Report: North Korea continues to punish religious practice

SEOUL, South Korea, Aug. 15 (UPI) — The North Korean government continued to punish those engaging in religious practices last year, with executions, torture and other abuse, the U.S. State Department said in an annual report Tuesday.

In the 2016 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, the department reconfirmed human rights abuses the North has long been accused of, including its denial of the right to religious freedom.

“The government continued to deal harshly with those who engaged in almost any religious practices through executions, torture, beatings, and arrests,” the report said. “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.”

Last year’s report pointedly said the exercise of religious freedom continued to be nearly “nonexistent” in North Korea. But that word was dropped this year.

The report comes as tensions run high between Washington and Pyongyang over the communist regime’s missile and nuclear programs.

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