As Trump-Kim Summit II Begins, Remember Persecuted North Korean Christians

As Trump-Kim Summit II Begins, Remember Persecuted North Korean Christians February 25, 2019

On Wednesday, February 27, President Trump will be holding his second summit with North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un.

The two will meet in Vietnam, and as I wrote about on Sunday evening, expectations for anything more than a show are pretty low. The Trump administration is already suggesting that the demands placed on the rogue regime be “softened” in light of the information from our intelligence community that they’ve done nothing to curtail their nuclear ambitions since the first summit in Singapore, last year.

Since that June 2018 meeting, our president has often sang the praises of Kim. He has rejected U.S. intelligence on the activities of the regime, and even told a cheering rally crowd that he and Kim had “fallen in love.”

Frankly, I’m all for civil discourse between world leaders, and feel more should be done to facilitate open, positive lines of communication.

That being said, there are tyrants in the world. There are places where human rights abuses are so dire that they require a strong voice of objection from the rest of the world. What you don’t do, is coddle and encourage these kinds of regimes.

North Korea is just such a place, and Kim Jong Un is just such a tyrant.

One of the things that baffles me most about the evangelical base for President Trump is how his repeated adoration of Kim has not raised any red flags, or resulted in any perceptible ripple in the sea of support the American church community has for him.

Where are the Christian leaders willing to stand up and say, “Mr. President, maybe you should look at what North Korea, under the Kim regime does to Christians in their land before praising him so openly”?

Open Doors USA, a human rights organization that tracks the most brutal and oppressive nations, in terms of Christian persecution, has North Korea ranked number one in the world for their treatment of the estimated 300,000 Christians who live there.

They have maintained that number one status for the past 18 years.

That puts them ahead of nations like Afghanistan, Somalia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, and Sudan, among others.

Just as a side note, Vietnam, where Trump and Kim will be meeting, is ranked at number 20 on the watch list.

There’s a wonderful verse from 1 Corinthians that speaks of the importance of unity in the Body of Christ – that is, the whole body of believers, who are meant to rely on each other to function and support each other in this mission that has been given us while in this life.

“And if one member suffers, all the parts share the suffering; if one member is honored, all rejoice with it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:26 AMP

If one member suffers, all the parts share the suffering.

How then should American Christians respond to the treatment of our North Korean brothers and sisters?

We should pray for them, absolutely. We should pray without ceasing for their safety and release from the ugly chains of oppression. We should pray for strength. We should pray for opportunities to change hearts within their government.

However, there are more tangible, worldly efforts American Christians can take up. Part of that should be calling for our president to address these abuses with Kim, or to at least take a more sober look at the man he claims to be in love with.

Since I’m not looking for Trump to speak of it, nor any of the Christian leaders that cling to him, I’m going to cover some of the abuses here, just as a refresher for those who know, and an FYI for those still in the dark.

To begin, there is actually an open “church” base in Pyongyang.

For the purposes of propaganda, there are about 4 different churches in the city. The leadership of those churches are usually intelligence agents. The “sermons” are not about the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ, but rather, obedience to the state. These churches also remain closed most days, other than for what is necessary to maintain the ruse.

The source of the persecution in the nation stems from atheism as a “state religion,” Communism, and a post-Communist society. In such societies, anything that might result in questioning the authority of the state is a threat.

Christianity is such a threat, because it preaches the supremacy of Christ above the fleeting systems of man. It is incompatible with a nation where the people are told to bow down and give honor to men.

Christians are considered “reactionaries.”

Citizens are, instead, ordered to worship Kim Jong Un and his father, Kim Jong Il.

Interestingly enough, Kim’s great-grandparents, Kim Hyong-jik and Kang Ban-sok were both devout Christians and part-time protestant missionaries. It was their son, Kim Il-sung, who repudiated Christianity, at the insistence and with the influence of Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, setting the nation on the course we now see.

What is life like for Christians in North Korea today?

To be outed as a Christian in the nation can result in imprisonment in harsh labor camps, not just for the accused, but for their entire family. Those who wish to worship must do so in absolute secrecy.

To be caught in possession of a Bible, or even a Bible verse is punishable up to death.

Christians meet in secret places, usually with a lookout posted outside, and they huddle, praying quietly, so as not to be detected.

