It’s hard to know exactly how many Christians there are in North Korea, because they must keep their faith so well hidden, but Open Doors estimates it is 400,000 – some 1.5 per cent of the population. About 50-70,000 of these Christians are in horrendous prisons and labour camps.
What does persecution look like in North Korea?
Being discovered as a Christian is a death sentence in North Korea. If you aren’t killed instantly, you will be taken to a labor camp as a political criminal. These inhumane prisons have horrific conditions, and few believers make it out alive. Everyone in your family will share the same punishment. Kim Jong-un is reported to have expanded the system of prison camps, in which an estimated 50-70,000 Christians are currently imprisoned.
Any Christian, anywhere in North Korea, is extremely vulnerable to persecution. The North Korean authorities’ control goes beyond the borders: Secret agents in China are tasked with finding and abducting North Korean Christians who have fled the country.
“Every time I knelt to God in prison, it was full of tears for my desperate situation. I asked Him for His freedom and liberation. God was the only one who I could turn to and put my hope in. Interestingly, I didn’t even know who God was or even if He existed then. But where else could I go or turn to in that cold, dark, hopeless prison cell?”Timothy Cho
What has changed compared to last year?
The year 2021 is the 20th year in a row that North Korea has been ranked as the country where Christians face the most extreme persecution. North Korean Christians continue to face extreme persecution in every element of their public and private lives.
Though the North Korean authorities claim that COVID-19 has had little impact in the country, North Koreans call it the “ghost disease” – because people are so malnourished already that they die very quickly from COVID-19. The pandemic has led to tighter security at the Chinese border, and a stranglehold on the black market, which many use to survive.
Open Doors secret workers are keeping 90,000 North Korean believers alive with vital food and aid through its networks in China, as well as providing Bibles, training through Christian radio broadcasting, and providing shelter and training for North Korean refugees in China.
How can you pray for North Korea?
- Pray for North Korea’s secret believers, that God will continue to strengthen them, provide for their needs and keep them safe.
- Pray for the believers who are imprisoned. Pray for comfort and strength for them, and that even in prison, they would know God’s presence and love.
- Despite the risks, we have heard stories of believers sharing the gospel with others, even in North Korean prison camps. Pray that North Korean believers will shine as lights in the darkest places on earth.
Lord God, it is hard for us to imagine life in North Korea for Christians. But thank You that You will never abandon Your children, and that You are with them whatever they suffer. Please help North Korean believers not just to survive but to be joyful, despite everything – prepare a banquet for them in the presence of their enemies. Tear down the strongholds of the Kim family and replace them with prayer and praise.