A toddler has been sentenced to life imprisonment in North Korea after the child’s family was found in possession of a Bible, according to a new report from the US State Department.
Although the incident took place in 2009, it was highlighted in the department’s new International Religious Freedoms report this month, citing data from Korea Future, a nongovernmental organization documenting human rights violations. man in North Korea.
“One case involved the 2009 arrest of a family for their religious practices and possession of a Bible.
“The whole family, including a two-year-old child, was sentenced to life in political prison camps,” he said.
It is estimated that there are between 200,000 and 400,000 underground Christians in North Korea, mostly in the West where many are believed to have settled after an “explosion” of interest in the religion in 1907.
Korea Future’s report was based on interviews between 2007 and 2020 with 244 victims of religious persecution, who had been subjected to arrest, detention, forced labor, torture, denial of a fair trial or of the right to life, and to sexual violence, for having practiced shamanism or Christian beliefs.
The results reflect the regime’s paranoia over religious minorities and its lack of tolerance for any belief other than absolute devotion to the ruling Kim family as they seek to maintain their iron grip on power.
The North Korean regime has tried to eradicate Christianity for decades and is said to have feared the influence of the Church after studying its role in the collapse of the Iron Curtain in Europe in the 1980s.
Defectors have revealed gruesome details of Christians brutally tortured, killed and incarcerated in gulags.
There are a handful of Christian churches across the country, including four in Pyongyang. But most observers say these are just “demonstration churches.”
“Death is only one mistake away”
It is estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 North Korean citizens are being held in prison for their Christian beliefs, according to Open Doors USA (ODUSA), which defends persecuted Christians around the world.
The group said that “the life of Christians…is a constant cauldron of pressure; capture or death is just a mistake.
In its “World Watch List” report, released earlier this year, Open Doors said Pyongyang had stepped up its hunt for Christians, looking for underground churches.
He documented a “horrifying incident” where several dozen believers were found and executed, with more than 100 of their family members sent to labor camps.
Followers of shamanism and Cheondoism, a modern religious movement based on a 19th-century Korean neo-Confucian movement, are also targeted by the North Korean regime.
Several survivors imprisoned for shamanism also described horrific conditions in prison camps, where they testified to being beaten, forced into stress positions and given tainted food, the State Department said.
“[Officials] worked hard without feeding us properly…I was malnourished and I was sure that I would not survive. I continued to have diarrhea, even when I only drank water, and I only weighed 35 kilos [77 pounds]…so I was like a skeleton back then,” said a former prisoner.
The State Department report concluded that the situation in North Korea has “not fundamentally changed” since a damning report by the 2014 United Nations Commission of Inquiry into the deprivation of human rights in this country. country.
He noted that the investigation “revealed that the authorities almost completely denied the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and determined that the government had in many cases committed human rights violations. which constituted crimes against humanity”.
Since the start of the pandemic, North Korea has also become increasingly difficult to escape.
A Reuters investigation published on Monday used commercial satellite imagery to show how the regime has used the health crisis as an opportunity to build hundreds of miles of new or improved fences, walls and guard posts to lock down its people.
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