North Korea is #1 on the World Watch List, a ranking of 50 countries where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is most severe. Recent events seem to signal change in this country that is widely known as the “Hermit Kingdom.”
North Korea is known for its totalitarian government, a system that has long used brutality and thought-control to maintain its absolute power. The self-proclaimed “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (DPRK), more commonly known as North Korea, was formed in 1948 with the installation of Kim Il-sung, a Soviet-trained member of the communist Korean Worker’s Party (KWP).
Kim, the so-called “Great Leader” and “Eternal President” of North Korea, continued to rule until his death in 1994. To safeguard his position, he established a cult venerating himself as the “Eternal Sun of Mankind.”
Now, two generations later, Kim Il-sung’s grandson, Kim Jong-Un, carries on his family’s legacy. Through the use of ever-present propaganda and a police state intent on keeping foreign ideas out, threats to the North Korean government are systematically eradicated, without regard to human rights. Prison camps are used to punish violators, and guards who have fled testify to theunspeakable atrocities that go on behind heavily guarded walls. A human rights report presented to the U.N. in March has verified their stories. In a meeting last Wednesday, a U.N. investigator told the Security Council that North Korean officials must be brought to trial in the International Criminal Court for committing such grotesque human right violations. Under mounting pressure, the regime allowed a U.N. human rights investigator into the country this week, the first time this has happened in a decade.
As the top ranked country on the World Watch List for the past 12 years, North Korea reserves the worst of its tortures for Christians, since their allegiance to Christ is perceived as the greatest threat to the Kim dynasty and its socialist Juche philosophy. It is estimated that anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are held in North Korean prison camps, and others live each day with the knowledge that they too may face similar fates if found out.
In early September, “Great Successor” Kim Jong-un was hospitalized for undisclosed reasons, leading to speculations including gout, high blood pressure, broken ankles, and even a military coup. During his absence, another official appeared in public with bodyguards, something that would typically be considered an insult to the supreme leader. Kim’s sudden reappearance two weeks ago, carrying a cane, seemed to confirm hospitalization for ankle issues, but the state media would only acknowledge that he’s experiencing “discomfort.”
These reports signal changes in the capital city of Pyongyang. While North Korean news briefs and photos of Kim’s condition may not seem shocking at face value, they are truly unprecedented, as the state has a history of hiding any signs of weakness on the part of its leaders. Along with the recent release of Jeffrey Fowle, this represents a shift in North Korea’s international relations strategy, possibly an attempt to soften its image in the wake of the aforementioned U.N. allegations. What it does not represent is a softening of its inhumane policies. In short, the persecution of North Korean Christians continues.
In the midst of all that is going on in North Korea, we ask that you would continue to pray for this country and its people:
- Pray that God would soften the hearts of the regime.
- Pray for the dismantling of the prison camps and the plights of those in them.
- Pray and ask God to grant wisdom to the international community in dealing with North Korea and its human rights violations.
- Pray for the underground church; that God would grant them faith in their suffering and growth in their relationship with Him.
- Finally, please pray for the believers here; that despite the difficult circumstances, they would be strengthened,to the glory of God.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
by Brett Tarbell