Henry Ford is famous for having said that you could order his new Model T automobile in any color you wanted, as long as that color was black.
North Korea takes much the same approach in matters of religion, as it acknowledges in the religious freedom section of its own human rights report, released earlier this month. North Korea writes:
In the DPRK everybody is fully provided with the rights to choose and follow their own religion and thought according to their own free will.
Every citizen has chosen to follow the Juche Idea… (p. 72)
For those of us who have long insisted that Juche is not merely a political ideology but a religion, it is worth noting that North Korea itself draws the parallel. It moves fluidly back and forth in this religious freedom report between mentions of Juche and mentions of various religions as it finds itself on the horns of a uniquely North Korean dilemma:
- All North Korean citizens freely choose to believe in the Juche ideology, which is “the world outlook centred on human being.”
- All North Korean citizens can—and do–freely choose to believe in and practice other religions, i.e., they are, according to the human rights report, “officially or personally, privately or jointly with others carrying out religious service, ritual and ceremony. They are free to build religious structures or conduct religious education.”
- According to the report, these religions include Buddhism, Chondoism, Protestantism, and Catholicism.
- Problem is, none of these religions is particularly well known for being “[a] world outlook centred on human being.”
Well, says the North Korean human rights report, that is because it is only in their adulterated, anti-DPRK forms that such religions are something other than Juche-flavored at the core. And when the Juche flavor fades, acknowledges the report, that’s when the North Korean government has to step in and stamp it out:
Freedom of religion is allowed and provided by the State law within the limit necessary for securing social order, health, social security, morality and other human rights. Especially, the Government prevents the religion from being used to draw in foreign forces or harm the state and social order.
Sum it up and say: You can have any kind of religion you want, so long as when you scratch the surface, there’s Juche underneath.
Sadly, as we’ve noted in a prior post, the World Council of Churches has not yet discerned this. Or, even more disconcertingly, perhaps they have discerned this and yet regard Juche-Christianity as an authentic expression of the Christian faith. Either way, one claim on which we completely concur with North Korea’s human rights report is that the World Council of Churches’ engagement is very, very useful for the North Korean regime:
At present we have the Korean Christians’ Federation, the Korean Buddhists Federation, the Korean Catholic Association, the Korean Chondoist Society and the Korean Association of Religionists in the DPRK. These religious organizations have well-organized structural system (Central Committee at national level, sub-committees at provincial, city and county level and sub-units under them) and their own church, publication, educational organ and so on. They are also conducting cooperation and exchanges with several religious organizations of the world. (Such as World Religionists Peace Conference, World Council of Churches and Asia Religionists Peace Conference)
Last week we wrote about North Korea’s confirmation that our balloon-launched New Testaments are landing true. It is worth noting that the New Testaments we send are ones originally translated and authorized for printing by the North Korean government. So if what we were sending is authorized by the North Korean government, and if North Koreans are indeed guaranteed the free choice and practice of religion, then it’s puzzling why our launches would concern them as much as they do. After all, we are doing little more than aiding the publication efforts they laud in their human rights report:
Publications of religious organizations in the DPRK include “Chondoist Scriptures”, “Chondoist Epitome”, “The Old Testament”, “Hymns”, “Selection and Practice”, “Let’s Know about Chonjugyo”, “Steps of Religious Life” and “Catholic Prayers”.
Interesting that they list the Old Testament but omit the New Testament.
Well, no worries. Fortunately we have that one covered.