WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has issued a harrowing report of religious persecution inside North Korea, including allegations that authorities there ran over confessing Christians with a steamroller.
The report, Total Denial: Violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief in North Korea, was issued Sept. 23 and claims liberty with respect to religion – or any belief contrary to the state's communist ideology – is "largely non-existent."
Christians, who are forced to practice their faith in secret, are often the targets of persecution. Those discovered are sent to concentration camps where they take part in forced labor. They are also subjected to sexual violence, torture and "extra-judicial" killings.
A former North Korean security agent stated, 'Christians are regarded as spies. If you meet a Christian, it is considered the same as meeting a South Korean intelligence officer. Spies and Christians are sent to the kwanliso [a prison camp]. They are treated equally.
"Documented incidents include Christians being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges and trampled under-foot," the report claims.
CSW's report is not the only report to document the brutal anti-Christian regime in Kim Jong Un's North Korea.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom also said in its report that Christians considered to have participated in acts of worship, of having studied the Bible or having possessed a church hymnal "are typically jailed, or worse."
"In prison, Christians reportedly endure harsher treatment than other prisoners. It is estimated that tens of thousands of Christians in North Korea are currently in prison camps facing hard labor or execution. Given the high cost to themselves and their families if caught, many North Koreans likely self-suppress their own consciences, creating a multiplier effect of the government's repressive policies," the USCIRF report said.
According to CSW, state leaders in North Korea, who demand fealty to the cult surrounding Kim Jong Un, suppress Christianity because they believe it is solely a religion of the West and Christians are spies for the United States and other First World powers.
However, followers of other religions, such as Buddhism, Taoism, Shamanism and even the native Korean religion Cheondoism, are frowned upon.
The CSW report also documents China's deportation of North Korean refugees who are able to escape the country. The country immediately returns the refuges in violation of its obligations under the United Nations Convention on Refugees Treaty of 1951.
Refuges who come into contact with missionaries are particularly ill-treated, the report said.
"Believing in Christianity, acquiring Christian religious items like the Bible, and being involved in Christian religious activities while in China are all likely to be considered a 'grave offence' resulting in a sentence of life imprisonment or even execution. Former North Korean security agents have testified that 'The most severe punishment is applied to those who are engaged in the [new religious] activity: those who carry the Bible from China and those Christians who help North Korean refugees in China.' A former North Korean security agent stated, 'Christians are regarded as spies. If you meet a Christian, it is considered the same as meeting a South Korean intelligence officer. Spies and Christians are sent to the kwanliso [a prison camp]. They are treated equally.'"
The CSW report concludes that North Korean officials are highly unlikely to change, given the country's emphasis on "self-reliance" and monolithic devotion to the Kim family.
CSW's East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers said North Korea is guilty of crimes against humanity.
"Our report aims to shine a light on the darkest corner of the globe and to call on the international community to act. We also urge China to behave responsibly and to cease its policy of forcible repatriation of North Korean refugees, which is tantamount to a death sentence. The time for change is long overdue," Rogers said.
There are an estimated 200,000-300,000 Christians in North Korea attending as many as 500 underground churches, according to the report, but only a handful of state authorized churches. Those churches are normally empty.
Sept. 23, the date the report was issued, was "Save North Koreans Day."