BosNewsLife – An underground church leader in North Korea , his family members and possibly dozens of his followers are likely to be executed on charges of attempting to overthrow the Communist government, an influential religious rights group confirmed Thursday, November 17.
UK-based Jubilee Campaign, which advises the United Nations on religious issues, said it has learned that 64-year old Moon Seong Jeun and some or all of his eight brothers and sisters were detained in July by State Security Agency officials.
In addition “some of the 80 church members were questioned by the Agency,” amid fears that many of them have been arrested as well, the group told BosNewsLife.
“The interrogation is being processed without publicity. [But] from past procedures [we know that] Moon and many followers are likely to be executed,” explained Jubilee Campaign, which has close contacts with North Korean Christians.
They have been charged with an “attempt to overthrow the government. Moon was regarded as the ‘ringleader of their clandestine activities'”, Jubilee Campaign added.
Pastor Moon reportedly became a Christian through his fathers influence who was a deacon at Palgol Church in Pyongyang . “Because of their missionary activities he and his family members were expelled from Pyongyang to a small town near Chinese border in North West Korea,” Jubilee Campaign recalled.
The case against him comes amid reports that Christianity continues to spread in North Korea . Church watchers say this is remarkable as with the possible exception of communist-era Albania , no communist country managed to so thoroughly eradicate organized religion.
The Los Angeles Times newspaper reported this week that an increasing number of Christians challenge “the idiosyncratic doctrine of juche” that reveres founder Kim Il Sung and his son, current leader Kim Jong Il, as gods.
“Once you read the Bible, you stop believing in Kim Il Sung,” said 19-year old North Korean refugee Choi Hwa, who now lives in South Korea ‘s capital Seoul , in an interview with the Times. Like many defectors, she is living under an assumed name to protect relatives in North Korea .
Choi recalled the daily recitations of “Thank you, Father Kim Il Sung” required of children. But after studying with missionaries, she realized the extent to which “Kim Il Sung just replaced God’s name with his own,” she said.
“Juche as a worldview has lost much of its heavenly mandate because of the famine and the collapse of the economy,” added David Hawk, a leading human rights investigator who recently completed an extensive study of North Korea for the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, in an interview with the newspaper.
In the study, the commission found that the practice of religion is increasing inside North Korea , prompting a reaction from the regime. The study was released this week and timed with President George W. Bush’s visit to Asia . “We hear reports of how the church in North Korea continues to grow,” despite persecution, confirmed Christian rights group Open Doors.
Christian rights group Open Doors said this month that for three straight years North Korea has topped its World Watch List of countries where persecution of Christians is the worst. “Christianity is observed as one of the greatest threats to the regime’s power,” the 2005 World Watch List report said.
Exact figures are difficult to obtain but “it is believed that tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps, and at least 20 Christians were shot or beaten to death in 2004” while in detention, Open Doors added.
” North Korea is the most repressive nation in the world…it certainly deserves its shameful ranking on the World Watch List,” said Open Doors USA President Carl Moeller.
“It breaks my heart to hear some of the atrocities against our brothers and sisters there. The government will arrest not only a suspected [Christian] dissident but also three generations of his family to root out the ‘bad’ influence.”
Open Doors said it has launched a campaign to “blanket North Korea in prayer for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To accomplish this, Open Doors USA is seeking at least 1,008 Christians in the United States who are committed to pray 10 minutes a week.”
Open Doors USA will provide updated information on the status of Christians in North Korea for the prayer warriors, the group said. The North Korean authorities have said very little about the situation of Christians, but accuse America of spreading Western propaganda to undermine the government.