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Pastor to North Koreans axed to death

Seoul (AsiaNews): A Prostestant pastor, Han Chung-ryeol was found dead on April 30 in Changbai, on the Chinese side of a mountain range that marks the border with North Korea. He had wounds from an axe blow to the head and several stab wounds to the abdomen.

A Korean Catholic source called the brutal death “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, eyewitnesses said they saw Reverend Han leave his church on April 30. He was found dead six hours later.

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

Well-loved by his community, Reverend Han established his church in 1993. While he was still in seminary, some people requested that he come to Changbai to preach.

His ministry to North Koreans began the same year the church was founded. At the time, many were fleeing the 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,” a 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.”

The source said, “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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