Those who are caught are subjected to the harshest possible treatment.

One North Korean escapee, Choi Kwanghyuk, described the horrendous conditions for Christians. In an October 2017 Fox News piece, he, as well as a former guard for these prisons laid out a tale of horror.

There are multiple prisons to house and torture political “enemies,” but some are more feared than the others.

Also known as Hoeryong concentration camp, and part of a large system of prison camps throughout the Communist dictatorship, Camp 22 is an 87-square-mile penal colony located in North Hamgyong province where most of the prisoners are people accused of criticizing the government.

Inmates, most of whom are serving life sentences, face harsh and often lethal conditions. According to the testimony of a former guard from Camp 22, prisoners live in bunkhouses with 100 people per room and some 30 percent show the markings of torture and beatings — torn ears, gouged eyes and faces covered with scars.

Prisoners are forced to stand on their toes in tanks filled with water up to their noses for 24 hours, stripped and hanged upside-down while being beaten or given the infamous “pigeon torture” — where both hands are chained to a wall at a height of 2 feet, forcing them to crouch for hours at a time.

Tiny rations of watery corn porridge leave inmates on the brink of starvation, and many hunt rats, snakes and frogs for protein. Some even take the drastic measure of searching through animal dung for undigested seeds to eat. Beatings are handed out daily for offenses as simple as not bowing down in respect to the guards fast enough. Prisoners are used as practice targets during martial arts training. Guards routinely rape female inmates.

And this is the treatment given to Christians, if not executed, outright.

This is all in service to the false deity of the Kim family and the abhorrent conditions of the rogue nation.

So ask me why it is stomach-turning to hear our president fluff his American Christian base in one breath, but lavishly praise a bloodthirsty tyrant who targets Christians in the next.

We are not called to look after only the interests of our brothers and sisters in our nation, but for those around the world.

Our North Korean brothers and sisters are in chains, and that should grieve us in our spirit. We should be on our faces praying for breakthrough.

What’s more, we should be pushing our leaders to acknowledge the plight of Christians in the land. President Trump, especially, should not be giving the regime his doting approval. It is an insult to the faith.

Not that I believe Trump is a Christian. He openly rejected God before the nation, when he said during an interview that he didn’t bring God into his life. He didn’t do things to need forgiveness for. He simply tried to acknowledge his wrongs on his own, and to do better.

That is the exact opposite of Christianity.

American Christians celebrating this president should care for more than simply domestic policy and “owning the libs.”

They should also care about how their praise looks to those Christians who are suffering, while Trump praises their tormentors and executioners.

Pray for the church in North Korea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • captcrisis

    It bears repeating: for the next two years, everybody Trump deals with, including leaders of other countries, will be smarter than him: better informed, more able to think things through, better able to adjust to changing conditions, better at manipulating him, and more in control of their own mouths.

  • Brian Orion

    Remember that Trump wishes he could BE Kim Jong-Un, literally worshiped as God.

  • IllinoisPatriot

    … not to mention less afraid of US retaliation because they know that a little flattery to Trump will excuse most aggressions against the US – even documented aggression if they can plant the idea that US intelligence is “against them”, giving them something “in common” with Trump.

    Our foes will be emboldened, our allies discouraged as Trump trash-talks our allies and trading partners and sucks up to our foes.

    Tow more years minimum. Then we face a choice of 4 more years of Trump’s destruction and division or socialist Democrats slow-walking their brand of destruction and division….

    I will likely vote 3rd party to record a vote that supports neither one. That means voting 3rd-party down the line because supporting the Republicans in Congress that are supporting Trump is as bad as supporting Trump directly. Same with supporting Democrat socialists / communists / Sharia Law proponents in congress or local government since any money sent to Democrats will be shared with the most radical and anti-American among them.

  • Cousin_Ken

    RE:”even documented aggression”…
    see 1969 EC-121 shootdown incident
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1969_EC-121_shootdown_incident
    A 57th birthday celebration by Kim Il-sung; shooting down unarmed Peter Rabbit 21, sending Crew 25 (heroes that gave their all to support and defend the Constitution Trump dosen’t) to the bottom of the Sea of Japan.

  • It goes without saying that there is a pattern here. Trump’s other love (Putin and Russia) are being promoted as leaders of the “global Christian Right”, yet they too do the opposite of Christianity. Putin also signed laws which prohibit the sharing of faith in homes, online, or anywhere but government recognized church buildings. In other words, laws against evangelizing.

