By BosNewsLife Asia Service
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA (BosNewsLife)– A Christian missionary spent another day locked up in a feared North Korean labor camp Tuesday, November 5, becoming the longest known American detainee since the end of Korean War hostilities, Christians and activists said.
Kenneth Bae was arrested in the port city of Rajin on November 3, 2012. Activists said North Korea’s “Communist dictatorship” has not held any known U.S. citizen longer than 12 months since a cease-fire between South and North Korea was inked in 1953. Both nations remain technically at war as no final peace deal was ever signed.
Kenneth, an active Christian missionary based in China, is believed to have been detained due to his Christian activities around North Korea.
“We marked with great sadness the one-year anniversary of Kenneth Bae’s detainment,” said Ryan Morgan, Regional Manager for East Asia of International Christian Concern (ICC), an advocacy group involved in the case.
“Kenneth has now been held longer by the North Korean regime than any other known U.S. citizen,” Morgan told BosNewsLife in a statement. “Our prayers are with his family during this incredibly difficult time and we again renew our call for his release to the North Korean authorities.”
Practicing Christianity is completely forbidden in North Korea, and even minor violations, including the possession of a Bible, are “ruthlessly punished”, according to ICC investigators.
Kenneth was sentenced in May to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly committing “hostile acts” against the North Korean regime. Christian rights groups say he is now among at least some 100,000 Christians trapped in the country’s notorious prison camps, where they reportedly face torture, forced labor and possible execution.
Most are said to have been detained for refusing to worship North Korea’s founder Kim Il-Sung’s cult and remaining faithful to their faith in Jesus Christ.
Last week Michael Kirby, the chairman of a United Nations commission investigating abuses committed by the regime, reportedly was reportedly moved to tears by testimony from those who had escaped the notorious labor camps.
North Korea is consistently listed as the “top persecutor of Christians” in the world by Christian rights groups including Open Doors International, which is working in the country.
“No one should ever face imprisonment simply because of their religious beliefs, yet thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children are living in what has been described as hell on earth simply because they choose to be Christian,” added ICC’s Morgan.
“Our hope is that the world takes this highly unfortunate anniversary as an opportunity to wake up to what is happening behind the closed walls of North Korea and to call with one voice for an end to the atrocities being committed by Kim Jong-un’s malignant regime.”
(With additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).
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