SEOUL (SE): Father Philippe Blot, who has spent many years working with North Korean refugees in China, said that conditions have worsened for surviving Christians under the dictatorship of Kim Jong-un and he is urging Beijing to give shelter to fugitives crossing into China from the hermit kingdom.
The National Catholic Reporter said on April 4 that Father Blot, a volunteer with the Paris Foreign Mission Society, describes the situation facing North Korean refugees as becoming ever more dramatic as they flee to China to avoid dying of hunger.
“The 200,000 North Koreans now in China shouldn’t be forcibly repatriated,” Father Blot told the French publication, Le Monde, on March 30. “They all know they’ll be tortured, sent to camps and killed if this happens.”
The missionary priest said he had been asked for help from refugees while he was stationed in Andong and Suwon diocese in South Korea and had gone to China in 2010 to help establish a reception network.
“When a North Korean flees, all their family are considered to be traitors and sent to re-education camps. So we first have to verify whether they’ve been seized, before trying to help via our North Korean contacts,” Father Blot explained.
“But those in China are still in an illegal, dangerous situation,” he went on.
Services are only permitted at one officially approved Catholic church in Pyongyang, as well as at two Protestant churches and an Orthodox church.
The country was home to about 100,000 Catholics and up to 200,000 Protestants before the Communist takeover. Human rights organisations estimate that at least 30,000 Christians are currently incarcerated in prisons and labour camps.
Father Blot said that Churches that remain open are just façades, a sham of religious liberty.