North Korea’s State-Sanctioned Persecution of Christians Revealed in US State Department Report

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A recent report from the US State Department sheds light on the grave human rights violations faced by Christians in North Korea. The report, part of the International Religious Freedom Report for 2022, discloses that Christians caught with a Bible in North Korea face the death penalty, while their families, including innocent children, are sentenced to life imprisonment. According to the report, an estimated 70,000 Christians, along with individuals from other faiths, are currently imprisoned in North Korea. Shockingly, even a two-year-old child was sentenced to life imprisonment after their parents were found in possession of a Bible. This incident occurred in 2009, when the family was arrested for their religious practices and ownership of religious materials. Numerous accounts from Christians who have been imprisoned in political prison camps reveal the dire conditions and various forms of physical mistreatment they endure. The report places responsibility for 90% of documented human rights abuses against Christians, as well as Shamanic adherents, on the Ministry of State Security. Korea Future, a non-profit organization focused on justice and accountability in North Korea, collaborated with the State Department in compiling the report. Their findings highlight the persecution faced by individuals engaged in religious practices, possession of religious items, contact with religious individuals, or sharing religious beliefs.

Those persecuted often face arrest, detention, forced labor, torture, denial of a fair trial, deportation, denial of the right to life, and even sexual violence. A separate report by Korea Future in December 2021 focused specifically on the abuse of religious freedom against women in North Korea. Interviews with 151 Christian women revealed arbitrary detention, torture, deportation, forced labor, and sexual violence as the most common forms of abuse. The alarming situation in North Korea also includes the dissemination of false propaganda targeting Christians.

Defectors have recounted the existence of textbooks and graphic novels depicting Christian missionaries engaging in heinous acts such as rape, blood-sucking, organ harvesting, murder, and espionage. Such propaganda aims to demonize Christians and create a hostile environment. The United States, along with other nations, recently cosponsored a United Nations resolution condemning North Korea’s extensive and ongoing violations of human rights. The resolution expresses deep concern over the abuse of freedom of opinion, expression, religion, or belief, including instances of summary executions. Despite the lack of diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea, efforts to raise awareness about the grave human rights abuses endured by Christians and others in North Korea continue at an international level.

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