The pastor of an underground church in North Korea has revealed that people living under the oppressive regime are taught that all forms of religion are deadly, and that Christians kill people and drink their blood.
According to a report from the National Catholic Register, Pastor Hae Woo was sentenced to several years in a prison camp for the crime of trying to escape her repressive homeland.
While in prison, Woo, who had converted to Christianity several years before her arrest, began sharing the Gospel, and won a handful of converts. Before long, a tiny secret church was formed.
"On Sundays and religious holidays, the faithful few would gather to worship at the toilets or another unwatched corner of their wretched home," the Register reported of Hae Woo's work.
The pastor explained that God gave her the strength to survive her time at the prison camp and the desire to share His word with others despite the tremendous risks, as Christianity is illegal in the country.
However, prior to her conversion, Woo was taught to hate Christianity: "Christians were not capable of 'revolutionary acts' and so were enemies," she explained. "Every form of religion, and especially Christianity, was like opium: addictive and destructive. I heard stories about Christians who went to hospitals, enticed people into cellars, killed them there and sucked the blood out of their bodies so that they could sell it. The thought of it was horrifying to me."
Eventually, the pastor escaped to South Korea, where she can practice her faith freely.
"I still feel as if I'm in my honeymoon period," she said. "Of course, there are lots of things wrong here and some people think that South Korea is too materialistic, but what do they know about freedom? For that matter, what does anyone know about freedom? I learned what freedom is in the camp."
For the 14th year in a row, North Korea heads Open Doors USA's World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution, and has received the maximum score in the violence category.
"Christianity is not only seen as 'opium for the people,' as is normal for all communist states, it is also seen as deeply Western and despicable," reads the report, in part. "Christians try to hide their faith as far as possible to avoid arrest and being sent to labor camps with horrific conditions. Thus, one's Christian faith usually remains a well-protected secret, and most parents refrain from introducing their children to the Christian faith in order to make sure that nothing slips their tongue when they are asked."
A separate report released last month by the Christian Solidarity Worldwide said that there are thousands of Christians suffering from extremely harsh torture in labor camps. The report said in some cases, Christians are hung on a cross over a fire, and at times crushed under a steamroller.
"Prisoners are forced to carry out long days of hard labour, such as mining and logging. Malnutrition is rife due to the poor rations, and increases the mortality rate. Prisoners live who poor accommodation that does not provide adequate protection against the tough winters, further damaging their health; and are subject to brutal treatment, torture and even execution by prison guards," the report said.