Korea on high alert following death of Kim Jong-il: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2011, p 6. December 24, 2011Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Persecution.
Tags: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un, North Korea
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Communist tyrant Kim Jong-il is dead, North Korea’s state media reports.
On 19 December 2011 a black-clad newsreader informed North Korea their “dear leader” had died following a heart attack on Saturday at the age of 69. The official KCNA news agency attributed Kim’s death to physical and mental overwork. “It is the biggest loss for the party, and it is our people and nation’s biggest sadness,” the weeping newsreader said, adding the nation must yet “change our sadness to strength and overcome our difficulties.”
Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, has been named the “Great Successor”, KCNA reported. The state media has called upon workers, peasants and soldiers to “faithfully revere” the new leader, broadcasts monitored by wire services in South Korea have report.
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) Kim Jong-il presided over a vicious police state with “one of the worst human rights records in the world. The country has a system of prison camps with an estimated 200,000 people jailed in desperate conditions and subjected to the worst forms of torture and cruel and degrading treatment. Summary executions are common.
“The practice of ‘guilt by association’ often means that entire families are often imprisoned, and punished for the crimes of family members up to the third generation. North Korea has no religious freedom, and Christians are jailed and sometimes executed for their beliefs.”
Speculation is rife as to what steps the regime will take to consolidate its hold over power. Last year, at the age of 26, Kim Jong-un was made a full General in the North Korean Army and on 28 September 2010 he was named vice chairman of the Central Military Commission and appointed to the Central Committee of the Korean Worker’s Party. His birthday, 1 January, was declared a national holiday by his father, the AFP news service reported last year. But it is unclear whether the army will back Kim Jong-un, the third generation of his family to rule North Korea since his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, was installed by Soviet troops in1945.
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak has called for calm in the wake of Kim’s death, but the government has been placed in “emergency mode.”
“President Lee urged the public to go about their usual economic activities without turbulence,” a senior presidential aide told a televised news conference.
The South Korean government spokesman said President Lee and US President Barack Obama had conferred by telephone following the news of Kim’s death, and the “two leaders agreed to closely co-operate and monitor the situation together.” The South Korean army and the 28,000 US troops stationed on the peninsula have also been placed on high alert.
The vice-president of the Korean Mission Partnership of the Church of England, Bishop Robert Ladds, said the death of Kim Jong-il was a time for prayer.
“Christians in South Korea are deeply aware of the difficulties in general faced by those in the North and especially by their fellow Christians under a totalitarian regime. Many in the South have family and extended family members in the North, which is an extra personal anxiety. There is always a very delicate, complex and moving political balance across the Korean peninsula and any change of leadership is bound to add to uncertainties,” he told The Church of England Newspaper.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said the death of Kim provided an opportunity to “change direction, end its isolation, stop the brutal oppression of its own people and open up to the world.”
CSW called upon the new leaders of North Korea to “take the initiative at this unique moment in time in order to introduce fundamental changes and close the prison camps, end torture, slave labour and summary executions, respect religious freedom and release all prisoners of conscience. The international community should seize the moment to press for these changes.”
However, the chairman of the Korean Mission Partnership, the Rev Luke Lee, was less sanguine about the prospects for change. He told CEN the North Korean communist regime was “unique.”
“The leader of the country was regarded as a semi-god and no one is allowed to challenge his authority. As this is a system that has been built over many years, I don’t think it will collapse overnight because of Kim Jung-il’s sudden death,” he said.
“The Christians in North Korea have been persecuted because they believe in God as the supreme authority and no other gods. As long as the North Korean Communist regime remains as it is now there will be no change in their policy on persecuting Christians,” Fr Lee said.