N.Korea continues to seriously restrict religious freedom: US

The US State Department has said that North Korea continued to seriously limit religious freedom and other basic human rights of its people in 2021.

In its 2021 country report on international religious freedom released on Thursday, the Department claimed that up to 70,000 North Koreans may be held prisoners for their religious beliefs.

“Since 2001, the DPRK has been designated as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom,” Yonhap News Agency quoted the report as saying which referred to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The State Department had designated North Korea as a state violator of religious freedom in November for the 20th consecutive year.

The country was one of only 10 nations to be designated a “country of particular concern” in 2020.

The report added that access to North Korea has further narrowed since Pyongyang began enforcing an unprecedented border closure in 2020 as a precaution against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Covid-19 restrictions in the DPRK further limited people’s rights to freedom of expression, including access to information, to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly, and to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

Citing a report from Open Doors USA, a US-based NGO, the Department said the North is estimated to be holding “50,000 to 70,000 citizens in prison for being Christian”.

The report further noted the North has five state-controlled Christian churches in Pyongyang, but that access to those facilities for the sake of genuine religious activity, especially by regular people, is “heavily restricted”.

North Korean authorities even arrested those “whom they believed lingered too long outside those churches to listen to the music or consistently drove past them each week when services were held, on suspicion of being secret Christians”, it added.




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