During an encouraging speech at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington, D.C. last week, North Korean defector Kim Chung-Seong told the crowd of Christian leaders that, despite the extreme hostility of the Kim Jong Un regime, Christianity is growing in the hermit kingdom.
The 2017 World Watch List compiled by Open Doors lists North Korea as the “most oppressive place in the world for Christians” due to the country’s totalitarian regime and surveillance state that forces Christians “to hide their faith completely from government authorities, neighbors, and often, even their own spouses and children.” While most of North Korea’s 25 million citizens are considered atheists, Open Doors estimates the Christian population to stand at about 300,000. Many attempt to find freedom in South Korea, but those who are discovered are subject to imprisonment, labor camps, and, in extreme cases, death.
During his speech, Kim said that despite the repressive environment, the number of Christian believers in North Korea is on the rise and their faith is actually strengthened by the persecution. As a Christian missionary and North Korean defector who escaped to South Korea in 2004, Kim explained the work he is doing to spread the gospel message to his former compatriots. He hosts a daily Christian radio program through the Far East Broadcasting Company in Seoul that is broadcast to parts of North Korea. According to Reuters, the show is a mix of music and news—something that is hard to come by in the isolated country.
Kim believes the North Korean government is particularly fearful of Christianity because of the threat it poses to its supremacy.
“The one thing that the North Korean regime fears the most, and is afraid of, is the spreading of the Gospel,” he told attendees. “Because the Bible and the Gospel speaks the truth. Once the light shines in the dark room, there is light in the room.”
He said that missionaries who are caught in North Korea are “blacklisted” and “red flagged,” with “more than half” ending up in hard labor camps, but despite these challenges, he is optimistic. Reuters reports that North Koreans’ access to news and information is expanding, thanks to programs like Kim’s that are available via radios, USB sticks, and DVDs smuggled in from China. And Kim remains hopeful that, one day, North Koreans will enjoy religious freedom.
“It is my prayer that all the international Christian communities will pray for those North Korean Christians to really help and engage them to spread the Gospel,” Kim said, “not only through the works of the underground church network, but also through the government and request for this religious freedom that they are earnestly praying for.”
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