Seoul (AsiaNews) - "About 40 thousand underground Christians still live in North Korea. Including those, and they are the majority, who have ended up in a labour camp because of their faith", revealed Protestant minister Lim Chang-ho in an interview with the Daily NK. According to the pastor, "given the high level of repression by the regime against Christians, they are preserved in the only way they can: get married to each other and in secret."
In North Korea, people are organized into 51 classes. The first three are based on loyalty to the Kim family and the cult of dictator as the "eternal president" and the "Dear Leader" his son as the only accepted forms of divinity in the country. Obviously, anyone who professes a religion or is in possession of religious material is classified as "hostile" and is effectively banned from public life in the country.
According to the testimonies of those who manage to escape from the clutches of the regime, Christians are subjected to the worst treatment. In this situation, the beleaguered community responds the best way it can: "Christianity is still present only thanks to the very courageous and admirable attitude of the faithful. When neighbours see how a Christian behaves, they want to imitate them: I can not confirm it, but there is even talk of some conversions. "
In fact, Pastor Lim has direct experience of the community given that – he claims – that he has delivered aid to the North: "If we bring disinfectants or antibiotics, we know from the outset that the underground Christians will not use them: they will wait until someone falls seriously ill before using the medicines. In some villages, they are among teh most respected people".
According to the latest data available to Christians in the South, " there are at least 30 thousand Christians currently being held in forced labour camps, where all those who profess a faith are sent. A terrible situation, but we know that there are about 10 thousand of our brothers and sisters who live at large". Other believe, however, that these are exaggerated figures. AsiaNews sources speak of "no more than 200 Catholics" still alive in North Korea, mostly very elderly survivors of civil war and deportation.However, the Catholic Church in the South has a very important role in helping all those who escape the North - explains the Bishop of Daejon Mgr. Lazarus You Heung-sik to AsiaNews, who is in charge of the pastoral care of immigrants - "these people are often the best missionaries. We are not in the race for conversions, we wait to see if a natural path is perfected and is sincere. But this sometimes happens, and when it does, it is a great fruit of God. "
The new cardinal has proposed the Korean peninsula as a candidate to host World Youth Day. "It would be very useful for new vocations among youth, who may consider the north as a field for their ministry."
This is the first time the group of 61 people, lay and priests, visits the structures it funded over the past 11 years. For many analysts, the visit "raises hopes for an agreement allowing more religious freedom in the country".
The place of worship "is intended to be a tangible sign of the desire to live in full and lasting peace with our brothers in the north".