by Rob Schwarzwalder
December 20, 2011
The unlamented death of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il, the brutal thug who ran an entire nation like a Stalinist mind-experiment, has ushered his son, Kim Jong-Eun, to the helm of the North Korean regime. Calling it a “government” seems too flattering, as governance implies order, justice, and some kind of representation; none of these are characteristic of North Korea.
Of the reported 200,000 North Koreans in prison camps, Open Doors estimates 50,000 to 70,000 are Christians. Both Open Doors and the U.S. State Department report religious adherents are generally treated worse than other prisoners. Extreme forms of torture and execution, as well as forced abortion and infanticide, have been reported in the camps, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
North Korea likes to downplay its record of abuse, and even minimize the number of Christians living there (claiming fewer than 13,000 total). Yet a survey released yesterday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life argues that of roughly 24 million people living in North Korea, there are more than 490,000 self-identified Christians in The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (thats Orwell-speak for the dictatorial rule in the North).
From a human standpoint, the outlook in North Korea is not good. According to Christianity Today,
When Jong-Eun was named Jong-Ils successor last year, Sam Kim, executive director of the Korean Church Coalition for North Korea Freedom, told CT that Christians in North Korea would likely not see a decrease in persecution. Kim Jong-Eun has not earned the true respect from North Koreas communist party leaders to effectively govern North Korea. As such, he will be nothing more than a figurehead and his uncle, Chan Sung Taek, will be the person who is really in control, Kim said. Unfortunately, Chan Sung Taek is just as ruthless as Kim Jong-Il. As such, Christians can expect to face the same level of persecution.
Now is the time for Christians to pray for North Korea: That God would protect and provide for the tens of thousands of believers in the nations massive political-prison system; that the new leader, his uncle, and their associates will humble themselves before the Judge of all the earth and transition their country from being a global focal point of oppression into an exemplar of religious and political liberty; and that Christian ministries within North Korea can continue their work and even expand it.
In October, FRC hosted a panel of several distinguished experts in the field of international religious liberty. The event can be viewed here.