Two South Korean Christian pastors have been arrested in China because they were helping to smuggle persecuted North Korean defectors.
"The arrested pastors are known to have insisted that they helped North Korean defectors as they were at risk of being repatriated to the North where human rights violations are serious," an official from Justice for North Korea said, according to Yonhap News.
The two ministers, who were separately detained, had apparently been assisting North Korean defectors in leaving China.
The wives of the two pastors were also initially arrested and interrogated, but later released.
An official at Seoul's foreign ministry revealed that the Christian pastors are being held at a detention center in Liaoning Province in the country's northeast.
"Our consulate general in Shenyang has held meetings with our (detained) nationals and provided practical consular assistance, including information on hiring a lawyer and requesting humanitarian treatment from the Chinese public safety authorities," said the official, who wasn't named.
We will continue to provide consular help.
Back in February, China arrested another four South Korean missionaries, and expelled 32 others, following a series of police raids on churches.
The missionaries had also been helping smuggle out North Koreans, and were based in the northeast Yanji region.
A global alliance of human rights groups said last week that world leaders need to increase their pressure on North Korea and tackle the extremely high level of human rights abuses being carried out there.
"Essentially, North Korea is the most oppressive regime in the world; it is certainly the most closed, isolated country in the world. It's a regime that stands accused by the U.N.'s own Commission of Inquiry of crimes against humanity," Benedict Rogers, East Asia team leader at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, told The Christian Post at the time.
"Those crimes against humanity include the incarceration of 100,000 to 200,000 prisoners who are jailed because of political crimes, and are subjected to the worst forms of torture, slave labor, denial of medical care, sexual violence, and in some instances execution," Rogers added.
A number of watchdog groups, including Open Doors USA, have said that Christians are among those most heavily persecuted by the government, and have listed on a regular basis North Korea as the most dangerous place in the world for Christians to practice their faith.