Tuesday’s historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un resulted in promises of nuclear disarmament and security. However, it is uncertain if protecting and advancing human rights was among the leaders’ commitments. There are deep concerns, and reports, that the summit between the presidents of the United States and North Korea would not touch on North Korea’s egregious human rights abuses.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2018 report ranks North Korea as a “Tier One” country. The situation remains especially alarming for Christians living under North Korea’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Examples of North Korea’s atrocious persecution of Christians given by IRD International Religious Liberty Program Director Faith J.H. McDonnell include:
- A former DPRK prison guard testifying before Congress confirmed the regime’s intense hatred for Christians. In one incident he recounted a woman, in prison because she was a Christian, was kicked repeatedly and left for days because a prison guard overheard her praying for a child (Yes, children are in prison camps because the regime imprisons three generations of a family for the transgression of one member.)
- In prison factories, guards poured molten steel on Christians to kill them because believing in God instead of Kim Il-sung was the biggest crime in the eyes of the officials.
- 2004 BBC documentary Access to Evil interviewed several defectors, former prison officials, who revealed that North Korea conducts deadly experiments on prisoners with gas chambers and chemicals. They indicated that those prisoners the regime considered “enemies of the state,” particularly Christians, were selected for the experiments. The former prison camp official watched a Christian family die in the gas chamber, with parents trying to shield their children from the fumes to the very end.
“Try as it might, North Korea’s government has never wiped out Christianity. Some experts say that there are as many as 400,000 secret believers, most of whom became Christians in China or through contact with Chinese or South Korean Christians. They live in constant threat of imprisonment or execution.
“Few American Christians lose sleep over their fellow Christians in North Korea – if they even know they exist.
“Perhaps American Christians don’t know that the same regime that threatened to turn the United States into a pile of ash turns its own wretched citizens who die in political prison camps into piles of ash? It then uses them as fertilizer. In that appalling action, North Korea demonstrates one way in which it wipes out the very existence of Christians, as well as other political prisoners.
“While U.S. Christian organizations like the National Council of Churches and the National Association of Evangelicals have ignored the plight of Christians in North Korea and focused on a pacifistic approach to the summit, those who track North Korea’s human rights abuses approached the summit as an opportunity to help the country’s Christians, and indeed, all of the beleaguered citizens of the DPRK.
“We urge the Trump Administration to follow the example of President Ronald Reagan who rightly linked the advancement of human rights, including religious freedom, with nuclear disarmament.
“Barring divine intervention, only a drastic, verifiable change in the way that Kim Jong-un treats his own people, including the so-called ‘hostiles,’ the Christians, may indicate the possibility of North Korea ending its own hostility towards the free world.”