The Republican candidate for a vacant House seat in Pennsylvania, Rick Saccone, is facing questions over his description of working as a diplomat in North Korea.
Saccone's experience during his time in North Korea would have been as “more of an observer," a former U.S. diplomat, David Lambertson, told The Guardian. Lambertson said he held the same position as Saccone at the Korea Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO).
“Rick was the American representative for the Korea Peninsula Energy Development Organization inside North Korea from December 2000 to December 2001,” a spokesman for Saccone told the publication, pushing back on the claims.
The spokesman said that Saccone “interacted daily with the North Koreans regarding the implementation of the agreed framework” and “served in a diplomatic capacity for KEDO.”
Saccone has said he lived in North Korea for a year as part of the negotiations but Kim Joong-keun, a South Korean representative who also worked with Saccone on the project, told The Guardian that Saccone’s position was shared with two or three people who each rotated in for, at most, six weeks.
He also claimed that Saccone did not meet with any important North Koreans as most of the contact during the talks was between North and South Koreans.
“Of all the Americans I worked with, I would rank Saccone at the bottom,” Kim said.
Saccone is running what has largely been labeled as an early test of Republican strength in the 2018 midterms. In 2016, Trump beat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAttorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation Durham seeking indictment of lawyer with ties to Democrats: reports Paul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book MORE in the district by 19 points but Saccone’s opponent, Democrat Conor Lamb, is mounting a strong challenge.
The House seat Saccone is vying for was vacated by Rep. Tim MurphyTim MurphyOur approach to schizophrenia is failing Conor Lamb defeats Trump-backed challenger for reelection in Pennsylvania Biden receives endorsements from three swing-district Democrats MORE (R-Pa.) last year after reports emerged that Murphy, a vocal anti-abortion advocate, had asked his mistress to get an abortion.
The special election will take place on March 13.