North Korea and Christian Persecution

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s outburst on CNN while in North Korea serves as a microcosm for a much larger problem in America. What he says and does garners more attention than the Christian man who has been imprisoned in North Korea for over one year. In a sane world, Rodman would be insignificant and demands for the release of Kenneth Bae would be cacophonous.

Kenneth Bae: Christian imprisoned in North Korea.

Kenneth Bae: Christian imprisoned in North Korea.

So, before we get to Rodman’s incoherent rant against Bae, let’s take a look at Bae’s story. It is a story that should not be viewed as political. There will likely be some who will callously ask why Bae went into North Korea in the first place. There will likely be others who point to the petition for his rescue at, which is seen as a left-leaning group. In reality, about one month before Bae’s arrest, it was announced that the group would “drop its progressive litmus test for campaigns”. Some left-wing bloggers came unhinged themselves when they learned that the group was helping conservatives).

Here is an excerpt about Kenneth from the website:

Kenneth is the guy who always does the right thing, no matter the cost. He is the guy who dropped out of college at the age of 22 to support his own young family. He is the guy who would come home late from working two jobs and just spend hours watching his baby son sleep.

He is the guy who follows his personal convictions, even to the ends of the world.

Several years ago, Kenneth saw an opportunity that combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his personal convictions as a Christian. He believed in showing compassion to the North Korean people by contributing to their economy in the form of tourism. Based out of China since 2006, he started his own tour company specializing in tours to North Korea, a remote country filled with stunning vistas and a people proud of their history and tradition. His livelihood was to introduce the natural beauty of the country and its people to the outside world as a tour operator. His heart was to be a personal touch-point of compassionate humanity to the North Korean people.

On November 3, 2012, North Korean authorities arrested Kenneth while he was leading a tourist group on one of his regular routine trips—a tour he had led at least over 15 times before—in Rason (Rajin-Sonbong), one of North Korea’s special economic zones for foreign investors.

Why was he arrested? To this point, no tangible charges have been announced. Here is what CNN reported:

There has been speculation the evidence North Korea cites may in fact have been something Bae was carrying with him, perhaps a Bible or some other religious literature.

His mother, Myunghee Bae, who visited her son in North Korea in October, told CNN that her son was a devout Christian who had not understood the North Korean system. North Korea is officially an atheist state.

Take note all of you anti-Religious zealots who think abolishing all religions is the answer.

Bae in North Korea one year later: Health has greatly deteriorated.

Bae in North Korea one year later: Health has greatly deteriorated.

According to the petition by Kenneth’s son Jonathan Bae, Kenneth’s health has deteriorated drastically.

As for the government of North Korea, it is led by an insane despot named Kim Jong Un, who was actually responsible for the execution of his own uncle recently, though reports that he did so by feeding his uncle to more than a hundred ravenous dogs appears to have been satire.

Regular readers of our site know of our work with Rescue Christians. A common assumption is that Christians are persecuted in Muslim lands only. While the overwhelming majority of persecuted Christians suffer in Muslim lands, that’s not where they suffer exclusively. In a recent report released by Open Doors that identified the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians, North Korea is ranked first and has every year for the last 12.

Rodman poses with Kim Jong Un.

Rodman poses with Kim Jong Un.

That figure may cause some to scratch their heads but have a look at why atheist North Korea is first, via CBS News:

Nine of the 10 countries listed as dangerous for Christians are Muslim-majority states, many of them torn by conflicts with radical Islamists. Saudi Arabia is an exception but ranked sixth because of its total ban on practicing faiths other than Islam.

In the list of killings, Syria was followed by Nigeria with 612 cases last year after 791 in 2012. Pakistan was third with 88, up from 15 in 2012. Egypt ranked fourth with 83 deaths after 19 the previous year.

The report spoke of “horrific violence often directed at Christians” in the Central African Republic but said only nine deaths were confirmed last year because “most analysts still fail to recognize the religious dimension of the conflict.”

The report had no figures for killings in North Korea but said Christians there faced “the highest imaginable pressure” and some 50,000 to 70,000 lived in political prison camps.

“The God-like worship of the rulers leaves no room for any other religion,” it said.

With all of that as a backdrop, let’s introduce Dennis Rodman into the mix. He and about a dozen other basketball players went to North Korea last week to play basketball. While there, the team sat in front of CNN’s cameras for an interview with Chris Cuomo. The spokesman for the team was obviously supposed to be Charles Smith, who did the majority of the talking, but Rodman interjected at points with unhinged and incoherent ramblings that indicated he thought Bae was rightfully in prison.

Smith, whose comments – while wrong – were much calmer and measured. At several points in this exchange, it’s obvious that Smith was uncomfortable with Rodman talking. It can be said with some degree of certainty that other members of the team did as well. Unfortunately, Rodman made them all look bad for expressing such solidarity with him. Prior to Rodman’s rant, Smith referred to him as a ‘brother’.

Rodman then proceeded to sing Happy Birthday to the North Korean despot. At the end of this news report, watch for Smith’s comments, which took place a day after Rodman’s outburst.

Now it’s being reported that Rodman has apologized for his rant, saying that he was drinking.

Kenneth Bae is still in a North Korean prison.