Human rights groups campaigning for justice in North Korea have published a letter welcoming Pope Francis to the peninsula and appealing to him to draw attention to the grave abuses taking place in the country.
"There is no freedom of religion in North Korea," they write. "The only God in North Korea is Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un, and anyone who do not believe in them will be persecuted through public executions and political prison camps."
Pope Francis arrives in Seoul on Thursday for a four day visit to South Korea.
Here below is the full text of the letter.
Welcoming Pope Francis to Korea
We warm-heartedly welcome Pope Francis to South Korea.
Pope Francis’s words, “The Pope must serve all people, especially the poor, the weak, the vulnerable,” and his actions have inspired millions of people. The thirty-thousand North Korean defectors currently residing in South Korea were also struck by Pope Francis’s love for mankind, and are persevering through the obstacles that they confront.
The Sewol Ferry disaster has placed South Korea in a state of national grievance. As Pope Francis has preached, we, the North Korean defectors, have not forgotten the prayers for the victims and their families. We have shed tears for the students who have passed away.
Inevitably, the Sewol Ferry disaster has reminded us of another tragedy that is occurring today in North Korea. Just as the victims of the Sewol disaster, 25 million North Koreans cannot escape the ferry called ‘North Korea’ and remain trapped, slowly waiting for their death. The North Koreans who are trapped within the regime are screaming for our help. It is common for families in North Korea to starve to death and to not have the liberty to move around the country. Sadly, many North Koreans who have tried to escape ‘North Korean Ferry’ have to risk public execution or live the rest of their lives in political prison camps if caught.
Furthermore, there is no freedom of religion in North Korea. People in North Korea cannot believe God or Jesus Christ. The only God in North Korea is Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un, and anyone who does not believe in them will be persecuted through public executions and political prison camps.
The first step to escape North Korea is crossing the border to China. However, when these North Koreans are caught by the Chinese police, the Chinese Government repatriates them back to the regime. The repatriated North Korean defectors are then sentenced with treason and are publicly executed or sent to political prison camps. So, we have to stop the Chinese Government from repatriating North Korean defectors.
The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea urged the international community for the immediate action on the human rights violations in North Korea by stating: “The crimes of North Korea’s regime are as chilling as those of the Nazis.” Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that since grave and widespread human rights violations in North Korea have been revealed, we should not delay action.
We sincerely appeal to Pope Francis.
Please pray for people in North Korea, North Korean defectors lost in China, and two hundred thousand detainees in political prison camps in North Korea that they would be free from dictatorship and oppression, enjoy freedom, and live as human being. Also, please urge for attention on North Korean human rights so that many people in the world are aware of the human rights issues in North Korea. Please deliver a strong message about freedom of religion to the North Korean regime so that many North Korean people’s hearts can be healed. Lastly, we ask for your strong prayer for reunification of the Korean Peninsula and the freedom of North Korean people.
North Korean Christian Association
North Korean Writers in Exile PEN Center
North Korea Reform Radio
Committee for the Democratization of North Korea
Youth Forum of North Korea Democratization
Young Defectors’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights
North Korean People’s Liberation Front
North Korea Strategy Center
Sungwei Comrade Society
People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE)
The World Institute for North Korea Studies
North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity
Free North Korea Radio
Fighters for Free North Korea
Free North Korean Association
NK Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea
North Korean Refugee Women’s Human Rights Association
Association of the North Korean Defectors
Hana Women’s Association