under dark reign of Kim Jong Il
28 February, 2004 - During the Beijing summit meetings regarding
the North Korean nuclear program requests from many exiled North
Koreans were ignored. They had asked to discuss the serious violations
human rights and religious freedom occurring in their homeland.
experienced by Christians in North Korea is emblematic of the brutal
human rights conditions found in the country. News that manages
to leak out of the country speaks of violent persecutions and tight
government control of religious freedom and worship.
Such news comes
form Christians and political dissidents who have managed to escape
abroad, as well as from tourists, government employees, foreign
journalists and Christian delegations, whose mobility is limited
and mostly restricted to the capital of Pyongyang and immediate
to the testimony of a North Korean refugee reported by Forum 18
News Service, some elderly Christians were killed in a small town
on the Chinese border. The motive for their killings, which occurred
in the year 2000, was because they had refused to renounce their
faith. Former North Korean citizens and prisoners, like Soon-Ok
Lee, have said that Christians in reeducation camps and jails are
treated worse than other prisoners.
Due to the
reign of terror which has existed in North Korean, persons living
in nearby regions have only discovered after ten years that they
shared the same faith. Human Rights Without Frontiers says that
in order to escape from police repression Christians meet secretly
in groups of ten, often with members of the same family.
years Pyongyang has grown worried about "spiritual pollution"
of North Koreans and has attempted to persecute such "corrupt"
citizens living abroad. In China, for example, where there are 100,000-300,000
North Korean refugees, Pyongyang has obtained support from Beijing
to hunt the "fugitives" down.
human rights activist has revealed that During long interrogations,
North Korean government authorities ask the repatriated refugees
what kind of contact they've had with South Korean missionaries
working in China, if they read the Bible or attend church services.
Those they who admit to contact with missionaries or any other religious
affiliations and activities are imprisoned and condemned to death.
The church's Protestant pastor, as some reports indicate, is being
blackmailed by Pyongyang which holds his family hostage.
is not much better in North Korea. In the capital there are only
2 Protestant churches in addition to one priestless Catholic church
and a new Orthodox center of worship. Many foreigners who have attended
religious services do not believe that the celebrations and faithful
are "fake" or dramatized by the government, but all noted
that sermons were filled with many political references. Others
have said that government propaganda is found to exist within these
churches and are not in constant use.
no exact figures on the number of faithful and places of worship
existing in North Korea. In July 2002, at the request of the UN
Commission on Human Rights, the North Korean government released
brief and evasive information on the status of Christians living
in the country. In terms of Catholic numbers authorities said there
were 800 faithful in the country with 2 "centers of public
worship" and one sanctuary.
said there were around 12,000 Protestants in North Korea with 2
churches, "500 centers of worship for families" and 20
pastors. In Jan. 2004 an exponent of Baptist Church-run Cornerstone
Ministries told the US Commission on Religious Freedom that there
were 100,000 Protestant North Koreans.
to certain estimates there are about 100,000 Christians out of a
total population of 24 million in North Korea, of which 12,000 are
Protestants and 4000 Catholics. It is said that since communists
took over the government in 1953, some 300,000 Christians have disappeared
and there are no longer priests or nuns in the country, all likely
killed during times of persecution. (MR)
North Korean Catholics attend Mass in South for 1st time in 50 years
Korea (CNS) -- North Korean Catholics attended Mass officially for
the first time in South Korea since the peninsula was divided more
than 50 years ago. Samuel Chang Jae-on, president of the Korean
Roman Catholics' Association in North Korea, and 16 other Catholics
of Changchung Church in Pyongyang, the communist country's capital,
attended the Mass March 2 at Seoul's Myongdong Cathedral, reported
UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand. Chang said
before the Mass began that "though Catholics of Changchung
Church have been without a priest they have strong faith."
