Already on the look-out for goods showing manufacture in rival South Korea, North Korean border guards are now watching too for products coming in from China that bear markings resembling the Christian cross, North Korean sources say.
Customs officers in the isolated, sanctions-hit state have recently been confiscating all products they see that show the mark, a Chinese-Korean peddler based in Pyongyang who frequently travels back and forth across the border told RFA’s Korean Service.
“We’ve always had to make sure there were no Korean characters on the labels of products that we brought in from China,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Now we have to check again to see that there isn’t anything that looks like a cross,” he said.
“Some designs on women’s clothing can look a lot like a cross, depending on who is looking at it. Cross designs also appear on women’s hairpins and hair bands and on men’s neckties.”
“These products are more likely to be confiscated during customs checks,” he said.
Key chains, earrings taken
Also speaking to RFA, a source in North Korea’s North Hamgyong province said that Chinese confections shipped into the country are sometimes shaped like the letter X.
“If customs officers confiscate these products, insisting the shape looks like a cross, we have nowhere to complain,” he said.
“And if young women carry key chains or wear earrings that have designs resembling a cross, these are also taken away.”
Students in math classes must also be careful now when drawing “plus signs” to make the vertical and horizontal lines of equal length, he said.
“You can’t have the vertical line go longer,” he said.
While officially hostile to all organized religions, “the North Korean government reserves its most severe persecution for Christians,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms (USCIRF) said in its 2016 annual report.
“It is estimated that tens of thousands of Christians in North Korea are currently in prison camps facing hard labor or execution,” USCIRF said in its report.
Christianity is routinely associated with “the United States and Western ideology” and is therefore considered especially threatening to the Kim Jong Un regime, analysts say.
Reported by Joonho Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Jackie Yoo. Written in English by Richard Finney.