North Korea (MNN) — Status quo: it’s defined by Merriam-Webster as “the existing state of affairs.” It’s also an accurate description of life in North Korea following this week’s international summit.
Despite anticipation of progress, high-level meetings between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un failed to produce any agreements. They discussed denuclearization, but the talks stalled when Trump and Kim couldn’t agree on terms. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says negotiations will start back up in the days ahead. North Korea’s foreign minister told BBC News their position will not change.
Voice of the Martyrs’ Eric Foley reminds us to keep Christians in mind when we see North Korea in the headlines. “We tend to focus on things like, ‘how safe will this make us in terms of things like missiles flying over our heads?’,” Foley observes.
“It’s certainly not a bad point, but as Christians, we need to remember to look to the interest of others – certainly that would include our brothers and sisters inside of North Korea.”
Severe persecution: the status quo for Christians
North Korea is – and has been for decades – the world’s most difficult place to be a Christian. As described here and here, state-led persecution began in the early 1900’s and has only intensified since then.
“The zero tolerance policy towards Christianity in North Korea remains in effect… if you’re known to be a Christian, you’ll be in a concentration camp.”
“Simon” – whose real name is withheld for security purposes – described the concentration camps to MNN in 2007:
“In North Korea, it is strictly forbidden to be a Christian. Anyone who has a Bible is sent to a camp, along with his or her whole family. Refugees who are detained in China or North Korea can be sentenced to a few years in a prison camp. But, if the North Korean authorities discover that the refugees have been in touch with Christians, they are dealt with much more harshly. Torture and execution often occur.”
Of the estimated 100,000 North Korean Christians, about 30,000 are in concentration camps, Foley says. He also spoke to us about the camps in this 2012 conversation.
Nothing has changed. If anything, persecution is only growing worse. Open Doors USA states the following in an in-depth country dossier found here:
Persecution in North Korea remains violent. There have been raids against Christians and killings, but for security reasons no details can be published and it is difficult to obtain reports from the labor camps.
There are many signs indicating even more severe persecution of Christians in North Korea in the future:
- The increased number of arrests and abductions of (South Korean and Chinese Korean) Christians and missionaries in China.
- The strengthened border control and harsher punishment of North Korean citizens who are repatriated from China.
- The increased number of South Korean missionaries being expelled by China.
- The increased activities of the North Korean government in its attempts to eliminate all channels for spreading the Christian faith.
With all of this in mind, “we need to remember the people inside North Korea when these international summits come up,” observes Foley.
If the leaders of nations cannot facilitate change in North Korea, what can individual efforts do? Recall the wisdom of Proverbs 21. Politicians may not influence change, but we know the One who can.
“North Korean Christians always remind me of this truth – we should never look to governments as the solution to the challenges we face.”
Connect with Voice of the Martyrs to learn how you can help the underground Church in North Korea. “They say to us [now] what they’ve said since we started our ministry 18 years ago,” Foley shares. “Give us the tools, and we will complete the work.
“Today remains a day of work for North Korean Christians. They continue to advance the Gospel in the face of strong opposition from their government,” he continues.
“More than anything, whether a summit is happening or not, that’s what we can pray for – pray for the faithfulness of the North Korean Church, pray for the fruitfulness of the North Korean Church.”
Header image credit yeowatzup via Flickr.