By BosNewsLife Asia Service with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos at BosNewsLife News Center
PYONGYANG/MOSCOW/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– North Korea’s autocratic leader has announced the restart of all nuclear facilities for both military use and electricity, adding to concerns about hundreds of thousands of inmates, including many Christians, who remain trapped in prison camps.
Kim Jong-Un’s announcement was published shortly after Russia expressed concerns that increased South Korean and American military activities around North Korea could lead to war.
The 30-year-old Kim, who took office in December 2011, said no nuclear state had been invaded in modern history and that “the greater the nuclear attack capability, the greater the strength of the deterrent against an invasion.”
“Our nuclear strength is a reliable war deterrent and a guarantee to protect our sovereignty,” he added in remarks monitored by BosNewsLife.
Threats of possible nuclear warfare have done little to help at least hundreds of thousands of people, including many Christians, who were believed to spent Easter in North Korean prison camps, known for torture, executions and slave labor.
“MOST HOSTILE NATION”
North Korea is “the most hostile nation” in which to live and practice the Christian faith, according to Open Doors, a Christian advocacy and aid group which managed to bring tens of thousands of Bibles and aid packagers into the country.
At least 100,000 or more Christians are languishing in camps for their refusal to worship nation founder Kim Il-Sung’s cult, according to rights investigators.
The ideology, known as Juche, largely resembles a religion or cult, and refugees’ accounts say those who oppose it are dealt with severely, often ending up in prison camps.
“There are reports of many Christians arrested,” in the Stalinist-run nation, explained Open Doors.
“In North Korea, it is strictly forbidden to be a Christian,” added ‘Brother Simon’, an Open Doors worker using one name for security reasons.
BIBLES ARE BANNED
“Anyone who has a Bible is sent to a camp, along with his or her whole family,” explained ‘Brother Simon’, in previous remarks.
Half the population lives in the north, close to China, where family-based networks of house churches exist in “significant numbers”, according to Open Doors investigators.
Christians in the region were forced to secretly observe Easter amid mounting military activities.
On the eve of the Christianity’s most important holiday, North Korea warned it was entering into “a state of war” with its neighbor South Korea, where many Christians live.
A propaganda video animation posted on the Internet showed a North Korean missile destroying a nuclear-capable American B-2 bomber aircraft, though there was no sign the attack actually happened.
RUSSIA FEARS WAR
On Thursday, March 28, the United States sent a pair of the planes on a first-of-its-kind practice run over the skies of South Korea.
U.S. officials said it was a diplomatic sortie and that the planes returned safely to their basis.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made clear that Moscow fears the increased military activity near North Korea, which also include joint South Korean and American drills, will escalate the conflict.
“We are concerned that, along with this adequate reaction of the Security Council, along with the collective reaction of the world community, unilateral actions are being taken around North Korea, which are manifested in the build-up of military activity,” he told reporters in Moscow. “The situation may slip out of control and fall into a vicious circle.”
And, in an apparent warning to the West, Russia has begun its own military maneuvers in the Black Sea involving dozens of war ships and planes. The operations are held not far from the former Soviet republic of Georgia where Russia fought a brief war in 2008.
Washington remains skeptical saying North Korea’s rhetoric only leads to increased isolation.
Despite the international tensions and severe restrictions in North Korea, Open Doors claimed it managed to distribute Bibles and Christian materials inside the country – with over 45,000 distributed in 2012.
“Through secret networks we bring food, medicine, clothes and Bibles to Christians in North Korea. We also train North Korean refugees and have a number of even more secret projects running,” the group said.
It quoted one unidentified church leader as saying that the “enthusiastic support” of Open Doors and other Christians “gives us strength and belief to overcome all sorts of challenges that we face along our way.”
The leader said: “We can feel God’s great love towards our church and our believers every time we receive the love gifts of study materials, daily goods, medicines and many other goods. Our core church believers have finished delivering various goods to nearby areas. We will do our utmost to accomplish God’s given tasks.”
Yet, many believers and other North Koreans remained hungry Tuesday, April 2. “Roughly ten million inhabitants are malnourished, with thousands eating only grass and bark,” Open Doors said.
PRAYERS FOR LEADERSHIP
It said Christians have asked to pray “For freedom and justice under the new leadership of Kim Jong-Un” as well as for Christian aid groups, including Open Doors.
Additionally, Christians have asked prayers for “the safety of North Korean Christians escaping to China,” Open Doors said.
“Refugees who are detained in China or North Korea can be sentenced to a few years in a prison camp. But if the North Korean authorities discover that the refugees have been in touch with Christians, they are dealt with much more harshly,” added Brother Simon.
“Torture and execution often occur,” he said.
Over the last decade North Korea has held the top spot on the Open Doors World Watch List ranking 50 countries that it regards as “the worst persecutors of Christians.” (BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key news developments in especially, but not limited to, (former) Communist and other autocratic countries impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals).
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).