On April 6-9, believers around the world are solemnly called to fasting, repentance and prayer for the region where the most extreme form of religious persecution and a full-scale genocide continues to take place unabated. This worldwide call to intercession comes via the International Prayer Council (IPC), distinguished North Korean Christian leaders and organizers of Prayer Initiative for North Korea (PINK) 2015.
For the 13th consecutive year in 2015, watchdog Open Doors determined North Korea to be the world’s worst persecutor of Christians, followed respectively by Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan—categorically all countries global believers should at present be vigilantly, sacrificially, unceasingly, and fervently crying out to God for. According to Open Doors, an estimated 50,000-70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea’s vast network of brutal concentration camps today. Believers, their children and their family members to three generations are consigned to camp divisions from where none can be released; when not outright murdered through executions, cruel beatings or human vivisection, prisoners are effectively worked, starved and/or tortured to death.
Each genocidal action prohibited by Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention is being employed by the North Korean security apparatus within these camps to eliminate hundreds of thousands of innocents, one-third of them children. These crimes include but are not limited to: summary execution, human experimentation, enslavement, widespread rape and sexual violence, systematized torture, enforced starvation, forced abortions, infanticide and the forcible transfer and imprisonment of children.
A landmark UN report on North Korea’s human rights crimes published in February 2014 found that the DPRK was committing “extermination” and “crimes against humanity” as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, detailing a “systematic, widespread attack against all populations” perceived to pose a threat to the DPRK regime. Among the devastating findings contained in the report, a commission of inquiry mandated by the UN found that a catastrophic famine in the 1990s—which some estimates indicate claimed the lives of over 3 million North Koreans—resulted from deliberate actions and omissions by North Korea’s leadership.
Michael Kirby, chairman of the UN Commission and a retired Justice of the High Court of Australia, has drawn parallels between North Korea’s atrocities and those perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge and the Nazis. At an informal gathering of members of the UN Security Council in April 2014 (NB: China and Russia were absent), Kirby stated, "In a week of many grave human rights matters occupying the attention of the members of this council, we dare say that the case of human rights in the DPRK (Democratic People Republic of Korea) exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror."
Still, the Commission of Inquiry’s report was far from comprehensive. It failed to exhaustively examine the possibility of genocide in North Korea, particularly against Christians and the murdered half-Chinese babies—killed solely on account of their mixed race and as a matter of North Korean policy—of repatriated North Korean mothers from China.The report also failed to investigate meaningfully the atrocity of human experimentation by neglecting to interview numerous key defector witnesses.
Independent international law firm Hogan Lovells,while endorsing the findings of the UN report in other respects, found that further investigation was needed with regards to the question of genocide in North Korea. In a June 2014 statement the law firm conveyed that its viewpoint differed from the UN inquiry’s findings in “its argument for a strong case that certain actions committed by the North Korean government are tantamount to genocide,” and “that the targeting by DPRK state-controlled officials of groups classified by the DPRK as being in the hostile class, Christians, and children of Chinese heritage with the intent to destroy such groups could be found to amount to genocide.” In alignment with Hogan Lovells’ conclusions, anti-genocide NGO Genocide Watch, founder and chair of the Alliance Against Genocide, published a report shortly after Kim Jong-il’s death in 2011 upholding that North Korea has violated the UN Genocide Convention and continues to do so, attesting that “Genocide Watch has ample proof that genocide has been committed and mass killing is still underway in North Korea.”
Not withstanding all the documentation and diverse harrowing reports, it remains true that the international community consistently takes for granted the fact that North Korea’s atrocities extend significantly further than what has been thus far uncovered. By way of illustration, most North Korean refugees who have managed to escape are from those provinces bordering China, and with recent disclosures of discrepancies connected to the book Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden, we must come to grips with the frightful truth that there may in actuality be no surviving witness, with the exception of former guards and perpetrators, from North Korea’s “Total Control Zone.” These are the sections within North Korea’s prison camp system where all are effectively under a death sentence, can never be released and the majority of North Korea’s prisoners—including Christians, their children and relatives to three generations—are being enslaved, brutalized and eventually murdered under inhuman conditions.
Our organization conducted two extensive interviews last year with Mr. Im Cheon-yong, a former member of the DPRK special operations forces who has been sought after by South Korean media for his knowledge with respect to North Korea’s internal military practices and policies. Although the interviews were primarily intended to be related to long-standing charges against the DPRK concerning biological and chemical weapon experiments directed against prisoners of conscience and their families, Mr. Im also wished to speak about the reality of North Korea’s “political prison camps” and the fate of all these prisoners.
Mr. Im's words were distressing, to say the least, but is consistent with what former guards and prison camp officials have attested to for years.
