A two-year-old North Korean was sentenced to life in prison after officials found a Bible in the toddler’s parents’ possession, as the totalitarian regime continued to “execute” and “torture” religious worshippers.
As many as 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea, according to a new International Religious Freedom Report by the US State Department.
The findings underscored the brutal punitive measures routinely doled out by Supreme Leader Kim Jung Un.
People caught with a copy of The Bible in North Korea face the death penalty, while their families — including children — are sentenced to life in prison.
The report highlighted the 2009 imprisonment of a family based on their religious practices and parents’ possession of a Bible.
The entire family, including a two-year-old infant, were sentenced to life in prison camps.
“The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion [in the DPRK] also continues to be denied, with no alternative belief systems tolerated by the authorities,” UN Secretary General António Guterres said last July.
Guerres wrote how the situation in North Korea has not changed since a 2014 human rights report, which found that authorities “almost completely denied the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion” and found that the government frequently violated violations of human rights that constituted crimes against humanity.
The 2022 report found that the North Korean government has continued to “execute, torture, arrest and physically abuse people for their religious activities.”
Pandemic-era COVID-19 restrictions on travel also reduced information available about conditions, prompting the State Department to work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), human rights groups and the UN to confirm claims of abuse.
While a small number of officially registered religious institutions exist in North Korea, including churches, they operate under strict state control and function largely as showpieces for foreign tourists, officials say.
In October 2021, NGO Korea Future released a report detailing the religious freedom abuses after interviewing 244 victims.
Of the victims interviewed, 150 adhered to Shamanism, 91 adhered to Christianity, one to Cheondoism and one to other beliefs.
The victims ranged in age from just two years old to over 80 years old and women and girls made up over 70 percent of the documented victims.
The report found that the North Korean government charged individuals with engaging in religious practices, conducting religious activities in China, possessing religious items, having contact with religious persons, and sharing religious beliefs.
As a result, people were arrested, placed into detention, forced labor and tortured.
Many were also denied a fair trial and subjected to sexual violence and public execution.
One defector told Korea Future that authorities beat Christian and Shamanic adherents in custody, gave them contaminated food, and arbitrarily executed them.
Another said that in 2002, officials denied a Christian man food, causing him to die within three days.
A prisoner who was released in 2020 told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that authorities subjected Christians to the harshest treatment and that authorities once forced them to stand for 40 days straight, causing inmates to lose the ability to sit down.
Christians are regarded as on the lowest rung of North Korean society and are constantly “vulnerable and in danger,” according to the report.
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