Freedom of religion in North Korea

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In North Korea, the Constitution provides for "freedom of religious belief"; the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is an atheist state. The US and South Korean governments are the main sources of information of religion in North Korea and the two countries are technically still at war, therefore independent media argues that this is just anti-North Korean propaganda.[1]

North Korea is officially an atheist state,[2][3] and government policy continues to interfere with the individual's ability to choose and to manifest his or her religious belief. The regime continues to repress the religious activities of unauthorized religious groups. Recent refugee, defector, missionary, and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) reports indicate that religious persons engaging in proselytizing in the country, those who have ties to overseas evangelical groups operating across the border in the People's Republic of China, and specifically, those repatriated from China and found to have been in contact with foreigners or missionaries, have been arrested and subjected to harsh penalties. Refugees and defectors continued to allege that they witnessed the arrests and execution of members of underground Christian churches by the regime in prior years. Due to the country's inaccessibility and the inability to gain timely information, the continuation of this activity remains difficult to verify.

Religion in North Korea[edit]

Traditionally, religion in North Korea primarily consists of Buddhism and Confucianism and to a lesser extent Korean shamanism and syncretic Chondogyo. Since the arrival of Europeans in the 18th century, there is also a Christian minority. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, since the rise of Stalinism, free religious activities no longer exist as the government sponsors religious groups only to create an illusion of religious freedom.[4] North Korea sees organised religious activity as a potential challenge to the leadership.[5]

Status of religious freedom[edit]

The Government deals harshly with all opponents, including those who engage in religious practices deemed unacceptable by the regime. An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 persons were believed to be held in political prison camps (Kwalliso) in remote areas,[6] many for religious and political reasons.[7]

In March 2006 the Government reportedly sentenced Son Jong-nam to death for espionage. However, NGOs claimed that the sentence against Son was based on his contacts with Christian groups in China, his proselytizing activities, and alleged sharing of information with his brother in South Korea. Son's brother reported that information indicated that Son was alive as of spring 2007. Because the country effectively bars outside observers from investigating such reports, it was not possible to verify the Government's claims about Son Jong-nam's activities or determine whether he had been executed. A fellow inmate of the Pyongyang prison where Son was held states that he died there in December 2008.[8]

A South Korean newspaper reported 80 people were publicly executed in North Korea in November of 2013, some for possessing a Bible, while a crowd was herded into a stadium in one city and forced to watch the deaths from machine gun fire. [9] The JoongAng Ilbo reported the executions were carried out in seven cities on Nov. 3, 2013.[10] Christians have faced intense persecution in North Korea, which is ranked as the worst country in the world in terms of Christian persecution by watchdog group Open Doors.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]