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North Korean Christians endure another year of worship to country's 'living god' on founder's birthday

Although the founder of North Korea died in 1994, an escapee tells Premier that Christians still have to bow to Kim Il-Sung every year, something he remembers doing himself. 

The current leader Kim Jong-Il's grandfather was born on 15th April 1912 and is praised publicly each year for founding the state, although this year it was marked with mask-clad dancers in the capital Pyongyang.  

A escapee from North Korea has told Premier that for Christians, it is a reminder of how they are not allowed to worship their own God. 

Although the country is officially atheist, Kim Il-Sung is worshipped like a 'living god', it is a public holiday called 'The Day of the Sun' and treated like Christmas. 

People bow to statues of Kim Il-Sung, bring flowers and clean the monuments, cartoons and TV broadcasts all tell stories about how he was undefeated in war and how he brought about the culture and society they have today. 

However, religious freedom charity Open Doors estimates that around 50-70,000 Christians are in prison or in labour camps, with any sign of commitment to Christ being a punishable offence. 

Timothy Cho, who escaped North Korea and then became a Christian and now does work for Open Doors, told Premier Christians are put in a difficult position, having to bow before a 'living god': "If they asked you to bow to the statue, what would you feel about it? I think I should ask this question to every Christian. They need huge wisdom, they need huge wisdom and discernment." he added that Christians will be praying that they can avoid being watched by police so they don't have to bow to the statue.

He recalls how, as a child, he was 'brainwashed' to behave the same way: "I remember how I used to wake up at six o'clock in the morning with some flowers and some cleaning materials in my hand and visit his statues and make his statues outside shiny, you never even cleaned your home like that!"

There are even 10 ideological principles, likened to the Ten Commandments, including have no one in authority above Kim Il-Sung. 

Cho says he never ceases to pray:

"Our prayers shouldn't stop; I do pray every day as well. Before I eat, I remind [myself] and I pray. 

"This is a hermit kingdom. We can't see what they do to their own citizens and how they're persecuting their citizens inside. People like myself, we experienced the inside, we can draw this picture of what's happening right now in there. And therefore, if you can remember them, and pray even a minute a day, think of these underground Christians and what they are going through. 

"We should not stop praying for the regime and leadership side. Leadership is not meant to be oppressing and persecuting their own people in this way. Leadership is meant to be [like a] servant following Jesus who demonstrated what authority means...but that is completely denied in this country."

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