The North Korean visitors, seated in a pew near the altar, bowed
their heads after receiving Communion from Auxiliary Bishop Lucas
Kim Un-hoe of Seoul, who presided at the Mass. As many as 1,200
South Korean Catholics also attended the Mass. After Communion,
an eight-woman choir of Changchung Church, all in light-green traditional
Korean dress, sang a hymn praying for peace.
sits North and South Korea Around the Same Table in Beijing
with Miss Kathi Zellweger of Caritas Hong Kong
Service) - Fides Service spoke to Miss Kathi Zellweger, Director
of International Co-operation Caritas Hong Kong who is in Rome to
attend a meeting of Caritas Internationalis in the Vatican to discuss
the situation of food shortage in North Korea. Excerpt:
Fides: What is the role of the Catholic Church in N. Korea ?
Miss Zellweger: The Church in N. Korea is very small. Official figures
put the number of Catholics at 3,000 and 800 of these are in Pyongyang.
Unfortunately there are no priests which means that Mass can be
said only when clergy from other countries come visiting: for example
on the occasion of the annual visit by the Holy See delegation,
this year in May. I wish this could happen more often. The Mass
was well attended and the surprise was that there were many non
Korean Catholics present and perhaps for the first time it was obvious
that a regular Catholic liturgical service would be necessary in
N. Korea. With regard to assistance the Church in N. Korea lacks
the structures necessary for taking part in humanitarian programmes.
Delegation´s Mission In North Korea
Priests Left and No Data on Number of Catholics
MAY 16, 2002 (Zenit.org).-A Vatican delegation recently visited
North Korea to improve relations with the People's Democratic Republic.
Monsignor Celestino Migliore, Vatican Under-Secretary for Relations
with States, and Fr. Luis Mariano Montemayor, adviser to the Nunciature
in the State Secretariat, ended their mission on May 14.
was the sixth visit of a Vatican delegation to North Korea. It has
reaffirmed the constant solidarity of the Holy Father in favor of
the North Korean people and has contributed to give continuity to
relations established with governmental authorities of Pyongyang,
in particular, with the Foreign Affairs Ministry," a Vatican
Press Office statement explained.
the statement, the Vatican delegation held meetings in Pyongyang
with officials of the Association of Catholics of North Korea (controlled
by the Communist regime), and was able to celebrate the feast of
the Lord's Ascension with the local and international Catholic community
in the Church of Chan Chung.
and North Korea do not maintain diplomatic relations. Along with
the People's Republic of China, it is the only country for which
the Statistical Yearbook of the Church has no figures on the number
was split in two, there were some 60 priests in the North. It seems
that after the split, all of them were martyred.
There has been
no news on Bishop Francis Hong Yong-ho of Pyongyang since 1962.
It is most probable that he died, although last year the Vatican
missionary agency "Fides" did not discard the possibility
that he was confined in a re-education camp.
In recent years,
Caritas has been one of the few aid agencies that has worked in
the country, offering food and other assistance.
Korea Urged to Allow Missionaries
SEOUL, South Korea, JUNE 21, 2001 (ZENIT.org-FIDES).- North Korea
has been asked to allow missionaries into the country, to help its
people spiritually and materially.
The Commission of Catholic Bishops for the Reconciliation of the
Korean People made the request to the Communist government.
The text of the request was published for the Day of Unity and
Reconciliation of the Korean People, which will be held this Sunday,
a year after the historic meeting in Pyongyang between the presidents
of the two Koreas.
The message asks Pyongyang to grant freedom of worship and invites
Korean Catholics to participate in aid programs to the people of
the North. ZE01062106
WANT TO BE A PRIEST"
Mass goers display Presidential badge
- Julius, one of the very few North-Korean Catholics, has one dream,
to become a priest. The 45 year old layman, a major figure for the
800 Catholics in Pyongyang, is the first North Korean to openly
aspire to the priesthood since 1945 when the Korean peninsula was
two. Julius lives a life of celibacy, studies theology and leads
Sunday Liturgies of the Word for the faithful in Jangchung Church,
the only Catholic church in the whole of North Korea. But without
a priest, North Korean Catholics are without Mass. This is why Julius
wants to give his life to the Lord.
figures supplied by the Korean Bishops' Conference, in North Korea
there are about 3,000 Catholics. Some were baptised before the Korean
War (1950-1953), others were taught the faith by their parents.
