SANTA ANA, Calif. (Sept. 16, 2010) – North Korea is quietly preparing for a successor to leader Kim Jong-Il while the country is in turmoil with many dying from hunger, according to Open Doors, a Christian organization which secretly supports persecuted believers in 60 of the most dangerous and restrictive countries in the world.
Kim Jong-Il’s third son Kim Jong-Un was expected to be voted in as a member of the Workers Party Central Committee, probably during a secretive conference held earlier this month. If true, it would be a significant step towards a real power transfer in the future. Kim Jong-Il is reportedly in poor health.
North Korea, the No. 1 persecutor of Christians according to this year’s Open Doors World Watch List, is taking harsh measures to strengthen the clique around the Kim family – with terrible consequences. A disastrous currency reform, announced near the end of last year, has led to many suicides.
Dr. Carl Moeller, president/CEO of Open Doors USA, says: “Change is likely coming to North Korea. We need to pray that the change will be a positive one for the Christians there – including the 40,000 to 50,000 believers who are suffering in North Korean prison camps where 200,000 people are held. We need to continue to not only pray, but also advocate for those brave Christians who live under brutal and nightmarish conditions with no basic freedoms.”
Civilians are openly protesting decisions made by the government. These protests sometimes have led to violence between civilians and police. These clashes are a rare occurrence in a country with a tight security system and vast network of spies.
“Fifteen years ago Kim Jong-Il was still considered a god, but all these years of hunger have left the people disillusioned,” says Simon, Open Doors’ main contact for North Korea. “They have stopped believing the lie. Each time they put their trust in their leader, he has let them down.”
Around the same time of the failed currency reform, it was announced that people would no longer receive food rations from the government. In the first seven months of 2010 food was only distributed occasionally and in just a few cities. On top of that, the country was again hit hard by floods this summer. Open Doors sources report people are dying of starvation in the provinces of Hamkung, Yanggang and Jagang. Many North Koreans compare the past few months with the devastating famines in the 1990’s when over one million people starved to death.
Recently North Korea has dispatched dozens of secret agents to China to track down North Koreans who have fled, including Christians. Simon states: “Their purpose is to root out any defector problems. Defectors are seen as a destabilizing factor. The pressure on refugees is increased because of the party leaders’ meeting earlier this month and before the party anniversary in October. In our work with North Koreans in China we need to be extremely careful. We can only do this work when we completely depend on God’s wisdom, protection and guidance. The risks increase, but so do the ministry opportunities.”
Despite all the rumors about the possible upcoming power transfer, North Korean Christians haven’t focused on the politics. The current generation of Christians knows nothing but persecution. Open Doors has come along side the Christians in North Korea for over 10 years. Open Doors supports believers with Bibles, training, food and other practical help. Open Doors also connects the Church in the West with them through prayer and advocacy campaigns.
The North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC) will hold Save North Korean Refugees Day on Friday, Sept. 24, with events in Washington, D.C. focused on raising awareness and action for the North Korean refugees fleeing North Korea. For more information, go to www.nkfreedom.org. Open Doors is a member of the NKFC.