    Besides their dubious claim of being Christians, Trump and Putin both incessantly have the need to project themselves as strongmen both physically and mentally. Keep in mind that without their wealth ( i.e. materialism) they would have nothing to boast about. Not that they do anyway (Matthew 6:19-21). Whenever the “virtues” of Trumpism are extolled, I’m reminded of demon Screwtape’s advice to his nephew Wormwood.

    “[M]an has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” or “false,” but as “academic” or “practical,” “outworn” or “contemporary,” “conventional” or “ruthless.” Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.” ~C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

    If that doesn’t work there is always this.

    “A Communist once told me his method. First you explain to a Christian sympathizer that Communism is compatible with Christianity. That accomplished, you explain that Christianity is not compatible with Communism.” ~Robert Conquest

    Of course that method of subversion can be applied elsewhere. First you explain to Christian and conservative sympathizers that Trumpism is compatible with Christianity and conservatism….

  • Alpha 1

    It’s useful to put the idea that American evangelicals care about the persecution of Christians to rest. Persecuted Christians were never anything more than a grievance object for them: They get to live vicariously through the persecution of others, because North Korean Christians being imprisoned is just like when a retail worker says happy holidays to an American Christian! Clearly they’re all a persecuted people.

    Trump has proven that American evangelicalism was always about cruelty, grievance and bigotry. It’s easier to deal with it as it really is, instead of having to expose it when it pretends to be something else. Hopefully nobody is going to act as if evangelicals have any moral authority from now on.

  • Cousin_Ken

    or be like Kim Il-sung, declared “eternal President of the Republic”.
    Kim Il-sung established an extensive personality cult. [like MAGA, huh?]

    In February 1946 Kim Il-sung nationalized healthcare and made it available to all citizens. [Trump Care anyone?]

    Trump isn’t the first to be fooled by the Kim family:

    In June 1994, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter travelled to Pyongyang for talks with Kim. To the astonishment of the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kim agreed to halt his nuclear research program and seemed to be embarking upon a new opening to the West.
    ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Il-sung

  • Cousin_Ken

    Hello BTG,

    Godspeed, and thanks for the Robert Conquest and C.S. Lewis quotes. Conquest was a wise historian and poet. In the phrase of Timothy Garton, he was Solzhenytsin before Solzhenytsin.
    (Love your twist for the MAGA cult.)

  • GotMyLoveGlassesOn

    I refuse to use such a broad brush to describe American evangelicals, as I am, myself, an evangelical Christian.
    The witness of the church, however, has taken a hit, because of the lukewarm hearts of far too many.

  • chemical

    I actually agree with both you and Alpha 1: American evangelism is about cruelty, grievance, and bigotry, but American evangelism isn’t a monolithic institution and there are dissenting voices. The problem you’re having right now, and one which I’ll be happy to point out when making the case to anyone on the fence about Christianity is that 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016, and I bet when 2020 rolls around that number will be even higher. Why? Think about what’s more likely to happen to a decent evangelical who doesn’t like Trump: For every one of him or her, there are 4 evangelicals lording on about how they are ungodly, anti-American traitors for not voting for Trump.

    I know evangelical Christians aren’t one giant pack of ruthless bigots, but your church has been working hard at purging anyone in the ranks who isn’t a ruthless bigot. At least, that’s the way it appears to me, as an outsider. Your churches will continue to shrink, and as they do, continue to replace worshipping God with worshipping Donald Trump and the Almighty Dollar.

    I think the evangelical church is salvageable, but I don’t think they will do what is necessary to save themselves. Matter of fact, I’m not even going to mention what they need to do to save themselves, because I’ll be shouted down.

  • John225

    Youv’e all heard the story about the frog and the pot of boiling water. Throw the frog into a pot of boiling hot water and it will jump out straight away but put a pot of water on the stove with the frog in it and gradually raise the heat until it boils and the frog will happily sit there until it boils to death. America is the frog. Trump sort advise from the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about North Korea before he left for Vietnam. Who else flew to Vietnam? The Russian minister. Its barely news. I’m not liking this new normal.

