by Jordan Hilger, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) - The situation for Christians in North Korea was highlighted recently by a panel that spoke before the debut of the documentary Humanity Denied: Religious Freedom in North Korea held just down the road from the State Department’s summit on religious freedom Thursday.
Olivia Enos, an expert on Asia at the Heritage Foundation, and Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary who frequented North Korea and was imprisoned by the regime for 2 years, told an audience at the Senate Dirksen building that North Korea lives up to its reputation as the number 1 persecutor of Christians and other people of faith by all estimates.
"The situation in North Korea is absolutely dire," Enos said, pointing to a 2014 UN report that documented cases of North Koreans who had escaped to China but were later apprehended by North Korean authorities, who promptly asked them two things: Whether they had had contact with South Koreans, and whether they had had contact with Christian missionaries.
“It’s very telling how the Kim regime conceives of religion in general,” she explained.
By the same token, Bae, who often went to North Korea on missionary trips disguised as a tourist, related how deeply threatened the regime was by his faith.
"They said 'we are not afraid of nuclear weapons...we are afraid of someone like you bringing religion into our country and us[ing] it against us and then everybody will turn to God and this will become God's country and we will fall," Bae told those present, saying the Korean officials who put him through hard labor between 2012 and 2014 informed him he was the most dangerous criminal the regime had seen since the Korean War.
The story of North Korean Christianity is a little-known tragedy, with Pyongyang having been referred to as the “Jerusalem of the East” by American missionaries for about half a century before the communist regime took over following World War II.
Following the efforts of Presbyterian doctor, Horace Allen in 1884, the current capital of North Korea became the epicenter of a revival movement in 1910 and later accounted for over 60,000 of the Christians in the region—in the Presbyterian denomination alone.
“The North Korean regime has vilified the American Christian missionaries of Korea from its beginning, recognizing the potency of their memory... whose memory has contributed to the exceptionally severe persecution of Christians [there],” writes Robert S. Kim, a Korea scholar who served in the US government.
North Korea consistently ranks as number 1 on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.