North Korea is listed as the #1 worst country in the world to be a Christian.
The latest persecutions are not new, but rather the latest in a long line of human rights violations. Some of the stories have become legendary, including the Christian welshman, Robert Jermain Thomas, a missionary that brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to the peninsula 150 years ago.
The legacy of Thomas is hidden in the dark shadows of North Korea, a country that is known for storing missiles and persecuting Christians who openly celebrate their faith in God. In contrast, 29% of neighboring South Korean residents openly identify themselves as Christians, according to a 2014 Pew Research Study.
A South Korean pastor that leads the International Church in Cardiff, Wales told the BBC in December, “Korea was in darkness spiritually, and this young man from Wales brought the Bible. He was killed soon after his arrival, but his death influenced the whole of Korea. The person who killed him became a Christian and his house became a church.”
After Thomas’s death, it is said that the Christian faith grew stronger in both small nations and Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, became one of the centers for religious worship just before 1900.
However, the story shared out of North Korea is very different.
Thomas allegedly landed on the banks of Taedong river, a waterway located in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. But according to history, his voice was appreciated shortly after his death. It has been said that Korea’s religious revival of 1907, duplicating the Welsh version of 1904, which is roughly forty years after his death.
The circumstances around the killing of the Christian martyr are still unknown today. One story has said that:
The man driven to the country by boat to spread his faith was influenced by a fascination for Korea, and an altercation happened between the people on the boat and the Koreans on land.
Thomas was forced to leave a burning ship, and was captured by soldiers once ashore. On land he was executed by his captures. But before he was forced to die, he allegedly kneeled to give his executioner a Bible.
The lore behind this has led Christians to visit the site where his ship landed in North Korea. But, of course, their true reasons for visiting can not be disclosed due to the severe punishment associated with it.
One unidentified person of faith who regularly visits the country under Kim Jong-Un’s rule said that, “I’ve had no success finding the actual grave, but on the island (in the centre of Pyongyang where the death is thought to have happened), there is only one area where the boat could’ve run ashore and there are very old trees there.”
Another man, Jacob Park, said Christians who fled from North Korea now living in Wales claim,”defectors knew about Robert Jermain Thomas before they left, but they were told he was a thief and an imperialist. When they learned the truth, they accepted him as a hero.”
South Korea and North Korea separated in 1945.