Kenneth Bae

Are reporters missing a surprising religion ghost when covering news about North Korea?

Are reporters missing a surprising religion ghost when covering news about North Korea?

Media mention of religion in North Korea generally involves the arrest of some unfortunate foreign Christian who thought they could sneak a Bible or other evangelism materials into what is arguably the world's most repressive state -- which is saying something, given the number of horrific governments out there.

By way of example, click here. Or click here, and then read what GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly said over the weekend about a CNN take on a major North Korea story.

As for the existence of religion in North Korea itself, the default position for most journalists, including those on the religion beat, is that the nation formally (and oxymoronically) known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is officially atheist. On occasion, a more knowledgeable reporter may note that its official philosophy is known in Korean as Juche.

This recent New York Times piece does just that. Here's the pertinent sentence: "Juche, or self-reliance, is the North’s governing ideology."

Well, yes. But there's so much more that can be said. Including that some who study the sociology of religion consider Juche -- as politicized and seemingly secular as it is -- a "religious" ideology. Which means there's a "religion ghost," or unrecognized religion angle, hidden in some stories about how the North's oppressed population endures.

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Trigger warning! Kenneth Bae book about North Korea ordeal may include faith content!

Trigger warning! Kenneth Bae book about North Korea ordeal may include faith content!

In a way, this short post is not about Kenneth Bae and he horrors he endured doing hard labor in North Korea.

In a way, this short post is also not about his book on that topic.

I reality, this short post is about CNN and the attitude that someone in the editorial process there has toward the Bae book and (trigger warning: The following language may offend some readers) its religious content.

As a faithful GetReligion reader put it in an email about this particular CNN report, "Kenneth Bae: '735 days in North Korea was long enough' ":

Check out the second-to-the-last graph and see if you don't find yourself tempted to find the nearest brick wall against which you can bang your head.

But first some context, for those who are not following this story (which will soon be the subject of an Ira Rifkin "Global Wire" post:

(CNN) Kenneth Bae spent almost two years performing grueling work for the North Korean regime -- and had another decade of hard labor ahead of him.
But he's no longer shoveling coal and hauling rocks. Instead, the American sat down with CNN's Chris Cuomo ... for his first live interview since his 2014 release.

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