international affairs. He received the Knight’s Cross Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, for his role in returning Holy Crown of Hungary – an appropriate activity for someone named King.
Bob King married Kay Atkinson of Salt Lake City, and they are the parents of three sons, and they have 11 grandchildren. Bob’s brother Jim King and his family still live in Rock Springs maintaining the King presence for the third and fourth generations.