Credible reports of seven North Korean Christians being executed for their faith have reached reliable sources in China. The seven men, ranging in age from 15 to 58, were executed in April. The circumstances surrounding their deaths cannot be revealed.

North Korea, an extremist communist state, continues to hound religious believers. The U.S. Department of State's 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom stated there were unconfirmed reports of 23 Christians executed between October 1999 and April 2000. Some say that a number of Christians were rounded up and executed before North Korea's June summit with South Korean president, Kim Dae Jung, who is a Catholic.

Although North Korea has some "show churches," religious belief is not tolerated within this state of 20 million people.

"It is really a control issue," said a Seoul–based observer of North Korea. "The regime still expects total loyalty, and when people believe in God behind [the government's] back, it is regarded as the deepest form of disloyalty."

The State Department report, issued on September 5, quoted chilling details from witnesses before the U.S. Congress in April 1999 about how religious prisoners were treated far worse than other prisoners.

One former prison guard testified that "those believing in God were regarded as insane." He told of a woman being beaten and kicked after praying for a child being abused in prison.

The execution reports are impossible to confirm because of the closed nature of North Korean society. Yet the reports accord with stories that North Korean refugees in China tell regarding the treatment of Christians in their homeland.

Indeed, a number of Christians have fled to China desiring asylum on grounds of religious persecution. The estimated number of North Korean refugees in China could be as high as 100,000, but it is unknown how many are Christians.

Related Elsewhere

Read the USCIRF's report on religious freedom in North Korea.This religious freedom page offers statistics on North Korea, as well as the State Department's annual report on religious freedom.Also, check out Amnesty International reports on North Korea.Other media coverage of North Korea includes:U.S., North Korea Wind Up Talks—Associated Press (Oct 3, 2000) N.K. wants to better ties with U.S. before poll—Korea Herald (Oct 3, 2000) N.Korea Hits Out at U.S. Ahead of High-Level Visit—Reuters (Oct 2, 2000) No. 2 Leader, Clinton To Meet In Washington—Chicago Tribune (Oct 1, 2000) N.Korea Threatens U.S. War Remains—Associated Press (Sep 30, 2000) Ministers Discuss N.Korean Food Aid—Associated Press (Sep 27, 2000)Previous Christianity Today articles about North Korea include:Fifty Years After Fleeing North Korea, Syngman Rhee Becomes U.S. Church Head | For first time, no white male candidates for PCUSA moderator. (July 11, 2000) South Koreans Help Neighbors (Aug. 9, 1999) Famine Toll Exceeds 1 Million (Oct. 5, 1998) Evangelicals Plead for Korean Aid (April 7, 1997)

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