It’s hard to know exactly how many Christians there are in North Korea, because they must keep their faith secret, 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?
North Korea has been at or near the top of the World Watch List for more than 20 years. That's because any North Korean caught following Jesus is at immediate risk of imprisonment, brutal torture and death. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea's notorious system of prisons and labor camps. Even worse, a family will often share the same fate as the person captured. The government ruled by the Kim family views Christians as the most dangerous political class of people, and the persecution is violent and intense. North Korean parents often hide their faith from their children. Churches of more than a few people are non-existent and most worship is done as secretly as possible. Life for Christians in North Korea is a constant cauldron of pressure; capture or death is only a mistake away.
Every Christian in North Korea is vulnerable and in danger.
Bae is a Christian living in North Korea.
"From the perspective of other people, our life of suffering must seem like a cursed life; however, this suffering is a blessing from our Father who allowed it in our life because it is a shortcut to the Father. He knows our suffering and listens to our prayers. We thank our Father who has done such great things to prepare life for us."Bae
What has changed compared to last year?
Christians are even more at risk because of the government's closure of all borders as a COVID-19 precaution. The limited ability of some believers to escape to China for help with food and medicine has become even more difficult. In 2021, the government made a rare admission that the situation in North Korea is difficult, which was obvious to international observers who had warned about the impact of failed harvests on the North Korean people. Additionally, experts say North Korea's network of prison camps has been expanded by at least 20,000 people.
Christians are, of course, affected by these realities. Where believers are known to authorities for past "crimes," like possessing a Bible, they are on the lowest rung of society and neglected for whatever meagre food aid is available. North Korea continues to be extremely dangerous for followers of Jesus, and it's not likely to change any time soon unless the Kim regime is toppled.
Through our networks in China, Open Doors helps persecuted North Korean believers with emergency relief aid (food, medicine, clothes), Bibles, discipleship materials and training, worldwide prayer support and more. Open Doors also provides discipleship through radio broadcasts in other countries that are available (illegally) in North Korea.
How can you pray for North Korea?
- Pray for Christians who worship secretly, Christians who are in prison, and the families of Christians who have been arrested or killed. Ask God to be with these believers and to strengthen them to find hope and see His hand at work in their lives.
- The Kim family has led for so long and brutally opposed God's people. Pray for a change of heart, that Kim might see the beauty of the gospel and the love Jesus has for him.
- Open Doors' networks in China are vital to keep the North Korean church up and running. Pray for the success and safety of these safe houses, and for the travels of North Korean Christians who make the dangerous trek to and from China.
Dear God, it can be so hard to know how to pray for North Korea—there is so much need and pain there, and the situation has been so bad for so long. Yet we see throughout history and in the pages of Scripture that You are always at work, even when things seem at their darkest. We pray You would give a glimpse of Your light to your people in North Korea, and inflame the hearts of all the believers who risk everything to follow You. We pray all these things in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.