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(World Watch Monitor) North Koreans were “betrayed” by the failure of US President Donald Trump to include human rights provisions in his agreement with the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, following their historic meeting in Singapore, according to Human Rights Watch’s Asia Director, Phil Robertson.
“The North Korean people have suffered for so long,” he told the BBC World Service, “and it looks like they’ll have to suffer for a little longer.”
But after the meeting Trump said the many North Koreans currently being held in forced-labour camps were “one of the great winners today”.
Responding to a question from ABC News’s Jon Karl about whether North Korea’s oppression of its people was worse than any other regime on earth, Trump said: “It’s a rough situation over there; there’s no question about it, and we did discuss it today pretty strongly.
“I mean, knowing what the main purpose of what we were doing is – de-nuking – but we did discuss it in pretty good length.
“We’ll be doing something on it. It’s rough; it’s rough in a lot of places, by the way, not just there, but it’s rough and we will continue that, and I think ultimately we will agree to something, but it was discussed at length. Outside of the nuclear situation, [it was] one of the primary topics.”
‘Very deep resentment’
John Choi*, a Christian human rights advocate who escaped from North Korea and now lives in the UK, was more optimistic.
“Hopefully denuclearisation will lead to more money available to feed the everyday citizens of North Korea and provide them with a better life. President Trump said that the human rights issues are a continuing process. I am glad it is now on the agenda. But Kim Jong-un has to be committed to it too. Kim Jong-un has not yet referred to the prison camps or religious freedom. This is an ongoing process and I will continue to advocate and pray for it,” he told the Christian religious freedom charity Open Doors International.
But Yong Sook, whose husband died in a North Korean prison and who now lives in South Korea, told Open Doors she watched the meeting between the US president and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un “with very deep resentment”.
“How many innocent people have died because of the development of the nuclear weapons they are talking about now?” she said. “So far, none of the leaders of North Korea have really taken care of their people. They let them starve to death. Why? Because they don’t want to give up those nuclear weapons. They need them to survive and survival is Kim Jong-un’s desire. Now he wants to give up those weapons? Maybe, but again, he will only give them up if his survival is guaranteed.
“Kim Jong-un should confess what he and his regime have done. He should open the doors of the political camps and kneel down to apologise to those who have suffered due to its regime. The lives of North Korean citizens are just as important as Kim Jong-un’s life.”
Historically, North Korea has a rich Christian heritage, but after Japan’s formal rule from 1910-1945, followed by the Korean War (1950-53), any form of public Christian worship has been banned, and surviving Christians have had to take their beliefs “underground”.
Today North Korea is atheistic and totalitarian, and since 2002 it has been the most dangerous place to be a Christian, according to Open Doors.
If you “merged the Soviet Union under Stalin with an ancient Chinese Empire, mixed in The Truman Show and then made the whole thing Holocaust-esque, you have modern-day North Korea”, Tim Urban wrote in the Huffington Post after visiting the country in 2017.
“It’s a dictatorship of the most extreme kind, a cult of personality beyond anything Stalin or Mao could have imagined; a country as closed off to the world and as secretive as they come, keeping both the outside world and its own people completely in the dark about one another — a true hermit kingdom.”
‘70,000 Christians detained’
There are approximately 300,000 Christians in the country, with almost a quarter of them (70,000) being held in prisons and labour camps, where they face “unimaginable torture, inhumane and degrading treatment purely because of their faith”, according to Zoe Smith, Head of Advocacy at Open Doors UK & Ireland.
Leading up to the summit, North Korea released three American citizens who had been put in labour camps for “anti-state activities”. One of the detainees, Kim Hak Song, recently said his captors had told him he was imprisoned because of his “hostile act” of prayer.
“The systematic persecution of Christians is just one of many heinous human rights violations perpetrated by the North Korean regime,” Smith said. “If true change is to come to that country – and we hope it will – any further negotiations must confront the desperate human rights situation.”
Meanwhile North Korea appears to be upgrading its longstanding neighbourhood-watch system, or ‘inminban’, whereby every North Korean is called upon to report on any criminal activity or political disobedience that they see. According to the South Korea-based news service Daily NK, inminban leaders now receive special rations in return, while in some places, like the capital Pyongyang, they have the authority to expel families who have engaged in illegal activities.
