Special Report by ICC 12/10/2012
Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern)
In about a fortnight, Kim Jong-un will complete one year as the supreme leader of North Korea, the world's most isolated and repressive country. From some of the moves he has made in the previous months, it appears that the country's underground Christians will continue to face the most severe forms of persecution.
There are a few State-controlled churches in Pyongyang, but they were created mainly to showcase "religious freedom" in the country. "Unauthorized" religious groups are not allowed in the country, but they have existed and grown despite believers facing arrests and executions.
It is difficult to know the number of believers in this hostile and closed country, but the Center for the Study of Global Christianity estimated in 2008 that North Korea has around 450,000 Christians in the underground church. Ryan Morgan, a Regional Manager with International Christian Concern (ICC), estimates that up to 70,000 believers are being held in virtual concentration camps in this nation that unofficially classifies believers as a "hostile class." This is based on one of the three classifications related to a citizens' loyalty, or lack of it, to the regime.
Underground churches are seen by the North Korean regime as a Western-influenced security threat. And, regrettably, the trend of persecution of Christians is likely to continue for at least the next few years.
Sohn Gwang Joo, former editor of Daily NK, has warned that defectors who are involved with human rights movements need to take care. For, North Korea has made several attempts to assassinate top defectors and human rights activists in South Korea. The regime wants to send a signal that any dissent or activity against it will be dealt with harshly.
Due to this sense of insecurity, the regime seems to be trying to consolidate Jong-un's supreme authority within the nation by being even more repressive. Internationally, it has become more aggressive in its foreign policy, as visible in its determination to continue to flout international conventions on nuclear weapons.
Reforms are still a distant dream in North Korea. And as Morgan said, "We have not heard any reports of improvement for Christians in the country and have no reason to believe anything has changed."
For interviews, contact Aidan Clay, Regional Manager for Southeast Asia: RM-SEAsia@persecution.org
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