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North Korean Christian detention camp survivors give horrific accounts of torture

North Korean Christian detention camp survivors give horrific accounts of torture

Horrifying accounts of the torture of North Korean Christians arrested for the “crime” of their faith have been given by survivors of the totalitarian regime’s brutality.

Details of the cruelty meted out to Christians are contained in a report from a London-based campaign group, Korea Future Initiative. Following interviews with 117 exiled North Koreans, the group identified 215 Christian victims of persecution, who ranged in age from three to 80.

North Korean prison guards pour water mixed with red pepper powder down the nostrils of inmates. “As you sneeze and cough … you tell false statements about things you have never done,” said a survivor. [Image credit: Korea Future Initiative]

Their harrowing testimonies of arbitrary arrest, interrogation and sustained torture in the country’s prisons and “re-education” camps between 1990 and 2019 show that, while the regime of Kim Jong-Un punishes all religious believers, the harshest punishments are often reserved for Christians.

Entire families of Christians are sent to prison camps. “They shackled us all in handcuffs,” said a survivor. “It was heart-breaking to see children being handcuffed. Our child was only 13 years old.”

Courageous Christian Families Went Smiling to Prison Camp

Another witness described the courage of two families, whose members ranged in age from ten to 80, arrested and detained for worshipping at an underground church. After the younger children were forcibly placed into care, the group continued to pray together silently in their cells.

“I asked them whether they were afraid,” said the witness. “They just smiled. [One victim] said she was not frightened and told me, ‘Jesus looks over us.’ I began to cry because I knew what would happen to people like her, but she told me not to worry. The children did not cry either. They were smiling. The next day they were all sent to Chongjin Susong political prison camp.”

A Christian former prisoner prayed to God to save him while he was confined for at least 12 hours in a tiny steel cage, enclosed by heated bars [Image credit: Korea Future Initiative]

Particularly inhumane forms of torture were inflicted by prison guards. In one case a Christian convert was forced inside a tiny steel cage, about 100cms (3ft) high and 100cms (4ft) wide, with metal bars heated by an electric current. “Usually prisoners lasted only three to four hours in the cage, but I sat there for 12 hours and prayed,” said the survivor. “I kept praying for God to save me.”

Eventually he passed out, but when he came round he realised he had been beaten while unconscious and had suffered severe injuries to his face and leg.

Other methods of torture included prisoners being forced to hang on steel bars while being beaten, having their body tightly bound with sticks, having liquid made with red pepper forcibly poured into their nostrils, being forced to kneel with a wooden bar inserted between their knee hollows, strangulation or sleep deprivation.

Women forced to undergo abortions, babies suffocated at birth

“Men were beaten like dogs,” said a Christian woman. “They screamed like crazy because they hurt so much. Even though women were beaten less, I was hit in the face and my skin ruptured and bled a lot … I wept a lot when they hit me again.”

Harrowing accounts are given of pregnant women forced to undergo abortions. A witness described how babies who survived at birth were suffocated by guards and their tiny bodies thrown in cleaning cupboards until burial. Their mothers were forced to resume manual labour the following day, without medicine or rest.

The testimonies in the report echo the testimony of North Korean Christian Sookyung Kang, who fled her homeland to be able to worship freely without risking her life. In November, she gave a rare insight in to the persecution endured by Christians under a regime that exercises control by denying citizens the basic needs of food, sleep and safety.

North Korea is routinely ranked as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian. Believers have been executed simply for owning a Bible. Tens of thousands of Christians have been incarcerated in labour camps where they are abused, tortured and worked to death.

North Korea

This article originally appeared on Barnabas Fund