The North Korean government has been hitting back against international criticism by accusing the U.S. of rampant human rights abuses and claiming that Christian missionaries are responsible for human trafficking and even terrorism in its country.
"The significance of North Korea's comments cannot be overstated. North Korea is choosing to publicly blame Christian missionaries for its human rights problems and internal difficulties," said the Rev. Eric Foley of Seoul USA, a US/Korean NGO that operates a number of discipleship bases reaching North Koreans across Asia.
Foley's comments are in response to those made by So Se Pyong, North Korea's ambassador in a debate before the Council in Geneva, where he stated: "There are in the northeastern area of China so-called churches and priests exclusively engaged in hostile acts against the DPRK. They indoctrinate the illegal border crossers with anti-DPRK ideology and send them back to the DPRK with assignments of subversion, destruction, human trafficking and even terrorist acts."
The comments follow an official report released by Kim Jong Un's government last week, which called the U.S. a "living hell" where "elementary rights to existence are ruthlessly violated."
"Such poor human right records in the U.S. are an inevitable product of the ruling quarters' policy against humanity," the report continued.
"Its chief executive, Obama, indulges himself in luxury almost every day, squandering hundred millions of dollars on his foreign trip in disregard of his people's wretched life."
BBC News and other publications pointed out that North Korea's report is clearly in response to a critical U.N. report released in February, which detailed extensively some of the "unspeakable atrocities" being committed in North Korea, including mass starvation and extermination.
"The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world," said the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK in the 400-page report.
North Korea has also been identified as the worst persecutor of Christians by watchdog groups, including Open Doors, which notes that followers of Christ "face unimaginable pressure in every sphere of life."
"Forced to meet only in secret, they dare not share their faith even with their families, for fear of imprisonment in a labor camp," the watchdog group states. "Anyone discovered engaging in secret religious activity may be subject to arrest, disappearance, torture, even public execution."
Seoul USA's Foley added that Christian missionaries are facing increased pressure not only in North Korea, but also in Northeast China.
"Don't expect China to do nothing," Foley warned. "If North Korea is pointing to missionaries operating in China as a source of potential North Korean instability, and if it is alleging that China is the host, then missionaries can expect an increasing crackdown on churches and discipleship bases reaching North Koreans."
He added: "From a public perception standpoint, expect that North Korea will more and more seek sympathy and support from the general global public by striking an anti-Christian chord. It may be the most important development regarding Christian ministry to North Korea in the last decade."