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North Korea ? Thousands Locked Up In Prison Camps

Contact: Jerry Dykstra, Director, Open Doors USA, 616-915-4117, jerryd@odusa.org

SANTA ANA, Calif., October 2 /Christian Newswire/ -- The number of North Koreans who are imprisoned in concentration camps is much greater than previously assumed.

"It is not inconceivable that the number of prisoners has passed the one million mark," says Simon, who is in charge of the work of Open Doors in North Korea. "Many camps are so large that they are not recognized as camps on satellite photos. They consist of entire villages." For security reasons, Simon doesn't reveal how the research was done. "There are many lives at stake," he states.

The eight prison camps for political prisoners probably contain between half a million and a million people. In addition to this, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are made to work every day in 30 other camps. This is reported by Open Doors – an international ministry which supports and strengthens persecuted Christians in 45 countries – on the basis of research conducted inside the country.

Simon, who has contact through networks with tens of thousands of Christians in North Korea, estimates the number of underground Christians to be at least 200,000 and it's likely that there are as many as 400,000 to half a million. At least a quarter of the Christians are imprisoned for their faith in political prison camps from which people rarely get out of alive.

"In North Korea, it is strictly forbidden to be a Christian," said Simon. "Anyone who has a Bible is sent to a camp, along with his or her whole family. Refugees who are detained in China or North Korea can be sentenced to a few years in a prison camp. But if the North Korean authorities discover that the refugees have been in touch with Christians, they are dealt with much more harshly. Torture and execution often occur."

Open Doors receives refugees in China, but the number crossing the border is declining, Simon reports.

"It is so difficult to cross any of the border rivers. Traps have been laid on the North Korean side, including pits with bamboo spikes in them. On both sides of the river, high fences with barbed wire are being erected. Regularly raids are made both in North Korea and in China to arrest refugees and those helping them. China has installed cameras and offered rewards to anyone who reports refugees."