In light of massive world attention on the absence of Kim Jong Un for the last month, North Korea has moved to clarify speculation as to where he is. Photos released yesterday of the country’s Supreme Leader appear to show him visiting a group of scientists – albeit walking with a cane.
Reports suggest that the leader’s absence is due to some discomfort, with the BBC suggesting he could have a bad case of gout or a problem with his hip. Either way, the photos seem to indicate that there hasn’t been a coup or attempt to wrestle power from him by others in the government. All that said, most reports are saying that they can’t verify when the images were taken, so, as ever, information from North Korea is pretty limited!
Perhaps the biggest surprise during the last month is that, for the first time ever, North Korea has admitted the presence of labour camps in its country. A North Korean official described them not as prison camps but as ‘detention centres where people are improved through their mentality and look on their wrongdoings’.
It is assumed that this statement was in response to the highly critical UN human rights report issued earlier this year. It has also been reported that a top North Korean official has visited the European Union HQ and expressed interest in dialogue, ahead of discussions on human rights expected next year. It is estimated that up to 70,000 Christians are currently in prison or labour camps across North Korea.
Although there seem to be divisions, that doesn’t mean the North Korean regime is about to crumble. The powerful elite behind Kim Jong-Un still needs him (or someone else of the bloodline) to legitimise their rule.
“For the Christian church, humanly speaking, there won’t be any significant differences anytime soon,” Simon says. However, if nobody holds absolute power any more, this does mean the regime is more vulnerable. Cracks in the power structure may grow wider. “We need to be prepared for every scenario,” he adds. “And we need to pray. This is a very urgent time for prayers.”
*Name changed for security reasons
Source: The Guardian; Open Doors
We’ve produced a whole reflection, prayer and action resource around the faith of North Korean Christians. For the last 5 weeks, we’ve been waking up early to pray for the church in North Korea – and you can grab the resources and join in.
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