NORTH KOREA CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION
Christianity reached the traditionally Buddhist and Confucian Korean peninsula (North and South Korea) in the 1880s.
A revival started in 1907, particularly in the north. Three thousand churches sprang up in the present North Korea and Pyongyang, the present North Korean capital was even called, "The Jerusalem of Asia."
Persecution of Christians started in 1910 when Japan annexed the Korean peninsula and mandated worshipping the Japanese emperor. Christians who bowed down to his portrait were spared. Those who didn't were tortured, imprisoned and/or executed. Despite the persecution, Christians grew in number.
The Japanese persecution lasted 35 years until 1945, when Japan surrendered to end the Second World War.
The respite was short-lived in, however, as the Communists led by the Soviet-trained Kim Il Sung streamed into and occupied the northern half of the peninsula. Backed by the Soviets, Kim spent the next 5 years consolidating his power in North Korea, crushing opposition, including from Christians, and building an army of his own.
In 1950, Kim's Communist army of North Korea invaded the Democratic South Korea. The ensuing Korean War killed millions, leveled both South and North Korea, and ended three years later in a draw, with the post-war border more or less where the pre-war border had been.
After the war, Kim Il Sung intensified the persecution of Christians in North Korea. Those who renounced their faith and swore allegiance to him and his new "Juche" ideology were spared, although relegated to the lowest levels of his new social order. Those who refused were executed or deported to remote concentration camps where they were starved, overworked, tortured and/or shot to death.
By the 1960s, North Korea's once ubiquitous Christians were nowhere to be seen, at least not on the surface.
Today, Juche is no longer just an ideology, but a full-fledged religion that worships Kim Il Sung as god, and his son, Kim Jong Il as the son of god. In 2005, a human rights investigator named David Hawke interviewed 40 North Korean escapees about religion in North Korea. Here are some of their responses about North Korea's religion:
"Juche is the only religion North Korean people can have."
"We learned that there were two lives: one is the physical life and the other is the political life. We were taught that political life was forever along with the leaders and the Party. Therefore, I believed that my political life was more important than my physical life."
"According to party covenant, Article 1, section 1, all North Koreans are required to worship Kim Il Sung with all our heart and might, even after his death. We have to venerate the pictures and status of Kim Il Sung."
"We must hang [Kim Il Sung's] pictures. The pictures indicate that Kim Il Sung is god, as we hang the pictures for the purpose of reminding ourselves that we depend on him."
"Hanging portraits of Kim's family is compulsory for every household. The portraits must be hung on the best wall of every home, and nothing else can be hung under the portraits. Families with high loyalty to the Party bow down under the portraits even when nobody is watching."
"Religious freedom is not allowed in North Korea because it will ruin the deification of Kim Il Sung."
"Having faith in God is an act of espionage. Only Kim Il Sung is a god in North Korea."
"Juche itself is a religion, therefore they worry that people may forsake Juche for another religion."