After longs years of hiding and persecution the Catholic Church
in North Korea began to show signs of life in 1989, when Susanna
Im Soo-kyong, at that time a college student, and Father Paul Moon
Kyu-hyeun visited Pyongyang. Both were confined to prison for three
years on their return to Seoul because of the visit. After this
visit the Catholic religion was recognised and the government-controlled
North Korean Roman Catholic Association was set up.
information collected by Fides, North Korean Catholics live their
faith at home, also praying at home. Representatives of the Catholic
Association visit families for catechism. However, nothing is known
of the whereabouts of Mgr Francis Hong Yong-ho Bishop of Pyongyang
and about 50 other priests known to be in North Korea in the 1940s.
Today, if they are still alive, they must be in their eighties or
nineties. Occasionally clergy from the South have been allowed to
visit the North and to celebrate Mass. The last Mass celebrated
in Pyongyang was on November 12, 2000, during a visit to the country
by a Holy See delegation led by Mgr Celestino Migliore, Under-Secretary
for relations with states, who celebrated Mass for about 200 Korean
faithful, all members of the North
Korean Roman Catholic Association, and all wearing the badge of
North Korean President Kim Jong-Il.
The Mass was
celebrated in English with simultaneous translation into Korean
by two of the Catholics present. The Association's deputy-president
welcomed the Holy See delegation on behalf of the others, but the
rest of the people were not allowed to converse with the visitors
from Rome. The
Association's leaders agree that the Catholic community in Pyongyang
should have a priest to hold services, on the condition that he
is "suited to North Korean society". Hymns during Mass
were sung by a local all-male choir, but the hymnbook came from
DELEGATION VISITS NORTH KOREA
Holy See Still Studying Possibility of Papal Trip
NOV. 14, 2000 (ZENIT.org).- A Vatican delegation had concluded a
decisive visit to North Korea today, the Holy See confirmed.
The visit was
confirmed by Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls. It comes in
the wake of the South Korea president's suggestion last July that
Pyongyang invite Pope John Paul II to the communist North.
In an official
statement, Navarro-Valls explained that the Vatican delegation,
"in its fifth consecutive visit to Pyongyang, hoped to reaffirm
the effective and constant solidarity of the Holy Father with the
people of North Korea, and continue the relations established earlier
with governmental authorities, particularly with the foreign affairs
the delegation included Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Vatican undersecretary
for relations with states, and Bishop Mariano Montemayor, an official
of the secretariat of state.
moment of the visit was the prayer meeting with the Catholic community
in the capital, and the Mass celebrated on Sunday in the Church
of Chan Chung," Navarro-Valls explained. "After the Mass, there
was a meeting with the leader of the Association of North Korean
is believed to have only about 3,000 to 4,000 Catholics, and no
priests in the capital. Before the 1950-1953 Korean War there were
more than 100,000 Catholics in what became North Korea. For almost
50 years there have been no ordinations.
President Kim Dae-Jung, recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize,
gave a historic boost to rapprochement with the North when he took
part in a summit in Pyongyang last July with North Korean leader
Kim Jong II.
On that occasion
the South Korean leader suggested that the Communist leader invite
John Paul II to visit North Korea, as a sign of peace and reconciliation.
Pyongyang and the Vatican are studying the proposal.
For the Pope
to visit, North Korea would have to respect religious liberty and
establish relations with the Vatican.
Over the last
few days, Duncan MacGregor MacLaren, secretary-general of Caritas
International, also has been visiting this Communist country. Caritas
has worked in North Korea since 1995, when floods caused more than
2 million deaths.