President Donald Trump says he addressed the plight of persecuted Christians when meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
"I brought it up, absolutely. They will work on that. We did not put it down in the document. It will be worked on. Christians, yes," Trump said, according to a transcript. "We brought it up. Franklin Graham spent and spends a tremendous amount of time in North Korea. He has it close to his heart. It did come up and things will be happening."
Open Doors USA, a Christian persecution watchdog group, ranked North Korea as the No. 1 persecutor of Christians on the planet.
Trump's announcement that he did bring up the Christian persecution encouraged David Curry, president of Open Doors USA:
Though we have few details of what was said, President Trump's decision to address North Korea's human rights atrocities was diplomatically bold, and we are particularly glad to hear the president say he brought up the plight of the more than 300,000 Christians who face persecution and even death under the regime of Kim Jong Un.
In North Korea, 50,000 to 120,000 Christians have already been confined in prison camps, where conditions remain deplorable.
For the 17th consecutive year, North Korea is the No. 1 most dangerous place to be a Christian, according to the Open Doors World Watch List.
I hold out hope that human rights and denuclearization in North Korea need not be mutually exclusive endeavors.
For this reason, we are prayerfully and cautiously optimistic for our fellow Christians in North Korea, for whom there is now at least a glimmer of hope that did not exist prior to President Trump's meeting with the dictator.
America and its allies—indeed the entire world—must not shy away from our moral mandate to call Kim Jong Un to task for his litany of human rights abuses—especially his imprisonment, torture and execution of Christians whose only crime was to dare to express any beliefs other than those approved by the Communist regime.
The people of North Korea continue to deserve our vocal, prayerful and relentless support.
Curry's organization has tracked the hostility in the Communist country for years.
"The primary driver of persecution in North Korea is the state. For three generations, everything in the country focused on idolizing the leading Kim family. Christians are seen as hostile elements in society that have to be eradicated. Due to the constant indoctrination permeating the whole country, neighbors and even family members are highly watchful and report any suspicious religious activity to the authorities," according to the 2018 report.
A 2016 report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports similar atrocities.
Christians usually practice their faith in secret. If discovered, they are subject to detention and then likely taken to political prison camps (kwanliso); crimes against them in these camps include extra-judicial killing, extermination, enslavement/forced labor, forcible transfer of population, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance, rape and sexual violence and other inhumane acts. Documented incidents against Christians include being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges and trampled underfoot. A policy of guilt by association applies, meaning that the relatives of Christians are also detained regardless of whether they share the Christian belief. Even North Koreans who have escaped to China, and who are or become Christians, are often repatriated and subsequently imprisoned in a political prison camp.
Such horrors have some believers worried about the safety of their brothers and sisters who live under Kim's rule.
"While these friendly images and talk of nuclear concessions are somewhat comforting to us, North Korean Christians feel no safer today than they did yesterday. Believing in Jesus is still a crime that can land a Christ-follower in a labor camp or prison—which, in many cases, amounts to a death sentence," says Vernon Brewer, CEO and founder of World Help. "Yet, here's the most amazing thing: the underground church of North Korea continues to grow! Believers continue to risk their lives to get their hands on a Bible. As we celebrate the U.S. and North Korean leaders meeting together, we cannot forget our North Korean brothers and sisters. We must continue speaking up and praying for them. They are still waiting for their own victory."
World Help has been working to provide Bibles for North Korean Christians. They've raised money for almost 68,000 Bibles, and are working toward 100,000.
Though Trump said denuclearization was the priority of the North Korean Summit, he says Kim reacted "very well" when asked about human rights abuses.
"I believe it is a rough situation over there," Trump said about human rights violations. "No question about it. We did discuss it today strongly. Knowing what the main purpose of what we are doing is here denuking. Discussed at good length. We will be doing something on it. It's rough.
"It's rough in a lot of places, by the way. We will continue that and I think ultimately agree to something. It was discussed at length outside of the nuclear situation. One of the primary topics."
Trump also says he will halt the regular military exercises he holds with South Korea, and that Kim agreed to send home remains of soldiers killed in the Korean War. Ninety percent of the talks, though, were focused on denuclearization.
"I just think that we are now going to start the process of denuclearization of North Korea. I believe that he's going back and will start it virtually immediately," Trump said in excerpts of the interview broadcast on Fox after the U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore. "And he's already indicated that."
Watch the video to see his full conference.
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