OVERVIEW: North Korea was once a thriving center of Christian worship. Pyongyang, the capital, was known as the “Jerusalem of the East” in the early 1900s because of its 2,000-plus churches. Decades of rule by the oppressive regime, currently led by Kim Jong Un, has forced Christians to worship in underground settings. The Communist-inspired dictatorship is founded upon Juche, a distinctly North Korean religious ideology that requires worship and subservience to the Kim family. The Communist government depends on Juche (the North Korean religion that requires worship and subservience to the Kim family) to maintain stability, and Christianity is considered subversive. Anyone discovered to be a Christian (or, in many cases, discovered to have had contact with Christian ideas) is considered an enemy of the state. The gospel is still proclaimed in North Korea through various creative means, including shortwave radio and bold evangelists who risk their lives smuggling materials into the country.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: Religious freedom is nonexistent, and the government claims all North Koreans follow the Juche religion.
PERSECUTOR: If discovered, Christians face harsh persecution from the government and from members of the community, who are required to serve as government informants. Even those who are aware of Christian activity but do not report it to the government are punished as enemies of the regime.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN NORTH KOREA: Christians are sent to concentration camps, where they are starved, overworked and tortured. North Koreans have a saying: Whenever two or three people are gathered together, one of them is a spy. This is true even in family settings, as children are taught to spy on their parents from a young age. Therefore, North Korean Christians must be extremely careful in what they say, what they do and how they pray; all must be done in secret. When a Christian is discovered, the government punishes the entire family. Despite the threat of persecution and heavy social pressure, Christians in North Korea hold firmly to their faith. Christian and secular analysts estimate that about 30,000 Christians are suffering in prison and labor camps.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: It is very dangerous to own a Bible in North Korea. Owning even a few pages of a Bible can result in detention in a concentration camp. However, bold Christians work to bring God’s Word to the North Korean people. Most of North Korea’s underground Christians have found that memorization is the safest way to keep God’s Word.
VOM WORK: VOM provides Bibles via balloons and other creative smuggling operations, broadcasts Christian teaching into North Korea over a special radio network and ministers to North Koreans wherever they are found.