  • chemical

    The North-South Korea divide didn’t even happen until 1948 — that ended up happening over the US and USSR backing different political leaders. Korea was under Imperial Japanese rule from 1912-1945 (If you ever run into an old Korean person who remembers this, don’t mention this, as it really sucked for Korea at the time).

    We won WW2 with the USSR’s help. Japan lost, and that meant Korea was off the table for them. Originally it was planned for a unified Korea during the nation rebuilding phase, but the USSR was having none of that, as they wanted a communist running Korea. They appointed Kim at almost the same time South Korea held a democratic election — both in 1948.

    In 1946 Kim was still kissing Russian hindquarters, and Russia was occupying what would become North Korea (technically the country was unified at this time), so I find it hard to believe that he nationalized healthcare in 1946.

  • Alpha 1

    I honestly kind of sympathize with anti-Trump evangelicals. I’m a (atheist) Jew, so I know what it’s like being tethered to that sort of violent, reactionary nationalism. I think the reason evangelicalism in particular is unsalvageable is because it’s been totally hollowed out as a religion and only exists as a vehicle for right-wing politics Evangelical beliefs have just become the republican party platform, so if that platform is written by someone like Trump then evangelicalism will embrace his vices, the same way it embraced the vices of Bush. As long as evangelicalism teaches that the will of Christ is to vote republican, it can only decay with the republican party. And since, as you said, anyone who suggests otherwise is forced out….

    So my advice, I suppose, would be for dissenting evangelicals to find an identity as Christians that exists beyond right-wing politics. Even without Trump, conservative grievance culture has become all consuming. As soon as you create space for it, it will corrupt whatever it touches and turn it into a vehicle for its real god: enforcing pre-existing hierarchies through cruelty. It’s how evangelicalism became an extension of Trumpism, and how it will become a vehicle for whatever comes after him. If you can’t extract Christianity from conservatism, you’ll be doomed to worship MAGA Jesus for all eternity.

  • IllinoisPatriot

    We now have not only Democrats and the liberal Press redefining the meanings of common words, but now the Republicans and the Press previously known as “conservative” are doing it too.

    We’ve all see how the Democrat Party is being referred to more and more as the “Democratic” Party and Democrats are being referred to more and more as “Democratics” even as both the party and the political candidates therein race to the left and open embrace Socialism. The term “Socialist Party” does not play with with most Americans, but people will confuse “Democratic Party” with Democracy even as the party embraces and evangelizes Socialism (with a big-government and policies virtually indistinguishable from Communism).

    Meanwhile, the Republican Party no longer talks about the US Republic, but about the US Democracy (mob rule), and while openly rejecting the party platform that is currently based on principles of honor, integrity, service, and small government, openly embraces populism and the idea that the US of A needs (and wants) a king in order to “get things done” – to bypass Congress with phony emergency declarations (not because there’s an emergency but because by pretending there is one and declaring it so, the “king” can utilize the power that was provided to him for emergency use in the event of war or catastrophe. The Republican populism that results in worhip of a man has not been lost on the opportunists that have made names for themselves as self-proclaimed profits of the Lord (Note I said – and meant – “profits” not “prophets”). The opportunists that have chosen to throw their lots in with Trump are no more religions leaders than Trump himself is a born-again Christian. They have confused “goods of the world” with “good of the world” and are working toward the wrong goal. They have fallen for their own schtick, selling “magic spring water” and “forgiveness of sin” (complete with passes into Heaven) via paid TV half-hour infomercials. Because of their megaphones however, these “Evangelical Profit Preachers” have a louder voice in our media and culture than do the Churches and those that attend Church. Because so many colleges and universities have been so successful at discrediting Biblical teachings (as well as the negative impact of worldly “divinity schools” churning out cookie-cutter preachers preaching “cheap grace” and “feel-good” messages from the pulpit), the perception that “profit preachers” represent the Church and/or the Evangelical community has taken hold and has re-defined (for a subset of the population) the term “Evangelical Christian”.

    Unless we WANT our society to tear itself apart because people have stopped agreeing on the meaning of words and unless we WANT politi-speak to become the norm, we need to turn back to local communities and the core nuclear communities of family and Church that formed the original moral and economic strength of this country. The family and Church(es) formed the moral authority that kept the greed and lust at bay and allowed the growth and teaching of honor, integrity, leadership, and (in doing so) allowed for free association, tolerance, mutual aid and charity toward others as well as an understanding of human nature and the destructive natures of greed, of lying, of envy, of hatred and of con artists and especially of those that mock and denigrate what they do not understand or what they feel they cannot be a part of.

