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North Korean Christians Arrested; Current Status Unknown
BARTLESVILLE, Okla. (Voice of the Martyrs) -- In a highly unusual press conference in Pyongyang in September, the National Security Service of the Democratic Peopleâ€™s Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced the arrest of â€œforeign spiesâ€ and â€œnative citizens working for a foreign intelligence service.â€ The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), a ministry serving Christians in restricted nations who are persecuted for their faith, announced today that those arrested in North Korea were in fact Christian believers and not spies.
The security service spokesman at the press conference, Li Su Gil, said that those arrested â€œcarried out the missions by means of diverse espionage equipment.â€ He did not name any of those arrested.
VOM has identified the following North Korean Christians who disappeared between the end of May and the end of June this year and are believed to have been arrested by government authorities:
Onseong, North Hamgyong Province:
Chul Huh, male, 34 Myung-Chul Kim, male, 36 Chun-Il Jang, male, 39
Nam-Suk Kang, male, 48 Young-Su Jin, female, 32 (husband and wife)
Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province:
San-Ho Kang, male, 36 Young-Yae Lee, female, 37 (husband and wife)
Cheongjin, North Hamgyong Province:
Mi-Hae Park, female, 30 Suk-Chun Suh, male, 29
These North Korean Christians had applied for government permission to open a portrait photography studio to help support themselves. According to VOM sources working in North Korea, they were not involved in espionage activities. It is believed that items taken by the government were in fact photography equipment to be used in their portrait work.
â€œFollowing Jesus Christ is considered treason in North Korea, where the government mandates that worship is reserved for deceased dictator Kim Il Sung and his son, the current dictator, Kim Jong Il,â€ said Todd Nettleton, spokesperson for VOM. â€œThe Voice of the Martyrs is proud to stand with Christâ€™s followers in North Korea, and deeply concerned for the well-being of our brothers and sisters there. We call on the North Korean government to release these Christian believers, who were involved in legitimate business activities to support themselves and their families.â€
The Voice of the Martyrs has been actively involved in helping North Korean Christians for decades. Among the projects the ministry has carried out for North Korea is the launch of thousands of â€œscripture balloons,â€ mylar balloons filled with helium and printed on either side with scripture passages. VOM has conducted other projects to help North Korean Christians but cannot discuss details publicly to protect the safety of VOM workers and contacts inside North Korea.
VOM sources do not know the whereabouts of the arrested believers. It is possible that they have already been tried and executed.
â€œWe pray that they are alive,â€ said Nettleton. â€œBut we know it is possible that they have finished their race on earth and gone on to their eternal reward in heaven. We encourage Christians everywhere to pray for our brothers and sisters in North Korea, who must constantly face the threat of arrest, torture and execution simply for living out their faith in Jesus Christ.â€
Christians are encouraged to write letters protesting the arrest to the DPRK delegation to the United Nations:
Permanent Mission of the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea to the United Nations
820 Second Avenue, 13th Floor
New York, NY 10017