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Persecution of North Korean Christians to Increase
New State Security Guidelines Increase Surveillance, Punishments for Citizens Engaged in "Religious Superstition"

Contact: Tim Dillmuth, Seoul USA, 719-362-5234

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Jan. 22, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- With North Korea continuing its twelve year run atop the World Watch list of most persecuting countries, it is hard to imagine that life could become more difficult for North Korean underground believers. But new guidelines released this month by the North Korea's Ministry of People's Security order a crackdown on "superstitious behavior," which according to the head of one North Korea ministry means increased surveillance and even greater punishment for North Korean Christians.

The Rev. Eric Foley, CEO of Colorado-based Seoul USA, says that four behaviors are now subject to heightened enforcement: Slandering North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, drug trafficking and consumption, distributing or viewing illegal recordings, and superstitious behavior.

The directive comes at a time of accelerated veneration of North Korea's new leader. Says Foley, "While Kim Jong Un's birthday has not yet been declared a national holiday, new songs -- like 'Can't Live Without Him' -- appear regularly in North Korean media, and the word 'Great' has already been added to his title."

Foley says that three of the four new People's Security guidelines apply directly to Christians. "In North Korea, failing to give Kim Jong Un all glory and honor is the same as 'slandering' him," explains Foley. "Underground Christians also use Christian videos brought in from outside the country for discipleship. And everything -- from bowing one's head to possessing a Bible -- is 'superstitious behavior.'"

What would it look like for Christian persecution to increase in already Christian-hostile North Korea?

"Our estimates are that one third of North Korea's 100,000 underground Christians are in concentration camps," says Foley. "That means two thirds have managed to avoid detection. Some of those would be believers who have been protected because of their high position or family history." Foley adds that the recent execution of senior Kim advisor Jang Song Taek shows that position or blood no longer exempts anyone from punishment.

Foley says North Korean Christians would not want other Christians to pity them as these new guidelines go into effect. "They tell us not to pray for them but instead to pray with them -- that God will empower us both to be faithful wherever he places us."

To learn more, visit www.seoulusa.org.