North Korea has long been known to be the most repressive place in the world for Christians, with believers facing intense persecution for simply revering Jesus and the Bible.
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The U.S. Department of State’s “2022 Report on International Religious Freedom” underscores the intensity of these dynamics, highlighting the horrors North Koreans routinely face.
The extensive report details accounts of persecution, noting a separate 2021 release from non-profit Korea Future documenting how North Koreans who engage in religious practices face “arrest, detention, forced labor, torture, denial of fair trial, deportation, denial of right to life, and sexual violence.”
But one story in particular — about a 2-year-old being sentenced to a prison camp for life — stands out for its unique brand of ghastliness. As a result, it has understandably been making headlines.
“One case involved the 2009 arrest of a family based on their religious practices and possession of a Bible,” the report read. “The entire family, including a two-year-old child, were given life sentences in political prison camps.”
This report exposes the horrific level North Korean officials will take Christian persecution, punishing even the most innocent among believers for simply embracing Scripture.
It’s estimated that between 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea due to their Christian faith, with non-profit persecution watchdog Open Doors noting North Korean officials view Christians as the “most dangerous political class of people.”
For Bible believers, Open Doors has said “capture or death is only a mistake away.”
Some reports indicate Christians are both held in detention longer and also interrogated for greater periods of time, among other restrictive measures.
But Christians aren’t the only people oppressed in North Korea, as one individual who was sentenced for practicing Shamanism described the horrific conditions in the camps, where people are routinely beaten, verbally abused, and not fed appropriate meals.
“[Officials] worked us hard without feeding us properly… I suffered from malnutrition and was sure I would not survive,” the individual said. “I kept having diarrhea, even when I only drank water, and I weighed just 35 kilograms [77 pounds]. Today, I weigh 60 kilograms [132 pounds], so I was like a skeleton back then.”
These acts of persecution seem unimaginable in 2023, yet this is the reality for religious minorities inside North Korea. Open Doors ranks the nation as the absolute worst place in the world for Christians, with the organization labeling the regime “brutally hostile” toward believers.
Day-to-day worship isn’t permitted, forcing Christians into underground churches.
“Christians have absolutely no freedom,” the latest Open Doors World Watch List profile for North Korea explained. “It is almost impossible for believers to gather or meet to worship. Those who dare to meet must do so in utmost secrecy — and at enormous risk.”
Read more about persecution in North Korea here.