SEOUL, April 30 (Yonhap) -- An independent U.S. government commission has asked the State Department to keep North Korea on its blacklist of countries that repress freedom of religion, citing Pyongyang's "systematic" and "egregious" human rights violations.
In an annual report recently disclosed on its website, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended maintaining the North as a "country of particular concern." North Korea has been designated as such since 2001.
"In 2018, religious freedom conditions in North Korea trended the same as in 2017. North Korea is one of the most isolated and repressed societies in the world," the report said.
"Throughout 2018 the North Korean government continued to carry out systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief," it added.
The commission asked Washington to make any future discussions on easing or lifting of sanctions against Pyongyang contingent upon its "sincere and demonstrable efforts" to improve its religious freedom and human rights record.
Along with North Korea, China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Vietnam and similar countries were also recommended to be included on the list.
Established in 1998, the USCIRF is an independent body within the U.S. government. Its mandate is to monitor conditions of religious freedom worldwide and to make policy recommendations to the president and the Congress.
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