And the North Koreans keep coming, drawn by the bright lights of China’s cities and the desire to escape from grinding poverty. Among them are large numbers of young girls who are being sex-trafficked into China to help make up for the shortage of women there. As the U.S. State Department’s 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report notes, the “one-child policy” is a “key source of demand” since it has resulted in the killing of baby girls and a huge surplus of men.
Although the North Korean birthrate, like South Korea’s, is below replacement, the UN Population Fund – the population control arm of the UN – has an office in Pyongyang from which it promotes contraception, sterilization and abortion, arguably making a bad problem even worse.
One would think that of all the things that this dying country needs – freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of speech – that the last would be population control. But the death peddlers, as Father Paul Marx famously called them, are here as well, working hand-in-glove with a government that acts as though human lives are worthless.
It is no surprise that Pyongyang did not respond to the Pope’s peaceful overtures. In fact, the North Korean state-controlled media did not even report on Pope Francis’ visit to the South, nor his call for reconciliation between the two Koreas. And few North Koreans would have learned this from other sources, since Internet access is restricted and it is a crime punishable by death to listen to South Korean radio broadcasts.
But North Korea’s rejection of Pope Francis should not be solely attributed to its communist brutality or its knee-jerk atheism. For there is a kind of state religion practiced in North Korea, a religion that, strangely enough, was founded on an evil distortion of the Christian faith.
Few people know that Kim Il-sung, the first dictator of North Korea, grew up in a Christian home. He left the faith when he became a communist, but carried with him the idea that certain Christian practices – weekly meetings, singing hymns, and devotion to a deity – could become the basis of a state religion.
He called his religion Juche, and ordered that everyone in North Korea attend regular “self-criticism meetings” to practice it. These meetings resemble nothing so much as Christian worship and praise meetings. Those present sing hymns of praise to the Kim dynasty, listen to “sermons” about the writings of Kim Il-sung and his son and now grandson, and recite his “10 Principles” which are a variation of the 10 Commandments. In its essence, Juche is essentially the worship of the Kim family, who have thereby claimed for themselves the status of deities.
There is no room for the Son of God in the Kim family pantheon. Nor for any invitation to, or even acknowledgement of, his Vicar on earth.
For poor North Korean Catholics – who struggle on without priests, without the sacraments – the Pope was still worlds away, while the latest Kim looks down god-like from posters plastered on every street corner.
Steven W. Mosher
is the President of the Population Research Institute.