In the real political prison camp, three generations are killed. You know how the regime stubbornly persists in declaring that there are no political prison camps in North Korea. Do you know why? It’s because there is no one alive who knows the secret of these camps. If North Korea falls later and the outside world goes in to do research, it will be very shocking. I can’t express it in words… We only have indirect knowledge [of these places]. No one can survive from there, only a corpse can come out.
Please join in fasting, repentance and intercession for Korea on April 6-9. Hundreds of Korean church leaders will be gathering in South Korea for what organizers hope will be the “last international prayer gathering for N. Korea,” believing God for historic and much-needed changes in the North, and in the very imminent future.
Although there is much to pray for with respect to Korea’s situation, the following are three core prayer requests:
- Please pray fervently for the liberation of North Korea's prison camps, as well as the preservation and restoration of every prisoner's life. We released a video appeal last year outlining the extreme peril those in North Korea's prison camp system are currently facing. The horrifying truth is that all of these prisoners can be killed off at any moment according to the DPRK regime’s whim. Some 20,000 prisoners of conscience and their family members are believed to have been murdered when Camp 22 (formerly one of North Korea's most notorious death camps) was shuttered in 2012. In the wake of the February 2014 UN report, South Korea's National Intelligence Service and media outlets have reported that North Korea was now "Whitewashing" Yodok Camp 15 through removing and relocating prisoners. It is accepted the DPRK is doing this as a "PR exercise," that prisoners would most likely be replaced with farmers, in the course of time making the camp appear to be an innocuous collective farm. This is precisely what happened with Camp 22. The fear is that these prisoners—whom the DPRK deems wholly dispensable—may have died or been killed along the way while being transferred, and that ultimately the regime may decide to “do away” with all prisoners as their existence now poses more of a threat to the regime’s political survival than before. Please do everything in your power to mobilize prayers for the lives of those in North Korea's prison camps.
- Also intercede for hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees who are in hiding in China. Most of these defectors are women, 70-80 percent of whom, without recourse to legal protections in China, become victims of sex trafficking. Their children conceived through rape are also stateless in China and become vulnerable to trafficking and abandonment. China, in contravention of international laws and norms, forcibly repatriates all North Korean refugees found within its territory in accordance with a long-established political pact with the DPRK; tens of thousands of lives have been lost and countless families torn apart due to China’s inhumane and illegal policy. China shows no signs of changing. In February 2014, in response to the UN report which also highlighted “concerns relating to China’s policy and practice of forced repatriation,” warning Beijing that its officials could be found guilty of the “aiding and abetting of crimes against humanity,” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, categorically rejected all criticisms or charges of wrongdoing. Ms. Chunying stated on China’s behalf, “Of course we cannot accept this unreasonable criticism… We believe that taking human rights issues to the International Criminal Court is not helpful to improving a country’s human rights situation… These people are not refugees. We term them illegal North Korean migrants.” Predictably, China did not cooperate with the UN Commission in the slightest, barring UN investigators from even visiting the Sino-North Korea border.
- Finally, pray for Korea's unification through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the end of Kim Jong-un's rule. Korea's unification represents the only viable solution to North Korea's mass atrocity situation and the refugee crisis in China. Under South Korea's Constitution, all North Koreans are also legal citizens of the South, as North Korea has (rightfully) not been recognized as a legitimate state by the South throughout its history. With the unification of the Peninsula, refugees in China could return to Korea without fear or threat of maltreatment, and all those living in the North would be provided the basic protection and respect for human rights afforded by the rule of law. Intercede especially for those North Korean activists whom God has chosen to stand at the forefront of the movement for transformation, freedom and revival within the North. Pray for victory in 2015 as they collaborate with those in South Korea and around the world for substantive changes within the North conducive to the purpose of life, freedom, restoration and dignity for all North Koreans. Pray also for true reconciliation between the people of the North and South (with emphasis and priority given to the general people, not the DPRK regime, which is actively committing genocide and must be dealt with according to justice), and spiritual revival according to Christ’s Word.
For those who wish to get involved beyond prayer, I strongly recommend fundraising for the North Korean activists who are associated with this specific movement. Some of the North Korean Christians involved with PINK 2015 are personal friends of mine going back several years, and they are spearheading various crucial initiatives for freedom and unification in cooperation with dissidents and underground Christians within N. Korea. Please pray for and consider donating to this work.
After the 9th of April, North Korean Christians have proclaimed constant prayer at Korea’s Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) until the day of unification. Please also continue to uphold Korea in your prayers with all vigilance until the dream of freedom, life, peace and unity on the Peninsula becomes a reality.
Isaiah 58:6 (ESV) “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”
1 Corinthians 12:25-26 (ESV) “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
Hebrews 13:3 (NIV) “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
1 John 3:16 (NIV) “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
Matthew 3:8 (ASV) “Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance”
By Robert Park