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Credible reports of seven North Korean Christians being executed for their faith have reached reliable sources in China. The seven men, ranging in age from 15 to 58, were executed in April. The circumstances surrounding their deaths cannot be revealed. North Korea, an extremist communist state, continues to hound religious believers. The U.S. Department of State's 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom said there were unconfirmed reports of 23 Christians executed between October 1999 and April 2000. Some say that a number of Christians were rounded up and executed before North Korea's June summit with South Korea's prime minister, Kim Dae Jung, who is a Presbyterian elder. Although North Korea has some "show churches," religious belief is not tolerated within this state of 20 million people."It is really a control issue," said a Seoul–based observer of North Korea. "The regime still expects total loyalty, and when people believe in God behind [the government's] back, it is regarded as the deepest form of disloyalty."The State Department report, issued on September 5, quoted chilling details from witnesses before the U.S. Congress in April 1999 about how religious prisoners were treated far worse than other prisoners. One former prison guard testified that "those believing in God were regarded as insane." He told of a woman being beaten and kicked after praying for a child being abused in prison. The execution reports are impossible to confirm because of the closed nature of North Korean society. Yet the reports accord with stories that North Korean refugees in China tell regarding the treatment of Christians in their homeland. Indeed, a number of Christians have fled to China desiring asylum on grounds of ...

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October 23, 2000

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