Anti-nuke agreement fails to address plight of persecuted Christians


By Mark Ellis –

The two leaders meet for historic summit

Behind the historic meeting of President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and their momentous preliminary agreement to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, thousands of Christians languish in North Korean labor camps where they face horrible conditions.

Some feel betrayed by the failure of the two leaders to address human rights concerns in this agreement, although President Trump maintains the matter was discussed privately.

Historically, North Korea has a rich Christian heritage, and Pyongyang was once called “the Jerusalem of the East.” But after the current leader’s grandfather took power, Christianity was essentially banned, and surviving believers had to take their beliefs “underground”.

Officially atheistic, it has been the most dangerous place to be a Christian for the last several decades, according to Open Doors.

“Try as it might, North Korea’s government has never wiped out Christianity,” says Faith McDonnell, with International Religious Liberty (IRD). “Some experts say that there are as many as 400,000 secret believers, most of whom became Christians in China or through contact with Chinese or South Korean Christians. They live in constant threat of imprisonment or execution.”

More than 70,000 Christians may be living in prison labor camps due to their beliefs. In these labor camps they face “unimaginable torture, inhumane and degrading treatment purely because of their faith”, according to Zoe Smith, Head of Advocacy at Open Doors UK & Ireland.

If you “merged the Soviet Union under Stalin with an ancient Chinese Empire, mixed in The Truman Show and then made the whole thing Holocaust-esque, you have modern-day North Korea”, Tim Urban wrote in the Huffington Post after visiting the country in 2017.

In prison factories, guards poured molten steel on Christians to kill them because believing in God instead of their “great leader” was the biggest crime in the eyes of the officials, according to the IRD’s McDonnell.

A 2004 BBC documentary interviewed several defectors and former prison officials who revealed that North Korea conducts deadly experiments on Christians using chemicals.

Because Christians are considered “enemies of the state,” they are often selected for such experiments. The former prison camp official watched a Christian family die in the gas chamber, while parents tried to shield their children from the fumes to the very end.

When Christians die in the camps, their bodies are burned and their ashes used to make fertilizer, McDonnell alleges.

“Perhaps American Christians don’t know that the same regime that threatened to turn the United States into a pile of ash turns its own wretched citizens who die in political prison camps into piles of ash?

“It then uses them as fertilizer. In that appalling action, North Korea demonstrates one way in which it wipes out the very existence of Christians, as well as other political prisoners.

Yong Sook, whose husband died in a North Korean prison and who now lives in South Korea, told Open Doors she watched the meeting between the US president and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un “with very deep resentment”.

“Kim Jong-un should confess what he and his regime have done. He should open the doors of the political camps and kneel down to apologize to those who have suffered due to its regime. The lives of North Korean citizens are just as important as Kim Jong Un’s life.”

World Watch Monitor reports that leading up to the summit, North Korea released three American citizens who had been put in labor camps for “anti-state activities”. One former detainee, Kim Hak Song, said his captors told him he was imprisoned because of the “hostile act” of prayer.

“The systematic persecution of Christians is just one of many heinous human rights violations perpetrated by the North Korean regime,” Smith said. “If true change is to come to that country – and we hope it will – any further negotiations must confront the desperate human rights situation.”

North Korea also seems to be refining its big brother-style-watch system, in which every citizen is asked to report on any criminal activity or political disobedience. Participants receive special rations in return, while in some places they have the authority to expel families who have engaged in illegal activities, according to the Daily NK.

Many members of Congress remain skeptical about trusting North Korea’s leader.

“I think it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that Kim Jong Un has been a butcher to his family and he is a butcher of his own people,” said Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican.

“Trying to reason with someone like that, is like trying to hand feed a shark. Doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but you’ve got to do it very, very carefully.”


  1. I think this article could have been more balanced. Yes, the plight of Christians is not mentioned in the signed agreement between Trump and Kim. But twice in the press conference after the summit, Trump affirmed that the matter had been discussed. The strongest reference:

    > TRUMP: Christians, yes, we are — brought it up very strongly. Franklin Graham spent and spends a tremendous amount of time in North Korea. He’s got it very close to his heart. It did come up, and things will be happening. Okay? Great. Question.

    Trump also did not stipulate, at this time anyway, the exact requirements for the lifting of the sanctions. Would we like the human rights emphasis to have been stronger? Yes. But this peace initiative is so bold, I would not want to sink it for not being all we would want. As is said, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Trump is a competent negotiator, and I’ve come to respect him for that and for keeping his word. What promise to the evangelical community has he broken, though we were told incessantly that he would do so the moment it became convenient? Not one that I’m aware of. His record towards us has been astounding thus far.

    So do you go in to the summit imposing high demands, even in NK’s internal affairs, or do you begin with international concerns and then work subsequently towards human rights issues? I’ll leave that question to you, but I would certainly give Trump some leeway to work an agreement which, if Kim is serious and follows through, signals a dramatic bloodless national turning rare in all history.

    • Your well-reasoned argument persuades me…perhaps my expectations were unreasonable for this first step.
      I have followed North Korea’s horrible treatment of Christians for many years and wrote about one survivor of their prison labor camps who became a Christian after her release. My conclusion is that you can not trust communists in general and the Kim family particularly to keep their agreements. Their crimes are on a par with Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and other despots. I hope this time will be different, but the next 12-24 months should tell us something about their real intentions.

      • Thank you, Mark. While I think we need to honor the bold steps that have been taken, hope for the best, and not “despise the day of small beginnings”, I agree that there is plenty of cause for concern and caution. This is only a potential beginning, and has not yet been proven to be an end. We need to keep praying. I will say that many of the happenings of the past two years have convinced me that we have been given a “wide door for effective work” that we need to make the most of, though there be “many adversaries”.

        I have always enjoyed this site very much. Be well.

  2. Head line: “Anti-nuke agreement fails to address plight of persecuted Christians”.
    And then, one paragraph deep in the article: “Some feel betrayed by the failure of the two leaders to address human rights concerns…”
    I can’t help but notice the similarity here to misleading mainstream media reporting. Which is it?
    “fails to address” or “some feel betrayed.”
    First time reader on this site. Last time reader. Sorry. The integrity of your reporting style”seems to be” as misleading as mainstream media.

  3. Please. This is the first of several meetings. Your title is annoying click bate. You don’t get everything you want in 24 hours.

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