Two words have been conspicuously absent from the peace negotiations on the Korean Peninsula.
Nobody wants to talk about human rights.
North Korea's abysmal treatment of its own people is no secret. A 2014 UN report described it in excruciating detail, revealing a litany of "unspeakable atrocities" including but not limited to murder, enslavement, torture, forced abortions, sexual violence and deliberate starvation.
According to Human Rights Watch, North Korea "remains one of the most repressive authoritarian states in the world" today.
But somehow, the fact that Kim Jong-un maintains his rule by systematically oppressing and abusing the North Korean people will not be a sticking point as he seeks a peace deal to rejuvenate his shrinking economy — and strengthen his grip on power.
Why? Because merely bringing up human rights would risk infuriating North Korea and pushing it away from the negotiating table.
"North Korea claims this is meddling in its domestic affairs. It has become very sensitive. It gets furious whenever human rights are mentioned," Lee Ho-ryung, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses, tells news.com.au.
Lee has been studying North Korea for 15 years. She is under no illusions about the regime's human rights record, but believes it should be dealt with separately.
"It is better to leave the human rights issue as a low profile issue, and not to include it in this peace process. But we have to deal with it as well," she says.
That certainly seems to be the approach of South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who steadfastly ignored the issue during his historic summit with Kim last month.
And Donald Trump should follow Moon's lead when he holds his own meeting in Singapore on June 12, experts say.
"Linking this human rights issue with North Korea's nuclear issue is not appropriate. It should be considered separately and gradually resolved," Professor Kim Dong-yup, director of research at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, says.
Professor Kim has personal experience dealing with North Korea's negotiating tactics, having taken part in previous military talks between the North and South.
He believes the way to improve North Koreans' lives is to boost the country's economy, which cannot be done without a deal.
"The human rights conditions in North Korea are not good. We all know that. But we have to admit the human rights conditions have been a bit exaggerated to the outside world," Prof Kim says.
"We have seen many cases where Western nations label the country with the bad human rights conditions evil, and then they just topple the regime based on that. They doubt the legitimacy of the government," he says.
"We have to ensure the regime's stability. That includes stabilising North Korea's economy and making the people's lives better."
Congressman Kim Jong-dae, a member of the Justice Party and strong supporter of the current peace process, goes even further. He says it isn't productive to make "black and white" moral judgments about North Korea.
"There are still some people labelling Kim Jong-un 'evil'. In international relations, there are no evil men and no good men. This dichotomy, this black and white thinking, is not helpful," he tells news.com.au.
"Once, George W. Bush labelled North Korea the 'axis of evil'. But now is the time to think practically, not think based on moralism. Thinking based on moralism doesn't really address or solve the problem."
Congressman Kim draws a distinction between "political" human rights and those that directly affect the health of the North Korean people, such as access to food and vaccines.
"Health comes before the human rights. Human rights are guaranteed when you are healthy. We are arguing about the people who are starving getting political freedom, but that is not the right way around. Political freedom isn't everything," he says.
"(Human rights advocates) highlight or emphasise one aspect of the human rights in North Korea and ignore or neglect the other aspects. That is the problem."
The highest priority for Trump is undoubtedly to secure the denuclearisation of North Korea, and it seems he will be willing to push the human rights issue to one side.
The risk, of course, is that it will never be addressed.
Experts expect any deal between the United States and North Korea to include the lifting of sanctions on Kim Jong-un's regime in exchange for him ditching his nuclear program. In this scenario, money will flood back into North Korea, strengthening both its economy and Kim's grasp on power.
"Mr Trump has to get North Korea to pledge that it will abandon its nuclear program in a completely verifiable and irrevocable manner. And in return, the US has to guarantee the survival of the regime," Congressman Kim says.
But it will be difficult to make Kim ease the oppression of his people when the biggest piece of leverage against him — the sanctions — has already been removed.
CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY'
What exactly does North Korea stand accused of?
In 2014, a report commissioned by the United Nations Human Rights Council and chaired by former Australian High Court justice Michael Kirby laid bare its staggering record of human rights abuses.
It described the "unspeakable atrocities" committed by the regime, including "extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence".
The report found North Korea deliberately starves its own people, giving food to those who are useful to the regime and neglecting the needy — a policy which has left the country's children chronically malnourished and killed "hundreds of thousands" of people.
There is "an almost complete denial" of the rights to freedom of thought, religion, opinion, expression, information and association. Citizens are isolated from contact with each other and the outside world. They don't know who they can trust, and any whisper of disloyalty can get them arrested.
"The police and security forces systematically employ violence and punishments that amount to gross human rights violations in order to create a climate of fear that pre-empts any challenge to the current system of government and the ideology underpinning it," the report stated.
Political prisoners are subjected to deliberate starvation, illegal forced labour, torture and rape. Some are publicly executed.
North Koreans who are caught travelling abroad endure "persecution, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention and, in some cases, sexual violence". Repatriated pregnant women are regularly subjected to forced abortions. And if the babies are born, they are often killed.