North Korea has been at number one on the Open Doors World Watch List for 16 years, meaning it’s the place where Christians face the most extreme persecution. Working to support Christians in North Korea is a dangerous business. Just last year, a Chinese pastor was killed after it was discovered his church, near the North Korean border, had been helping North Korean refugees. But many are committed to supporting North Koreans small, but growing Christian community.
We caught up with a man we’ll call Simon. He’s been helping coordinate the work of Open Doors in North Korea for several years. Here’s some of his reflections on the the work, the church in North Korea and the dangers they face.
“There are so many unknown heroes in North Korea and they are able to withstand torture… Their understanding of the Bible may be limited, but their faith runs deep.”
“We hear it from people inside the country. When a Chinese mission worker is captured in China and brought to North Korea, it usually doesn’t take long before there’s a wave of arrests in North Korea. The North Korean people this person was connected to are then taken to prison and tortured as well. But usually they don’t arrest new people [when a North Korean Christian is captured]. That means the North Korean Christians didn’t talk despite the torture.”
Many North Koreans risk their lives to make the dangerous and illegal journey over the border into China in search of work or food to take back to their families. Others, mainly women and girls, are lured into travelling to China by human traffickers who then sell them into marriage or prostitution.
But it’s in China that many North Koreans hear the gospel for the first time. Simon says, “We still operate safe houses in China where we disciple North Korean Christians. I can’t share with you how many exactly. Those disciples, when they are arrested, don’t collapse but remain faithful.”
Kim Jong-Un’s government has dispatched hundreds of security officials around the border between North Korea and China. They are tasked with kidnapping these ‘defectors’ from North Korea and taking them back to be punished.
Our work with North Korean believers, smuggling in vital aid and Bibles, and supporting those who escape to China, has become increasingly dangerous. But when we asked Simon if he thought it was time for us to stop this work, his answer was ‘no’. “We will never abandon the North Korean church,” he said. “God has called us to do this work.”
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.