North Korea recently marked the 60th anniversary of the truce which ended the Korean War in 1953. SKY news correspondent Mark Stone and his crew were granted access to the secretive state to film the commemorations.
According to Stone: “Operating as journalists in North Korea is strictly controlled and monitored. Each broadcaster or newspaper is assigned two so-called guides. In reality they are minders. There are two so that they can watch each other as well as us, such is the level of suspicion here........it is extremely hard to get under the skin of this place.”
Unlike any other state, North Korea has been ruled by the same family for over sixty years. In that time, the regime has developed its own political ideology known as Juche.
Wikipedia puts it succinctly: “the name comes from juche, sometimes translated in North Korean sources as ‘independent stand’ or ‘spirit of self-reliance’. It has also been interpreted as ‘always putting Korean things first’. According to Kim Il-sung, the Juche Idea is based on the belief that “man is the master of everything and decides everything.”
Juche is however much more than a political ideology. The editors of the website www.adherents.com argue that, "from a sociological viewpoint, it is clearly a religion".
An article in The Economist in April entitled, ‘Venerating the Kims Just one more religion?’ argues that: “Juche is more obviously religious in character than either Soviet communism or Maoism. Thomas J Belke, an American Protestant theologian who has writen a book about juche, agrees that it's a religion. ‘It has a comprehensive belief system, holy places, distinctive customs...and it displaces other religions’............ The founder is sometimes presented as a kind of god, and his successor as the ‘son of a god’—a formula that has echoes of Christian theology. If the latest member of the dynasty to take the helm, Kim Jong Un, has any legitimacy, it is as the grandson of one divine figure and son of another. The young scion is starting to accumulate laudatory titles of his own.
The birth of Kim Jong Il is said to have been foretold by a swallow and attended by miraculous signs, including a double rainbow and a brilliant star. He is also credited with more banal tokens of miraculous power, such as a record-breaking performance at golf.”
Given the ruthless implementation of Juche in North Korea, it is not surprising that Christians are brutally persecuted. Open Doors, a Christian human rights organisation rates North Korea at No 1 in its watch list for human rights abuses.
Melanie Kirkpatrick, writing in the Wall Street Journal in December 2012 described the difficulties faced by Christians documented by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The Commission, “describes ‘the arrest, torture and possible execution’ of Christians, Buddhists and others conducting clandestine religious activity in the North. It cites several widely reported cases of persecution of Christians, including the public execution in 2009 of Ri Hyon Ok for the crime of distributing Bibles. In keeping with the regime's policy of punishing wrongdoers' families, Ri's husband and three children reportedly were dispatched to a political prison.’
Despite the relentless persecution, the church in North Korea, unlike the church in the Scotland, is growing.
Melanie Kirkpatrick in her Wall Street Journal article says: “....... despite this repression, something is happening that many characterise as nothing short of a miracle: Christianity appears to be growing in North Korea. Open Doors International, which tracks the persecution of Christians world-wide, puts the number of Christians in North Korea at between 200,000 and 400,000.”
This is happening through individuals within the indigenous population coming to faith and fearlessly taking the Gospel to their neighbours at the risk of death or imprisonment.
This should surely shame our cosy, ‘all talk and no action’ evangelicals into carrying out the ‘great commission’ in the local communities of their own land.
Scottish evangelicals who do evangelism.......now there’s a real miracle !!!!