According to the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2017, there were more than 1,300 religious-freedom violations in North Korea last year, while it is estimated that its camps hold more than 120,000 political prisoners.
In December three jurists called on the International Criminal Court to establish a special tribunal to prosecute North Korea’s leader and his top officials for committing “crimes against humanity”.
(*) Name changed for security reasons
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Many in Wales never heard of the Welsh missionary Robert Jermain Thomas but in South Korea he’s recognized as a hero and the man who brought Christianity to the country.The young missionary left the shores of Britain to minister God’s Word in China and Korea. His martyrdom would be the seed that would grow and contribute to the Korean revivals in 1903 and 1907. Be encouraged by his testimony and the growth of Christianity in Korea.
The BBC recently shared an article titled, ‘Remembering North Korea’s Christian martyrs’ describing the efforts and sacrifice of this young Christian missionary.
Christmas is a time of great celebration for the world’s two billion or so Christians. In one part of the planet, though, the lights are out. There is not be a flicker of recognition of the festival in North Korea – or not in public. It may be celebrated secretly, particularly as 2016 is the anniversary of a great Christian martyrdom on the banks of the Taedong river in Pyongyang.
Nobody knows how many North Koreans celebrate the birth of Christ just over two millennia ago. For them, displays of faith can lead to prison or worse.
And nobody knows either who will remember the death 150 years ago of a missionary on the banks of the Taedong river.
The Welshman, Robert Jermain Thomas, was one of the big figures who brought Christianity to the Korean peninsula. Befitting his contribution, his death, around the end of August in 1866, has been marked with loud and joyous celebrations in churches in Cardiff and Seoul.
But from Pyongyang, where Thomas was martyred, there has not even been a peep of the smallest trumpet. Read more
To learn more visit www.robertjermainthomas.com
Please remember our brothers and sisters living in North Korea, the most dangerous place to be a Christian.
What you would do if you were living in North Korea under it’s oppressive rule? Imagine living in extremely harsh conditions without a freedom of speech, little hope for the future and the possibility of extreme punishment, even death for being a Christian? Imagine what it means to risk not only your own life but that of your spouse, children and even extended family members because you believe in Jesus. What would you do?
Pray for North Korea
Pray that God will break Communism in North Korea like He di
Pray for North Korea
Pray that God will break Communism in North Korea.
Pray for the secret believers who face torture and execution if discovered.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will move upon people’s hearts and reveal Jesus to them.
Pray that God will call more to pray for North Korea.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will move upon North Korea and reveal Jesus to them.
(Voice of the Persecuted) For 14 consecutive years, North Korea (DPRK) has topped the World Watch List as the worst place in the world to be a Christian. Christianity is seen as an addiction, Western and something to be despised. North Korean Christians must hide their faith or risk spending years in hard labor camps and tortured under unspeakable treatment and conditions. Back on U.S. soil, Kenneth Bae, an American Christian who was imprisoned then released, continues to be threatened by the North Korean government. Kenneth Bae was the longest serving United States prisoner in North Korea.
Before his detention in North Korea, Bae was surrounded by friends, hosting meals and entertaining with hilarious tales and his renditions of Elvis tunes. He was the fun-loving uncle who showered his nieces with affection. He dropped out of college at the age of 22 to support his own young family. And after coming home late from working two jobs, he’d spend hours watching his baby son sleep. Kenneth is a man who always does the right thing, no matter the cost.
Years ago, Kenneth saw an opportunity that combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his personal convictions as a Christian. He believed in showing compassion to the North Korean people by contributing to their economy in the form of tourism. Based out of China since 2006, he started his own tour company specializing in tours to North Korea, a remote country filled with stunning vistas and a people proud of their history and tradition. His livelihood was to introduce the natural beauty of the country and its people to the outside world as a tour operator. His heart was to be a personal touch-point of compassionate humanity to the North Korean people…to reflect the light of Christ.
