How many Christians are there in North Korea?
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.
How are Christians persecuted in North Korea?
Any North Korean caught following Jesus is at immediate risk of imprisonment, brutal torture and death. The government, led by Kim Jong-un, views Christians as the most dangerous political class of people, and the persecution is violent and intense. North Korean parents must hide their faith from their children. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea’s notorious system of prisons and labour camps. To make matters worse, often a family will share the same fate as the person captured.
Christians are even more at risk because of the government’s decision to close all borders as a Covid-19 precaution. Even the limited ability of some believers to escape to China for help with food and medicine has become even more difficult.
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 until the Kim regime is toppled.
“The thing I give thanks for the most is that Father God uses me to work as His servant. I desire to dedicate my life, until death, to glorify Him.” Bae, an exiled believer in North Korea
What’s life like for Christians in North Korea?
Bae* and her husband were sentenced to a lifetime of back-breaking labour after North Korean authorities discovered they owned a Bible. Every morning in the village she’s forced to live in, Bae spends the day working in the fields. She has to meet her work quota of crops. Like everyone else in her village, Bae is close to starving – she, along with everyone else, is given just enough food to survive. But at night, in the privacy of her home, Bae gathers with a handful of other Christians and they spend time together in worship and prayer. Bae is a secret house church leader – this is her real work.
Bae once managed to escape to China – a dangerous and risky journey – but once there, she found a safe house run by Open Doors partners. She sang worship songs and prayed loud prayers. She read the Bible openly with fellow believers, experiencing fellowship in a way that is impossible in North Korea.
You wouldn’t blame Bae if she praised God for her lucky escape and never looked back. But amazingly, when offered the chance to stay in the safe house, she refused. Instead, Bae returned home with the food and medicine she’d been given, and a precious Bible. She shared all these with her underground group of believers. These gifts will sustain the faith of these North Korean Christians for years.
*Name changed for security reasons
How can I help Christians in North Korea?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in North Korea. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors secret workers are keeping 60,000 North Korean believers alive with vital food and aid through secret networks in China, as well as providing Bibles, shelter and discipleship training for North Korean refugees at safe houses in China.
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. And 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 just a glimpse of Your light to your people in North Korea, and inflame the hearts of all believers who risk everything to follow You. Amen.