As talks were under way at the Beijing Summit this Saturday, a delegation of North Korean Christian exiles made failed attempts to enter the floor of the assembly. The group had hoped to discuss with Chinese officials the growing seriousness of Christian persecution in North Korea.
Already, reports of government brutality directed at North Korea’s Christian community have surfaced from testimonies and accounts of many Christian and political dissidents, foreign journalists, Christian aid-workers, and tourists. According to escaped and released North Korean prisoners, jailed Christians often received harsher treatment than that of other prisoners. No one knows for sure how many Christians have suffered the fate of unjust imprisonment in North Korea’s various jails and reeducation camps. But what is known is that since the signing of the armistice in 1953, no less than 300,000 Christians have mysteriously vanished from North Korea. Another 100,000-300,000 North Korean Christians have since then fled across the border into China.
Nevertheless, the grim situation for North Korea’s Christians shows no sign of changing as in recent years government officials from both North Korea and China have begun cooperating in hunting down these Christian refugees.
In a recent report, a Japanese human rights activist discovered a joint North Korean - Chinese effort to catch such refugees by building a fake church in Yanji, Jilin, China (only 20 miles from the border). Unsuspecting Christian refugees seeking refuge would then be seized by Chinese policemen, and expedited back to North Korea. In North Korea, refugees face grueling sessions of interrogations often under torture. During these long interrogations, government officials would ask if the individual had read the bible, come in contact with South Korean missionaries in China, or attended church services. Those admitting to doing so faced imprisonment, or even death sentences.
Today, it is still not know how many North Korean Christians continue practicing their faith despite the constant threat of imprisonment and death. North Korean government sources place the total number of Christians at about 800. But other sources have placed the total Christian population at about 100,000 out of North Korea’s population of 24 million.
Despite the harsh reality of the situation, North Korea’s Christian community continues to remain strong, worshiping in secret, but always living in the hope for freedom in Christ.