A Special Report by ICC
4/11/2013 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – As more people flee from North Korea, their disturbing stories confirm suspicions that the nation is the worst persecutor of Christians in the world, whose violence is directed, empowered and endorsed by the government.
The Worst Persecutor of Christians in the World
On Jan. 13, 2013, Open Doors confirmed the death of two North Korean Christians because of their faith. One was shot at the border, while he was on his way back to Bible training in China. The other died under severe conditions at one of the infamous prison camps in the country, where he was held after state authorities discovered that he was a Christian.
An Open Doors worker said, “He was terribly tortured because of his faith. He was also forced to do heavy labor while hardly receiving any food...We are devastated to hear about these murders. We know Christians die for their faith almost every day in North Korea, but it is still hard to deal with.”
Kim Jong-un’s government wields unrestricted power in the country, even as his devilish underlings manage concentration camps pretending to be prisons, holding thousands of Christians, including young children. As, International Christian Concern’s Regional Manager for East Asia, Ryan Morgan, said “Every day tens of thousands of Christians serve out excruciating sentences in one of North Korea’s six major prison camps, and every day even those who are free must pray and worship in complete secrecy.”
The Testimony of Witnesses
North Korea is the only country Pew Research cannot rate on religious freedom due to lack of on-the-ground observers in the secretive regime, according to Senior Pew Researcher Brian J. Grim. But an increasing number of Christians and refugees have crossed the border undetected, to escape oppression or hunger, revealing horrific stories of human and religious rights abuse.
In 2005, David Hawke, the respected human rights investigator, interviewed 40 North Korean escapees about religion in North Korea. Their stories reveal that Christians in North Korea have been pulverized with steamrollers, used to test biological weapons, shipped off to death camps and publicly shot in front of children. Newborn babies have even had their brains pithed with forceps in front of their mothers, in an attempt to enforce complete submission to the will of the state.
According to one of the interviewees, after a Bible and a small notebook were found in a basement – which contained 25 names, five of whom were church leaders – all of them were arrested by the military bowibu, the autonomous agency of the North Korean government reporting directly to the Supreme Leader.
In November 1996, the five leaders were bound and made to lie down in front of a steamroller for a public execution. They were accused of being Kiddokyo (Protestant Christian) spies, conspiring to engage in activities subversive to the state.
Before the execution, they were offered a complete pardon in exchange of recanting their faith and pledging exclusive allegiance to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. When they remained silent, the steamrollers moved forward. Some of their fellow parishioners wept, screamed out, or fainted when the skulls made a popping sound as they were crushed beneath the steamroller.
The full extent of North Korea’s crimes against humanity is not known, but its active, purposeful persecution of Christians is no longer a secret, even as Kim Jong-un carries further the oppressive legacy of his father, Kim Jong-il, and grandfather, Kim Il-sung. Between the three of them, they have controlled and oppressed their people, since its establishment in 1948.
The Reasons for Persecution
North Korea operates out of Juche – a political ideology that demands religious devotion – which worshipped Kim Il-sung as god, and his son, Kim Jong-il, as the son of god, leaving only Kim Jong-un to be worshipped as the grandson of god. According to escapees, Juche is the only religion North Korean people are permitted to have. Religious freedom is not allowed because it will ruin the deification of Kim Il-sung.
Christians are targeted for persecution because their faith in Jesus is seen as a threat to Juche, which has no room for any god in North Korea besides the Supreme leader. Therefore, being a Christian is political espionage, punishable by harsh imprisonment, abuse and even public execution.
Living in such an oppressive regime often forces people to leave in search of work in neighboring China, often they find Christ in the bargain. New Christians are often eager to return home to share their faith with their family, sometimes paying for their zeal with their lives, as was the case with one of the aforementioned Christians who was recently killed. The Open Doors worker said, “Before his return to North Korea, he was baptized and willing to deal with the all the hardships he had to face. We never tell people to go back to North Korea, but he was happy to.”
Over the years, Christians concerned about North Korea have come up with creative ways to share the Gospel. Last year, Voice of the Martyrs and International Christian Concern sent over 80,000 New Testaments into the country, using innovative methods like launching a balloon that floats over into the country and drops down.
Prayer for Christians in North Korea
With war looming large over North Korea, tensions are high in the country as Christians continue to come under heavy pressure and persecution. Even as the nations of the world search for a way around war, the Church is urgently called upon to pray for their brothers and sisters in the worst place in the world to be a Christian.