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04/28/2011 North Korea (AsiaNews) – The parents of Kim Il-sung, grandparents of current North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-il, were devout Christians. The son, later known as the ‘eternal president’ of North Korea, had to repudiate their religion, pushed by the Soviets, in order to eliminate all of the country’s religions and replace them with his own cult of personality. However, this was not fully accomplished since even Kim the first, before a surgical operation, prayed with his doctor.

Some North Korean exiles that fled south have made these revelations. The foremost of them is certainly Kim Hyun-sik, who today teaches at Yale University after spending 38 years at Pyongyang’s most prestigious college.

According to him, both Kim Hyong-jik and Kang Ban-sok (Kim Il-sung’s father and mother) were not only Christian, but were also devout. Ban-sok is actually the Korean name for Peter, which was also given to baby girls.

In North Korea, people are organised in 51 classes. The top three are the most loyal to the Kim family and its cult of personality, which requires worship for the ‘eternal president’ and his son, the ‘dear leader’, as the country’s only deities.

Anyone practicing another religion or found with religious material is treated as “hostile” and banned from the country’s public life.

Even though Kim Il-sung’s was very close to his parents, he was “convinced” by Stalin to crack down on their religion. Still, in his autobiography, the president acknowledged that they attended church, albeit “to take a rest (at a church).”  They became widely known among North Korean Christians the 1940s; however, their life was eventually used by the new regime for propaganda purposes.

His mother in fact is celebrated today as “the mother of Chosun who gave birth to and raised the Great Leader of revolution, indomitable Champion of the Communist Revolution,” the “champion who conducted the Chosun women’s movement”. His father became “a great pioneer of Marxism, fighting his entire life against capitalism, saving his homeland.”

However, there is evidence that the process of historical reconstruction did not entirely rid Kim Il-sing’s of his Christian past. Some witnesses say that prior to an important surgery, Kim prayed with a doctor. Indeed, when the doctor offered to pray before the surgery, Kim Il-Sung responded, “Pray for me.” They then prayed together.

Since the instauration of the Communist regime in 1953, some 300,000 Christians have disappeared. The country has no more priests or nuns, killed perhaps during the wave of persecution. At present, about 100,000 languish in labour camps victims of hunger, torture and even death.

Former North Korean officials and prisoners have said that in re-education camps and prisons Christians are singled out for harsher treatment.

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