Reaching Underground Believers & Guiding Others in Flight: Silent Partners Assist North Koreans under Caesar’s Sword
By Tim A. Peters, Founder of Helping Hands Korea
The government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) has the dubious distinction of being classified in the Open Doors World Watch List as the worst state sponsor of Christian persecution for 16 consecutive years through 2018. Only when one contemplates the ‘rivals’ for this designation, such as Somalia, Afghanistan, China, Sudan, Yemen, and Uzbekistan, among other world-class persecutors, does the full impact of Pyongyang’s systemic suppression of its Christian population begin to register. The roots of this toxic strain of religious intolerance can be found in the personality and political philosophy of North Korea’s founding father, Kim Il-sung, the current absolute leader’s grandfather. From the very formation of the DPRK 70 years ago in 1948 under the leadership of Kim Il-sung, people of faith were viewed with great distrust and suspicion. Kim’s repressive measures were not part of some hidden agenda of the state or its Workers’ Party. Absolute and relentless indoctrination to dissuade religious believers from their faith was the open and initial phase ordered by Supreme Leader Kim Il-sung in his speeches. Secondly, religious leaders who were found to be engaging in “counter-revolutionary or anti-state activities [had to] be punished in accordance to related laws;” an ominous category of “targets of dictatorship” was designated for those clergy who stiffened their backs against reform by the Workers Party. Kim Il-sung lost no time in punishing clergy in labor and re-education camps, uprooting Christians from their residences, killing others, and forcing some into relocation to different regions of the country, especially North and South Hamgyong provinces, nicknamed North Korea's ‘Siberia.’ Such harsh measures continue to be used under Kim’s grandson in 2018 as a vital tool to instill fear and to eradicate any loyalties that veer away from exaltation of the Kim family regime. As the subsequent examples painfully illustrate, state-sponsored repression of Christianity and the brutal persecution of its adherents have not changed despite the passage of 56 years since Kim Il-sung’s blunt pronouncements as quoted above. A special 2014 United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) report on human rights in the DPRK found that “religious believers [in North Korea] who practice outside the small number of state-controlled religious institutions…. are considered to introduce politically or ideologically subversive influences are subject to crimes against humanity” by the DPRK government. During these painful decades, the rock-hard reality of being ‘under the sword of Caesar’ has resulted in a number of responses by believers. ......