North Korea (ODM/MNN) — North Korea plans to execute 33 Christians for their contact with a Baptist missionary last year. They’re charged with trying to overthrow the regime.
Open Doors USA President/CEO David Curry says, “We received reports through a South Korean newspaper that North Korea is publicly saying that they’re going to order the deaths of 33 people that they believe are connected to Christianity, connected to a particular missionary there.” In answer to the question of heavy-handed tactics, Curry states, “North Korea has a theocracy. Their power is derived from their trying to convince their population that their leaders are God. Anything that would suggest otherwise, they would consider to be a threat against their government.”
The group is supposedly connected to South Korean missionary Kim Jung-wook and alleged to have received money to set up 500 underground churches, a source shared with the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo. As for the timeline on the executions, Curry notes, “They could already have been executed; we don’t know that. They operate on their own schedule. But we’ve got to stand up for these people on the assumption that perhaps they’re still alive.”
“We need to bathe the country of North Korea in prayer,” Curry says. “North Korea has been the No. 1 persecutor of Christians on the Open Doors World Watch List for 12 years in a row. And for good reasons. Usually when persecution increases in a country, the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is rapidly spreading. Join me in prayer today.”
Whether or not all arrested people are converted Christians is unknown. However, their reported death sentence is evidence that the North Korean regime continues to rule with enormous brutality. Kim Jong-Un has ordered to remove “unclean elements” from his country. Curry observes, “It’s not unusual in North Korea. Continually, we’re getting these very public reports. They’re not even making an effort to hide it, that they’re executing Christians.”
Last year, the dictator executed his uncle and mentor Jang Song-Thaek, in addition to his children, brothers, and grandchildren. Last week a rumor surfaced that Jang’s successor, Vice Marshall Choi Ryong Hae, has already been purged as well. He has not been seen in public for awhile.
Open Doors also cited the same news accounts of the arrest of Baptist missionary Kim in North Korea last October for allegedly establishing underground churches, noting the possibility of Kim’s abduction in the Chinese border city Dandong by North Korean secret agents. In a staged press conference on Feb. 27, Kim reportedly “admitted” he helped the South Korean Secret Service through his activities and that his goal was the collapse of the regime. It was hoped Kim would be released after this public statement.
During the same press conference, North Korean authorities aired interviews with five North Koreans who claimed to have met the missionary and received money from him. They said Kim Jung-wook told them that when the regime collapses, a church must be built on the spot in Pyongyang where the statues of nation founder Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il stand.
The news comes only a day after Australian missionary John Short arrived in Beijing. Short was arrested last month for leaving Christian Korean pamphlets behind in a Buddhist temple. North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA, said Short had apologized and admitted to violating North Korean laws. According to KCNA, North Korea expelled him partly in consideration of his old age.
Another missionary, Korean American Kenneth Bae, is still held against his will. Bae was arrested on Nov. 12, 2012 while leading a tourist group in North Korea. The North Korean prosecutors were quick to charge him with planning an anti-North Korean religious coup, setting up bases in China for the purpose of toppling the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, encouraging North Korean citizens to bring down the government, and conducting a malignant smear campaign. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Despite diplomatic pressure, North Korea refuses to let Bae go.
U.S. President Barak Obama highlighted Bae’s quandary during the National Prayer Breakfast on 06 February 2014 in Washington D.C. In making his case for religious freedom, he noted the absence of an Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, a post that has sat empty for all but 30 months of the Obama Administration. Curry says while it’s good that the need has been publicly acknowledged, “It’s got to be followed with action, I guess is what I’m saying. And that’s what we’re looking for.”
Situations similar to the persecution of North Korea can’t be ignored. “What the Christians here in the West need to do is to speak out to their representatives for action on this point.” What’s at stake? One of the most precious commodities of North Korea: people. “I think we need to pray for North Korea every single day. This is a turning point in history, I think, and we need to be praying for these folks for freedom to read the Bible, for people to get Bibles.”