Church Coalition Leads Rally to Free N. Korean Refugees in China

WASHINGTON – Korean-American Christians led a rally Tuesday on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol, demanding that China's government stop sending refugees from North Korea back to the totalitarian state.

Members of the Korean Church Coalition for North Korea Freedom (KCC), which sponsored the rally, gathered from across the country to urge Congress to bring pressure on China as the communist country prepares to host next year's Summer Olympics.

"[W]e must not forget that the cries of our brothers and sisters in North Korea and the refugees in China are indeed reaching the throne of God," said Peter Sohn, president of the KCC and pastor of Bethel Korean Church in Irvine, Calif., according to Baptist Press. "Father God hears every single lamenting and mourning prayer of those who cry and pray for North Koreans. With God on our side, I have confidence that His work will be done so that our efforts will transform into David's sling stones against Goliath and become more powerful than the missiles of the evil Kim Jong Il regime."

North Korea is one of the most repressive regimes in the World and is ranked by the ministry Open Doors as the world's worst persecutor of Christians. Citizens of the communist state are forced to adhere to a personality cult revolved around worshipping current dictator Kim Jong Il and his deceased father, Kim Il Sung.

It is said that at least 500,000 North Koreans have crossed the border over to China in the past 10 years. However, China has signed an agreement with its communist ally to return refugees back to North Korea where they face imprisonment, torture, and sometimes execution for leaving the country – a state crime.

China, in defense of its actions, has claimed North Koreans entering its country are "economic migrants" and not refugees and thus it has the right to return them.

U.S. human rights activists have urged people not to travel to Beijing to attend the 2008 Olympics unless China grants the United Nation's refugee agency, UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), access to North Koreans hiding in its territory.

Religious and civic activists have also said international media outlets should limit coverage to sporting events as part of the effort to deny China publicity.

"[U]ntil all the people of North Korea are treated as human beings rather than as animals, until they are treated as free people instead of serfs in Kim Jong Il's feudal kingdom, we will not have finished the job," Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Tuesday's rally participants under the mid-day sun, according to BP. "I join with you in calling on the United States and every civilized nation in the world to make human rights an inextricable part" of any negotiations with North Korea.

The KCC, which was formed in 2004 to bring an end to the sufferings endured by the people of North Korea, launched its "Let My People Go" campaign in April which urges churches, synagogues and human rights organizations to display "Let My People Go" banners and decals as the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games draws near. The effort mirrors a similar campaign spearheaded some 40 years ago by Jewish Americans who were demanding the release of Soviet Jews.

After Tuesday's rally, campaigners reportedly visited Congress to urge lawmakers to adopt a resolution aimed towards safeguarding the human rights of the North Korean refugees in China and allowing the refugees within China's borders safely be permitted to exit to a third country that will accept them before 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Also speaking at Tuesday's rally were Suzanne Scholte, president of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, and Rep. Ed Royce (R.-Calif.). Letters of support from Sen. Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.), who drafted the resolution for the U.S. Senate, and Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) were also read.

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