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Are North Korea’s Christians Facing Genocide?

The State Department report on religious freedom in North Korea says that “authorities held 50,000 to 70,000 citizens in prison for being Christian.” Even Christians who were not imprisoned “experienced persecution that was ‘violent and intense.’” The report stated that “life for Christians … is a constant cauldron of pressure; capture or death is only a mistake away.”

For more coverage of the persecution of Christians in North Korea, see here.

“Are North Korea’s Christians Facing Genocide?,” by Olivia Enos, Forbes, May 1, 2024:

At the ten-year mark of the seminal Commission of Inquiry (COI) report on human rights in North Korea, the United Nations is taking a hard look at the country’s human rights record. The 2014 COI report found North Koreans face ongoing crimes against humanity, with human rights conditions unparalleled in the modern world. Today, the situation remains dire, and may even be worsening. Evidence suggests that the persecution of particular groups, especially North Korean Christians, may even amount to genocide. The UN is slated to release an update to the 2014 COI report in September; they should use the new report as an opportunity to investigate whether genocide, in addition to crimes against humanity, is ongoing in North Korea.

According to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, to carry out genocide means to have “intent to destroy in whole or in part” a people group on the basis of their nationality, race, ethnicity, or religion. Acts of genocide are defined in Article II of the Convention to include “Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”…

Classified as a “hostile class” in the songbun system, a social ranking dictated by perceived loyalty to the Kim regime, Christians have long faced severe punishments, imprisonment and execution. Proving that Christians are killed on the basis of their religion is not hard to do. Even the COI report documented killings of Christian. Media reports over the years have documented the public executions of believers, including for simply having a Bible.

Deliberate efforts have been undertaken to subject North Korean Christians to bodily harm intended to destroy their group. The regime will stop at almost nothing, in fact, to persecute Christians, including sentencing a two-year-old child and her Christian family to life imprisonment. Rights groups estimate that there are between 200,000 and 400,000 Christians in North Korea, and as many as 70,000 Christians have been imprisoned for their faith.

The Kim regime also carries out severe harm and physical destruction on Christians via its complex system of labor and political camps. The COI report exposed the nature of the camps detailing the regime’s policies of starvation, torture, rape and sexual violence, forced labor and even death in the camps. If a North Korean refugee is found to have been to church or encountered a Christian missionary, they are often sent to the camps or subject to death through one means or another….

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