But not in North Korea. At least, according to the North Korean government.
North Korea claims it does not have a single coronavirus case in the entire country. But this claim is almost certainly untrue. The United States has noticed that there has been very little military activity in North Korea, a rarity for the dictatorship. This is likely due to coronavirus infections and preventative measures. And one report suggests almost 200 soldiers died after showing symptoms similar to those who suffer from the coronavirus. In the meantime, the country is stepping up its preventive measures.
At Open Doors, we fear that the lives of many North Korean citizens are at stake.
“The health care system in the country is almost non-existent,” says a leader of Open Doors’ North Korea team who works with North Korean refugees in China. He cannot give his name for security reasons. “Hospitals are barely functioning, there are few doctors and there’s a huge shortage of medicines. People who are sick buy unlabeled medicines on the black market from people who don’t have a medical background.”
According to this Open Doors expert, many North Koreans have a weak immune system. “Most people have gone through periods of severe malnourishment,” he notes. “A viral epidemic would be disastrous for them. Even in highly developed countries, the health care system is under tremendous pressure. North Korea doesn’t have the means to help its citizens if there is a major outbreak.”
Open Doors has secret channels to give food and medicines to North Korean Christians. This help is crucial for surviving, according to a secret believer. “Every household suffers food shortages,” he says. “First, we had a drought in spring, then strong storms and rains during summer. Our country also has to deal with international sanctions. The harvest was already bad and now citizens have to provide food for the military first. There aren’t enough rations left for winter and for the springtime.” The situation is so grave that citizens call spring the “poverty season.”
We’ve heard how in times of famine the North Korean church shares food with their neighbors, which opened doors to share the love of Jesus. We know that North Korean believers are similarly ready to share what they have—and the good news of the gospel—with their neighbors during this crisis.
“We are so grateful that you don’t forget us in your prayers,” says the secret North Korean Christian. “We have a saying that a house costs 800 gold pieces, but a good neighbor is worth 1,000 gold pieces. However, what you do for us, is worth more than 10,000 gold pieces. We are so thankful that God has made you our brother or our sister.”
Your support is incredibly important to help feed thousands of men, women and children and to keep the church alive in North Korea. Your prayers can help them stand strong in the face of extreme persecution—and the new, increased risk to their lives from the coronavirus.