PYONGYANG, North Korea (ChurchMilitant.com) - The dictator of North Korea is banning the celebration of Christmas and ordering his subjects to reverence his grandmother instead.
Kim Jong-un, who replaced his father Kim Jong-il as leader of North Korea in 2014, issued the order shortly before the holiday.
His grandmother, Kim Jong-suk, was born on Christmas Eve in 1919 and is known as the "Sacred Mother of the Revolution." She was the wife of former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il and a Communist activist, and died under mysterious circumstances in 1949.
To honor her birthday and to censor the primarily Catholic holiday of Christmas, the government instead encouraged citizens to visit her tomb every December 25.
North Korea's government, which before the revolution had a sizeable Catholic population in Pyongyang and even had a seated bishop, has a history of hating the Christmas holiday.
In 2014, Kim Jong-un threatened war against South Korea after the democratic country announced it would raise a Christmas tree on the border, known as the De-Militarized Zone.
Although Christmas-like elements, like decorating Christmas trees or putting up Christmas decorations, was made illegal in 1950, many North Korean "upscale" shops and restaurants still continue the practice.
The crackdown on Christianity and Catholicism in particular in North Korea has been intense, where even owning a Bible is a punishable offense. Human rights groups estimating that around 50,000–70,000 Christians are held in a gulag system comparable to the network of Nazi death camps.
Church Militant reported on the testimony of a North Korean defector, who described her life in the labor camps as "worse than a dog's" and "unimaginable."
The defector described how inmates in these camps were forced to work in coal mines for up to 20 hours a day and were only rationed one meal of porridge. If prisoners questioned the authorities, they would be shot on sight.
If you asked questions about why you were there, you were immediately executed publicly. I have seen and was a witness to multiple executions in this prison. And after Kim II-sung died, and Kim Jong-il came to power, there was an incident [when the government] sent people who were loyal to Kim Il-sung to prison camps. They were high-level officials asking why they were taken to prison camps; if they asked, they were executed immediately.
Church Militant also reported that Christians were being "hung on crosses over fires, crushed under steamrollers, herded off of bridges, and trampled underfoot."
A former North Korean top security agent commented on the persecution, saying, "[Christianity] is so persecuted because, basically, it is related to the United States ... and is considered spying. Since Americans conveyed Christianity and since they are the ones who attempted to invade our country, those who are Christians are spies. Spies are executed."