Fewer citizens in North Korea see Jong-Un as god, with more turning to Christianity
A North Korean defector has revealed how fewer citizens now see Kim Jong-un as a god with more people turning to Christianity.
Anyone caught practising religion of any form in the hermit state can face jail, torture or even execution, according to a US State Department report on global religious freedoms.
But despite this, many are abandoning the notion that their supreme leader is a deity, according to an unnamed defector.
The defector, part of a group called the Worldwide Coalition to Stop Genocide in North Korea, told the Daily Telegraph: 'In the past, the people were told to worship the Kim family as their god, but many North Koreans no longer respect Kim Jong-un. That means they are looking for something else to sustain their faith.
'In some places, that has led to the emergence of shamens, but the Christian church is also growing and deepening its roots there.
'Even though people know they could be sent to prison - or worse - they are still choosing to worship, and that means that more cracks are appearing in the regime and the system,' said the defector, who is said to be active in backing 'underground churches' operating in the secretive nation.
It comes after the US released a damning report into global religious freedoms, slamming allies and foes alike for their shortcomings at a time when its own record has come under fire.
Launching the first report since President Donald Trump took office, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took swipes at Bahrain, China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Turkey.
But the report also took aim at North Korea for denying people the 'right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.
The report says: 'The government continued to deal harshly with those who engaged in almost any religious practices through executions, torture, beatings and arrests', the report states.
'An estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners, some imprisoned for religious reasons, were believed to be held in the political prison camp system in remote areas under horrific conditions.'
The report does not look into policy in the United States, where Trump won office on a pledge to ban all Muslim immigration and is now battling US courts for the right to ban arrivals from eight mainly-Muslim states.
But Tillerson - who gave a brief address to launch the report - insisted the administration will continue to promote religious freedom around the world as a 'moral imperative' and a universal human right.
'Religious persecution and intolerance remains far too prevalent,' he said. 'Almost 80 percent of the global population live with restrictions on or hostilities to limit their freedom of religion.
'Where religious freedom is not protected, we know that instability, human rights abuses, and violent extremism have a greater opportunity to take root,' he warned, in a brief speech at the State Department.