The following comes from a Dec. 8 email sent by David Alton, a pro-life member of England’s House of Lords.
Lord Alton is co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea.
“Christmas spent in a North Korean gulag will be just another day of grotesque suffering. Evidence given at a recent inquiry held at Westminster revealed a catalogue of egregious and systematic crimes against humanity – with Christians often targeted for especially cruel and inhumane treatment. The Inquiry’s findings add to the demands made last month at the UN, by 111 countries, that those responsible for these violations should be brought before the International Criminal Court.
“We who enjoy political and religious freedom, free to celebrate Christmas with our loved ones, must speak out and take practical actions to help bring the long winter of oppression to an end. This report should be essential Christmas reading for Governments, MPs, and policy makers.”
Quotations from the report:
Kim Il-sung quotes: “religious people should die to cure their habit”.
“(We) cannot carry such religiously active people along our march toward a communist society. Therefore, we have tried and executed all religious leaders higher than a deacon in the Protestant and Catholic churches. Among other religiously active people, those deemed malignant were all put to trial. Among ordinary religious believers, those who recanted were given jobs while those who did not were held in prison camps.” (1962).
The Ten Principles in 1974 DPRK citizens were commanded to “Accept the Great Leader Comrade Kim Il-sung’s revolutionary thought as your belief and take the Great Leader’s instructions as your creed.”
Religious history of DPRK Korea has a rich religious heritage. Buddhism, Confucianism and Shamanism have been practiced on the Korean peninsula for centuries with other religions, such as Christianity and Tonghak arriving much later – Christianity first in the 1600s and Tonghak in the 1800s. Such was the widespread adherence to Christianity in North Korea that, by the twentieth century, Pyongyang was known as “the Jerusalem of the East.” Pope John Paul II said that the Korean church was “unique in the story of the Church.”
One refugee described how he and his wife hid under a blanket to sing hymns, whereas another reported how their friend was taken to one of the most notorious prison camps in the DPRK after being seen saying grace over dinner.
Propaganda In one DPRK book, ‘The Jackals’, a cartoon shows an American missionary poisoning a Korean boy.
State surveillance One former Public Safety Agency employee recounts: “we gave instructions to the neighbourhood unit and the Primary Party Committee to watch certain [Christian] people. We told them to watch them closely and report the people who visit them. We were to be informed every 15 days.”
Treatment in prison camps Kim Sung-Min, a former captain in the North Korean army: “Inside the camp there are two types of prisoner, the anti-government type and the religious type. Neither type gets out – they are in until they die.”
When in a camp, religious followers and particularly Christians are subject to especially harsh treatment. One woman, arrested for her faith, was “assigned to pull the cart used to remove excrement from the prison latrines. Several times the guards made her lick off excrement that had spilled over in order to humiliate and discipline her.”
Jeon Young-ok, who was imprisoned and brutalised in a DPRK camp, testified that “They tortured the Christians the most. They were denied food and sleep. They were forced to stick out their tongue and iron was pushed into it.”
Punishment of families Mr. Timothy’s father was arrested in 2003 for being part of a Christian church whilst in China and was sent to the notorious Yodok Camp. Mr Timothy, 14 years old at this time, was also sent to a labour training camp for one year. Ms Seo Keum Ok was arrested in 2009 for distributing Bibles. She was accused of “spying and of ‘being a Catholic’ with connections with the United States and ROK”. Ms Seo suffered ‘indescribable torture’. Her husband was also imprisoned
and her children went missing. On 16 June 2009, Ms Ryi Hyuk Ok was executed for distributing Bibles. She was also accused of the same crimes. Her husband, children and parents were sent to a political prison camp.
Many whose spouses are caught are forced to divorce them in a bid to save the rest of their family, as described by one woman: “the judge asked my husband whether he wanted to divorce and he nodded his head to say yes… if he disagreed to a divorce, the rest of the family members would face many difficulties… My husband just looked at me with tears in his eyes.”
DPRK refugees Of all the refugees interviewed by the Database Centre for North Korean Human Rights, 99.7% said that there is no religious freedom in North Korea. The interviewees’ testimonies showed that victims of religious persecution were 45.5% Protestant, 0.2% Catholic, 1.3% Buddhist, 1.7% no religion, 1.1% ‘others’ and 50.3% unknown. Many religious people are discovered when forcibly repatriated to the DPRK after trying to flee.
The UN Commission of Inquiry concluded that “in forcibly returning DPRK nationals, China has violated its obligation to respect the principle of non-refoulement under international refugee and human rights law. In some cases, Chinese officials also appear to provide information on those
apprehended to their DPRK counterparts to the known danger of those affected”, noting that “In a number of cases, there seemed to be targeted operations to find and apprehend DPRK nationals.”
UK involvement in Korean war The Korean War, 1950-1953: The UN contingent included troops, not only from the USA and Britain, but also from Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Colombia, Turkey, the Philippines, France and many others. The USA made the largest contribution of troops and equipment; Britain the second. By Spring 1951, Britain’s contribution to the UN forces was 12,000 strong.
Genocide of religious groups Former Chief Justice Michael Kirby said in a subsequent interview, “The proof of the pudding is found in statistics which are published by North Korea itself. The statistics reveal that at the partition…the identifying Christian population in North Korea was roughly the same as it is to this day in South Korea, about 23% identified as Christians. Now, according to figures published by North Korea, the identified Christian population in the country is 0.8%….
To read more from the all-party group in parliament, click here.
To read the announcement of the North Korea report to be released Dec. 10, click here.