South Korean activists urged the U.S. secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton not to overlook North Korea's dismal human rights record during an upcoming visit to Asia likely to heavily focus on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
The reclusive North has frequently been accused of human rights abuses — including torture and public executions — but denies engaging in such practices and has bristled at outside criticism, calling it part of a U.S. plot to topple its regime.
South Korean activists and North Korean refugees held a peaceful rally near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul and read out a letter to President Barack Obama calling for Clinton "to meet North Korean defectors for just five minutes if possible" and raise the issue in Washington.
The letter asked that U.S. non-humanitarian assistance to the North be made conditional on the improvement of the communist regime's human rights record. It also asked that Obama recommend to China that it not send home North Koreans who flee there.