- (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)
North Korea has publicly executed a Christian woman accused of distributing Bibles and "spying" for foreign countries, South Korean activists said Friday.
A mother of three, Ri Hyon-ok, 33, was accused of spying for South Korea and the United States and organizing dissidents, The Associated Press reported. She was executed in the northwestern city of Ryongchon bordering China on June 16, according to a report from the Investigative Commission on Crimes against Humanity published Friday.
Her husband, children and parents were sent to a political prison the day after her execution, the report states.
The report's claims could not be verified.
But it follows testimonies by North Korean defectors and reports from human rights groups that have increasingly exposed the religious persecution and rights abuses in the communist country.
Last month, the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) was warned through an anonymous fax apparently by the North Korean embassy for Finland that "something very bad will happen" to VOM workers if the organization continues its project in sharing the Gospel.
The warning was in response to VOM obtaining fax numbers inside North Korea and sending faxes containing Christian messages and Scripture passages.
North Korea has been ranked the worst persecutor of Christians for seven years in a row in the annual Open Doors Watch List 2009.
North Koreans are forced to worship a personality cult that includes Kim Jong-Il and his deceased father. Any other religion, especially Christianity, is banned.
If someone is found to be a Christian or possesses a Bible, they are sent to the gulags (government administered labor camps) or face public execution.
It is believed that tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps, according to Open Doors. The regime is suspected of detaining more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world.
There are a few churches in the capital, Pyongyang, but they are mainly for show. It is unclear if these churches are only open when foreigners visit or are used only by expatriates. Either way, the handful of churches are not for North Korean citizens, according to defectors.
The Investigative Commission on Crimes against Humanity, a coalition of 50 activist groups, is calling for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to be charged with crimes against humanity.