BACKGROUND: North Korea is considered to be the worst persecutor of Christians. The communist government depends on “Juche” (the North Korean ideology that demands subservience to the Kim family) to maintain stability, and Christianity is considered to be subversive. Anyone discovered to be a Christian (or, in many cases, discovered to have had contact with Christian ideas) is considered an enemy of the state of North Korea.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: Religious freedom is non-existent in North Korea, and the government claims all North Koreans follow the Juche ideology.
PERSECUTOR: If discovered, Christians face harsh persecution from the government and from members of the community. In general, all North Koreans fear being accused of acting benevolently toward an “enemy of the state.”
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN NORTH KOREA: Christians are sent to concentration camps, where they are systematically starved, overworked and tortured. North Koreans have a saying: Whenever two or three people are gathered together, one of them is a spy. This is true even in family settings, as children are taught to spy on their parents from a young age. Therefore, North Korean Christians must be extremely careful in what they say, what they do and how they pray; all must be done in secret. When a Christian is discovered, the government punishes the entire family. Despite the threat of persecution and heavy social pressure, Christians in North Korea hold firmly to their faith. One North Korean defector, for example, told VOM about her mother, who continued to shelter orphans even after they stole from her. Christian and secular analysts estimate that about 30,000 Christians are suffering in labor camps. Because the country is so closed to the outside world, it is impossible to obtain names of specific Christians. And if names of Christians were known, publishing their information would not be safe or helpful.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: It is very dangerous to own a Bible in North Korea. Owning even a few pages of a Bible can result in detention in a concentration camp, but there are still secret ways to obtain one. Most North Koreans have found that memorization is the safest way to “own” a Bible.
VOM WORK: VOM provides Bibles via balloons, broadcasts Christian teaching into North Korea over a special radio network and ministers to North Koreans wherever they are found.