From ages 9 to 19, Kang Ch'orhwan witnessed death by starvation, torture, and public execution in one of North Korea's detention centers for political prisoners. There thousands of Christians are still wasting away, as the Communist dictatorship regards faith as subversive.

Because authorities punish not only the charged but their families to three generations, Ch'orhwan was incarcerated for false accusations of espionage made against his grandfather. In the detention camp, he saw Christians punished for praying; forbidden to look up to heaven, they were beaten if they raised their eyes from the ground.

"As Christians could not get out alive, I could not understand why they voluntarily put themselves under the brutal condition of concentration camps when they could be sent back home with one simple denial of their invisible God," Ch'orhwan testified before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1999.

Christians in North Korean prison camps are rounded up monthly for torture and executions, says Suzanne Scholte, president of the Defense Forum Foundation (the U.S. partner of the Seoul-based human-rights organization Citizens Alliance to Help Political Prisoners in North Korea). The regime, she says, propagates its own trinity: deceased former President Kim Il Sung as Father, President Kim Jong-il as Son, and official Juche (roughly translated as "self-reliance") ideology as the Holy Spirit.

Prisoners unable to contain their horror at executions are deemed disloyal to the party and are punished with electrical shock, often to death. Others are sent into solitary confinement in containers so cramped that their legs become permanently paralyzed.

Eight Christians working in a prison smelting factory died instantly when molten ...

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August 6, 2001

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