Open Doors has previously reported on life inside North Korean prisons, sharing from conversations with ex-prisoners who escaped the country. But a recent news report reveals an urgent need for mobilizing fervent worldwide prayer for believers imprisoned in North Korea—prisons that have been reported to be on par with historical atrocities like World War II concentration camp Auschwitz.
It is estimated that 200,000 people are trapped in a network of gulags and camps in North Korea. Among them, Open Doors estimates that 50,000 are Christian prisoners; some 75 percent don’t survive. Once believers are discovered (Christians are unacceptable to the Kim regime that calls for total allegiance), their entire families are sent to a prison camp.
But we are people of God, and we can do something about this reality. Will you join us today in a day of prayer for North Korea, even as its leaders mark a day devoted to their brutal rule?
Below, we offer several snapshots of life in North Korean detainment centers and prisons, including this recent news report, to expose the serious and dire situation. They are difficult, little-known accounts but important ones we need to know about. Stories like these drive us to pray, and compel us to “remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Heb. 13:3).
Warning: The following accounts contain graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers. Please read with caution.
A ‘process of torture, beating and sleeplessness’
North Korean refugee John Cho escaped his home country but was caught and repatriated from China back to North Korea. He was 15 when he was imprisoned in North Korea’s National Intelligence Center. He describes his experience as a “process of torture, beating and sleeplessness”:
There were over 50 people in one cell. The space was so small that we had to lean on another’s back. We were given a tiny amount of noodle soup for each meal—it needed no spoon or fork. One guard told me: “You can walk into this place on your own. But if you stay alive, on the way back out, you will need someone’s piggyback.”
On my first night, I noticed the man leaning on my back was coughing a lot. In the morning, he was found dead. Torture and sleeplessness caused him to get a high fever. The guards ordered two men to drag him out—it was like he was a dead animal. At that moment, I thought, “I am going to die in this place.”