FIFA President Sepp Blatter says football's world governing body has opened an inquiry into allegations that North Korea may have mistreated some of its players and coaches after the team lost all three of its World Cup matches.
Blatter told a news conference in Singapore on Wednesday that FIFA sent a letter to the North Korean football federation on Tuesday seeking information about the allegations of mistreatment and the recent election of a new federation president.
"It's a kind of investigation to tell us about the election of a new president, and if it is true, the allegations made by the media that the coach and some players have been condemned or punished," Blatter said.
"The first step is the federation and we'll see what the answer will be, and then we can elaborate on that."
Radio Free Asia reported last month that North Korean officials summoned the national team to a closed-door meeting in the capital Pyongyang to criticize it for its losses to Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast at the World Cup in South Africa this year.
The report says players were then ordered to reprimand coach Kim Jong Hun. The report cited unidentified sources in North Korea and a Chinese businessman described as knowledgeable about North Korea affairs.
South Korea's main spy agency could not confirm the report, and there was no mention of any such meeting in North Korean state media.
Asian Football Confederation chief Mohammad bin Hammam told reporters Wednesday that he spoke with four players in North Korea last month and they didn't report any mistreatment.
"There was an unconfirmed report that these players have gone through torture or something like that, but I can't confirm that," bin Hammam said.
"I haven't seen anything with my eyes or heard anything with my ears," he added.
"Maybe this FIFA investigation can clear the air."