Originally published in Christianity Today
There are reports in The Telegraph today of senior figures in the North Korean government being executed for watching South Korean soap operas.
South Korean intelligence puts the number of government and military officials publically executed in North Korea this year at around 50.
They include 10 members of the ruling Workers’ Party understood to have been executed by firing squad for watching South Korean soap operas, as well as participating in bribery or womanising.
The soap operas are reportedly easy to get hold of on the black market but The Telegraph speculated that executing a party member for watching a South Korean TV show “hints at a trumped-up charge”.
The newspaper further reported that those executed are believed to have been close to Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was executed in December last year on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the regime.
North Korea was accused this week of “serious” human rights violations in a report from Marzuki Darusman, the United Nations special rapporteur on North Korea’s human rights situation.
He recommended that Pyongyang be brought before the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity.
The call follows a damning 372-page report from a UN commission of inquiry earlier in the year that catalogued human rights abuses in North Korea, from torture and starvation to imprisonment for attempting to cross the border or secretly practising the Christian faith.
In his report on Tuesday, Darusman urged further action to hold North Korea to account.
“The international community must seize this unique opportunity and momentum created by the commission of inquiry to help to make a difference in the lives of the people of [North] Korea, including victims, and to ensure accountability of those responsible for serious violations of human rights, including crimes against humanity,” he said.
Persecution ministry Open Doors ranks North Korea as the worst country in the world for the persecution of Christians and says anyone caught engaging in clandestine religious activities is at risk of arrest, arbitrary detention, disappearance, torture and even public execution.
It estimates there are 300 000 Christians in North Korea out of a population of 24.5 million, and that between 50 000 and 70 000 of them are being held in labour camps “from which release is not possible”.