Groups Petition for Human Rights, Religious Freedom Focus in N. Korea Talks

Persecution watchdogs and human rights groups are urging for delegates to include discussion over alleged human rights and religious freedom violations.

As talks on North Korea’s nuclear program continue this week between American and North and South Korean government officials along with delegations from three other countries, persecution watchdogs are urging for delegates to include discussion over alleged human rights and religious freedom violations.

“Of course, the talks going on this week in Beijing regarding the containment of North Korea’s nuclear program are important,” said Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl Moeller. “But there is also the need to address the widespread human rights abuses and persecution of Christians inside the country."

Open Doors, which releases an annual list of 50 countries where Christians suffer the worst persecution, has ranked North Korea at the top for three straight years. According to the ministry, Christianity is observed as “one of the greatest threats to the regime’s power.”

“Kim Jong Il is the ‘Great Leader’ and has been exalted and revered as a god to be followed with unquestioned obedience,” Open Doors reported in a statement released on Monday. “The government will arrest not only a suspected dissident but also three generations of his family to root out the bad influence.”

It is believed that tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps, where they face cruel abuses. According to estimates received by Italy-based AsiaNews, there are about 12,000 Protestant Christians and 4,000 Catholic Christians out of a total population of 24 million in North Korea. It is said that since communists took over the government in 1953, some 300,000 Christians have disappeared and there are no longer priests or nuns in the country, all likely killed during times of persecution. North Korea is suspected of detaining more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world.

One North Korean Christian who was arrested recently because he frequently went to China and returned to North Korea shared his story with Open Doors.

“I experienced life in prison twice and I was also brought to a labor camp once,” he said. “I stayed there for three months until, with the help of another Christian, I was released. I had to labor for 18 hours a day in the most terrible circumstances.”

According to the believer, the leaders of the camp only provided meals two times a day, each time a cup with 90 pieces of boiled corn.

“I almost died of starvation and the unbearable, heavy work,” he continued. “Most of the prisoners were full of hatred and complained all day, but the Christians prayed and prayed, even though they were beaten terribly and were treated worse than others.”

He spoke of one Christian woman who was “martyred terribly.”

“They beat her over and over again since she didn’t want to stop praying,” he told Open Doors. “She died peacefully while praying to her Lord.”

On the same day that Open Doors released its statement, over 100 human rights, social, academic, and religious groups also issued a joint statement cautioning against the oversight of "inhuman" abuses by North Korea against its own people.

"More needs to be done by the international community to ameliorate the human rights crisis in North Korea and the threats to the world order that its regime poses," the statement read.

The coalition of human rights groups accused the North Korean government of human rights violations, including intentional starvation, kidnapping, forcible separation of families, religious persecution, and trafficking in women and children, in addition to charges that the government uses gas chambers in the possible practice of genocide.

“North Korea is the most repressive nation in the world,” Moeller stated. “It certainly deserves its shameful ranking on the World Watch List.”

“It breaks my heart to hear some of the atrocities against Christians inside the country,” he added.

The Open Doors head asked for believers to join him in praying that freedom issues would also be part of the agenda of the six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

“We as Christians need to support our brothers and sisters in North Korea,” he said.