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The North Korean prison state: Denying freedom of religion

ICC Note:

North Korea continues to show no improvement in allowing its people religious freedom.


9/21/08 North Korea (EurekaReporter) Every time it seems the so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is about to join the “world community,” the regime in Pyongyang reminds us of its criminal nature. A North Korean soldier recently shot and killed a South Korean tourist.

North Korean repression of religious liberty is harsh. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has published a new report, “A Prison Without Bars,” based on interviews with refugees and former security personnel. The details are horrendous.

There was a thriving Christian community in northern Korea before that territory was occupied by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II; however, explains the commission, “Independent religious practice is considered a direct political threat.”

The few churches and other worship centers in Pyongyang “were not for the North Korean people, but were showplaces for foreigners and not ‘real churches like those in China and South Korea’.” Outside of these venues religious literature is banned.

Moreover, the threat of punishment is omnipresent, which means any religious believers must risk all. Notes the commission, “It is widely known that there are severe penalties meted out against those discovered practicing banned religions. Many interviewees testified that they had heard about or witnessed severe persecution of persons caught engaging in religious activity.”

North Korea’s brutality is compounded by China’s ruthless repatriation of refugees. Just as China has disappointed those disposed to think well of it by failing to improve respect for human rights at home, Beijing’s continued support for the worst North Korean practices creates another black mark against that regime.

While Christianity is the principal target of North Korean religious repression, it also offers North Koreans the greatest hope for the future, for Christianity challenges the basis of the DPRK tyranny.

The commission cites another former security agent explaining that “Christianity was suppressed more than Buddhism because it is against the One and Only Ideology. Kim Il Sung is god; a real God [cannot] replace him.”

In short, Christianity offers the most obvious alternative to the ideological foundation of the regime. Thus, as Christianity spreads, even under severe repression, North Korea’s communist system is likely to face ever greater challenges.

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