In first position on the World Watch List, North Korea has the deadliest level of Christian persecution in the world. The only worship that is allowed is that of the “dear leader” Kim Jong-Il and his father Kim Il-Sung.
In North Korea, every other religious activity is labeled an act of insurrection against North Korean socialist principles. Christians are routinely beaten, tortured, imprisoned for life, mutilated, murdered, and used in the testing of biological or chemical weapons. Punishment for being a Christian can also include the imprisonment or death of ones mother, father, sisters, brothers, children and grandchildren.
The communist Police stop at nothing to search out and punish Christians, including pretending to be Christians to infiltrate underground prayer meetings. The information they obtain is then used to identify and arrest Christians, who are taken to prison camps where they face slave labor and starvation as well as the inhuman treatment mentioned above.
A recent survey by the Peterson Institute found that 60% percent of North Koreans now have access to information outside government propaganda. Kim Seung Min of Free North Korea Radio said in a press statement, “North Koreans are increasingly finding out that their misery is a direct result of the Kim Jong-Il regime, not South Korea and America as we were brainwashed from birth to believe.”
Knowing that they are in danger of losing their iron control, the North Korean government has reacted by mobilizing every resource of power in a desperate struggle to control all of society. This included so called “combat campaigns” lasting 150 days and 100 days, in which almost every citizen had to effectively become a slave to the state and work on government farms. During these periods, anyone found on the street without a valid reason was immediately shipped off to a labor camp. This has meant that fathers were not able to provide for their families, and in the Hwangae province it has become commonplace to see children lying dead in the streets. During these campaigns, the North Korean regime also targeted secret Christians to arrest and kill them, leading to many Christians being exposed.
Recently, an additional challenge has risen in the form of a currency reform which took place in late November 2009. The new currency was part of an economic plan to stabilize prices and give the government total control over a nationwide market system. It failed to achieve the desired result and led instead to hyperinflation and shortages of daily necessities. As public sentiment worsens, people are protesting the currency reform in front of markets and banks. The North Korean government is strictly controlling the situation by brutally suppressing protestors as soon as they begin.
Daily necessities have now run out nationwide and the people have no means of buying more. Increasing numbers of people are dying of starvation. The situation is speedily becoming more desperate, especially in Hamkyung, Jakang and Hwanghae provinces. In addition, infectious diseases are rampant in the country. The situation in Hamgyung province is so severe that local authorities are encouraging people to receive assistance through their relatives in China.
North Korean Defectors
Many North Korean Christians have tried to escape to China. However, the border with China is virtually closed and Chinese authorities vigilantly pursue North Korean defectors to return them to North Korea and certain death.
As the number of North Korean defectors continues to increase, so does the government’s effort to increase house searches and punishments. Surveillance and security within the country is extremely tight. In January 2010, Kim Jong-Il ordered every defector who crosses the border to China to be immediately executed or sentenced to death. The order was added as a supplementary penal code.