Open Doors, an advocacy group for persecuted Christians, issued a statement urging the world not to forget the Kim regime's horrific human rights abuses in North Korea or to be fooled by North and South Korea's show of unity at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Vice President Mike Pence met with several North Korean defectors who confirmed Open Doors' stance and recalled accounts of torture and persecution.
"As many nations come together to take part in the Winter Olympics, let us not forget that every day over 300,000 Christians [in North Korea] are denied the right to take part in the religious observance of their choice," said Matthew Rees, advocacy policy officer at Open Doors, said in the statement. "They are a beleaguered community who are fighting for their very survival."
Open Doors' warning couldn't be more appropriate as the world seems to be captivated by the joint Korean women's ice hockey team and dictator Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong. An American member of the International Olympic Community actually suggested the joint Korean team should be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and even CNN published a controversial headline which reads, "Kim Jong Un's Sister Is Stealing the Show at the Winter Olympics" and is spurring a fair amount of backlash.
Critics argue media outlets are overlooking the human rights atrocities of the Kim family's regime when Kim Yo Jong is portrayed in such a positive light.
Open Doors stressed that "every aspect of life in North Korea is controlled by the state." The organization's World Watch List ranked North Korea as the single worst nation in the world for Christian persecution, a title it has held for 16 straight years.
"The belief that God is a higher authority than the nation's leader, Kim Jong-un, is seen as a threat that must be crushed," Open Doors explained in the watch list. "Tens of thousands of Christians are incarcerated in horrific labour camps, and thousands more keep their faith in Christ a complete secret."
While the media allows for a certain degree of glorification of the Kim regime, defectors are speaking out about the terror they faced for simply supporting a democratic form or government or for worshiping Jesus Christ instead of their dictator.
"They ignore all freedoms," said Timothy, a North Korean refugee, according to Open Doors. "The human rights level is zero percent. Religions are not allowed. The leader of North Korea has to be worshipped as god, and this will not change unless the regime collapses."
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met with a group of North Korean defectors on Friday in South Korea, accompanied by the father of Otto Warmbier, a U.S. citizen who was jailed for months in North Korea and sent home brain-dead last year.
Pence met with several defectors who had suffered torture and abuse that many in North Korea still experience today.
During the meeting, Pence stated that the world would see "a charm offensive" by North Korea at the Olympic games and that North Korea would try to hijack the event's "message and imagery". Pence stressed that the world shouldn't let North Korea hide behind the Olympic banner.
"The cruel dictatorship of NK is little more than a prison state," Pence said. "As people testified, it is a regime that imprisons, tortures and impoverishes its citizens and I can assure your witness of that truth will be heard across the world. Thank you for your courage and I look forward to discussing further."