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1/5/04 - NORTH KOREA REPRESSES RELIGION - 2004-01-05


In Communist North Korea, genuine religious freedom does not exist. U.S. Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom, John Hanford, says the full extent of North Korean repression is hard to know because the regime is so “ruthlessly efficient”:

"We have so many reports of the problems there, including the execution of members of underground Christian churches, the torture and imprisonment of others, the fact that religious believers often experience the harshest behavior [abuse] in prison. And we have people that have been able to get out of these situations and bring us these reports. And so we have received so many reports that we have felt it necessary to speak very strongly. And of course, North Korea is one of our ‘countries of particular concern,’ one of our severe violators.”

In North Korea, religious activity independent of government control is not permitted. There are numerous credible reports from defectors that members of underground churches have been arrested, tortured, imprisoned, and murdered because of their beliefs.

North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Il is the object of a personality cult that amounts to a civil religion. Failure to acknowledge the self-styled "Dear Leader" as a supreme being is treated as a serious crime.

North Korea has one of the world’s worst overall human rights records, says President George W. Bush:

"Our commitment to democracy is tested in countries like Cuba and Burma and North Korea and Zimbabwe -- outposts of oppression in our world. The people in these nations live in captivity and fear and silence."

That captivity cannot last long. “One day,” says President Bush, “from prison camps and prison cells, and from exile, the leaders of new democracies will arrive.”

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