“As for Me, this is My covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from now and forever.” Isaiah 59:21
North Korea is considered to be the most repressed society in the world. But some would add that it is also the most religious! The deity worship introduced by Kim Il Sung glorifies its leaders as if they were gods. But this was not always the case. In 1945, before the Soviet Union took over North Korea, the city of Pyongyang was known as the “Jerusalem of the East,” with 13% of its population being Christian. But after Kim Il Sung became North Korea’s leader, 2,300 Christian congregations vanished. In total, 300,000 Christians were arrested and 260 church buildings were destroyed.
Christianity was first introduced in Korea by Yi Pyok, a Korean man who had learned about Christianity through Christian literature. Pyok, along with a friend, began living out this new faith. The movement quickly gained followers, and soon a church emerged. But, in 1786, to thwart its growth, a law was passed that forbade Koreans from following Christ, and only ancestor worship was allowed. Five years later, the first 400 Christians were executed for refusing to worship their ancestors. In 1793, six preachers and 300 more Christians were killed.
By all accounts, all traces of Christianity had been eradicated.
In the mid-1800’s, missionaries from France and Scotland came to the Korean shores, and the church again began to grow. Scottish missionary Robert Thomas, arriving on an American ship, was executed after a battle broke out and the ship was set ablaze. As he swam to shore, he offered his Chinese Bible to his executioner who killed him with a blow to the head. Later, papering his home with the dried pages, the executioner had no idea that he was openly displaying God’s Word. To his amazement a group of scholars soon gathered outside his home, and diligently read the printed words. Several years later, a cousin of the executioner, with other Christians, helped translate the Bible into Korean. Yes, Satan would have had God’s Word die along with Thomas… but God had another plan!
Currently, there is a church of approximately 400,000 believers in North Korea, but it is far different from the church you and I know. The church there is persecuted mercilessly, with approximately 50,000 to 70,000 Christians in labor camps.
Despite virtually no freedom of religion in North Korea, the government has four “show” churches (two Protestant, one Catholic, and one Orthodox) in Pyongyang designed to demonstrate to tourists that there is freedom of religion in the country. North Koreans must receive permission to attend these churches, and according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom report titled “Thank you, Father Kim Il Sung,” the waiting list is very long.
While the risks are great, the underground Christians are eager to reach out to more people. They have even started prayer campaigns within the country focusing on the needs of their country.
The church in North Korea may be thought of as “desolate” because of its suffering and lack of visible strength. But North Korea will once again be a place of light, beauty and glory, even in the midst of deep darkness in the world. This is God’s reality! As we intercede for North Korea in faith, we will see His beauty unfolding. His glory being revealed. His light dispersing the darkness. Yes, there is a church in North Korea…and she is faithful.
Father, the fruits of Your work may not be evident in North Korea, yet we know that Your Spirit is there, working in silence, Your power made perfect in weakness. As we come to You on our knees petitioning on their behalf, open our eyes, Lord, to see You walking in blazing glory and splendor among the ashes of Your people, rekindling the healing holy fire of Your power. Father, we pray today that the next great revival in Korea will cover the entire nation, both North and South, bringing unity, peace and salvation to all. “So He became their Savior. In all their affection He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saves them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”(Isaiah 63:8-9b) Praying in the name of Jesus, our Redeemer, Amen