Around a third of North Korea’s 100,000-strong Christian population are thought to be labouring in concentration camps, while tens of thousands of citizens, including many who are Christians, have defected to countries such as neighbouring South Korea, China, Mongolia and Russia.
However, Rev Eric Foley, co-founder of Seoul USA, a ministry dedicated to supporting defected and underground Christians in North Korea, says that despite intense persecution, North Korean Christians are remaining steadfast in their faith. “North Korea is a unique nation in the whole of human history in that it’s the only nation ever to be founded on a distortion of the Christian faith,” he tells Christian Today.
“Kim Il-Sung, the first president of North Korea, grew up in a Christian home and as a result of his exposure to the Christian faith he became convinced that the apparatus of Christian worship, weekly meetings, complete devotion to a divinity and singing hymns, could be adapted to a state religion, which in North Korea is known as Juche. It’s essentially the worship of the Kim family. “North Korea is often misunderstood to be an atheistic nation, but it’s one of the most religious nations on earth,” Foley continues.
“100 per cent of citizens attend mandatory self-criticism services, which are similar to Christian worship services – there are 600 hymnals dedicated to Kim Il-sung, they hear from his
writings and about the 10 principles, which are an adaptation of the 10 Commandments. These gatherings look so much like our worship services that when we encounter North Koreans and share the Gospel, often their reaction is to say ‘Why are you imitating us?'”
Foley explains that Christianity is “a direct challenge to Juche ideology” and if it were to spread, “it would become clear that Juche is a pale imitation of the Christian faith”. Anyone found to be practising the religion is therefore thrown into hard labour camps for the rest of their life, or even killed. It is no wonder that North Korea has topped Open Doors’ World Watch List for Christian persecution 12 years in a row.
In spite of this, however, Foley insists that Christians, whom he describes as “the most battle-hardened, tested and proven true, of any we meet,” do not “simply hide out in hopes of regime change. They continue to evangelise and disciple in ways that are distinctive and unique,” he says. Even in the concentration camps… Christians have, for more than a generation, been engaging in discipleship and evangelism. They regard it as part of their mission field.
“We always want to emphasise that North Korean Christians are not in retreat, but have continued for more than 60 years to advance the Gospel with great success.
Source: Christian Today
BIBLE STUDY: Revelation 2:8-11
PRAISE God for our faithful brothers and sisters in North Korea and for His grace in them. PRAY that the seeds of the Gospel, planted with the blood of our brethren, may grow fruitfully.