SEOUL, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- North Korea continues to persecute citizens for their religious beliefs, going as far as physically battering victims until they lose control of their bowel movements, according to a South Korean NGO report released this week.
In its annual white paper on North Korea's record on religious freedom, the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights said those caught practicing religions not sanctioned by the state face imprisonment and even death, according to local news service Christian Today.
Researchers at NKDB surveyed 11,730 North Korean defectors in the South who came to the country after 2007. Through interviews, the South Korean nonprofit organization identified 65,282 cases of religious persecution involving 38,238 North Koreans.
Of that number, 1,040 North Koreans in 1,247 cases were the targets of state-sanctioned human rights abuses, according to the report.
More than 99 percent of defectors interviewed confirmed there is no religious freedom in North Korea.
There are also no publicly accessible places of worship outside Pyongyang, 98 percent of defectors say, confirming a report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide released in September that stated the four churches in the North Korean capital are showcases on display for foreign tourists.
Only 1.2 percent of defectors interviewed said they had engaged in secret religious activities in North Korea, a strong indication that those who do practice religion after leaving the country do so once in South Korea or after contact with Christian missionaries in China.
Most North Korean religious practitioners say they are either Protestant or Roman Catholic. More than 10 percent of interviewees said they are Buddhist.
The interviews also reveal less than 23 percent of victims of religious persecution survive their punishment, according to defectors' testimonies.
About 18 percent die at the hands of the state, and the whereabouts of 80 percent of those apprehended are unknown, they said.