The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has slammed North Korean media for reporting a false claim that world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham once said that former communist leader Kim Il Sung "might be a God" who "rules the human world."
As earlier reported, Rodong Sinmun, a North Korean newspaper that is the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, published the controversial story on the 104th birth anniversary of dictator Kim Il-sung
"The pastor said that he met the greatest among all human beings, who carried out the ultimate art of politics with high morality and being the saint of all saints," said the report in part, according to the Washington Post.
"Not believing in God but believing in his people, Premier Kim Il Sung who governs the country in his own way made me think that he might be God," said Graham during a 1992 visit to the isolated country, the report went on to claim, according to NK News. "I admit that Premier Kim Il Sung is God who exists in the world of human beings ... he, with his supreme political belief and method has created the greatest heaven on earth that even God might have not been able to do."
North Korean article also claimed that Graham, now 97, questioned why a country like North Korea would "need the Holy Bible" because "Kim is the world's God." The evangelist also allegedly said he was impressed by the lack of drug use and crime within the country.
However, the BGEA quickly squashed the North Korean media's claims in a statement released to NK News through the organization's spokesman Jeremy Blume.
"While Billy Graham made two trips to North Korea and knew the elder president Kim Il Sung, Mr. Graham has not said anything like this," the statement reads. "These words do not even remotely resemble Mr. Graham's theology or his language."
An article on the website of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association reveals that Graham visited North Korea 1992 and 1994, and his mother Ruth returned in 1997 after attending high school in Pyongyang in the 1930s.
Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham, has also visited North Korea three times, most recently in 2011.
At the time, the 64-year-old evangelist explained that like his father, he hopes to have a good relationship with the people of North Korea because he believes it will have a positive effect on the relationship between the government and the church.
"Millions of people there know nothing about God or what Jesus Christ has done for us on Calvary's cross. The greatest need for this nation is Christ. There is a hopelessness and emptiness that can only be filled by God Himself," the younger Graham said.
"My hope and prayer for the is that the government will free its people to worship God and that they will allow churches to be built and people to witness."
However, Eric Foley, a pastor with the human rights group Voice of the Martyrs, told NK News that this claim made by the North Korean media is a prime example of why prominent religious figures should not travel to the isolated country.
"Your reason for visiting will never be heard by North Koreans," Foley said. "Only the words the government wants you to say will be heard."