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North Korea: Persecution of Christians Intensifies

North Korea is arguably the most dangerous place on earth for Christians. The U.S. State Department has placed North Korea on its list of countries that violate religious freedom every year since 2001.

There is or was at least one Orthodox parish in North Korea, the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity in Pyongyang, but its present status is unclear. 

For more ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in North Korea, see here.

“North Korean Persecution of Christians Intensifies,” by Grayson Jang, Institute on Religion & Democracy, July 27, 2022:

…The recent report titled Organized persecution, published in 2021 by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), reveals that the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), the ruling party in North Korea, has strengthened restrictions on religious freedom from 2018 to 2019.

In the report, a former correctional officer in North Korea, Kim Chil Seok, said: “We constantly received Workers’ Party of Korea directives [prohibiting the practice of superstitious activities] from above (WPK). They sent those down as the orders and guidelines of Kim Jong-Un. We got many of those in 2018 and 2019, about once a month. Previously we got the same content, but only about twice a year…”

In fact, the WPK even fortified the same human rights violations that were disclosed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)’s “Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)” in 2014. In this regard, DPRK has been at the top of the World Watch List of Open Doors, a non-denominational organization supporting persecuted Christians worldwide.

The WPK’s organized persecution started during the Korean War. The violence of the 1950-1953 conflict not only established North Korea’s antipathy toward the United States but also nursed enmity toward Christianity. During this period, most Christians fled to South Korea or were executed by the WPK for cooperating with the Allied Forces.

Kim Il-sung, the communist former leader of the DPRK, followed Karl Marx’s view that religion legitimizes the domination of the bourgeoisie and weakens the revolutionary consciousness of the exploited class.

“Religion is a reactionary and unscientific worldview” that “paralyzes people’s class consensuses and expunges their sense of revolution,” Kim Il-sung said.

Before Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonization in 1945, there were 3,022 churches and approximately 300,000 Christians throughout North Korea, as estimated by the North Korean Church Reconstruction Committee, a committee under the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Korea. Even the WPK’s annual report published in 1950 articulated that there were 2,000 churches, approximately 200,000 Protestants, and 53,000 Catholics in North Korea.

From 1958, WPK distinguished religious people and their families and started a large-scale religious suppression throughout political parties, workplaces, schools, and public institutions until 1960. Churches disappeared without a trace….

In 2018, the WPK claimed that five religions are allowed in North Korea: Buddhism, Roman Catholicism, Chondoism, Protestant Christianity, and Russian Orthodox Christianity, with 15,000 Chondoists, 10,000 Buddhists, 800 Catholics, and 12,000 Protestants. However, USCIRF evaluates that Christianity is the only active religion in North Korea. Religious persecution was severe: about 300,000 Christians disappeared in the post-war division of Korea to only about 12,000 remaining in the North….

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