Behind the walls that block most of what North Korea does from the rest of the world, persecution of Christians has reached epic proportions, according to a new report.
According to an in-depth report by the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, Christians were one of the most persecuted populations in a regime that is accused of murder, torture and genocide against the groups it hates the most.
Along with Christians, the regime most heavily attacks children with partial Chinese ancestry and individuals the North Korean government believes are hostile.
“Being a Christian in North Korea is considered a political crime. If the North Korean Government discovers that someone is a Christian, they may be deported to a political prison camp (kwanliso), and there incarcerated, forced to do hard labour, or be arbitrarily executed,” the report quoted the Christian group Open Doors as saying.
For example, the report refers to the Korea Institute for National Unification, which cites one instance of a North Korean defector saying that they “witnessed two people being publicly executed for possession of the Bible.”
The report noted that in 2014, the alarm was sounded that Christians in North Korea were in danger, and that evidence suggests that the targeting is getting worse.
“In the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], anyone suspected of being a Christian, of having a Christian family member, of associating with Christians, or even of just being exposed to the Christian faith is harshly punished,” the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea said in the report.
Bias against Christians is taught in North Korea’s schools, according to Suyeon Yoo of Korea Future Initiative, who described “a chapter in their elementary textbook, which described American missionary who marks a child’s forehead to punish the child for picking up an apple from the missionary’s apple tree.”
“People suspected of adherence, or encounters with Christianity are arrested in the middle of the night with the entire family by the Ministry of Security.
“A few respondents noted that people suspected of Christianity were cordoned off to separate cells, in some cases, especially monitored by the guards, and documented Christians experienced more serious forms of torture.”
That’s just the beginning. Once in the state’s hands, Christians are sent to prison, labor camps or so-called re-education camps.
A former guard at North Korean prison camps told investigators that “[t]here was an abundance of references to Christian groups for the purposes of annihilation … Christians were reactionaries and there were lots of instructions and mottos to wipe out the seed of reactionaries.”
One witness told investigators “he witnessed five people accused of reading the Bible being sent to the total control zone or executed.”
According to the report, special violence is leveled against trafficked women who become Christians. North Korea is heavily involved in human trafficking in which women are sent to China.
“Some of these trafficked women and girls meet churches and missionaries and convert to Christianity. Women and girls who are caught and forcibly repatriated to North Korea are initially held in a pre-trial detention centre run by the Ministry of State Security, where their identity is determined before they are searched and interrogated,” Open Doors said in the report.
“If the Ministry of State Security finds out that the victims had any contacts with Christians or converted to Christianity while in China, victims are considered political prisoners and sent to a political prison camp.
“Christian women and girls or women and girls who have been in contact with Christians during their time away are therefore condemned to an even worse fate.”
The report’s bottom line was that Christians in North Korea are in great peril.
“There is consequently no room for Christians in North Korea, and they must live their lives in utmost secrecy,” Open Doors said in the report. “The reality: gathering in large groups is impossible for Christians and it is life-threatening to be even recognized as being a Christian.”
The report calls for the nation to urge North Korea not to “discriminate against and persecute individuals categorised as ‘hostile’, such as Christians, and ensure their basic rights are respected; immediately stop tracking, arbitrarily arresting, using torture and other inhumane or degrading treatment, and arbitrarily executing Christians.”
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