Three Reasons for The Existence of Religious Organizations In North Korea
There are several official religious organizations in North Korea. They include the Chosun Christians Federation, the Chosun Buddhists Fdederation, and the Chosun Catholic Association. Nevertheless there continues to be no freedom of religion in North Korea. In fact, true believer are often punished for their beliefs. So then, one must ask, why do such religious organizations exist in North Korea.
There are three reasons:
First, it is to avoid the dishonor of being listed as a country of religious persecution by holding these organizations up as examples of religious freedom to concerned organizations throughout the world.
North Korea has been labeled as a country of religious persecution by many international human rights organizations in the past. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) designated North Korea as one of the ‘Countries of Particular Concern,” while Open Doors ranked North Korea at the top of its list of the “50 countries in which the worse Christian persecution exists.”
The North Korean regime tries to show the existence of religious activities in the country by setting up these fake religious organizations. Simply put, these organizations are mere public relations for the regime.
The ‘pastors’ and ‘monks’ which belong to these organizations are not true pastors, nor true monks. According to many defectors, they are in fact members of the Workers’ Party put in charge of playing the roles of pastors and monks. Most of these monks and pastors have studied religion in their university. A study which is purely academic and completely unrelated to faith.
Secondly, the North Korean regime has created these groups to receive support and money from international religious NGOs.
These impostor religious organizations in North Korea have received aid from international and South Korean religious organizations. Furthermore, aid from foreign religious organizations then flows into the governmental regime. However, religious aid is considered separate from other forms of international food aid conducted by non-religious NGOs. Therefore, monitoring on these religious groups is not so strict.
In addition, international religious organizations tend to continue providing aid to North Korea regardless of degrading relationships between North Korea and other countries. Therefore, North Korean religious organizations work hard to cement their relations with international religious groups.
However, this food aid, as well as other materials given, is rarely sent to the North Korean citizens it is meant for. Instead, it flows mostly in the wrong direction, away from the people. Most defectors have stated that they had never received any foreign food aid.
Lastly, North Korean religious organizations push foreign or South Korean religious persons to carry out certain pro-North Korean regime activities.
Cadres of the North’s religious organizations use several tactics in an attempt to persuade foreign religious persons to work for the North’s regime. This tactics can be as extreme as blackmail or extortion. A U.S. pastor who visited North Korea in 2003 upon the recommendation of another pastor, has been pushed by other pro-North Korean regime NGOs for regular meetings, funds, and other pro-North Korean regime activities.