Human Rights

More than thirty North Koreans sentenced to death for their faith

If there was a question about whether Kim Jong-Un had any intention of heeding the U.N. Report on the rampant human rights abuses in North Korea, or complying with any of its demands, none should remain following the recent revelation by the South Korean press that the brutal dictator is preparing to execute approximately 33 Christians for allegedly attempting to overthrow the North Korean government.

The condemned have received this sentence, in reality, for nothing more than having come into contact with South Korean missionary Kim Jung-wook and receiving money to fund underground Christian churches. Jung-wook is a citizen of South Korea but has been held in North Korean prisons since October of 2013 for “anti-state crimes” – specifically, his intent to distribute Bibles and other Christian material in North Korea, an act the North Korean government deems treasonous due to the Juche doctrine, which essentially requires worshiping certain political leaders as deities.

Jung-wook recently appeared in a press conference, “apologizing” for his “anti-state crimes” and issuing a confession stating he had intended to turn “North Korea into a religious country…destroying its present government and political system.” Jung-wook’s confession implicated the government of South Korea in giving him assistance in his endeavor. The South Korean government, in turn, claimed Jung-wook had actually been kidnapped while in China and forcibly removed to North Korea – an allegation that may have some truth to it, as witnesses previously testified in the U.N. Report that the North Korean government has, in fact, kidnapped multiple individuals and transported them into North Korea for a wide variety of reasons.

Given that witnesses for the U.N. Report have also offered substantial evidence regarding the government’s horrific methods for obtaining “confessions,” and others released from North Korean captivity have testified to the regime’s practice of forcing victims to speak in staged press conferences for perceived political gain, the reality behind Jung-wook’s confession and claims is likely very different from what is publicly displayed.

What is certain is that more than 30 Christians who came into contact with Jung-wook are facing the death penalty for their crimes. Reportedly, the executions are to take place in the prison cells, though the government has a long history of making death as brutal and horrific as possible – other Christian prisoners have testified to being forced to watch executions of fellow believers by beatings and gruesome methods of torture, including crushing with steamrollers.

Public executions are also common in North Korea, with media reporting just this past November that at least 80 people had been publicly executed in stadiums and town squares across the country, with thousands of residents herded into the arenas and forced to watch the massacre. The “crimes” believed to be punished by these executions range from having slept with a prostitute to owning a Bible.

The brutal treatment of Christians in North Korea has led Open Doors, a ministry dedicated to speaking out for persecuted Christians, to list the country as the worst country in the world for religious oppression, for the 12th year in a row. The group, along with many other Christian media sources, are calling for Christians everywhere to pray for the release of the men and women sentenced to death in the upcoming days.

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