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ICC Note: Relatively few people in the world today are aware that North Korea is perhaps the most hostile nation on earth to people of faith. It’s believed that as many as 450,000 Christians risk imprisonment, torture, and execution to practice their faith in a nation known before the rise of Communism as a major center for Christian activity in East Asia. A new South Korean film set for release this month is set to accurately depict, albeit through a fictional plot, the almost impossible to imagine difficulties faced by followers of Jesus in the North.  
3/10/2014 North Korea (Forbes) – Christians in North Korea face beatings, torture, arbitrary shooting and execution. It is difficult, though, to comprehend the true nature of the terror of the victims, the extent of the persecution, and the bravery of their struggle.
A new film, “The Apostle: He Was Anointed by God,” presents a fictionalized account based on stories culled by South Korean director Kim Jin-moo. Abandoned coal mines in the mountains south of the line between the two Koreas provided the setting for scenes of “secret Christians” in North Korea praying by candlelight. Exterior scenes of drab villages, of interiors of decrepit buildings decorated by stock photos of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, and of villagers attempting to flee across a stream resembling the Tumen River between North Korea and China give an eerie sense of reality that’s about as close to the life and death of Christians in North Korea as we are ever likely to see.
The plot revolves around Chul-ho played by Kim In-kwon, better known for comic roles, who wants to lead villagers across the river to China and from there to South Korea. He, his family and friends, face varying degrees of terrorism by North Korean soldiers, some of them glad to accept bribes, others promising to get tough against dissidents in their midst.
The film introduces, on a highly personal level, the types of conflicts among all these people that we can only imagine – the aging father who just wants to pay off the authorities whenever expedient, the pregnant woman who hides away but also gets killed, the Christian who praises Kim Jong-il in a sermon in one of those phony authorized churches in Pyongyang, the young soldier who himself is a Christian and attends underground services while in uniform. Then there is the village idiot, the only character who director Kim says is totally fictional. He tears down a picture of Jesus from a wall and cuts out the face as a grotesque mask as the film nears its terrifying ending.
One of the more interesting studies in “The Apostle” is that of the North Korean squad leader who warns Christians of the troubles they face under a new, ambitious officer and then obeys the officer when expedient, as when villagers are shot and killed as they try to flee across the snow into China. The differences among North Koreans are essential to the credibility of the film since they portray characters who suffer not only from ideological fanaticism but also from opportunism and the need to survive under a brutal regime that will kill anyone who shows any sign of insubordination.

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