North Korea

North Korea actively targets, imprisons and executes people who are suspected of religious involvement. U.S. and UN authorities say the government’s totalitarianism and violations of human rights – arbitrary executions, political prison camps and torture – constitutes crimes against humanity.

Christianity’s Threat to North Korea

North Korea considers Christianity a serious threat because it challenges the official cult of personality of the despotic Kim family. Christianity provides opportunity for social interaction and political organization outside the government, the U.S. State Department reports.

Totalitarian rule, extreme isolationism and worship of the ruling Kim family is based on Juche ideology. Juche asserts that man is the master of his destiny and the masses can achieve self-reliance by subordinating to a ‘great leader’.

Refusing to revere the “great leader” as the Supreme authority is considered opposition to the national interest and severely punished.

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Christians in North Korea

Christians in underground churches are arrested, beaten, tortured and killed. North Korean defectors report that any religious activities that are not state-sanctioned, such as praying, singing hymns, and reading the Bible, could be severely punished, including imprisonment in political prison camps.

Christians who practice their religion while held in detention centers have disappeared.

Of 12,032 defectors, only 4.2 percent said they had seen a Bible in North Korea. Every household is required to hang portraits of Kim family dictators and treat them as sacred objects.

Defectors say that people who practice their religious beliefs often conceal their activities from neighbors, co-workers, and others out of fear that they will be reported to the government. Officials thoroughly search incoming packages and belongings at ports and airports for religious items.

North Korean escapees who make it to China have been sent back by Chinese authorities. When seventeen orphans were repatriated, security agents discovered that 3 were Christians because they had “calluses on their knees, as they had been praying for a long time for God to help them,” reported Hye Jin Lim of New Korea Women’s Union. The children were reportedly sent to a political prison camp, and the 14 others to a reeducation camp.

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Christians who practice their religion while held in detention centers have disappeared.

Churches in North Korea

North Korea gives the illusion of religious freedom to outsiders with five state-controlled Christian churches in Pyongyang. There are no other known churches in the country. Foreign legislators who attended services at these churches said congregations arrived and departed as groups on tour buses, and there were no children. They were not permitted to talk with the congregation. Christians who visited the country said the church activities appeared staged, and church doors were closed when they visited without government permission. Religious ceremonies for weddings and funerals were unheard of.

One defector said authorities arrested people who they believed lingered too long outside these churches to listen to the music or regularly drove past them when services were being held. They were held on suspicion of being secret Christians. Authorities realized that allowing music at the services and for people to attend church resulted in many attendees converting to Christianity.

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Christians who visited the country said the church activities appeared staged.

Helping Persecuted Christians

Christian Freedom International works with defectors to smuggle food, Bibles, medicines, short-wave radios and gospel broadcasts into North Korea. CFI sponsors radio broadcasts that deliver Bible readings and teachings into the hermit kingdom.

Photos courtesy of Free North Korea Radio

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