WASHINGTON – In a land where there is absolutely no freedom of thought, religion, or press and where millions have died from starvation, many are crying out "How long, O Lord?"
Yet tragically, an expert at a North Korea Freedom Week event on Thursday admitted that the situation is not improving.
Michael Cromartie, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, vented frustration at the regime responsible for one of the world's worst humanitarian and human rights disaster.
"It is a miserable place. It is a closed society. They don't care what the international community thinks," Cromartie told The Christian Post after the Open Doors USA panel discussion on religious persecution in North Korea.
"They don't read our reports; they don't care about our recommendations; they don't care about their own people. So how do you penetrate the conscience of a totalitarian regime that doesn't have the slightest concern about its own people much less international opinion? It is like hitting your head against the brick wall," said the religious freedom advocate.
Estimates indicate that some 2 million North Koreans have died in the 1990s as a result of a severe famine coupled with the regime's mismanagement of foreign food aid. The government is accused of using food aid to bolster its military instead of feeding its citizens.
A decade later, North Korea continues to face severe food shortage.
Earlier in March, a World Food Program spokesman warned that North Korea faced one of its biggest food shortages in the past decade with millions of people in danger of going hungry because of poor harvest and a huge drop in donor, according to The Associated Press.
A bad harvest in 2006, disastrous summer flooding and a 75 percent fall in donor assistance have left the impoverished nation in critical condition, warned Anthony Banbury, the Asian regional director for the World Food Program, according to AP.
In light of the overwhelming needs, Open Doors USA, host of Thursday's panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington, has done what it could to help the embattled North Korean Christian community by providing food, medicine, clothing and Bibles.
Open Doors USA president and CEO Carl Moeller, who was in the border region in China earlier this month, shared that one of the refugees he met said the cry of the North Korean Church is "How long, O Lord, will we suffer? The children of Israel only suffered 40 years, [but] we have suffered almost 60 years. How long, O Lord, before you hear the suffering of your people?"
Moeller said his heart broke and urged Christians worldwide to pray, believing that their prayers will someday topple the regime.
"They (the North Korea regime) don't care about anyone… It is a wicked, evil regime," concluded Cromartie.
Other panelists included North Korean defectors Eom Myong-Heui, assistant pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea; and "Philip Lee," secretary of United Group of Ministers for North Korean Refugee and a freshman at the Chong Sin Seminary in South Korea. Lee's real name was withheld for security reasons.
North Korea Freedom Week will end Saturday with the North Korea Freedom Day Anniversary, when people around the world will gather to protest against China's violent treatment of North Korean refugees in front of Chinese embassies.