New guidelines recently released by the North Korean Ministry of People’s Security could mean more persecution for Christians.
The Rev. Eric Foley, CEO of Colorado-based Christian non-governmental organization Seoul-USA, says the government of North Korea has announced a crackdown on “superstitious” behavior. He says North Korean Christians are expected to be targeted.
Foley says that the North Korean government is increasing scrutiny in four areas: Slandering North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, drug trafficking and drug use, distributing or viewing illegal recordings and “superstitious behavior.”
Foley says Christians could suffer under three of the four new guidelines. “In North Korea, failing to give Kim Jong Un all glory and honor is the same as slandering him. He says everything – from bowing one’s head to possessing a Bible – is superstitious behavior.
Foley says of the estimated 100 thousand underground Christians in North Korea, one-third are in concentration camps. He says some of the remaining believers have managed to avoid being detected because of high position or family history. He says the recent execution of a senior North Korean advisor is a sign that power and position no longer protect a person.
Christian ministries say the underground church is not confined to North Korea’s lower class. In late 2004, Voice of the Martyrs reported that a North Korean army general had been executed for sharing the message of Jesus Christ with his troops. Voice of the Martyrs says if an army general was an evangelical Christian, there could be other members of the North Korean ruling class who are Christians.
Seoul-USA trains North Korean defectors as Christian leaders. Seoul-USA also launches large hydrogen balloons into North Korea carrying the Christian message.
Foley says North Korean Christians do not want their fellow believers worldwide to feel sorry for them. “They tell us not to pray for them but instead to pray with them.
He says North Koreans want to be “faithful wherever God has placed them.”
Open Doors says the North Korean government officially promotes two religions:’Juche’ — or the self-reliance of man — and the worship of the leaders of North Korea.
ReligionToday.com reports North Korea under the leadership of Kim Jong-Un has increased persecution of Christians. Christians face execution or forced into a labor camp for life just for owning a Bible or spending time in prayer. Several generations of a family can also face detention. News reports indicate that as conditions become worse, one labor camp alone could hold up to 6,000 Christians.
Open Doors USA says North Korean labor camps are surrounded by guards in watchtowers and have high barbed wire fences, surrounded by minefields. One former camp prisoner says inmates are given only three handfuls of maize to eat per day and many people have starved to death. The inmate says Christians were forbidden to look up in the sky, and would be tortured if they were caught.
A former North Korean leader has told Open Doors the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il blamed Christians for the fall of Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu and the collapse of the Eastern bloc.
Open Doors also says Christians are considered a threat to the state because Christianity is a religion associated with the United States and South Korea. North Korean officials say Christian evangelism as an effort to eliminate the government.
Human rights investigator David Hawke has interviewed 40 North Korean escapees about religion. Hawke says the escapees say North Korean officials are very afraid because true Christianity is expanding. He says many Christians pre-date the Korean War and have worshiped secretly for many years. Hawke says he has been told as many as 10 percent of the population may be Christian.