05/05/2016, 15.04
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Protestant clergyman who helped North Koreans axed to death in China

Rev Han Chung-ryeol had opened a church in Changbai, on the Chinese side of a mountain range that marks the border with North Korea. Here he helped exiles. A source told AsiaNews that such a brutal murder is “a signal for all those who help North Koreans flee."

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Rev Han Chung-ryeol was found dead on 30 April with head and stomach wounds. The Protestant clergyman served at a church in Changbai near the border with North Korea.

Speaking to AsiaNews, a Korean Catholic source said that such a brutal death "is a very worrying sign. The pastor knew and helped many refugees from the North and had relations with local Chinese police. Killing him the way it was done could be a signal for all those who help North Koreans flee."

In Changbai, on the Chinese side of the mountainous border, eyewitnesses said they saw the clergyman leave his church last Saturday. Six hours later he was found dead, an axe blow to the head and several stab wounds to the stomach.

Local authorities believe he was murdered by North Korea, since there was a standing order against him from the North Korean government.

Well-loved by his community, Rev Han had established his church in 1993. Whilst he was still in the seminary, some people requested him to come to Changbai to preach.

His ministry to North Koreans began the same year the church was founded. North Koreans were fleeing famine in their homeland that would eventually kill hundreds of thousands.

"He was a good man who, whenever possible, encouraged North Koreans to go home,” the source told AsiaNews. “He used to say that the country’s fate was in their hands, that the regime would not last forever, and that God would not abandon them.”

“He did not incite people to overthrow the government. He never sought to proselytise among North Koreans. It is understandable that Kim regime might have wanted him dead because he gave North Koreans something more important than food: hope in a better world.”

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