North Koreans undertake 3000-mile perilous journey into freedom
Thousands of North Koreans are fleeing the Communist prison state thanks to an underground Christian network spread across China, reports the British newspaper Daily Express. The 3000-mile long network, run by South Korean and Chinese Christians, also dubbed as the ‘underground railroad’, helps dissidents from the north to escape to freedom into Thailand. Many of these escapees later find a new home in South Korea.
Preaching or practicing Christianity could land North Koreans in labour camps. For those condemned, this often means a painful death through harsh labour. Worship of the ruling Kim family is the sole religion mandated by the state. The country still operates under the rule of its long-dead former leader and state’s founder Kim Il-sung, making North Korea a Communist Necrocracy.
Kim Il-sung was a small-time agitator living in Russian exile in the mid-1940s, when Stalin’s chief henchman Lavrentiy Beria hand-picked him to run the Soviet-occupied Korea. Kim Il-sung soon outgrew his Soviet-made jackboots and declared himself “God and creator” — no pun intended. What might sound hilarious or bizarre to an outsider, is no laughing matter for the millions of subjects living inside the Communist prison state for more than seven decades.
After his death in 1994, Kim Il-sung was declared the country’s “Eternal Leader”. The regime is currently run by his grandson Kim Jong-un, who likes to be called the “Supreme Leader”.
There are an estimated 300,000 Christians still inside North Korea, constituting nearly one percent of the entire 25 million population. Neighbouring China is seeing a remarkable revival of Christianity, with the number of practicing Christians expected to exceed 240 million by 2030 — despite Communist repression.
UK’s Daily Express writes:
Thousands of North Koreans are illegally slipping into Thailand through an underground Christian network. (..)
Despite the vast distance from North Korea, Thailand is in fact one of the closest reachable nations where North Koreans can expect government help to reach South Korea – the hermit nation’s estranged sibling.
The ‘North Korea-to-Thailand’ route has seen a surge in new travellers, according to data seen by Reuters.
The news agency reports that 385 North Koreans were processed as unauthorised entrants in Thailand in the first six months of 2017.
If the influx continues, Thailand can expect to see almost 800 North Korean entrants by the end of the year.
Open Doors, a charity serving persecuted Christians worldwide, ranks North Korea “as the most oppressive place in the world for Christians.” The organisation’s annual fact-sheet on North Korea says:
In this totalitarian communist state, Christians are forced to hide their faith completely from government authorities, neighbors and often, even their own spouses and children. Due to ever-present surveillance, many pray with eyes open, and gathering for praise or fellowship is practically impossible. Worship of the ruling Kim family is mandated for all citizens, and those who don’t comply (including Christians) are arrested, imprisoned, tortured or killed. Entire Christian families are imprisoned in hard labor camps, where unknown numbers die each year from torture, beatings, overexertion and starvation. Those who attempt to flee to South Korea through China risk execution or life imprisonment, and those who stay behind often fare no better.
The brave North Korean men and women undertaking the arduous and dangerous journey, sustained often by very little than the sheer power of their faith, have a message for those of us living their complacent lives in safety and freedom. Their pursuit urges us to recognise the real evil in our times and cherish the goodness in our lives.
May we defend our liberty and theirs.
[Cover image via YouTube]
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