The cult personalities of the ruling Kim family in Pyongyang may be fast losing their grip on the hearts of North Koreans.
Despite the Communist Regime continuing to persecute anyone practicing their right to freedom of thought and belief, defectors from the regime and human rights groups report that more and more North Koreans are turning to religion to fulfill their lost faith in the party, reported the Daily Wire.
“In the past, the people were told to worship the Kim family as their god, but many North Koreans no longer respect Kim Jong Un,” a North Korean defector told the Telegraph. “That means they are looking for something else to sustain their faith.”
The defector requested to remain anonymous to protect his continuing work in assisting underground churches. He is also a member of the Worldwide Coalition to Stop Genocide in North Korea.
But according to the 2016 International Religious Freedom Report released by the US State Department on Aug. 15, this means increased risk of imprisonment, torture, and potential execution for North Koreans.
“The government continued to deal harshly with those who engaged in almost any religious practices through executions, torture, beatings, and arrests,” stated the report.
“An estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners, some imprisoned for religious reasons, were believed to be held in the political prison camp system in remote areas under horrific conditions,” it continues.
According to the defector’s understanding of life under the regime, however, the increasingly strong-handed methods employed by the party reveal its fragility.
“Even though people know they could be sent to prison—or worse—they are still choosing to worship, and that means that more cracks are appearing in the regime and the system,” he said.
As a result, the regime has also been increasing its propaganda efforts, including releasing statements such as “fortune telling and superstitious beliefs are toxins that damage society and human beings,” said the defector.
Other defectors said that an increasing number of party members are “consulting fortune tellers in order to gauge the best time to defect.”
While some of the population has turned to shamanic beliefs, the UN estimates that there are between 200,000 and 400,000 Christians in the country, which has a population of 25.1 million.
However, it remains very dangerous to even be associated with a religious faith there.
A report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) highlighted that the regime has a policy of guilt by association, resulting in detention of anyone with a Christian relative.
NGOs researching the subject believe that 10-45 percent of those imprisoned in North Korean detention camps are Christians, according to a Cornerstone Ministries International report.
The 2014 report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Human Rights Situation of the DPRK noted that the regime sees Christianity as an ideological threat—a challenge to the authority of the Kim family—and a movement that provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside of the government, according to the State Department report. Many Christians practice their religion outside the state-controlled churches.
During its totalitarian rule, the regime has maintained a facade of religious tolerance in order to quell criticism from the international community. But internally, systematic suppression of non state-sanctioned religious activity remains the status quo.
The 2014 US Government Report of the DPRK Association for Human Rights Studies noted that although 64 Buddhist temples can be found in North Korea, “the temples have lost religious significance in the country,” remaining only as tourist and cultural heritage sites. The report also stated that “North Koreans did not realize Buddhist temples were religious facilities nor see Buddhist monks as religious figures.”
Protestantism, Buddhism, Roman Catholicism, Korean neo-Confucianism, shamanic practices, and Russian Orthodox are among the religions known to be practiced by North Koreans.