12.11.15 | News

"The most mysterious country in the world"

Lutz Drescher talked to the Catholic News Agency about his journey to North Korea

Gottesdienstbesuche standen auch auf dem Programm der Delegationsreise. (Foto: EMS/Drescher)

In October, Lutz Drescher, Liaison Secretary East Asia and India, travelled with an international delegation of the World Council of Churches to North Korea. In an interview with the Catholic News Agency he talked about the developments of the country and his experiences with the North Korean system.

Lutz Drescher of the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity sees signs for a greater willingness for international encounters and a certain economic development in North Korea. Drescher belonged to an international delegation of an ecumenical forum of the World Council of Churches (WCC) which was allowed to visit the mainly shielded dictatorship.

Drescher reported that besides the delegation of the WCC a group of South Korean priests visited the country at the same time. The Catholics belonged to the initiative Justitia et Pax. Furthermore, about 150 South Korean unionists paid North Korea a visit. Among other activities they held a football friendly with about 20.000 visitors. And a delegation of the German Bundestag was in North Korea not long ago.

The visit of the delegation served for the building of trust between Christians and the North Korean system, explained Drescher. Even "seasoned communists" would accept that Christians take a stand for peace. It was Drescher's fourth visit to North Korea and he saw great developments in the capital city Pyongyang. He saw more cars driving around and at each corner stood kiosks and new skyscrapers. Drescher sees the reason for the economic development in the involvement of the Chinese.

He calls North Korea "probably the most mysterious and withdrawn country in the world". You never know anything for certain and the group has "always been guided" during their visit, he says. The delegation visited protestant and catholic churches. Additionally, North Korea has an orthodox church which is mostly visited by Russians living in the country. The official statistic counts 13,000 protestant and 4,000 catholic Christians. About 250 people attended the protestant Sunday service, he says.

Drescher assumes that all of them had to get a permit beforehand to visit the church. During the service, the people placed down their stickers of the founder of the state, KIM Il-Sung, or of his son, KIM Jong-un which they usually wear. Also, in churches and in a theological seminar no pictures of them could be found. Such symbols are very important for a country like North Korea, Drescher explains. The grandfather of the founder of the state was a protestant Christian. For Lutz Drescher it is not possible to say if the situation for Christians has changed for the good or the worse.

But from his point of view "each contact to the outside is a small contribution to the opening of the country". The North Korean people perceive the US threatening their country as real, he says. In order to understand the country better, Drescher explains, it is necessary to comprehend the national doctrine in which the national security has upmost priority. "Everything is subordinated under this doctrine, even human rights". Even after 60 years the peninsula is traumatized because of the Korean War, he adds. That is why trust building activities are important as well as the commitment to change the agreement on ceasefire into a peace treaty between both Korean states.

(C) 2015 KNA Katholische Nachrichten-Agentur GmbH. All rights reserved. (Translation: EMS)