North Korea

World Watch Ranking: 1

What does persecution look like in North Korea?

Being discovered to be a Christian in North Korea is effectively a death sentence. Either believers will be deported to labour camps as political criminals, where they face a life of hard labor which few survive, or they are killed on the spot. The same fate awaits family members. There are believed to be tens of thousands of Christians held in labor camps across the country.

It’s impossible for Christians to live freely in North Korea. Meeting for worship is almost impossible and must be done in utmost secrecy, and at grave risk. In May 2023, five members of a family were arrested as they gathered for prayer and Bible study. Christian literature was also confiscated. The group had reportedly been meeting on a weekly basis, and their arrest followed a tip-off by an informant.

The deplorable treatment of believers is driven by the authoritarian regime’s view that Christians are a particular threat to the country’s leadership and society. The "Anti-reactionary thought law" (enacted in December 2020) makes it amply clear that being a Christian or possessing a Bible is a serious crime and will be severely punished. The churches shown to visitors in Pyongyang serve mere propaganda purposes.

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

All Christians in North Korea are vulnerable to extreme persecution at the hands of the country’s totalitarian regime. For several years, the border region with China was considered a particular hotspot, given the constant stream of defectors, but recent moves to fortify the border have made it even harder to escape.

Christians interred in prison camps and total control zones can be seen as facing the most persecution, but it is not easy to obtain up-to-date information from these camps.

Meet "Ji Ho"

"I might be the only Christian in North Korea. But maybe other people hear the radio broadcasts, too. I hope that someday, I can meet another follower of Jesus."

Ji Ho, who met Jesus through radio

What has changed this year?

The past year has seen North Korea fortify its border with China, making it increasingly challenging for North Koreans to flee the country and for organizations to operate within the region. This together with anti-reactionary legislation introduced in 2020, which makes it clear that being a Christian or possessing a Bible will be severely punished, looks to be part of a concerted plan by the authorities to reassert their authority.

Meanwhile, speculation mounts over the leadership of Kim Jong-un, with his 10-year-old daughter, Kim Ju-ae, appearing at more events alongside him—although experts are unsure if she would be accepted as a leader in North Korean culture. He also often disappears from the public eye before returning, with rumors circulating that this is due to poor health.

There has also been a growing shortage of food, with thousands at risk of starvation. The crisis has been so severe that the authorities began a mobilization campaign to get people farming, but many have avoided participation because food isn’t provided. However, even as believers experience their own shortage of food, they've been selflessly helping others. “There are inspiring stories told to us that [North Korean] believers are helping their neighbors—sharing food, medicine and other resources they own, even though the food is not enough for even themselves,” says Brother Simon*, Open Doors' coordinator for North Korea ministry.

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in North Korea?

Through secret networks outside the country, Open Doors secret workers are helping around 100,000 North Korean believers by providing vital food and aid, shelter and discipleship training for North Korean refugees at safe houses in China, and training through radio broadcasting from outside the country.

How can you pray for North Korea?

  • Please pray that believers imprisoned for their faith will know God's sustaining and loving presence with them at all times.
  • Pray that secret believers will be protected from the scrutiny of the authorities as they meet together.
  • Ask that Kim Jong Un's regime will become more open to the help and influence of the international community.
a prayer for North Korea

Lord Jesus, our hearts ache as we hear about the extreme dangers facing our family in North Korea. May each and every believer feel Your tender loving care, and be strengthened with Your power to persevere with the hope of Jesus firmly in their hearts. Provide precious moments for believers to meet, both in prisons and in secret gatherings, and give Christian parents wisdom and creativity to know how to share their faith safely with their children. Protect Your family, give them discernment when tough decisions must be made, and may their lives draw others to You. We also pray for Kim Jong Un – soften his heart and show him a better way to lead. Holy Spirit, have Your way in North Korea. Amen.

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Persecution Level


Persecution Type
  • Dictatorial paranoia
  • Communist and post-Communist oppression

Population of Christians
400,000 (Open Doors estimate)

Main Religion

Single-party Dictatorship

State Affairs Commission President Kim Jong Un

topic: North Korea / blog: 28cc488d-769a-40d2-a8b6-54575e1e7e78 / postid: f69b7d69-6a9e-ee11-be37-6045bd90b4d5 / results:
North Korea | 02 April 2024
North Korea | 08 January 2024