North Korea trades launch for lunch

By March 30, 2012

North Korea (MNN) — The Pentagon says the U.S. has suspended food
aid to North Korea over undeterred plans to launch a rocket.

The reclusive country claims it is launching a weather
satellite, but South Korea fears the launch is a disguised ballistic missile
test.  

The loss of food aid complicates an already desperate
situation for the average citizen in North Korea. A UNICEF assessment in
January concluded that 80% of the children in North Korea are
malnourished. The country faces its worst food shortage in a decade,
with six million people at risk.

Government food rations for some have been cut to a tenth of
what is needed to keep people alive. It's against that backdrop that word has leaked out about continued
preparations for the annual "Day of the Sun" celebrations, a move that President and CEO of Open Doors USA Carl
Moeller finds troubling.

He says, "We've come
to expect horrible things from the North Korean government, but the fact that
the super elite of this country continue to bask in luxury and wealth while
the vast majority of the country suffers horrible poverty and starvation
is a situation that almost defies imagination." 

An unnamed Open Doors partner shared the government spin: "Glorify this year
2012 as a year of proud victory, a year when an era of prosperity is unfolding,
true to the instructions of the great General Kim Jong-Il."

It was this New Year's message that ushered in Kim Jong-Un's regime in
2012. The peak of planned festivities
will take place on April 15th, the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il-Sung. The
preparations for the celebrations have already caused much suffering for the
people–and the end is not in sight. Moeller says scrutiny is especially close
now. "I think it's important for
people to realize that about 1% of the population of North Korea
actually is in a labor camp right now, which is a staggering figure if you
think about that in terms of what those labor camps mean. I can't picture
anything other than just a charade of horror with these people being forced
to celebrate the birth of this horrible dictator."

To the outside
world, the picture will be one of prosperity, color, and a vibrant new leader
for the Republic. The "Arirang" mass
performances will be bigger than usual. They're designed for two purposes: to
impress the world and to give honor to (or even worship) the leaders. No doubt,
there will be a large emphasis on the glorification of Kim Jong-Un, who assumed
power after his father Kim Jong-Il died in December.

The celebrations
will not only take place in Pyongyang, but throughout the country citizens have
to participate in events to commemorate the leaders. Those events vary from
playing games to local dance performances.  

North Korea also announced
that people could expect a "generous gift from the Respected Comrade Kim
Jong-Un." Another celebration will be  the 4th Party Conference, which is scheduled to
be held in mid-April. Kim Jong-Un will
most likely receive some new, important positions in the state apparatus.

Celebrating the
anniversary and the "state's progress" is mandatory. Aside from the normal cleanup, households have
to contribute 20,000 won for the state's "total mobilization period." The average
worker receives a monthly salary of only 2,000 won. A US dollar, on the black
market in North Korea, is worth 5,300 won.

The funds will
likely go to the feasts and celebrations at the highest levels of society, with
the poor receiving little more than an extra food ration. Moeller says, "I
shudder to think what the impact of the celebration is going to do economically
for the country as this money is literally going to be wasted."  

As preparations
reach a fevered pitch, one church leader writes: "It is very difficult to speak
our minds, even to our friends and family. There is a good chance we will be
arrested if we speak freely."

The North Korean
Church deeply appreciates the prayer of their foreign brothers and sisters during
these very difficult weeks. Moeller says they're encouraging a show of solidarity. "We're calling on Christians in
the West to have a day of fasting and prayer on April 15. That is the day that
this Day of the Sun is going to take place. It's really important for us as
Christians to show our solidarity with the believers in that country by
praying for them and taking a day off of food for remembrance of the suffering
of the Korean people."

Out of the
bleakness comes hope. Despite the
scrutiny and the increasing volatility of the government, Moeller says the
Gospel is still reaching people. "We have had great reports from
coworkers who are talking about the remaining hunger, the passion of the
Christians in that country–the passion for spiritual sustenance."

That, he notes, is the paradox of Christ. "We know that the
church is growing in North Korea. We also know that it's horribly persecuted.
Persecution is actually an indicator that the church is growing and that the
church is growing is going to inevitably produce persecution."

We'll keep you
updated about how you can participate in the April 15 vigil. For now, check our Featured Links section for
more on Open Doors.

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