What Does Third Inter-Korean Summit Mean for 300,000 Persecuted Christians?
Today (Sept. 18) at the third inter-Korean summit, South Korea leader Moon Jae-in was the first sitting president to cross the border into North Korea since 2007. The two leaders of the Koreas are meeting again–five months since their first meeting in April, which saw Kim Jong-un become the first North Korean leader to cross the border into South Korea since the end of the Korean war in 1953.
According to CNBC, the two are coming together to discuss strengthening ties between the two countries and denuclearization. In April, Kim Jong-un called the first summit a “starting point” and pledged a “new history” in North Korea’s relationship with South Korea.
The three-day summit comes on the heels of President Trump’s recent announcement that he, too, will meet again face-to-face with Kim Jong-un after the North Korean leader sent a letter, seeking a meeting.
These continuing conversations spur three questions:
- What do these ongoing discussions mean for the 300,000 Christians who are forced to keep their faith a secret?
- What will the denuclearization and peace talks do to help expedite the release of over 50,000 Christians suffering in hard labor camps because they believe in Jesus?
- Will we see more intellectual and religious freedom in the North in response to these ongoing discussions with the South and later with the U.S.?
What we’ve seen so far is that there are no immediate answers. Many hoped there would be as news of the first summits between South Korea and the U.S. were announced earlier this year. It is still possible that these visits are the beginning of decades of answered prayers to relieve some of the pressure on persecuted believers in the North.
Difficult to Imagine
However, Open Doors CEO David Curry reminds us to be cautious in our expectations:
“The world must remember that nothing yet has changed for the estimated 300,000 North Korean Christians who must live their faith in secret, or face imprisonment and death. Open Doors cautions that the smiling man in pictures is the same man who has ordered countless murders and imprisonments in a place the Open Doors World Watch List has ranked for 17 years as the most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian.
“I continue to be hopeful that true progress will be achieved, not only toward denuclearization—which is good for the entire world—but also away from a totalitarian state under which many North Korean Christians have suffered for decades, including more than 50,000 who are still in hard-labor camps. Let these steps take us down a road of lasting change for those who have suffered long enough.”
With the long history of Christian persecution within the country, it’s difficult to imagine anything will change even in three meetings. And, in the two previous summits with South Korea and June’s Trump-Kim talks in Singapore, so far nothing of substantial weight has been mentioned about opening the country to new ideas or changing the political system or allowing free thought to flow across the border.
Discussions on denuclearization and peace are both good starting points, but the future for North Korean Christians is an urgent matter.
Praying Bold Prayers
Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors, once said: “If we would understand the potential power of our prayers, we would be on our knees a hundred times a day and ask Him things that would turn the world upside down.”
These conversations between the Koreas and the U.S. should drive us to an increased sensitivity to our brothers and sisters in Christ who strive to follow Jesus behind the border—and encourage persistent and intense prayers for their intellectual and religious freedom that hangs in the balance.
Our prayers should be as bold as to ask for total religious freedom—and the rapid growth of the church in North Korea. We can pray that these historic meetings between world leaders will produce unprecedented opportunities to evangelize and advance the Kingdom.
For 17 consecutive years, North Korea has been No. 1 on the World Watch List—as the most dangerous country in the world for Christians. To see it move even a few slots on the list would signal a radical answer to prayer for persecuted believers inside North Korea.
So what do these continuing conversations mean for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith? In short, nothing yet. But they should continually spur us on to remember the suffering Body of Christ in North Korea.
These talks are also a great reminder to take action. One thing we can do right now is to again urgently ask President Trump to make human rights and religious freedom a major part of his upcoming talks with Kim Jong-un.
In April, we spoke with John Choi, a Christian refugee from North Korea, and he encouraged the church in the West to raise their voices: “I pray Christians will urgently appeal to President Trump to put pressure on Kim Jong-un when the two leaders meet. If President Trump is silent, it will imply the West doesn’t care about the incarceration, torture and execution of Christians. There can be no true peace if Kim Jong-un continues to persecute Christians.”
Five months later, Choi’s exhortation remains the same, as the U.S. begins preparations for another summit.
As these conversations continue, please remember your brothers and sisters who are isolated, suffer extreme persecution and long for religious freedom in North Korea.
We encourage you to leave a prayer for North Korea’s secret believers on our Prayer Wall where you can also read the prayers of others who are praying alongside you for this isolated underground church.