By George Whitten, Worthy News Director
JERUSALEM/SEOUL (Worthy News)-- North Korea has reportedly executed three Christians who were meeting in an underground church, Worthy News monitored Sunday, August 15. Twenty others attending the same worship service were sent to notorious labor camps, said AsiaNews.
The arrests and executions were carried out after brief trials in mid-May, but the reports have only now been confirmed, according to AsiaNews.
"At that time, right after the disastrous currency reform, police discovered 23 Christians in Kuwal-dong, Pyungsung County, in Pyongan Province, who met at an underground church. After their arrest, they were interrogated at length. Eventually, the group's "ringleaders" were sentenced to death and executed," AsiaNews said.
"The others were sent to Kwan-li-so (Penal labor colony) No 15 in Yodok", AsiaNews quoted sources as saying. Confirmation about the incident also came from the North Korea Intellectual Solidarity, a group of North Korean exiles.
North Korea denies freedom of religion absolutely, and considers religion as a form of insurrection against the Communist regime, observers who visited the country say.
Christians often suffer as North Korea's Stalinist system is based on total devotion of the individual to an ideology promoted by the late leader Kim Il Sung and his successor and son, Kim Jong Il, observers who recently visited the country said.
The ideology largely resembles a religion or cult, and refugees' accounts say those who oppose it are dealt with severely, often ending up in prison camps. Despite the risks there are believed to be likely tens of thousands of practicing Christians.
Kim Il Sung, the man recruited in 1945 by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to found the Communist North Korean state, stamped out Christianity and the traditional Buddhism and Shamanism.
His ideology, which preaches self-reliance, is known as Juche, of which the late Kim is the central figure - so much so that the North Korean calendar begins with the year of his birth in 1912. One of the tallest structures in Pyongyang is the Juche Tower, built in Juche 70, or 1982
In 2010, North Korea was named as the top "persecutor of Christians" for the eighth straight year by Open Doors, one of a few organizations working with underground churches in the isolated nation.
North Korea holds at least 154,000 political prisoners in six large camps, according South Korean government estimates. However many more people, including Christians, are held in camps across the country, according to Open Doors.
There is no other country in the world where Christians are persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner. Three generations of a family are often thrown into prison when one member is incarcerated," said Carl Moeller, who heads Open Doors USA.
North Korean leaders are desperately trying to control society in order to eradicate all Christian activities. There are an estimated 200,000 North Koreans in political prisons, including 40,000 to 60,000 Christians."
Open Doors quoted a veteran North Korean watcher, who did not want to be named for security reasons, as saying that "Christians are the target of fierce government action, and once caught, are not regarded as human." Last year, "we had evidence that some were used as guinea pigs to test chemical and biological weapons," he added.
North Korea has denied the existence of these camps.