A North Korean man who escaped the bondage of that dictatorship and became a Christian says most North Koreans believe Kim Jong-il actually is a god, because that is how he is portrayed, according to a report from Voice of the Martyrs, the worldwide ministry to persecuted Christians.
The Christian, now living in South Korea, was identified only as Mr. Kim. He told Voice of the Martyrs that Kim Jong-il, and his late father Kim Il Sung, both are portrayed as gods.
“All North Koreans really believe that Kim Il Sung is a god. He [hid] the bad things he had done, to preserve his godlike status to the people. I think 70 to 80 percent of what is said about Kim Il Sung is similar to the Bible,” he told the ministry, for which he also recorded himself singing .
Mr. Kim sings “Brightly beams, Our Father’s mercy.”
While comprehensive information about Kim Jong-il’s present rule in North Korea is hard to obtain because of the absolute dictatorship that exists, anecdotal evidence abounds about his cruelty and excesses.
For example, Camp 22, the nation’s largest concentration camp can hold up to 50,000 men, women and children accused of political “crimes,” while reports of atrocities such as the rampant murder of babies born to inmates are supported by witnesses.
Meanwhile, his expensive tastes have become known internationally. Reuters reported, “No one enjoys luxury goods more than paramount leader Kim Jong-il, who boasts the country’s finest wine cellar with space for 10,000 bottles. … His annual purchases of Hennessy cognac reportedly total to $700,000, while the average North Korean earns the rough estimate equivalent of $900 per year.”
Mr. Kim said while growing up he had no real knowledge of religion, and had not even heard about Christianity. He had seen filmed representations of Christmas parties but had no idea they were related to Jesus.
“We were taught that religion is the opium of the people, and that pastors were spies of South Korea, trying to bring imperialism to North Korea. I was taught that religion was bad and school text books reinforced this idea, explaining that people from other countries built the hospitals, schools and did all kinds of good deeds for North Korea in order to spy.
“Because of this, children are brainwashed and taught that Christianity is bad. North Koreans have hatred for Americans because that is what they are taught through their entire education. I was educated like this, too,” he said.
Then as a college student during 1998, he visited relatives in China, and was shocked.
“The conditions overall were better in China, but one thing I really noticed was that people were energetic and had dreams. In North Korea, even college students were depressed and under a lot of pressure. When I returned to North Korea, I couldn’t forget the faces of those in China,” he said.
He went back to China, “escaped” is how he described it, just a few months later.
“I had heard if you go to churches the members would help. That’s why I went to a church,” he said. There he first got financial and other help.
At that company, he was exposed to worship services morning and night.
“I spent one and a half years studying the Bible, underlining passages and taking notes,” he said. “I really focused on studying the Bible, and this was the time that I became a Christian.”
He then was arrested by North Korean officers, held in jail for six months, and eventually was released to be returned to North Korea.
But six months later, “the Christian brother I worked for in China arranged for eight Christians to escape … I was one of them,” he said.
A cross-continent trip as the team of escapees moved from village to village followed.
Nearing the end of their trip, they were apprehended by the military.
Kim recalled the fear, and then suddenly they were released to a village they discovered was inhabited by Christians.
“The villagers took us to their church. We encouraged each other by showing each other our Bibles in our native languages,” he said. With freshly replenished stockpiles of rice balls, clothing and money, the team took off again, to arrive a short time later in Thailand.
There, another church stepped in to help.
“In my opinion, Christianity is important for North Korean believers; it will be instrumental in our healing process,” he said.
Son Jong Hoon and his brother, Son Jong Nam, who has been condemned to execution in North Korea for being a Christian (Voice of the Martyrs photo)
An international campaign is being launched by the Voice of the Martyrs to generate worldwide pressure on North Korean officials who have ordered a man executed for being a Christian.
Son Jong Hoon told a recent news conference in Washington, D.C., that his life’s goal now is to save his brother, Son Jong Nam, a former North Korean Army officer turned underground evangelist.
“I pray to God for my brother’s safety,” he said, describing the horrors of the basement jail cell where Son Jong Nam has been held, beaten and tortured since his most recent arrest.
VOM is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.
It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.
He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.
The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, “Tortured for Christ,” was released.
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