Seoul (AsiaNews) - The North Korean regime is questioning about 100 people in the capital Pyongyang for alleged "illegal contacts with religious groups in China." The decision was taken "to engender fear" and prevent contacts that might "destabilise the government", this according to sources contacted by DailyNK, an online newspaper that monitors the situation in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.
According to "credible sources", Kim Jong-un's regime wants to "hit it as hard as possible" people interested in religion in order to make them "an example for others". Kim Jong-un is the third son and heir of the late "dear leader" Kim Jong-il.
"Having sent 30 people off to prison camps, I am told that a total of around 100 more residents have been taken in for questioning by the Department of State Security," a Pyongyang resident, anonymous for security reasons, said.
All those arrested had travelled to China for various reasons where, according to the authorities, they entertained a "close relationship" with local Protestant churches involved in helping refugees and more generally North Koreans.
Under North Korean law, religious freedom "is guaranteed by the constitution" (although in practice it does not exist) but "contacting members of foreign religious groups, who only want to destabilise the government in Pyongyang, is forbidden."
The campaign against all forms of religiosity, the source said, "has been going on for quite a while, and now everyone is afraid to talk about any visits they might have made to China. Even those who travelled complying with the law, visiting perhaps relatives living abroad for decades, are now trying to pass as unnoticed as possible."
In North Korea, only the cult of the leader Kim Jong-il and his father Kim Il-sung is allowed. The regime has always tried to crush religious activities, particularly by Buddhists and Christians, and requires that religious believers register with organisations controlled by the Party.
Christians who are not registered with the former or those who engage in missionary activities are frequently the victims of violent and brutal persecution.
Since the communist regime consolidated its power after 1953, about 300,000 Christians disappeared. Currently, there are no known priests and nuns in the country; all of those who did exist were likely murdered in a wave of persecutions.