On one of the many tours he had led through Rason (Rajin-Sonbong), a special economic zones for foreign investors, Kenneth was arrested by North Korean authorities on Nov. 3, 2012. He was sentenced to 15 years in a hard labor camp for what the DPRK identified as “hostile acts” against the North Korean government.
As Ken was being held by one of the world’s most brutal governments, his family and friends in the U.S rallied for his release. Their voices drew the attention of media outlets who than began covering Ken’s unjust imprisonment.
Kenneth’s family and friends connected with Voice of the Persecuted asking VOP to encourage the Body of Christ to pray and intercede for Kenneth. They also asked for help in closing the petition his son, Johnathon started—doing what we could to help gain Kenneth’s freedom.
In a video interview with Bae released in July 2013, he spoke of his deteriorating health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver and back problems. A month later he was moved to a Hospital due to his worsening health and reports claimed he had lost more than 50lbs.
Alarmed by Kenneth’s appearance his mother, Myunghee Bae pleaded with DPRK to allow a visit with her son. Her request was granted by DPRK authorities to arrive in Oct., 2013. Prior to the trip, she discussed her concerns and asks for continued prayers. During her stay, she was allowed three visits, totaling six hours.
In January 2014, Kenneth’s mother, and sister, Terri Chung attended President Obama’s State of the Union address. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) had offered the seats to them. Terri, his mother, as well as Kenneth’s son, Jonathan Bae met with public figures in New York and Washington DC, uniting with the goal of seeing Kenneth released from detention in North Korea.
Terri, Myunghee, and Jonathan also met with Secretary of State John Kerry. Below is a statement from his sister:
“We were honored to have the opportunity to meet with Secretary Kerry. Secretary Kerry was warm and sympathetic, and I want to thank him for affirming the commitment of the US State Department to securing Kenneth’s release. We are grateful for his support, and we appreciate the ongoing efforts of many at the State Department who have been working behind the scenes for the past 15 months to bring Kenneth home.
The past week our family has received overwhelming support from people across the country. It is clear that many Americans are invested in this cause to see this fellow American come home to his family. I see the heart, soul and hard work of so many people. We will never be able to thank you enough for your kindness.
I also hope and pray that the attention and care that people are showing does not end with the publicity of today. The fact is, my brother remains in detention in DPRK (North Korea) after 15 months, the longest detention of any American in recent times. We will not rest until Kenneth is home in the United States. We continue to implore our government to do everything possible to secure Kenneth’s freedom.”
Kenneth Bae was sent back to the labor camp in January 2014. You can view his family’s emotional plea in this video interview on CNN.
Kenneth Bae spoke out about the harsh conditions at the labor camp where he is being held in North Korea. He told a Swedish diplomat that he was in great pain and longed to be back with his family. In March 2014, Bae was re-admitted to a hospital in Pyongyang but was again sent back to the labor camp. His sister, Terri feared for her brother’s serious health conditions afraid he may not survive in the labor camp. See our Sept. 2014 report.
In the early part of November 2014, his family shared the update we all had been waiting for. The U.S. State Department informed them that he had left North Korean airspace and was on a plane bound for the United States. He had been released!
They thanked the United States government, the DPRK government for allowing him to come home, and the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang for their tireless efforts in advocating for Ken. They also expressed their gratitude for everyone across the world who continued to advocate and pray for Kenneth.
We at Voice of the Persecuted still rejoice with great thanks to our almighty God for our brother’s freedom. When in the flesh it appears there is no hope, we can always trust our God to do the impossible! Never giving up, constant in prayer and trusting He would do a great thing in this most turbulent storm, in His time. VOP believes Ken’s release was an answer to our many prayers, a miracle to bring glory to our heavenly Father.
Since his return, Bae had been quiet as he recovered and healed from the physical and emotional abuse he received in North Korea. But he’s finally sharing the full story surrounding his arrest and imprisonment in his book, Not Forgotten.
Not Forgotten is a modern story of intrigue, suspense, and heart. Driven by his passion to help the people of North Korea, Bae moved to China to lead guided tours into the secretive nation. Six years later, after eighteen successful excursions in and out of the country, Ken was suddenly stopped at the border: he inadvertently brought his hard drive, that revealed the true nature of his visits. He was arrested, brought to Pyongyang for further questioning, and sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor. His crime? Attempting to overthrow the North Korean government. He wondered if he would ever see his family again.
