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RELIGION - THE RELIGION OF NORTH KOREA

NORTH KOREA RELIGION


Today, Juche is no longer just an ideology, but a full-fledged religion that worships Kim Il Sung as god, and his son, Kim Jong Il as the son of god. Whether or not Kim Jong Un is now worshipped as the grandson of god remains to be seen.

In 2005, David Hawke, the respected human rights investigator, interviewed 40 North Korean escapees about religion in North Korea. Here are some of their responses about North Korea's religion:

"Juche is the only religion North Korean people can have."

"We learned that there were two lives: one is the physical life and the other is the political life. We were taught that political life was forever along with the leaders and the Party. Therefore, I believed that my political life was more important than my physical life."

"According to party covenant, Article 1, section 1, all North Koreans are required to worship Kim Il Sung with all our heart and might, even after his death. We have to venerate the pictures and status of Kim Il Sung."

"We must hang [Kim Il Sung's] pictures. The pictures indicate that Kim Il Sung is god, as we hang the pictures for the purpose of reminding ourselves that we depend on him."

"Hanging portraits of Kim's family is compulsory for every household. The portraits must be hung on the best wall of every home, and nothing else can be hung under the portraits. Families with high loyalty to the Party bow down under the portraits even when nobody is watching."

"Religious freedom is not allowed in North Korea because it will ruin the deification of Kim Il Sung."

"Having faith in God is an act of espionage. Only Kim Il Sung is a god in North Korea."

"Juche itself is a religion, therefore they worry that people may forsake Juche for another religion."

How is that worry expressed against underground Christians when they are discovered?

Below are Hawke's summation of the replies from two of the interviewees:

"A young woman, in her twenties, was washing clothes in a tributary to the Tumen River (the border between China and North Korea). When packing up the clothes, she dropped what was believed to be a small Bible. The actual words used by the North Korean authorities were “Christianity book” (kiddokyo chaek). Another washer woman reported the girl to the police. According to Interviewee 4, the informer may not have known that the book was a Bible, but all suspicious activity had to be reported to the police. The young woman and her father, looking to be roughly sixty years old, were arrested and held by the local Gukgabowibu police for some three months. During that time, the woman and her father were presumably investigated and interrogated. Apparently, they were deemed guilty of a capital offense. On a summer morning in 1997, the two were taken to a market area near where the Seong Cheon River runs into the Tumen River. The two were accused of trafficking and condemned as traitors to the nation and Kim Jong Il. Interviewee 4 was unaware of any other judicial procedures prior to the announcement of the crime, verdict, and sentence in an extremely brief public “show trial,” which consisted of no more than announcements of the charges and verdict immediately prior to the execution. Teachers and students from elementary (4th grade and up), middle, and high school were assembled, along with persons who had been sent over from the nearby market. Seven police fired three shots each into the two victims, who had been tied to stakes a few meters from the “trial” area. The force of the rifle shots, fired from fifteen meters away, caused blood and brain matter to be blown out of their heads. Interviewee 4 was in the fifth row. She sketched from memory a schematic drawing of the execution scene."

"While Interviewee 17 was in the North Korean Army, his unit was dispatched to widen the highway between Pyongyang and the nearby port city of Nampo. They were demolishing a vacated house in Yongkang county, Yongkang district town, when in a basement between two bricks they found a Bible and a small notebook that contained 25 names, one identified as pastor, two as chon-do-sa (assistant pastors), two as elders, and 20 other names, apparently parishioners, identified by their occupations. The soldiers turned the Bible and notebook over to the local branch of Department 15 of the Korean Workers Party (KWP), but the Party officials said it was up to the military police unit, Bowisaryungbu gigwanwon, to investigate. Tracked down at their place of work through the listing of occupation in the notebook, the 25 persons were picked up without formal arrest by the military bowibu. The interviewee was not aware of any judicial procedures for those seized. In November 1996, the 25 were brought to the road construction site. Four concentric rectangular rows of spectators were assembled to watch the execution. Interviewee 17 was in the first row. The five leaders to be executed - the pastor, two assistant pastors, and two elders - were bound hand and foot and made to lie down in front of a steamroller. This steamroller was a large construction vehicle imported from Japan with a heavy, huge, and wide steel roller mounted on the front to crush and level the roadway prior to pouring concrete. The other twenty persons were held just to the side. The condemned were accused of being Kiddokyo (Protestant Christian) spies and conspiring to engage in subversive activities. Nevertheless, they were told, “If you abandon religion and serve only Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, you will not be killed.” None of the five said a word. Some of the fellow parishioners assembled to watch the execution cried, screamed out, or fainted when the skulls made a popping sound as they were crushed beneath the steamroller. Interviewee 17 thought, at the time, that these church people were crazy. He thought then that religion was an “opiate,” and it was stupid for them to give up their lives for religion. He heard from the soldiers who took away the other twenty prisoners that they were being sent to a prison camp. He sketched from memory a diagram of the execution scene."