02/03/2021 North Korea (International Christian Concern) – In a 2014 report to the UN Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that the human rights violations perpetrated by the North Korean government “reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” The OHCHR has continued to study the human rights situation in North Korea since the 2014 report and, in a report released earlier this year, concluded that the regime continues to systematically violate basic human rights, including religion.
Religious freedom advocates around the world have long called attention to the atrocities taking place in North Korea. Currently led by Kim Jong-un, the authoritarian regime aggressively prosecutes anyone deemed to be working against the interests of the state. Actions as simple as praying, talking about the Bible, and sharing one’s faith can lead to beatings, years of imprisonment, and even torture.
The most recent UN report highlights several areas of particular concern, including extremely harsh conditions in the country’s prison system and the torture of prisoners of conscience. The North Korean government, the report states, “is engaged in a systematic and widespread attack against people considered a threat to the country’s political system and leadership, including people who practise religion.” As part of this attack, people exercising their religion are “systematically imprisoned without due process and are subjected to harsh treatment for exercising basic human rights.”
In addition to the targeting of Christians and members of other religious groups, research indicates that pregnant prisoners receive particularly harsh treatment, including being forced to perform hard labor and being subjected to forced abortions. In several instances, mothers have even been made to watch or participate in the killing of their own children.
The international community has done much over the years to shed light on the abuses of the North Korean government against religious minorities. More must be done, however, if that research and discussion is to lead to real change on the ground.
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