From the first harrowing moments of his ordeal to his release—and even today—Ken never wavers in his love for the North Korean people, even his captors. Not Forgotten is both a compelling narrative of one man’s dedication to serving the less fortunate and a modern testament of a missionary forced to rely solely on God who sent him into dangerous territory. Ken’s book gives a rare, firsthand account of life inside the most shrouded country on the planet, meeting its people, experiencing their daily lives, taking in the landscape, and encountering the tyranny of a totalitarian regime. With its combined spiritual and secular appeal, this never-before-told story is sure to captivate and inspire readers of all ages. Get your copy of Ken’s book HERE
Since the release of Not Forgotten, Bae has shared his experiences during multiple public appearances and given interviews to promote the book. Bae was recently interviewed by a defector-run group in South Korea that broadcasts into the North. For translated version of Bae’s interview with Unification Media Group, use this ip address http://bit.ly/28Iu8fy
But North Korea is threatening Kenneth to keep silent about his imprisonment in the country.
On Monday, they warned they will not negotiate with the U.S. over two American citizens it is holding until former detainee Kenneth Bae stops publicly talking about his time in prison.
21-year-old student of the University of Virginia, Otto Warmbier was sentenced in March to 15 years’ hard labor for trying to steal a propaganda banner bearing the name of former leader Kim Jong Il. In April, a North Korean court convicted Korean-American missionary Kim Dong Chul of crimes against the state and sentenced him to 10 years’ hard labor.
Quoting the state KCNA news agency of North Korea,
“As long as Kenneth Bae continues his babbling, we will not proceed with any compromise or negotiations with the United States on the subject of American criminals, and there will certainly not be any such thing as humanitarian action,”
“If Bae continues, U.S. criminals held in our country will be in the pitiful state of never being able to set foot in their homeland once again.
Please keep Kenneth Bae and those persecuted by the North Korean government. Pray the hearts of authorities be soften and oppression no longer exist in the nation.
Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
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(World Watch Monitor) Hyeun-soo Lim, the Korean Canadian pastor detained in North Korea since February, was yesterday sentenced to life in prison with hard labour by the country’s Supreme Court He was convicted of numerous charges, including an attempt to overthrow the government.
The announcement, which followed a brief trial, is a blow to his family whose hopes were raised when Canada’s newly elected government committed to scaling up efforts to get him released.
Lim, head pastor at the Light Presbyterian Church in Toronto, had visited North Korea more than 100 times to distribute humanitarian aid for nursing homes, day-care centres and orphanages.
His church lost contact with him in January, and it was thought that he’d been quarantined as part of the government’s attempt to prevent the spread of Ebola. In February it was revealed that Lim had been arrested and charged with slandering the North Korean leadership and its system of government. He was accused of trying to overthrow the country and establishing a religious state.
During a press conference in July, Lim was forced to read out a public confession. Usually North Korea pronounces a sentence within weeks after such a ‘confession’, but this time it took five months. “Most likely, diplomatic efforts to secure Lim’s release failed,” World Watch Monitor was told. The source, who cannot be named for security reasons, said North Korea had probably hoped to get more out of the negotiations: “Whatever that ‘more’ is, we don’t know. Pastors like Lim, who have seen so much of how North Korea treats its prisoners, cannot easily be released. Unless Canada makes an offer North Korea can’t refuse, I don’t see Lim returning home anytime soon.”
Lim was involved in humanitarian aid and not with the underground church. It is believed his arrest and sentence will have no impact on this church network, “but a case like this does outrage the North Korean government”, the source said. “North Korean believers could be dealt with even more harshly if they are exposed.”
Another consequence of the Lim case is that North Korea now applies a stricter visa policy and NGOs – especially from the US and Canada – are much less eager to continue or start up work in Kim Jong-Un’s state.
Previous case of life sentence
In May 2014, North Korea sentenced South Korean pastor, Kim Jong-Wook to a life of hard labour. As a missionary, Kim operated from the Chinese border city, Dandong, where he provided shelter, food and other aid to North Korean refugees who crossed the border seeking relief from the famine in their country. Kim also taught the refugees about the bible.
