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Defector formerly monitored cultural activities for Party

Listen to the original broadcast in Korean

A North Korean defector has revealed that there is a small but growing amount of religious activity in the isolated Stalinist state, which decries any form of religious belief as superstition and still monitors all cultural activity by its citizens, RFA's Korean service reports.

"[Religion] is being spread little by little," former North Korean cadre Soon-hang Park told RFA. "But the authorities are very strict about this and they say that fortune-telling, and any such superstitious beliefs, should also be uprooted from the very beginning."

"When caught, people are sent to prison without exception."

Park said he met various forms of religious and cultural activity during his time as a ruling party official in North Korea, and that Christianity had made an impact in some areas of the country influenced by South Korean "religious philosophies."

"Some women would praise God by singing songs and teach Christian doctrines in front of people even when I was giving lectures," he said.

Park said his job also involved monitoring fellow party members to see if they were tuning in to foreign broadcasts. "I went around the houses and inspected their TV and radio frequencies to check if they had tuned their equipment to proper frequencies," he said.

"But if they still did not cooperate and listened to [non-official] programs clandestinely, then their equipment was confiscated and legal punishment followed... So you have to listen only in private and not in public�if it is discovered, you are sent to a prison," Park said.

He said he listened to some of South Korean broadcaster KBS's programming in Korean. "People usually listen to two programs, Radio Free Asia's Korean broadcasts and VOA [Voice of America]," Park said.

He said that at the time he left North Korea, food aid from South Korea had been siphoned away from famine relief programs toward preparations for war.

Centrally dictated living costs were raised by a factor of 10, and citizens were forced to buy government bonds with little hope of seeing the money again.

"It is impossible for people to live there," he said. #####


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