Headlines continue to swirl over North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, with CNN proclaiming that she is “stealing the show at the Winter Olympics.” Many have lamented the seemingly favorable media treatment of the murderous regime has received so far, with persecution watchdog Open Doors adding a caveat and a warning: North Korea continues to commit unthinkable atrocities.
The organization reminded the world that, though North Korea is putting on a “more friendly face to the world,” amid its participation in the games, the Kim regime continues deadly and widespread acts of persecution and murder.
“As many nations come together to take part in the Winter Olympics, let us not forget that every day over 300,000 Christians are denied the right to take part in the religious observance of their choice,” Matthew Rees, advocacy policy officer at Open Doors, said, in a statement. “They are a beleaguered community who are fighting for their very survival.”
Numerous stories in recent days have focused on Kim Yo Jong’s “warm” messaging while representing the North Korean regime at the South Korean games. And some commentators quickly jumped on the strange aura of media coverage surrounding Kim’s visit. And with good reason.
The New York Times tweeted, “Without a word, only flashing smiles, Kim Jong-un’s sister outflanked Vice President Mike Pence in diplomacy.” And The Washington Post headline heralded the following message: “The ‘Ivanka Trump of North Korea’ captivates people in the South at the Olympics.”
Without a word, only flashing smiles, Kim Jong-un's sister outflanked Vice President Mike Pence in diplomacy https://t.co/c2gTuSTF9e
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 11, 2018
With all of this in mind, it’s no surprise that critics and persecution watchdogs, alike, are alarmed by North Korea’s attempts to sway public reaction, and by the media’s seemingly warm coverage of Kim (commentator Bethany Mandel likened the media’s coverage to “perverse fawning“).
All of this is a reminder not to let Kim’s Olympic appearance eclipse the past and present conditions in North Korea — a scenario that is absolutely unacceptable and deadly. So, let’s take a brief look at some of the regime’s most horrific atrocities:
1) North Korea hates Christianity. While there are countless proofs, a 15-page document titled “Total Denial: Violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief in North Korea” from British-based human rights advocacy organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide offers a troubling recap of how Kim Jong-Un’s regime tortures, mutilates, and kills Christians. Here’s just a snippet: “If discovered they are subject to detention and then likely taken to political prison camps (kwanliso). Crimes against them in these camps include extra-judicial killing extermination, enslavement/forced labour, forcible transfer of population, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance, rape and sexual violence, and other inhumane acts.”
2) According to a human rights group, the North Korean regime creates an “atmosphere of fear” by carrying out executions in the public square. “In ordinary areas outside the prison system, our interviewees stated that public executions take place near river banks, in river beds, near bridges, in public sports stadiums, in the local marketplace, on school grounds in the fringes of the city, or on mountainsides,” reads the report.
‘Crimes’ such as stealing rice can lead to a death sentence, and often small time criminals get locked up with some of the harshest thugs. The decision on executions isn’t determined solely in a court, it’s often arbitrarily based on the individuals family background.
3) In order to avoid punishment, Christians must worship in secret. Telling children about the Christian faith certainly carries its risks, with some families secretly praising Jesus with the lights off in the back of their homes. Rather than belting out songs of praise, they are forced to whisper.
4) North Korea also reportedly tricks children into telling on their own parents. One little girl named Eun was told by her third-grade teacher that she had a special assignment: go home and find a specific book and if it was the proper book, she was told she would be rewarded. In the end, Eun discovered the described book — a Bible — and promptly told her teacher. Vernon Brewer, president of World Help, explained what happened next: “The next day she received a prize at her school. But when Eun returned home, her parents weren’t there. It’s hard to imagine such cruelty that would unknowingly turn children on their own parents.”
5) North Korean defector Hee Yeon Lim, 26, recently told The Mirror that her father was a senior government officer under Kim Jong-un, and shared some of the unimaginable details of what reportedly goes on inside of the country: executions, sex slavery and plenty of other atrocities. She recalled being forced to visit a stadium, where 11 musicians were killed after being accused of making a porn video.
Here’s how she described the scene: “What I saw that day made me sick in my stomach. They were lashed to the end of anti-aircraft guns. A gun was fired, the noise was deafening, absolutely terrifying and the guns were fired one after the other. The musicians just disappeared each time the guns were fired into them. Their bodies were blown to bits, totally destroyed, blood and bits flying everywhere. And then after that military tanks moved in and they ran over the bits on the ground where the remains lay.”
6) North Korean captive Otto Warmbier was a 22-year-old American student who was arrested in the communist state for attempting to steal a propaganda poster. He was imprisoned for over a year, and was reported to have been severely mistreated. His parents said that, after his release, he came to them a “complete vegetable.” They said that he was blind and deaf and his hands and legs were deformed, and that his teeth also looked like they had been rearranged with pliers. The coroner, though, disputed these claims, saying there were no obvious signs of torture. Either way, he tragically died last summer not long after his release.
7) Another escapee named Choi Kwanghyuk, 55, told Fox News that “life in North Korea is hell.” He was arrested and detained in 2008 after questions about his faith emerged; he was tragically tortured. He escaped and is now in America, where he is enjoying his life.
8) A recently released video shows how a 24-year-old North Korean soldier was repeatedly shot by guards as he desperately tried to escape the restrictive country by bravely fleeing over the border into South Korea. The man barely survived, but was able to successfully get over the border to freedom.
9) Some reports indicate that North Korea has banned events that include drinking and singing.
10) North Korea’s restrictive regime is known for making some pretty outlandish and bizarre claims, but one of the latest proclamations might top the cake. According to the country’s government-run newspaper, dictator Kim Jong-un can control the weather. The report fed into the idea that North Korea is essentially a cult government, which helps explain why Christianity is so cracked down upon.
And this all only scratches the surface. There are a plethora of horrific stories that show exactly what goes on in North Korea — a collection of horrors that absolutely mustn’t be forgotten, regardless of how kind of “princess-like” Kim Jong-un’s sister purported to be.