Background of Christianity in North Korea
The history of Christianity in North Korea is multifaceted and complex. Christianity had been brought to Korea by Jesuit missionaries in the late 19th century. It had a degree of success and even established a presence in Pyongyang – the capital. This presence and activity ceased in 1925 when the Korean Communist Party was established and the religion of North Korea was declared to be atheistic. Christianity was subsequently banned, and North Korea adopted a purely Socialist system. This system deeply embeds the ideology and ideas of communism, and religion, in particular Christianity, has been harshly suppressed. Reports have even suggested that the government has imposed the death penalty for possession and distribution of Christian material.
Today, practicing any religion, even in the confinement of someone’s home, is strictly forbidden, and even participating in public rituals and religious gatherings has been strictly regulated by the government. In addition, the regime has launched a system of loyalty to the leader in exchange for “divine protection”. Since the persecution of Christians has increased significantly since the 1980s when it was declared an act of treason. It is in this context that Christianity is both illegal and heavily persecuted in North Korea.
The Negative Impact of its Illegality
The illegal status of Christianity has had a major impact on the North Korean population. It has led to a total ban on Christian activities in public places, as well as a ban on any form of contact with Christians outside of North Korea. Furthermore, the regime has actively paved the way for the invasion of private homes and the capture of any individuals seen as promoting Christianity. This has made it extremely difficult for Christians within the country to practice their faith and many have resorted to practicing their religion in secret, which comes with considerable risks.
The illegality and repression of Christianity has had a severe impact on those who practice it. It has been used as a tool of terror and control, and reports have revealed that those arrested or persecuted on account of their faith have been arbitrarily detained and subjected to torture, forced labor, and other forms of mistreatment. This has not only caused physical and psychological suffering, but it has also had economic repercussions, as the livelihoods of many Christian families have been affected by their religion.
The International Response
The United Nations has taken action to address the persecution of Christians in North Korea and has issued various resolutions and statements that express concern over human rights violations. The international community has pressured North Korean authorities to take steps to improve religious freedom, but to this day the situation remains dire. Moreover, there have been no reports of any real progress, and many fear that the situation could worsen given the North Korean government’s zero-tolerance policy toward religion.
Furthermore, North Korea has a dismal record when it comes to respecting the rights of other religious communities such as Buddhists and followers of Confucianism. This has led to a situation where there is virtually no religious freedom in the country. As a result, citizens are unable to practice their faith in a safe and secure environment and are forced to risk retaliation and persecution if they do.
The Role of NGOs and Humanitarian Organizations
In recent years, several NGO and humanitarian organizations have been working to improve the situation of Christians in North Korea. These organizations have been providing humanitarian aid, advocating for religious freedom, and working to raise awareness about the issues faced by North Korean Christians. These organizations have been able to help many North Koreans flee the country, find refuge elsewhere, and have managed to raise considerable awareness about the struggles of Christians in North Korea, increasing pressure on the government to improve the situation.
At the same time, these organizations have also been able to help Christians in North Korea live in safety and practice their faith without fear of reprisal. They have also played a crucial role in providing much-needed support to refugees and other persecuted persons. Moreover, they have managed to establish networks of solidarity which have afforded greater protection to North Korean Christians.
The Role of International Law
International law grants individuals certain rights, including the right to practice their faith without persecution or discrimination. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes it clear that everyone has the right to freedom of thought and religion, and that such freedom includes the right to change one’s religion or beliefs, as well as the right to express one’s beliefs. North Korea’s laws and practices of persecuting Christians, therefore, violate numerous international laws.
International law is an important tool for protecting religious minorities. However, in the case of North Korea, laws often lack enforcement, and thus there has been very little progress in terms of bringing North Korean authorities to justice. As a result, North Korean Christians continue to suffer in silence, and the misery of their plight remains largely unknown and ignored by the international community.
The illegal status of Christianity in North Korea has had startling repercussions for both Christians in the country and in the wider international community. It has resulted in a system of terror and repression, which has caused physical and psychological suffering to its victims. Despite the fact that international law grants individuals certain rights, including the right to practice their faith without persecution or discrimination, these laws are frequently ignored or not enforced in North Korea. In addition, the work of NGOs and humanitarian organizations have been vital in providing support to North Korean Christians and raising awareness about the situation. Nevertheless, the situation remains dire, and more needs to be done in order to ensure that Christians in North Korea can practice their faith without fear of reprisal.