Christians held in North Korean prisons suffer most while in detention, according to a former inmate who witnessed what he described as the “harsh treatment” of prisoners.
“They are especially harsh on Christians,” said a former prisoner in an interview with Radio Free Asia. “They torture and beat the Christians up and it’s hard to watch it with my eyes open,” she added.
Radio Free Asia concealed the name of the witness, who said she and other inmates endured hunger, unsanitary conditions, exhaustion, severe beatings and extrajudicial killings.
She said that prison guards torture the Christian prisoners “by not letting them sit down or sleep 24 hours a day, for 40 days.”
“They can’t even sit down afterwards. I couldn’t tell whether they were human beings or animals at that point. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry,” added the witness.
She described how 80-year-old Christian woman was executed after refusing to renounce her faith.
“The authorities told her to believe in Juche [North Korea’s founding ideology], but she said, ‘I believe in God,’ and she was executed by firing squad,” said the witness.
“She was almost dead anyway, but they dragged her out and shot her,” she added.
She said that when inmates die, they will never leave the prison. “They don’t give the dead body to the family; they burn the body in a furnace.”
A report from Open Doors, a non-profit Christian organization in the United States, said that if North Korean Christians are discovered, they are deported to labor camps as political criminals.
“Christian persecution in North Korea is extreme and meeting other Christians to worship is nearly impossible unless it’s done in complete secrecy,” said the group.
“When Christians are discovered, they will be arrested and imprisoned in one of North Korea’s terrible labor camps, where they are worked like slaves and often tortured,” it added.
Radio Free Asia has been reporting what it described as the “extremely harsh conditions” in North Korea’s political prison camps and forced labor camps.
The media agency said that up to 120,000 prisoners have restricted contact with the outside world, including with their families.
In October, during the 75th anniversary of the 1945 foundation of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party, about 7,000 prisoners were released under a general amnesty.
In its annual report, Human Rights Watch noted that North Korea “remains one of the most repressive countries in the world.”