N. Korea among 5 countries where Santa 'must watch his back'

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Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) - The online edition of U.S. magazine Foreign Policy has chosen North Korea as one of five places where Santa Claus really does have to watch his back.

Foreign Policy said in a Dec. 24 article titled "The World War on Christmas" that North Korea, an officially atheist state, does not permit the celebration of Christmas.

Though North Korea's constitution says it guarantees freedom of religion, at the time of Kim Jong-il's death, there were between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians in North Korean labor camps, the magazine said, citing estimates by human rights activists.

Missionaries caught distributing Bibles and anyone caught worshipping secretly can be tortured or executed, or both, in North Korea, it said.

Foreign Policy also said North Korea isn't thrilled about South Korea's Christmas celebrations.

Last year, the North warned of "unexpected consequences" if the South Korean government allowed a Christian group to light a Christmas tree-shaped tower near the western border with North Korea.

The North Korean regime regularly accuses South Korea of trying to spread Christianity among its people.

The other four countries Santa will have skipped are Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.

The magazine cited an Associated Press report that Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov'e regime has banned the local version of Santa Claus from television.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reportedly banned Christmas trees and images of Santa Claus from government offices in 2006 because he deemed them too American.

In Saudi Arabia, non-Muslim activities are banned in public, and expatriates and travelers in the kingdom are generally advised to keep their jingle bells to themselves.

Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro banned Christmas as a public holiday in 1969. In 1998, Cuba restored Christmas, but one Cuban newspaper warned its readers to beware of Santa Clause, called a symbol of American "consumerism," Foreign Policy said.

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