Through a report released on the 30th, the U.S. State Department has denounced North Korea as a state in which, “Genuine religious freedom does not exist.” Designated a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) since 2001 under the International Religious Freedom Act, North Korea’s persistent practice of “sever violations of religious freedom” further contribute to the state’s poor human rights record and reputation as a country that disregards international standards.
The report draws from information obtained through other reports conducted by the South Korean government, think tanks, NGO and various news sources as well as interviews with defectors, missionaries and refugees.
Suzan Johnson Cook, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, presented findings of the Department's Annual International Religious Freedom Report at a Press Conference on the 30th. In reference to North Korean religious freedom, Ambassador Cook stated, “The situation is really deplorable.”
The report reveals extremely strict management of religious groups in North Korea, stating, “There were reports of abuses of religious freedom in the country, including religious prisoners and detainees. In practice the government severely restricted religious freedom, including discouraging organized religious activities, except those controlled by officially recognized groups.”
While certain, closely monitored groups are allowed to practice their faith to a limited capacity, religious repression is otherwise widespread and those who are caught practicing unpermitted face harsh punishments.
The report, in part, attributes the North Korean government’s intolerant religious policies to other fixtures in its social and political structures; namely the “Juche” ideology, the cult of personality surrounding the Kim dynasty and the “military-first” policy.
The report asserts, “Indoctrination was intended to ensure loyalty to the system and the leadership, as well as conformity to the state’s ideology and authority. Refusal on religious or other grounds to accept the leader as the supreme authority, who exemplified the state and society’s needs, was regarded as opposition to the national interest and sometimes resulted in severe punishment.”
Ambassador Cook stated she hopes North Korea soon change its religiously intolerant policies, asserting the United State’s commitment to push the country toward more internationally acceptable standards, “we’re asking them to really work on all of their universal human rights, including religious freedom.”
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