Tuesday, February 18, 2014

RLPB 248. North Korea: tenuous situation requires wise handling

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 248 | Wed 19 Feb 2014

By Elizabeth Kendal

On 21 March 2013 the United Nations Human Rights Council passed Resolution A/HRC/RES/22/13 which established the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Resolution gave the Commission a 12-month mandate to investigate systematic and widespread human rights abuses in North Korea. North Korean Ambassador So Se Pyong denounced the Resolution as 'an instrument that serves the political purposes of the hostile forces in their attempt to discredit the image of the DPRK', adding, 'those human rights abuses mentioned in the resolution do not exist in our country.'

The Commission of Inquiry's report was released on 17 February. It documents 'a wide array of crimes against humanity' and details 'unspeakable atrocities' and concludes: 'The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.' As noted in the report: 'The State considers the spread of Christianity a particularly serious threat, since it challenges ideologically the official personality cult and provides a platform for social and political organisation and interaction outside the realm of the State. Apart from the few organised State-controlled churches, Christians are prohibited from practising their religion and are persecuted. People caught practising Christianity are subject to severe punishments . . .  .' (Article 31)

The report also remarked on what is without a doubt the key dynamic of North Korea today: 'Strengthening market forces and advancements in information technology have allowed greater access to information from outside the country as information and media from the Republic of Korea and China increasingly enter the country. The State’s monopoly on information is therefore being challenged by the increasing flow of outside information into the country and the ensuing curiosity of the people for "truths" other than those provided by State propaganda. Authorities seek to preserve their monopoly on information by carrying out regular crackdowns and enforcing harsh punishments.' (Article 30)

Groomed to rule, Kim Jong-un assumed power after his father ('Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il) died in December 2011. At his father's funeral, Kim Jong-un accompanied his father's casket along with the 'Gang of Seven' -- an inner circle of elites tasked with guiding and mentoring the young ruler. By the end of 2013, four of the seven had been purged and one demoted. Kim Jong-un is consolidating power and establishing a new order that he hopes will have a better chance of holding on to power through the challenging times ahead. According to analysts, '. . . the upper ranks of North Korean leadership are now sprinkled with people who hold a known interest in [economic] reform.'

Kim, who did his secondary schooling in Switzerland, and his younger clique know that the information seeping in will generate anger and dissent as North Korea's impoverished masses become aware of their plight relative to the outside world. So in a race against time the regime is implementing agricultural and economic reforms designed to raise the living standards of ordinary Koreans. The regime is also easing the way for foreign investment and undertaking major infrastructure projects -- highways, theme parks and resorts -- designed to make North Korea more attractive to North Koreans as well as to Chinese tourists. It is a delicate balancing act, for Kim knows that while things have to change, change is incredibly risky.

For details see -- North Korea: Belligerance vs 'Smart Policy',
Religious Liberty Monitoring, 20 Feb 2014

It is commendable that the UN report is shining a spotlight on the horrific situation inside North Korea. However, the situation needs to be handled with great care and wisdom rather than belligerently. For example, if too much pressure is applied or if 'hostile forces' use the report to fan the flames of revolution for their own political, economic and geo-strategic ends, then repression could escalate to unprecedented levels or the state descend into a widespread bloodbath. Neither would benefit the Church in North Korea. Realistically, the report can only be used as leverage to get prisoners released and rights improved if the regime is assured it will not be threatened. When faced with such an unpalatable truth, it is essential to keep focused on North Korea's long-suffering Church which so desperately needs deliverance and freedom.


* hear the prayers and cries of his people and bring deliverance and freedom to his long-suffering Church in North Korea. (Isaiah 59:14-19)

'Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.' (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

LORD, IN YOUR MERCY: give wisdom to fools and patience to hot heads;  repentance to persecutors and grace to victims; so that your Church might be spared further calamity and delivered from her adversity to rise as light to overcome darkness.

'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'
(Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)


The UN's Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK [North Korea] released its report on 17 February. It documents a wide array of 'crimes against humanity', details 'unspeakable atrocities' and concludes: 'The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.' Tens of thousands of Christians struggle to survive in labour camps where they endure starvation, hard labour and unparalleled systematic cruelty. This report will expose the horrific situation inside North Korea. However, the risk is it could be unhelpfully politicised, causing repression to escalate or the country to descend into a bloodbath. Neither would benefit the Church in North Korea. Please pray for North Korea and its Church.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)