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Clandestine Catholics in North Korea: counting beans as a way to pray the Rosary

Around the world, the Catholic Church probably faces the greatest hurdles in North Korea. Any remaining Christians must hide their faith. They are persecuted since the end of World War II, although it was not always the case. MARTA PETROSILLO Aid to the Church in Need "In 1945, at the start of the division of the two Koreas, Pyongyang was known as the Jerusalem of East Asia. Some 50,000 Catholics lived there.â? Since then, the situation has changed dramatically. Today, North Korea enforces an absolute cult following around the ruling Kim family, which has been power since the 1940's.  MARTA PETROSILLO Aid to the Church in Need "Any other religion is excluded. It's believed that there are about 10,000 Catholics living in the country still. But the majority are elderly.â? According to reports, a quarter of the Christians that stayed were detained and placed in labor camps, living in subhuman conditions and even tortured. All others were forced to flee or hide their faith to avoid persecution. MARTA PETROSILLO Aid to the Church in Need "Some North Korean refugees tell us that elderly woman would sit in a circle at night and count beans, as a way to recite the Rosary.â? Aid to the Church in Need, which helps persecuted Christians, said the situation in North Korea is among the most severe and least known. The regime's secrecy and isolation make it difficult to get a full grasp on the reality Christians face in the Hermit Kingdom. JRB/RCA MG JM -PR Up: YJA