In 1992, a North Korean television station aired a show that had a character singing a popular South Korean song.
Ji Hae Nam, who was part of the propaganda arm of North Korea’s Workers Party, learned the catchy tune. Months later she was overheard singing the song and was arrested. Detained in a prison awaiting trial, she was beaten and sexually abused by the guards.
Then she was sentenced to three years of “rehabilitation-through-labor” at a brutal prison camp — all this for singing a South Korean song, or as the charge read, “disrupting the socialist order.”
There are more than 200,000 prisoners in just five of the twelve North Korean Auschwitz-like camps. Conditions at those camps include systematic torture, arbitrary and cruel treatment of prisoners, extreme deprivation and starvation, and back-breaking forced labor that is so dangerous that accidents leading to disfigurement and death are commonplace.
One former prisoner reports, “At the camp, I witnessed public executions, forced labor, and other inhumane atrocities. A new prisoner in the North Korean political prison camps is taught not to consider themselves as human beings. The prisoners cannot complain of beatings or even murders. Even the children are subject to forced labor, and about one-third of them die of malnutrition and heavy labor.”
Meanwhile, the Stalinist regime led by Kim Jong Il keeps itself in power through illegal arms sales, counterfeiting, and narcotics production and trafficking.
In addition, while North Korea receives more food aid than any other nation, more than 4 million North Koreans have starved to death since 1995, including those who have died in the camps. Why? Because food aid is diverted into military stockpiles and into gourmet delicacies, fine wines and liquor, and other luxury items for Kim and members of his elite.
In short, North Korea has what is probably the worst human rights record in the world. Because of the extreme isolation of North Korea, we only guessed at the atrocities until about two years ago. Now as a result of North Korea’s economic relationships beyond the Soviet bloc and a large enough group of refugees and escapees, the ugly truth is out.
In response, the Wilberforce Forum became a founding member of the North Korea Freedom Coalition in order “to bring freedom to the North Korean people and to ensure that the human rights component of U.S. and world policy toward North Korea receives priority attention.”
On April 28, 2004, the Coalition will sponsor “North Korea Freedom Day” here in Washington, D.C. The program includes a rally at the Capitol, congressional hearings, speakers, and music. Participants including North Korean defectors will also lobby on behalf of the North Korea Human Rights Act, a bill that seeks to bring about peaceful changes in North Korea on behalf of people who have suffered too much for too long. Call us here at BreakPoint (1-877-322-5527) or visit www.nkfreedom.org for more details about how you can be involved.
This is another example of how Christians need to take the lead in human rights, connecting a biblical understanding of humanity with practical and political efforts to confront intolerable evil.
For further reading and information:
Jeff Jacoby, “The ordeal of a North Korean in Canada,” International Herald Tribune (from the Boston Globe), 8 March 2004.
“Christians under dark reign of Kim Jong Il,” Asia News, 28 February 2004.
Rich Lowry, “Out of the Dark Age,” National Review Online, 10 September 2003.
Read the Statement of Principles for U.S.-North Korean Relations signed by Charles Colson, William Bennett, Nicholas Eberstadt, Robert George, Michael Horowitz, and many others.
Kate Fowler, “Rescue the Perishing, Care for the Dying,” BreakPoint WorldView, January/February 2004.
Visit BreakPoint’s resource and fact page on North Korea for more information.
Stand Today also provides other ideas for helping persecuted Christians abroad, including North Koreans.
Nina Shea, In the Lion’s Den: Persecuted Christians and What the Western Church Can Do about It(Broadman and Holman, 1997).
Gary Haugen, The Good News about Injustice (InterVarsity, 1999).
John Stott, Human Rights and Human Wrongs (Baker Book House, 1999).