North Korean refugees overwhelmingly believe North Korea should indeed be number one on Open Doors’ annual World Watch List. They state that the complete lack of human rights, including freedom of religion, makes the situation in their country incomparable to any other.
According to Timothy (alias), a 24-year-old North Korean who was branded a traitor and nearly tortured to death after being arrested in China nine years ago, the government is obsessively preoccupied with nuclear tests. “They ignore all freedoms; the human rights level is zero percent. Religions are not allowed. The leader of North Korea has to be worshipped as god, and this will not change unless the regime collapses.”
In the 15 years that he lived in North Korea, he had little exposure to anything religious. “I remember they showed us cartoons and animated movies about bad Christians. The Christian God was a monster for me. However, when I was eleven, I witnessed the public execution of a Christian. His crime was that he had hidden tiny bibles in the roof of his house. The same year a lady was shot. She had escaped to China and went to church there, but a North Korean spy discovered her activities. He had her arrested and sent back to North Korea, where she was also killed in public. I am convinced these practices still occur in my country.”
Another refugee, Joo-Eun (alias), expresses the opinion of other North Korean refugees when she says “there is no religious freedom whatsoever in North Korea. People are simply killed if they believe. Kim Jong-Un is god and there cannot be any god besides him. North Koreans who know about Christianity, know that it will make them and their country wealthier, but they also know that Christianity will destroy their socialist system. So of course there is fierce persecution. Nowhere else in the world can you find a three generation dictatorship. Yes, there are church services in North Korea, but only when foreigners are present. The state calls up some locals to be present. There is no freedom of religion, speech or press in North Korea. Since that’s unlikely to change, I think North Korea will remain on the first position of Open Doors’ World Watch List.”
Tim Peters, founder of the aid organization Helping Hands Korea, agrees with the refugees. “North Korea’s ranking on Open Doors’ World Watch List is hardly surprising given the growing number of testimonies from people we helped through the underground rail road (the trail to freedom refugees follow from North Korea, through China and other countries to South Korea). Not to mention the reports we receive from the historical church in North Korea. They agree on the fact there is no freedom of religion in North Korea. There are over 25,000 North Korean refugees in South Korea. Their testimonies are compelling evidence of severe religious persecution in North Korea.”