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Senator Helps Free Evangelist Marked for Death

ICC Note: A North Korean Christian faces public execution for the crime of his faith.

7/13/07 North Korea ( — A North Korean man will face public execution for the crime of being a Christian if a worldwide effort by an international ministry fails to free him in time.

The Voice of the Martyrs, an organization assisting persecuted Christians around the world, is seeking the release of Son Jong Nam , a former North Korean Army officer turned underground evangelist.

For more than a year, Son has been held in a North Korean death row basement jail in Pyongyang . He has been beaten and sentenced to public execution as an example to the North Korean people.

Now, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and several other senators have joined VOM in their effort to save Son’s life.

Last week, Brownback sought help from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in securing the release of the Christian prisoner. Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., James Inhofe, R-Okla., and David Vitter, R-La. also signed the letters.

“Future cooperation and engagement with North Korea will be far more challenging if its leaders continue to persecute their own people for religious views,” Brownback said. “The United States has made political and religious freedoms important elements in its diplomatic relations, and we are gravely concerned about abuses of such basic rights in North Korea . ” …

North Korea , a communist dictatorship, is one of the most repressive and isolated regimes in the world. The government denies every kind of human right to its citizens, Nettleton says.

“All religions have been harshly repressed in North Korea ,” Nettleton said. “Thousands of Christians have been murdered since the Korean War. In 1953, there were an estimated 300,000 Christians; however, the number is much lower today. Christians must practice their faith in deep secrecy and are in constant danger.”

Many North Koreans have fled to China . Some of them who are Christians have risked their lives in returning to North Korea to share the gospel.

“Any North Korean sent back by the Chinese government faces almost certain death if it is discovered they’ve had contact with Christians in China ,” Nettleton said.

That’s what happened to Son.

Son left North Korea after his wife was kicked in the stomach and miscarried while being investigated by the secret police. He defected to China in 1998 with his wife, son and brother. His wife died after arriving there.

In China he became a Christian after meeting a South Korean missionary and later felt called to be an evangelist in North Korea .

But before he could return home, he was arrested by Chinese police in 2001 and sent back to North Korea . He was charged with sending missionaries into his native country and was imprisoned and tortured for three years. Many of his 200 fellow inmates were Christians, imprisoned themselves for studying theology in China . Several died within six months.

Son was released on parole in May 2004 and expelled from Pyongyang to Chongjin to work at a rocket research institute. However, his health was so bad when he was released that he was unable to walk. After receiving medical treatment, he returned to China .

Son was arrested again when he returned to North Korea in January 2006, and has remained in prison since.

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