N. Korea Freedom Week Opens with Appeals for Abductees

WASHINGTON – On the opening day of North Korea Freedom Week, appeals will emanate from East to West pleading for the release of abductees held in the country often known for its poor human rights record.

From South Korea to Lafayette Park across from the White House, voices will be heard appealing to North Korea. Officials from South Korea today urged North Korea to cooperate in the case of South Korean citizens believed to be held in the communist country.

Seoul estimates that 486 South Korean citizens abducted by its communist counterpart are alive. In addition, the South says the North is holding 542 prisoners of war from the 1950-1953 Korean War, according to The Associated press.

Across the globe, in front of the White House – a landmark of freedom and democracy – a concert sponsored by Rescuing Abductees Center of Hope will be held Saturday afternoon. In addition to the music, the concert includes the reading of letters addressed to the abductees and the names of more than 250 known abductees worldwide.

The second North Korea Freedom Week seeks to make the world aware of the severe religious and political oppression in North Korea, which Charles W. Colson called “unimaginably brutal” in a statement issued to pastors ahead of North Korea Freedom Week.

In reports released in November, North Korean eye-witnesses indicated that the totalitarian government tortures, executes Christians and people related to the faith. Among the reports were many cases of prisoners dying due to excessive work and starvation, including a former defector beaten to death for contacting Christians.

Moreover, a North Korean defector reported that in 1996 five middle-aged men accused of running an illegal church were forced to lie on the ground as a steam roller crushed them. Other defectors report people being beaten then executed for carrying a Bible.

North Korea Freedom Week, whose goal is to make the situation in North Korea known to the world, will feature events including the opening of the North Korea Genocide Exhibit, a panel discussion on “How to Promote Information Flow to North Korea,” hearings with the Senate and House on North Korea issues, the North Korea Freedom Day Rally, and an all night prayer vigil. It runs officially from Apr. 22-30.