A North Korean cultural representative has denied claims that Christians are being persecuted in the country and accused evangelists of taking advantage of drug addicts and homeless people by forcing them to convert to their religion in exchange for food.
Evangelical Focus editor Joel Forster reported the comments from the Spaniard Alejandro Cao, representative of Cultural Relations of North Korea with Foreign Countries, which were made via Twitter.
When Forster asked Cao about the rampant Christian persecution under the rule of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Cao replied: "It is absolutely false. The problem in the world is that there are enlightened people like you who believe themselves to be representatives of God or even God."
Cao, who is also the president of the Korean Friendship Association, continued, "You take advantage of drug addicts and homeless people to force them to become evangelists in exchange of a plate of soup."
He then accused Forster of being "not a religious person but an activist of the USA" and mocked the suggestion that God would bring justice to those suffering under Kim Jong Un's leadership.
"He [God] seems to be arriving late. We have been here for 70 years, and many more to come," Cao said.
Despite Cao's claims, persecution watchdog Open Doors USA has ranked North Korea at the very top of its World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution for 13 consecutive years
"The god-like worship of the leader, Kim Jong-Un, and his predecessors leaves little room for any other religions and Christians face unimaginable pressure in every sphere of life," the Open Doors website explains.
"Meeting with other Christians is virtually impossible. Anyone discovered engaging in unauthorized religious activity is subject to arrest, arbitrary detention, disappearance, torture and/or execution. Those Christians who attempt to return to North Korea from China are sentenced to life in prison or executed. Leader Kim Jong-Un purged 10,000 North Koreans last year, including some Christians."
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) also said that the Communist state "remains one of the most oppressive regimes in the world and among the worst violators of human rights."
"The government tightly controls all political and religious expression and activities, and it punishes those who question the regime," the USCIRF's 2015 report said.
"Genuine freedom of religion or belief is non-existent. Individuals secretly engaging in religious activities are subject to arrest, torture, imprisonment, and sometimes execution...While all forms of religion or belief not expressly sanctioned and operated by the state are restricted, Christians experience the most severe persecution."
In an attempt to further the Gospel despite this kind of oppression, the Korean office for Voice of the Martyrs announced at a press conference earlier this week that they will be sending Bibles into the southern part of the country.
The Christian missionary organization will be sending the Bibles, translated into a North Korean dialect, via balloons which can be tracked via a computer app.
"We didn't create it for North Koreans, but with North Koreans. They asked us to make it, and we created it to meet their needs", VOM founder Eric Foley explained.
However, he admitted that such an endeavour is dangerous, as posessing a Bible in the Communist country is strictly forbidden.
"In North Korea, even children are aware of the risks of possessing a Bible," he said. "Even socks, clothes or food are dangerous. People who pick up a Bible know their choice is very risky, they could probably end up being executed."