Saturday, July 12, 2008

Religion suppressed in North Korea

Simply owning a Bible could get you executed in North Korea.

Interviewee 27 was one of almost 40 refugees and security agents interviewed for "A Prison Without Bars: Refugee and Defector Testimonies of Severe Violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief in North Korea," a new report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The commission is an independent, bipartisan agency mandated by Congress to track religious freedom around the world and to advise the president and secretary of state about countries that violate religious freedom.

According to the new report, little has improved in the country in the last three years.

The capital has a Catholic church and two Protestant churches. Reportedly, those churches exist to give visitors an impression the country has religious freedom.

Religious activity, considered a security threat, is punishable with anything from imprisonment and torture to public execution. Despite this, clandestine religion is fairly common in the country.

However, Scott Flipse, the commission's director of the East Asia and Pacific regions, recounted a particularly disturbing instance of an underground church that was discovered and its members subsequently placed under a road grader.

Repatriated refugees --- those who fled to China for asylum or economic opportunity but subsequently returned or were sent back to North Korea --- are often tortured for contact with South Koreans or religious groups. Longtime citizens are punished if there's any indication they're Christian. The country uses concentration camps and human trafficking as punitive methods.


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