Leaders of Christian Humanitarian groups working in South Korea are alleging that North Korea is operating COVID “quarantine camps” where people are suffering from malnutrition and a lack of medical care.
According to The Christian Post, Tim Peters, who operates Helping Hands Korea, told the South China Morning Post that the camps are located near the Chinese border and are providing “an absolutely minimum amount of food.” Peters also said that sources told his Seoul-based Non-Government Organization (NGO) that North Korea has provided little to no medicine to those who are forced into the camps.
He added that it is “up to the families of the quarantined citizens to come to the edge of the camps and bring food to keep quarantined relatives alive along with whatever health-related aids they can muster, whether it be purchased medicines sold in the jangmadang markets, or even herbal home remedies gathered from the mountainsides. My sources indicate many in these camps have already died, not only from the pandemic but also from starvation and related causes.”
David Lee, a pastor who works with North Korean defectors in Seoul, echoed Peters’s concerns as well. He said that North Korea does not “have proper testing kits.” He also alleged that those who show COVID symptoms are “being forced into isolation, or being boarded up in their homes without food or other support and left to die.”
These anecdotal accounts contradict claims by North Korean leadership that the country has seen no cases of what they call the “ghost disease.” At a military parade in October, Kim Jong Un proclaimed that no one had the “malignant virus.” He further declared, “The fact that we have defended all our people from the harmful epidemic disease sweeping the whole world can be said to be a natural duty and success of our Party.”
Despite Kim Jong Un’s proclamations, the stories told by Christian leaders square up with the types of repressive policies that have been reported out of North Korea for decades. The Korea Future Initiative recently highlighted religious persecution in North Korea in a report titled Persecuting Faith: Documenting Religious Freedom Violations in North Korea.
Il-Lyong Ju, an exile from North Korea, wrote the foreword to the report. In it, he told of how the government heard that his cousin’s parents “encountered” a Bible while they were in China. They executed his cousin's parents and his cousin’s whereabouts are unknown. He said, “they had only touched religion, but they still lost their lives.” After discussing this cruelty and others like it, he concluded, “The cruel actions of the privileged few in North Korea who take our lives and control our thoughts must be prevented. North Korean officials, whose crimes evoke thoughts of Auschwitz, must be identified and held accountable.”
North Korea also remains at the top of the Open Doors Watch List, which ranks countries where Christians face the greatest pressure and persecution.
Photo courtesy: Pixabay
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”