They’re being charged with attempting to overthrow the regime, but their real crime is that they were working with jailed South Korean Christian missionary Kim Jung-wook to set up 500 underground churches in North Korea.

They are not being “executed.” Using that word would lend some legality and moral framework to Kim’s action. This is nothing less than a massacre of innocent human beings — a slaughter that should raise an outcry in every civilized nation of the world.

The Daily Mail reports:

Thirty-three North Koreans face execution after being charged with attempting to overthrow the repressive regime of Kim Jong-un.

The Koreans have landed themselves in hot water after it emerged they had worked with South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook and received money to set up 500 underground churches. It is understood they will be put to death in a cell at the State Security Department.

Experts believe the North Koreans are being punished more harshly than usual as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un combats a wave of dissatisfaction at the regime’s isolationist “juche” doctrine.

Missionary Kim Jung-wook was arrested and jailed last year for allegedly trying to establish underground churches. Last week he held a press conference at which he apologized for committing “anti-state” crimes and appealed for his release from North Korean custody.

He told reporters that he was arrested in early October after entering the North from China and trying to make his way to Pyongyang with Bibles, Christian instructional materials and movies.

Kim Jung-wook said he had received assistance from South Korea’s intelligence agency.

“I was thinking of turning North Korea into a religious country, and destroying its present government and political system,” he said at the time.

“I received money from the intelligence services and followed instructions from them, and arranged North Koreans to act as their spies. And I also set up an underground church in China, in Dandong, and got the members to talk and write, for me to collect details about the reality of life in North Korea, and I provided this to the intelligence services.”

A South Korean intelligence source in China took issue with Kim’s account, saying that the missionary did not enter North Korea voluntarily, but was kidnapped by agents of the Pyongyang government in China.

During Kim Jung-wook’s press conference, North Korean officials also showed video of North Koreans who confessed to coming into contact with the missionary.

The North Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported that they said that Kim told them to build a church on the site where a massive statue of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-Sung, stands in Pyongyang whenever the regime falls.

Anyone who believes those coerced “confessions” should be institutionalized for having lost touch with reality. The question now is whether Kim will carry through with his bloodthirsty plan. Or will he demonstrate his “mercy” by commuting the sentences to something less than death?

Kim is liable to make the same mistake Roman emperors made when they tried to stamp out Christianity, as I’ll explain on the next page.

The Roman emperors dealt with Christianity by trying to send a message that it was dangerous to follow the teachings of Christ. Particularly brutal public executions were designed to make anyone think twice about joining the sect.

But the unintentional consequence of the emperor’s reign of terror was that the public executions of Christians set a shining example of grace and courage that many Romans admired — as much as they admired such attributes in the arena or in their army. Rather than snuff out Christianity, the brutality caused a flood of new converts.

Kim may not have bargained for something similar happening here. The types of people who will defy Kim’s anger are exactly the types most able to spread the Good News and give courage and hope to others.

In the meantime, I await the cries of outrage from western governments, whose very existence and animating ideals can be traced directly to the Christian church. Recently, it seems that most western countries are fleeing their foundational past rather than rediscovering the moral underpinnings of their beginnings that made their societies the richest, and the freest, in the world.

Time to remember them now.