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1/14/2016 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – According to Reuters and CNN, the most recent North Korean prisoner to be presented to the public has been identified as a Korean-American Christian pastor.  Kim Dong Chul, age 62, lived in Fairfax, Virginia, prior to moving to Yanji, China, a village near the North Korean border. While living in China, Mr. Chul travelled to Rason, North Korea for his business until he was arrested in October of 2015 on charges of “spying” for South Korea.

Reuters spoke with North Korean defector Ma Young-ae, who met Chul in 2007 and presently works as a missionary based in New York City.  She stated she was “shocked to see his face on TV.” Ma described their first encounter while he was speaking at various church gatherings in California and Virginia. Chul had described himself as a missionary to church congregations in efforts to raise funds for medical assistance in North Korea.

Chul’s detainment continues a pattern of imprisonment of Christian missionaries by North Korea. In February of 2015, Korean-Canadian pastor Hyeon-Soo Lim of the Light Korean Church in Toronto was detained and later sentenced for attempting to overthrow the state. Lim is imprisoned in a North Korean labor camp where he digs holes for eight hours a day, six days a week, alone, in frigid temperatures. Currently, the Canadian government is working along with the United Nations for Lim’s release.

In April 2013, Korean-American Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years on similar charges. Bae, an evangelical Christian missionary, was later released in 2014 after spending two years in a North Korean prison camp.

North Korea is well known for its poor human rights record.  It is listed by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) in their annual report disclosing the most recent information on religious freedom around the world. North Korea is ranked as the most egregious CPC offender of human rights and religious freedom.

ICC Regional Manager William Stark stated, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues to top the charts as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians. We at International Christian Concern are distressed by the news that another Christian pastor, Kim Dong Chul, has been arrested and imprisoned on unsubstantiated charges of spying. The arrest and charges fit a pattern of behavior by the North Korean government where Christian missionaries are viewed and punished as enemies of the state. Thousands of men, women and children in North Korea are living in what has been described as ‘hell on earth’ simply because they choose to be Christian. No one should be condemned to years of torture and forced labor simply because of their religious beliefs. The international community must now come together to demand the release of Pastor Chul. Without this international pressure, Pastor Chul could be consigned to a life of hard labor simply for his Christian faith.

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