Ri Hyon Ok, aged 33, has been publicly executed for distributing the Bible, and also for charges of spying for South Korea and the United States, according to reports from a South Korean based alliance of human rights groups.
The execution took place in the north-western city of Ryongchon near the border with China on 16 June. Ri’s parents, husband and three children were sent to a political prison camp in the north-eastern city of Hoeryong the following day – in accordance with the government’s policy of imprisoning three generations of close family associated with a Christian.
North Korea claims to guarantee freedom of religion for its 24 million people but in reality severely restricts religious observances. The cult of personality surrounding national founder Kim Il Sung and his son, current leader Kim Jong Il, is a virtual state religion.
The government has authorised three state churches, one Catholic and two Protestant, but they cater to foreigners; North Koreans cannot attend. However, defectors and activists say more than 30,000 North Koreans are believed to practice Christianity secretly.
The activist alliance, whose Korean title translates as the Investigative Committee On Crimes Against Humanity, also alleged in its report that in March, North Korean security agents arrested Seo Kum Ok, 30, another Christian, in a city near Ryongchon and tortured her. The agents alleged she was attempting to spy on a nuclear site and hand over the evidence to South Korea and the US. The report said it remains unclear whether she survived. Her husband was also arrested and their two children disappeared, it said. (Daily Express)