Saturday, November 27, 2010

Faith and death in North Korea

Christianity is a summary-sentence capital offense in North Korea.
"While Interviewee 17 was in the North Korean Army, his unit was dispatched to widen the highway between Pyongyang and the nearby port city of Nampo. They were demolishing a vacated house in Yongkang county, Yongkang district town, when in a basement between two bricks they found a Bible and a small notebook that contained 25 names, one identified as pastor, two as chon-do-sa (assistant pastors), two as elders, and 20 other names, apparently parishioners, identified by their occupations. The soldiers turned the Bible and notebook over to the local branch of Department 15 of the Korean Workers Party (KWP), but the Party officials said it was up to the military police unit, Bowisaryungbu gigwanwon, to investigate.

Tracked down at their place of work through the listing of occupation in the notebook, the 25 persons were picked up without formal arrest by the military bowibu. The interviewee was not aware of any judicial procedures for those seized. In November 1996, the 25 were brought to the road construction site. Four concentric rectangular rows of spectators were assembled to watch the execution. Interviewee 17 was in the first row. The five leaders to be executed - the pastor, two assistant pastors, and two elders - were bound hand and foot and made to lie down in front of a steamroller. This steamroller was a large construction vehicle imported from Japan with a heavy, huge, and wide steel roller mounted on the front to crush and level the roadway prior to pouring concrete. The other twenty persons were held just to the side.

The condemned were accused of being Kiddokyo (Protestant Christian) spies and conspiring to engage in subversive activities. Nevertheless, they were told, “If you abandon religion and serve only Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, you will not be killed.” None of the five said a word. Some of the fellow parishioners assembled to watch the execution cried, screamed out, or fainted when the skulls made a popping sound as they were crushed beneath the steamroller. Interviewee 17 thought, at the time, that these church people were crazy. He thought then that religion was an “opiate,” and it was stupid for them to give up their lives for religion. He heard from the soldiers who took away the other twenty prisoners that they were being sent to a prison camp. He sketched from memory a diagram of the execution scene."
Even the appearance of Christian faith is deadly.
"A young woman, in her twenties, was washing clothes in a tributary to the Tumen River (the border between China and North Korea). When packing up the clothes, she dropped what was believed to be a small Bible. The actual words used by the North Korean authorities were “Christianity book” (kiddokyo chaek). Another washer woman reported the girl to the police. According to Interviewee 4, the informer may not have known that the book was a Bible, but all suspicious activity had to be reported to the police.
The woman and her father were tried and condemned practically in the same sentence, then immediately shot several times at close range with rifles.

Christians are hardly the only people persecuted to death in North Korea. Really, the whole country is. One presumes as well that adherents of other religions, say Islam, would likewise be killed. There is an official state religion, juche, which is not called religion, of course, but includes the deification of the late Kim Il-Sung and his psychopathic son, Kim Jong-Il.

North Koreans are obligated to make what amounts to a hajj to Pyongyang to lay flowers at the foot of Kim Il Sung's enormous statue.

Consider two of the "11 Reasons Why North Korea Is The Most Bizarre Nation On Earth."
#1 The first "Great Leader" of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung, is deeply revered in North Korea. In fact, there are over 500 statues of Kim Il-sung scattered throughout the country. Many Koreans apparently believe that Kim Il-Sung actually created the world.

#2 It is said that hanging up pictures of Kim Il-Sung is compulsory for every household in North Korea.
These are some of the reasons that trying to explain the North's recent shelling of the South Korean Yeonpyeong island is a fool's errand. There is really no basis to suppose that there was a reason for the attack at all. Of course the shelling was approved at the pinnacle of the North's government - though not necessarily by Kim John-Il personally, who just may be nutty as a fruitcake anyway - but for what reason? Well, because, that's what, which may be as good a reason as we'll ever discern.

(What does make sense, though, is that the North's disclosure of its heretofore secret uranium-enrichment plant and the shelling are a single, the message being: Yes, we have a nuke program and you don't know what else we have that's still hidden. By the way, we're shelling Yeonpyeong to make sure you understand not to assume we are being put on the defensive.)

David Warren writes, however, that saying Kim Jong-Il is crazy avails of nothing:
The conventional explanation for these and the many other incidents (including many minor ones that hardly make world news), is that the North Korean Great Leader of the moment, is crazy. I fall into this myself, sometimes -- one foot -- but then have to explain the difference between medical and moral insanity.

The "completely crazy guy" theory of history explains nothing, and is useless. Hitler was a crazy guy; Stalin was a crazy guy; Pol Pot was a crazy guy -- but mad only north-northwest. Often from a desperate position, they played brilliantly, cheated brilliantly. ...

The current North Korean position is perhaps as desperate as it has ever been. Such indications as we have are of a prison camp in which the people are quite literally starving, and the whole totalitarian infrastructure might be cracking from withdrawal of some foreign aid. The Great Leader of the moment is thought to be ill, and there could be a "succession crisis." Alternatively, this crisis is being staged, in order to sucker the West into renewing aid, in the belief that a more reasonable leadership may soon emerge.
Of which there is practically no chance.