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North Korea sentences toddler to life in prison after parents found with book
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A two-year-old in North Korea has been sentenced to life in prison after the toddler's parents were found with a Bible.
The unnamed tot's entire family was also jailed under dictator Kim Jong-un's regime, according to a new International Religious Freedom Report from the US State Department.
And this isn't the first time religious citizens have been persecuted in the country – one Christian woman and her grandchild were executed by firing squad for their beliefs back in 2011.
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Others have been subjected to pigeon torture, which involves having their hands tied behind their backs and their legs tied together before being hung from the ceiling for days on end.
One survivor said: "It was the most painful of all tortures. It was so painful that I felt it was better to die."
Others were tortured with other methods including sleep deprivation, with one woman in solitary confinement having been driven to suicide in 2020 after prison guards refused to let her sleep.
And even a member of the ruling party wasn't safe after it was discovered they owned a Bible and were executed in front of a 3,000-strong audience.
It is thought up to 70,000 Christians have been thrown in prison because of their beliefs since Kim Jong-Un took to power, out of a possible 400,000.
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North Korea's constitution claims to guarantee religious freedom for it citizens and the country has several churches in Pyongyang, the nation's capital, which it claims is proof of its acceptance of the Christian faith.
However the new report slammed the churches as "showpieces for foreigners".
One defector even reported people could be arrested for hanging around outside the places of worship for too long or listening to music coming from inside – or even driving past them too many times.
One visitor from Illinois, US, visited Chilgol Protestant Church in Pyongyang for a service and told Pen News: "It feels real but like many things indeed it may be somewhat a show for tourists.
"In this case it might be a mixture of showmanship and a few elderly Christians in the area."
Cunningham also said the congregation didn't have any children or young people present and was made up of men who appeared over 65 and women over 40.
"What you did not see were children or young working-age people," he observed.
This finding was backed up by the report that said many Christians in North Korea even hide their religion from their kids to protect themselves.
Citing the NGO Open Doors USA, it said: "A Christian is never safe.
"Children are encouraged to tell their teachers about any sign of faith in their parents’ home."
Meanwhile Korea Future, another NGO, said school-aged children were taught Christian missionaries engaged in "rape, blood-sucking, organ harvesting, murder, and espionage".
"One defector told Korea Future that the government published graphic novels in which Christians coaxed children into churches and took them to the basement to draw their blood," the report continued.
And it's not just Christians who are punished for their beliefs – those found to be practicing shamanism actually make up the most cases of persecution in the country with punishments range from six months in a forced labour camp to three or more years in a reeducation facility.
It is believed the Kim family demands North Korean citizens worship them and its ideology, Juche, which means national self-reliance, according to the report.
The report continued: "Although the ideology makes no explicit claim that the leaders are gods, they are described as ‘extraordinary beings’ capable of supernatural feats."
One defector said they were even taught bullets would change direction rather than hit Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather.
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