North Korean agents infiltrated his network and convinced him to visit their country, which he did on Oct. 8, 2013. Kim was expecting to find out what had happened to some refugees with whom he had lost contact but instead he was arrested, interrogated and possibly tortured.
In February 2014, Kim told assembled North Korean television cameras he had spied for the South Korean government, had given money to North Koreans to set up 500 underground churches and attempted to overthrow the regime. After a trial in May 2014 North Korea’s state media reported that prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Kim, but the court imposed the life sentence after the pastor had “sincerely repented”.
Enemies of the state
To understand North Korea, it must be remembered that it links Christianity with South Korea and the United States, considered to be enemies of the state. Ever since North Korean Christians fled communist oppression and made a run for the South during the Korean War in the early 1950s, they have been seen as traitors. After the war, tens of thousands of Christians were arrested, forced into hard labour or put to death. A small remnant of the Christians who stayed went underground to live their faith in secret.
The successful arrests of Kim and other missionaries – such as the still-imprisoned Korean-American, Kenneth Bae, and Australian John Short who was released after two weeks of confinement – are part of the reason why North Korea has been extending its crackdown on Christian activities in its own country and the Chinese border area.
Observers believe that Christians make the North Korean authorities feel insecure by – allegedly – spying for the enemy, meeting in secret and not revering their government enough. Comparisons are sometimes made with the Jews and what they represented in Nazi Germany – the Christians in Kim Jong-Un’s regime are seen as being disloyal, which is not just a transgression of the law, but also a sin of the gravest kind that deserves severe punishment.
Horrors of Camp 25
“I was locked up for years in Camp 25 near Chongjin (a camp for political prisoners where, presumably, many Christians are held),” said one North Korean refugee. “I will never forget the prisoners who were too weak to continue their work. The guards would pick them up and put them on an automatic belt that threw them into a large oven while they were still alive.”
Despite all the arrests, the North Korean government has not won its ‘war’ against Christianity. The church has survived almost 70 years of severe persecution. According to Open Doors, an expert source on North Korean Christianity, there are about 300,000 Christians in North Korea, which has for the last 11 years topped its World Watch List of the most repressive places to live if you are a Christian.
* All quoted sources have requested anonymity for safety reasons.
Known cases of recent arrests
• John Short, 75 year old Australian, arrested in North Korea on February 16 for leaving Christian pamphlets near a Buddhist temple and on a train; released two weeks later after apologizing.
• Kenneth Bae, Korean-American, arrested in North Korea in November 2012. Sentenced to 15 years of hard labour in for carrying propaganda materials and plotting to overthrow the government.
• Kim Jong-Wook, South Korean missionary, lured to North Korea by secret agents in October 2013 and immediately arrested. He was sentenced to life in prison for his attempt to overthrow the regime and spying for South Korea.
• Robert Park, Korean-American, crossed the North Korean border on December 25, 2009 to protest against ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘genocide’ taking place in North Korea. He was held for 43 days and severely tortured.
A North Korean official has denied that Christians are systematically persecuted in the country, branding such accusations as “absolutely false”.
In an exchange on Twitter, Alejandro Cao – the Spanish-born Special Delegate of North Korea’s Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries – criticised evangelical Christians who he said “take advantage of drug addicts and homeless people and force them to become evangelists in exchange for a plate of soup”.
Cao levelled his accusations at Joel Forster, the editor of online magazine Evangelical Focus, who asked him about the treatment of Christians in North Korea. READ MORE
A head pastor of a large Canadian church has failed to return from a humanitarian mission to North Korea, and the Canadian government has reached out to try to locate him. Lisa Pak, a spokeswoman for the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in suburban Toronto said that 60-year-old Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim has made hundreds of trips to North Korea, where he helps oversee a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage in the Rajin region. Pak said they have not heard from Lim since Jan. 31 but were not initially worried because he is an experienced traveler and knows the country well. They also thought he could be caught up by North Korea’s quarantine of foreign travelers who may have been exposed to Ebola.