North Korea (MNN) — North Korea is headlining a lot of political tensions these days as Kim Jong-Un pushes the boundaries of nuclear testing. Late last week, Kim Jong-Un accused South Korea and the United States of conspiring to assassinate him. Then, over the weekend, North Korea’s main news outlet announced the country has arrested a U.S. citizen — the fourth one currently detained in North Korea. Kim Hak Song, a Korean-American who worked at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), was detained on suspicion of “hostile acts” against the state.
The U.S. Congress is currently advocating to put North Korea back on a list of designated state sponsors of terrorism. The U.S. took the hermit nation off the list in 2008 to persuade North Korea to dismantle their nuclear weapons program.
Amid rising animosity with North Korea on the political spectrum, where does the Church come in? Kristin Wright with Open Doors USA says, first, pray for North Korea and the Christians there.
“A lot of people don’t realize that North Korea remains home to an estimated 300,000 Christian believers. I think a lot of people would actually be very surprised to hear that, given the nature of the Communist state and what that looks like.”
Open Doors publishes the World Watch List each year listing the top 50 countries that are the most oppressive towards Christians. North Korea has been number one on the World Watch List for the past 15 years.
Wright explains, “Basically, worship of the ruling family is mandated, and that means those who don’t comply, often including Christians, can be arrested, tortured, killed, and we know for a fact that many of them are actually confined today in modern day labor camps. Entire families, entire generations have been imprisoned; and so it’s an ongoing tragedy, and ongoing suffering for Christian believers in this country.
“Christians in North Korea are forced to hide their faith completely, even from some family members because it’s the kind of state where people are monitored, people monitor each other. So due to that ever-present surveillance, there’s a different type of Church in North Korea. It’s one where many, for instance, will pray with their eyes open. Gathering for a church service would be completely prohibited and very difficult to achieve.”
However, while North Korea is a nation closed off from the world and hostile to the Gospel, it cannot keep God out.
“Open Doors, actually through our local partners on the ground, is serving Christians in North Korea. We’re helping to provide emergency aid including food, medicine, clothes, as well as Christian discipleship materials.”
Their ministry also works to bring to light the true stories and plights of North Koreans and believers there. “Just a week or two ago, we had an awareness event in Washington D.C. where North Korean defectors came and spoke about their experiences and we heard from refugees. So I think this is an important time for awareness as well, and as Christians, we can lead the way by telling other people what is going on in North Korea and what the reality of life is for Christians and for others who don’t comply with the regime.”
As you pray for God to protect and strengthen the Church in North Korea, Wright asks us also to pray “for the rest of North Koreans — whether they’ve been exposed to Christianity or not — we need to pray that the eyes of North Koreans would be opened to the truth of what is happening there, and to the truth of the Gospel.”
Another way you can take a stand for North Korean Christians? “I would say that advocacy is a great way to get involved. You can always visit opendoorsusa.org to learn more advocacy opportunities, as well as opportunities to pray and to give to help assist Christians who are facing persecution.”