As the new Barack Obama administration reviews its way forward with North Korea, they released a scathing report based on the State Department’s 2008 global report.
"North Korea's human rights record remained abysmal," the State Department said, in some of its harshest criticism of any country.
"While the regime continued to control almost all aspects of citizens' lives ... reports of abuse emerged from the country with increased frequency," it said.
North Korean authorities are believed to have carried out "numerous" arbitrary killings, including of perceived opponents of the regime, defectors and possibly citizens who only made contact with foreigners.
Some of the most grisly accounts involved women caught trying to flee to neighboring China - essentially the only foreign gateway for North Koreans seeking to exit one of the world's most impoverished countries.
[Agence France Press]