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Religious Freedom and North Korea


US State Department International Religion Report 2010

The 2010 State Department International Religious Freedom Report continues to assess that religious freedom does not exist in North Korea.

The 2010 State Department International Religious Freedom Report continues to assess that religious freedom does not exist in North Korea. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor Michael Posner said the human rights situation overall in North Korea is desperate. That is why North Korea continues to be named a country of particular concern along with Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.

According to the latest State Department International Religious Freedom Report, the North Korean government deals harshly with all opponents, including those who engage in religious practices considered unacceptable. Religious and human rights groups outside the country provided numerous reports in previous years that members of underground churches were arrested, beaten, tortured, or killed for their religious beliefs. An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people were believed to be held in political prison camps in remote areas, some for religious reasons. Prison conditions are harsh. According to refugees and defectors who had been in prison, prisoners held on the basis of their religious beliefs were often treated worse than other inmates.

Due to North Korea's inaccessibility and the inability to gain timely information from inside the country, reports of abuses remained difficult to verify. Foreign media and a South Korean non-governmental organization reported in August that 23 Christians were arrested in May 2010 for belonging to an underground church in Kuwol-dong, Pyonsong City, South Pyongan Province. Reportedly 3 were executed, and the others were sent to Yoduk political prison camp.

In June 2009, South Korean activists reported that Ri Hyon Ok was publicly executed for distributing Bibles in the city of Ryongchon near the Chinese border. She allegedly was accused of spying and organizing dissidents. However, claims about Ri Hyon Ok could not be independently verified.

The United States believes that religious freedom is both a fundamental human right and an essential element to any stable, peaceful, thriving society. "Because we believe in religious freedom," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "we are committed to the right of all people everywhere to live according to their beliefs without government interference."

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