An Open Letter to Kim Jong Un
Dear Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
I have been so encouraged of late to see such sincere developments occurring between your nation and south Korea, as well as the United States of America. I’m excited about the outcome of the upcoming Summit between you and President Trump later this month or in June.
Like many people around the world, I’ve been extremely concerned at the heightened tensions, over the past few years, between the DPRK and other nations. The missile tests, threats of retaliation and all-out war have been alarming. And so, we are heartened to see this willingness by all parties to sit down and have constructive talks that could lead to peace.
In all the things that need to be discussed and agreed to, I do hope that there will also be room in your country to consider greater freedom of faith. According to Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute, “Kim Jong-un has greater visible interest in the welfare of his people and engages in greater interaction with them than his father did.” I think it’s admirable that you show interest in the welfare of your people, but I’d like to ask you about the welfare of people of faith, especially Christians like me. There are between 300,000 and 500,000 Christians in the DPRK. In 2014 the group Aid to the Church in Need published a persecution report which figured that some 50,000 Christians might currently be in the DPRK’s penal camps. 
I’ve read that Christians endure “violations of the right to food, life, freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of movement, as well as various violations associated with prison camps. Torture and inhuman treatment, arbitrary detention, discrimination, and enforced disappearances.” If these reports are correct, then they breach Article 12 of your Constitution which provides for freedom of religion. I’m aware that there are five State-sanctioned Churches in Pyongyang. May I encourage you to allow more churches to open and flourish in your country?
I realise that Christianity is viewed in the DPRK as representing the West, notably the USA, but I’d like to challenge that. The Christian faith was born out of Judaism which originated in the Middle East. The Bible is, in fact, an Eastern book and contains much that reflects the values of Asian culture.
The vast majority of Christians are peaceful people and are not in any way a threat to your country. We uphold the law of the land, we are hard workers, we are not subversive, and we respect and pray for our leaders. Christians are taught to “do to others as you would have them do to you” – the Golden Rule that is also one of the key tenants of Buddhism and Confucianism, the two biggest religions in your country.
Despite persecution, it is reported that Christianity is actually increasing in the DPRK. That has been the story throughout history. Many countries and empires have tried to stamp out the Christian faith over the centuries, but all have failed. May I encourage you to see Christians as your friend and not your enemy? The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will be all the better for it.
Senior Minister, Bayside Church Melbourne
Rob Buckingham is the founding pastor of Bayside Church, Melbourne Australia.
Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons
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