Jun 16, 2010

Still Tortured in North Korea

Chuck MisslerBy Dr. Chuck Missler
Koinonia House

The images are familiar; listless, skeletal faces of starving adults and children; broken bones and burned flesh; forced labor in barren government prisons; entire families tortured, experimented on and publicly executed for the flimsiest of suspicions of disloyalty to the regime. Yet, these are not pictures from Auschwitz or Dachau 65 years ago. These are images that leak to the outside world from present-day North Korea, the domain of Kim Jung-Il.

One June 14, 2010, a number of human rights organizations issued a joint letter to the European Union urging a "comprehensive, strategic, persistent and well coordinated approach" toward promoting human rights to the North Korean government. North Korea's reign of terror is well known around the world, yet it continues.

The North Korean Freedom Coalition reports that up to 300,000 people have fled North Korea to escape the starvation and absence of basic human rights. An estimated 200,000 more men, women and children are imprisoned in seven political prison and forced labor camps. Two million or more individuals are estimated to have died from lack of food since 1995, and one in five North Korean children under the age of five is said to suffer from malnourishment. When a government denies its people basic rights like food when that food has been offered by international rescue organizations, it is obvious that government has no respect for human life. One can imagine the personal and religious freedoms the people of North Korea are denied.

Four hundred thousand to one million people may have died in North Korea's forced labor prisons since 1972. Untold numbers have been tortured and interrogated over suspicions of holding Christian beliefs or having associated with Christians. Yet Christian insider organizations report that, based on former prisoners' stories of torture and confessions, as many as one in four North Koreans may hold to some sort of Christian belief system. They must conceal this belief from the government, neighbors, and families. In North Korea, even children are encouraged by their school teachers to turn over parents who express Western or Christian sympathies or are in any way disrespectful to the image of their "illustrious" leader.

North Korea's State Religion

According to the CIA, in North Korea "autonomous religious activities now almost nonexistent; government-sponsored religious groups exist to provide illusion of religious freedom."

The DPRK official website lists two state-sponsored Protestant churches in North Korea's capital of Pyongyang. Yet refugees and religious freedom organizations argue that these churches were built mainly as a showcase to appease international eyes. Free worship or gathering apart from the direct supervision of the government is absolutely forbidden. Possession of the Bible, or any literature resembling a Bible, is outlawed and can lead to immediate arrest and deportation to a prison camp. The sole theological seminary in the country, Pyongyang Divinity School, admits only 10 students every three years. This is Kim Jong-Il's idea of religious freedom.

North Koreans are required to worship Kim as a god. He is to be the object of all their worship. Since the slightest questioning of authority or disrespect for Kim is considered unacceptable, true faith in a God or admiration of any government beyond Kim and his provision is intolerable. To admit that anyone or anything might be greater than the Dear Leader would weaken the power he wields over a tiny, densely-populated country almost devoid of natural resources.

It is because North Korea is so physically isolated - by ocean on two sides, with the heavily patrolled borders of estranged South Korea below and China above - the DRPK's giant, nuclear-equipped military and state-run travel services can control all the comings and goings of citizens, tourists, humanitarian groups and supplies. Kim Jong-Il ensures that food and supplies are doled out first to his family, officers, the military, the police, and any others who are labeled the "loyal" sector of the population. He makes sure those who pledge obeisance in all matters, casual and formal, are served and cared for first. For the sake of their own preservation and the protection of loved ones, sufficient numbers of North Koreans do not question authority or admit allegiance to a religion, God, or ideology that allows for personal responsibility, free will, and mercy.

New Tension with South Korea and China

North Korea's foreign policy under the juche ideology, if it can be called foreign policy, has been a strategy of blaming all outsiders for past oppression, current international hostility and the DPRK's starvation and deprivation. North Korea has always had an aggressive no-outsiders policy toward its neighbors, and relations between North Korea, South Korea, and China have continually deteriorated.

Yet, the Chinese do not offer North Korean refugees any assistance. The Chinese police actively hunt down and return Korean refugees, viewing them as pariahs. Once returned, these refugees may be imprisoned and/or executed. Female refugees who do make it across the border into China have a 70 percent chance of being taken in and sold as brides or otherwise being used in human trafficking.

Recent reports coming from South Korean officials claim that they have forensic evidence which they say proves a North Korean vessel was responsible for the torpedoing and sinking a South Korean Naval ship in March, drawing harsh threats of retaliation from the South and appeals to the US and other international allies to intervene.

A Shift in Power

Kim Jong-Il is believed to have suffered a stroke two years ago, and the world believes he is preparing to publicly infuse his power and image into his 27-year-old son, Kim Jong-Un, who is already a leader in the ruling Worker's Party. Earlier this month, Kim Jong-Il oversaw his sister's husband, Jang Song-thaek, being installed as Vice-Chairman of the National Defense Commission. On April 15, 2012, North Korea will celebrate the 100th birthday of Kim Il-Sung, the venerated, long-reigning father of both Kim Jong-Il and the current North Korean regime. The celebration will no doubt be a grand display of nationalistic fervor, and experts assume the event will provide a logical opportunity for Kim Jong-Il to present his son as successor to the throne.

What Can We Do?

We can urge our government and humanitarian aid groups to be vigilant for opportunities to make a political impact on North Korea and on the administration of one of the world's cruelest dictators. We can donate to groups that work to bring first-hand help to these suffering people. Most importantly of all, we can pray.

Few of us can imagine the isolation and horror that faces North Korea's Christians. For the sanctity of life, for those who share our longing for a loving, sovereign God, for those who cannot escape - and for those who have yet to realize they should - we cannot give in.

"...The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." - James 5:16
When we pray, we should rejoice and thank God that our prayers really do help our precious brother and sisters in chains. Spiritual chains can be broken in the lives of these dear people as we go to our knees. When we pray, they are comforted, protected, fed, healed. When we pray, things happen that promote the Gospel rather than hinder it. When we pray, the Spirit of God works those things behind the scenes that can make all the difference for these beloved people who follow Christ even in the most horrific circumstances.
"Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body." - Hebrews 13:3

Related Links
North Korean Christian Persecution - NorthKoreanChristians.com
Campaign for China to Change its Policy of Forced Repatriation - Open Doors International
Obama renews U.S. economic sanctions on N. Korea - Reuters
Restricted Nations (North Korea) - Persecution.com
Prophecy 20/20: Profiling the Future Through the Lens of Scripture - Chuck Missler (Book)