New report details detention and torture of North Korean Christians

A new report based on interviews with North Korean defectors details two decades’ detention and torture of North Korean Christians.

Some of the human rights violations occurred as recently as 2019.

The report and accompanying database, documents 167 serious human rights violations perpetrated against 91 Christians.

The report’s eyewitness interviews are current: human rights NGO Korea Future conducted them between November 2019 and August 2021.

The interviewers heard of 34 people detained in North Korea for possessing religious items, 23 held for having practiced religious activities in China and 21 people seized for religious practice in North Korea itself.

The NGO was told many times of instances where a person was arrested for being in possession of a Bible.

In one case, a young woman was “beaten with a wooden stick until a superior intervened after hearing the victim screaming”.

The beating occurred while the woman was in the custody of the North Korean Ministry of State Security Central Command.

Another victim, a woman in her 50s who was a member of an underground church, was beaten so severely in 2019 that she later died from her injuries.

“Where it could be established that detainees had been associated with Christianity, their crime was considered to be ‘political,’” the report says.

These prisoners were then transferred from city or county-level detention centers to provincial or national-level detention centers or internment camps run by the Ministry of State Security.

The report says many North Korean Christians were first exposed to Christianity while in China.

One of those arrested in China for being a Christian says he was deported to North Korea.

There he was investigated for nearly five months and experienced forms of torture as well as cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

He was then sentenced to three years in Chongori re-education camp.

The man says he secretly preached the Gospel in North Korea until 2017, when he escaped after learning that a person he had preached to was an informant for the Ministry of State Security.

The human rights report accused the Chinese government of violating the principle of non-refoulement.

This prohibits the repatriation of an individual when there are grounds for believing that they would be at risk of harm upon their return.

Even incarceration and risking cruel punishments do not prevent Christian detainees from their prayer lives, says a former prisoner who was held in a North Korean cell for two months with Christians.

They “would pray in the corner of the cell that was hidden from the CCTV camera … They would escape a beating if their prayers went undetected by the correctional officers, but they would be beaten if they were caught,” he says.

“On one occasion when they were caught praying, they were beaten every morning for 20 consecutive days.”


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