US Report Says North Korea Torturing And Executing Religious People
PYONGYANG - A report by the bipartisan government commission, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has found that North Korea is torturing and executing religious people and is enforcing "the absolute denial of religious belief" and presents "an acute challenge to its citizens' enjoyment of their right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, or belief".
The report states that the "Violations of this right in North Korea are ongoing, egregious, and systematic" and are known to have occurred at least 68 different times against the two religions currently practiced in the country: Christianity and Korean shamanism.
43 cases of religious freedom violations between 2020 and 2021 were toward Shamanic adherents and 24 cases of religious freedom violations were toward those who adherents of Christianity. There was also one violation toward Cheondogyo adherents.
The report says the victims "suffered distinct human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest and detention; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and the denial of life". Accounts of former security officials have spoken of several cases people were executed for practicing Christianity.
A former detainee Hong Na Young (Fictional names were used in the report to protect identities) stated, "People getting tortured upstairs keeps people from going to sleep out of the fear it inspires. No matter how tough you are, torture will break you".
Kwon Eun Song and her grandson were condemned to a firing squad and killed in 2011. In yet another instance in 2015 six Christians were executed by firing squad and 40 other people were sent to a prison camp for the rest of their life.
In 2002 three members in the Lee Min Park family "were arrested in a joint raid by officers from Ministry of State Security Central Command and from South Hwanghae Ministry of State Security, following four months of surveillance and wiretapping. After 30 days of pre-trial interrogation, they were sentenced to execution for conducting Christian worship".
Lee Ki Je experienced torture in a penal facility in Hyesan City, Ryanggang Province. He said, "We were forced to get up at 05:00 and required to sit in a fixed lotus posture. After sitting like that since 05:30, we were fed at 07:00. After breakfast at 07:00, we would sit [in a fixed position] until 11:00."
He continued, "We were given a 30-minute break [...] After that, we were forced to sit in a fixed posture from 12:00 to 18:00. Dinner was at 18:00, and we were back to sitting from 18:30 to 22:00. The correctional officers, however, take liberties and do not let prisoners go to sleep if the inmates cross them, even slightly. They will not let you sleep until 00:00 or 01:00 in that case. That is the everyday routine within the cells".
Kim Jin Pyeong was also tortured, their account was "We were forced to get up at 05:00 and required to sit in a fixed lotus posture. After sitting like that since 05:30, we were fed at 07:00. After breakfast at 07:00, we would sit [in a fixed position] until 11:00. We were given a 30-minute break"
"After that, we were forced to sit in a fixed posture from 12:00 to 18:00. Dinner was at 18:00, and we were back to sitting from 18:30 to 22:00. The correctional officers, however, take liberties and do not let prisoners go to sleep if the inmates cross them, even slightly. They will not let you sleep until 00:00 or 01:00 in that case. That is the everyday routine within the cells" Kim continued.
Kim stated that the Ministry of State interrogation officers would announce there would be a beating before the interrogations would take place which would leave bruises all over their backs.
"interrogators already want a specific kind of confession, and they will beat you until they get it. Everyone confesses because they are so scared of the beatings. They do not even let the fortune tellers sleep until they get the confession they want. Tough ones usually hold out, but the interrogators seldom give up. They beat you like an animal" explained Kim.
Nam Jin Kyu, who was a former detainee said that a prisoner had been arrested for smuggling a Bible from China into North Korea and was locked in solitary confinement and said, "I think they were going to be executed. I did not get to see their face" and "The person in solitary confinement would only get one meal a day whereas others got three. They only got one serving of the bloated corn kernels boiled into a muck".
The full Organized Persecution report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom documenting religious freedom violations in North Korea can be found HERE.