The Obama administration's newly appointed envoy for human rights in North Korea said Monday Pyongyang had an abysmal record and that Washington would press the reclusive state to clean up its act.
"It is one of the worst places in terms of the lack of human rights. The situation is appalling," U.S. special envoy Robert King told reporters in Seoul on his first trip overseas since taking up the post about six weeks ago.
On North Korea's signal it was ready for aid talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States:
"A relationship with the United States and North Korea will have to involve human rights," King said.
King will meet North Korean defectors and government officials in Seoul this week. His visit coincides with a trip to the South Korean capital by the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea.
King also said the United States had been trying to obtain information about Robert Park, a U.S. rights activist who was arrested for entering North Korea on Christmas Day.