Press Walk-out at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Robert R. King
Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues 
Seoul, South Korea
January 11, 2010

AMBASSADOR KING: I have just finished a meeting with the Foreign Minister. I have been in the position of Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights [Issues] now for six weeks. I made a brief visit to Geneva when the North Korea human rights issue was debated in the Human Rights Council. And this is my first visit abroad. I made a point of coming first to South Korea because it is important that the United States and South Korea work together closely on dealing with human rights and humanitarian issues with North Korea. I made the point to the Minister that we want to work together, that our purpose is to cooperate, and that we are anxious to help in resolving some of the many problems of improving the conditions of the North Koreans in terms of human rights and humanitarian issues. Thank you very much.

If you wanted to ask a question or two, I’d be willing to take a couple of questions.

QUESTION: I’m Kelly Olsen from AP. Is the United States actively working to free the U.S. citizen being held in North Korea and do you believe he’s Robert Park?

AMBASSADOR KING: The information about who he is is something that we don’t discuss publicly because of privacy concerns and the regulations of the Department of State. We are actively working to find out where he is being held and to urge that he be released, yes.

QUESTION: I’m from AFP. Did the U.S. government confirm that he is safe now in North Korea?

AMBASSADOR KING: We have requested that our protecting power in Pyongyang determine his condition, and we have not heard yet what that is.

QUESTION: Do you have a plan that the North Korea human rights program to put on the Six-Party Talks as a (inaudible)?

AMBASSADOR KING: The Six-Party Talks include a subgroup of the United States and the DPRK. We will hold bilateral discussions in the context of the Six-Party Talks. As we have said on many occasions, a relationship of the United States and North Korea will have to involve human rights.

QUESTION: I’m from Dong-a newspaper. (Inaudible) North Koreans (inaudible) before being returned to North Korea by the China government. What do you think of this issue?

AMBASSADOR KING: We are concerned about reports that there are individuals that may have been returned. We will continue to work to press that individuals who have left North Korea be given access to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as they should be if there are questions about their status.

QUESTION: Do you think that North Korean defectors should be classed as refugees under the UN Refugee Convention?

AMBASSADOR KING: This is something that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees determines, and we would urge all countries to work with the United Nations agencies that are involved in this, yes.

QUESTION: What is your assessment of the human rights situation in North Korea right now?

AMBASSADOR KING: It’s one of the worst places in terms of lack of human rights. The situation is appalling. The State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights annually reports on human rights conditions and the status of human rights of North Korea is considered poor. We’ll be issuing another report in just a few weeks to update that report. I don’t anticipate there will be many changes from what we’ve said in the past.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

AMBASSADOR KING: We have expressed a desire to provide an opportunity for people who want to come to the United States from North Korea refugees to do that. There are requirements that we have, but we’ve tried to give instructions to our embassies to make this as easy and as available as possible. There are requirements for any refugees to enter the United States and those requirements have to be met in the case of the North Koreans but, yes, we’re anxious to do that.

QUESTION: Do you have any plans to meet with North Koreans or to visit Pyongyang in the near future?

AMBASSADOR KING: If the North Koreans invite me to Pyongyang, I will be happy to go.

QUESTION: Do you feel it is part of your mission to bring a court action in the International Court of North Korean human rights?

AMBASSADOR KING: We have to look at that. I don’t have a case in mind right now. That is one option. The North Koreans have engaged with the UN Human Rights Council. We probably ought to continue to encourage the North Koreans to participate in international agencies that look at human rights issues.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

AMBASSADOR KING: I’d have to look at that. At this point, I’m not ready to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Yes?

QUESTION: (inaudible) obstacle to normalization of relations between North Korea and the United States?

AMBASSADOR KING: Yes, improved relations within the United States and North Korea will have to involve greater respect for human rights by North Korea. That’s one of the important conditions. That’s what other nations are expected to do and that’s an important element of our policy. It’s something on which the Congress, on which the Administration, are on complete agreement.

Thank you very much.