  • IllinoisPatriot

    The terms ‘conservative’ and ‘conservatism’ have been corrupted and subverted by Republicans in the same way that ‘democracy’ has been subverted by Democrats and “Democrat Party” has been morphed into “Democratic Party” even as the party moves into obvious and blatant socialism. The Democrat Party has now moved so far left that Bernie Sanders – an avowed Socialist – will likely run as a Democrat in the next election rather than as a Socialist Independent – and the Democrat Party may actually embrace him for it.

    Likewise the term “Evangelical Christian” has been corrupted and subverted by pollsters that use the term “Evangelicals” as if they were a political voting block rather than an identifiable subset of Christian beliefs.

    Your post shows that you have bought into the politi-speak definitions that include “Democratic Party” as a synonym for “Socialist Party”, “conservative” as a synonym for “Trump-supporter”, and “democracy” as a description of our form of government.

    Please don’t play those grade-school games of trying to re-define the language to suit your image here. You will only discredit your own postings and will only be mis-understood and automatically ignored / rejected by those that are using the terms in their original (true) meanings.

  • chemical

    So my advice, I suppose, would be for dissenting evangelicals to find an identity as Christians that exists beyond right-wing politics… If you can’t extract Christianity from conservatism, you’ll be doomed to worship MAGA Jesus for all eternity.

    Well said. This is EXACTLY what I was going to suggest. I also don’t think evangelicals are going to do it.

    Trump is going to come crashing down one way or another, whether it’s a 2020 loss or Mueller report leading to his impeachment (IMO the most likely scenario is 2020 loss), and when he does he takes the church down with him. Evangelicals already hitched their wagon to the Trump train, which has been off its rails for a while now. I’m actually impressed and a little bit jealous: In all my years as an atheist, I couldn’t have orchestrated a more thorough destruction of the church’s credibility than what Trump has accomplished in a few years.

  • Alpha 1

    I agree that embracing Trump means evangelicalism is going to lose its standing within the wider culture, even if Trump serves 2 terms. But the eternally radicalizing conservative media bubble is still going to exist after Trump is gone, and within that bubble evangelicalism will still be taken seriously. That bubble is going to continue its disdain for a liberalizing culture and keep embracing antisemitism and anti-muslim bigotry. Combine this with the fact that evangelical teachings reinforce all the hierarchies conservatives love and evangelical Christianity could be used as a cultural expression to distinguish conservatives from the liberals, muslims and “globalists” they hate and fear. You may see conservatives who are otherwise indifferent to religion embracing the forms of evangelicalism to reinforce their politics and political movement, giving evangelicals a bigger slice of a shrinking pie.

    I don’t know what would happen after that though. Trumpism is too culturally toxic to be accepted into the mainstream without liberals deciding the rehabilitate it. Post-Trump evangelicalism would probably exist as a revenant, waiting for a new leader to bring them to the promised land of a white ethnostate. But when that leader comes along, he’ll have millions of evangelicals ready to serve him like they served Trump.

  • Alpha 1

    The Democratic Party has had that name since it was founded in the early 19th century. It has never been the “Democrat Party.”

    Anyways the Democratic Party should run a Bernie Sanders/Rashida Tlaib ticket in 2020. Jewish/Muslim solidarity to beat Trump and bring socialism to America would be awesome.

  • John225

    According to the theory of Anacyclosis over time a democracy becomes corrupted and transforms into an ochlocracy (mob rule) and the constitutional republic was devised as a way of preventing that by preventing the majority from over ruling the rights of the minority. As such democracy is not yet mob rule and there are plenty of longlived democracies in the world that haven’t yet broken down to mob rule. What is happening right now is the breaking of constitutional protections by a Demagogue (Trump) to allow the US to become an ochlocracy.

    I read an article that basically said that Trump support was strongest where society was most fractured, that the key factor was alienation of people. One of the key vectors to social isolation in modern society is strangely enough social media where connections are blind due to the nature of the media. Social media platforms are also coincidently the biggest source of unvetted news and consequently false news.