Park Geun-hye commented on the subject during a meeting Friday in Seoul with a U.S. delegation led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., while recognizing Royce's work to strengthen the South Korea-U.S. alliance, Yonhap News Agency reported.
"I have a lot of interest in the issue of North Korea's human rights," Park said. "It is important to make efforts on such issues as the fundamental objective of our efforts for unification lies in improving the quality of lives of all people on the Korean Peninsula and further expanding freedom and human rights."
Park, who takes office Feb. 25, said she would work to secure the return of South Korean prisoners from the 1950-53 Korean War believed to still be alive.
The delegation's visit came amid growing concern that North Korea could conduct a nuclear test soon, Yonhap said.
North Korea said it would detonate a nuclear device after a U.N. Security Council resolution condemned its Dec. 12 rocket launch.
Intelligence sources said Thursday North Korea is thought to have installed radiation measurement equipment at the Punggye-ri test site, indicating a test may be imminent, Yonhap said.
Discussions of North Korea's nuclear pursuits also were discussed when the U.S. delegation met with current South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. The president's office said Lee and the delegation agreed that North Korea's "unnecessary threats" and its dismissal of repeated international warnings are serious challenges to the international community.
On Thursday, South Korea officially told North Korea it would face "grave consequences" if it conducts a third nuclear test.