Some North Korean exiles that fled south have made these revelations. The foremost of them is certainly Kim Hyun-sik, who today teaches at Yale University after spending 38 years at Pyongyang’s most prestigious college.
According to him, both Kim Hyong-jik and Kang Ban-sok (Kim Il-sung’s father and mother) were not only Christian, but were also devout. Ban-sok is actually the Korean name for Peter, which was also given to baby girls.
In North Korea, people are organised in 51 classes. The top three are the most loyal to the Kim family and its cult of personality, which requires worship for the ‘eternal president’ and his son, the ‘dear leader’, as the country’s only deities.
Anyone practicing another religion or found with religious material is treated as “hostile” and banned from the country’s public life.
Even though Kim Il-sung’s was very close to his parents, he was “convinced” by Stalin to crack down on their religion. Still, in his autobiography, the president acknowledged that they attended church, albeit “to take a rest (at a church).” They became widely known among North Korean Christians the 1940s; however, their life was eventually used by the new regime for propaganda purposes.
His mother in fact is celebrated today as “the mother of Chosun who gave birth to and raised the Great Leader of revolution, indomitable Champion of the Communist Revolution,” the “champion who conducted the Chosun women's movement”. His father became “a great pioneer of Marxism, fighting his entire life against capitalism, saving his homeland.”
However, there is evidence that the process of historical reconstruction did not entirely rid Kim Il-sing’s of his Christian past. Some witnesses say that prior to an important surgery, Kim prayed with a doctor. Indeed, when the doctor offered to pray before the surgery, Kim Il-Sung responded, “Pray for me.” They then prayed together.
Since the instauration of the Communist regime in 1953, some 300,000 Christians have disappeared. The country has no more priests or nuns, killed perhaps during the wave of persecution. At present, about 100,000 languish in labour camps victims of hunger, torture and even death.
Former North Korean officials and prisoners have said that in re-education camps and prisons Christians are singled out for harsher treatment.
Likewise, no one knows the fate of the country’s Catholic bishops. According to the Pontifical Yearbook, the capital’s bishop is still in his post.
Pyongyang claims that the country enjoys religious freedom, guaranteed by the constitution. Officially, there are 10,000 Buddhists, 10,000 Protestants and 4,000 Catholics registered with recognised associations. In Pyongyang, there are three churches, two Protestant and one Catholic.
However, sources have told AsiaNews that Catholics are no more than 200 who have not attended any religious service for decades.