Human Rights Organizations Shed Light on North Korea’s Religious Persecution
In their 2010 Annual Report for Religious Freedom, The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent government body, designated North Korea as “A Country of Particular Concern.” Furthermore, "Open Doors", an international Christian missionary group, also ranked North Korea in the top 50 countries in which the worst Christian persecution exists when presenting its "2010 World Watch List." The list claimed that North Korea currently held 40,000 to 60,000 people in labor camps due to their religious beliefs.
While the North Korean government stresses that it does not allow any kind of religious persecution, governments and human rights groups all over the world assert that the religious oppression in North Korea is severe.
A report written by the USCIRF states: “The North Korean government continues to have a deplorable human rights and religious freedom record. Dissent is not tolerated and few legal or political protections exist for universally recognized rights. The government controls most aspects of daily life, including religious activity, which is allowed only in government-operated religious “federations” or a small number of government-approved “house churches.” Other public and private religious activity is prohibited.”
The reality of North Korea’s religious persecution has been told by the North Korean human rights groups.
Minority Rights Group (MRG), a British human rights group, reported that in August of last year 23 underground Christians were arrested in Pyongsung, South Pyongan province. Three were executed.
They also emphasized that in March and June of 2009, underground church adherents like Hyun-Ok and Suh Geum-Ok were either publicly executed or went missing for illicit activities such as distributing bibles.
Even amid such strong oppression, North Koreans' faith in religion has not abated easily. MRG also stated that there are reported to be 12,000 Christian and 10,000 Buddhist devotees in North Korea and that the actual number of devotees may be significantly higher.
Doh Hee-Yun, representative of "Happy Unification," also stated that, "After the 1998 food shortage, North Korean defectors stayed in China with the help of religious groups, naturally encountering religion there. Since these defectors have returned voluntarily or have been forcibly deported, unofficial religious activity has increased."