is almost always in the headlines—this week alone, the world saw scenes of Kim Jong-un and a young woman identified as his daughter as they looked over military drills.
But what we don’t see and hear about on the world stage is the country’s covert and hostile persecution of Christians. This year, North Korea returned to the top of Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List
moving from No. 2 to the No. 1 spot—making it the world’s most dangerous place for Christians.
Recently, Open Doors received a letter from a North Korean Christian who was able to cross into China and send a letter. In it, he shared his miraculous testimony
being part of the country’s Worker’s Party and then meeting and following Jesus.
“I have done many bad things in my life,” he wrote. “Before I came to China, I was a member of North Korea’s Worker’s Party,” he wrote. “To protect my position in the Party, I used to act loyal by treating badly the people around me.
“However, after receiving Jesus Christ, I repent of my sins every morning and now I have found a new way of living. The Holy Spirit is with me and gives me strength with grace.”
His words remind us that God is working in North Korea in seen and unseen ways. And that as His Church, we have a responsibility (and privilege) to hold up our sisters and brothers who, like this brother, secretly follow Jesus. Below, we’re sharing five
prayers that we, as God’s people, can commit to praying for North Korea and this secret, resilient church of an estimated 400,000 secret believers.
1. God, protect Your secret churches in North Korea.
It may be a small group that gathers in the woods under cover of darkness or a few believers whispering with shades drawn and a lone candle. It could be in a women’s outhouse in a prison. But rest assured, North Korean believers are gathering in the name
of Jesus, reading His Word and praying for each other. Pray that these secret churches would grow in their love for Jesus and for one another. Pray they will continue to learn how to share the gospel—and pray for protection. As recently as last year,
a group of believers meeting together was executed on the spot—betrayed by a source that had infiltrated the group. This is perhaps one of the most difficult truths about persecution in North Korea: Neighbors and co-workers are constantly on alert, ready
to turn in Christians for state “rewards” of increased food rations and electricity.
2. Jesus, be with the 50,000 to 70,000 Christian prisoners enslaved in North Korea’s heinous penal system.
. It is the North Korean name of the prisons where political prisoners, including Christians, are sent. The conditions in these labor camps, where Christians face atrocities, have been compared to those in Auschwitz, the infamous World
War II Nazi concentration camp where an estimated 1 million Jews perished
. Prisoners sent to North Korean labor camps for political “crimes”—like
following Jesus—rarely ever see a judge. They just disappear. One political prisoner who miraculously escaped shared her experience with Open Doors, describing what she called “hell” and “one long nightmare”:
"The place I live now is not fit for any human."
A North Korean political prisoner
“I’m not allowed to lie down much. I have to sit on my knees, with closed fists. I’m not even allowed to open them. The place I live now is not fit for any human—but to the guards, I am not a human. I’m less than an animal.”
Pray that prisoners feel God’s presence and for His peace that transcends all our human understanding (Phil. 4:7). Pray for supernatural strength to withstand this violence and deplorable conditions. Pray for bold courage—that they would discover and
take opportunities to share the gospel in inspired ways.
3. Father, we pray for North Korea’s children.
The photo above shows a North Korean girl as she plays the piano in one of the country’s “children palaces”—institutions where the most gifted North Korean children are trained in arts and sports. Clearly visible are portraits of North Korea’s deceased
leaders, Kim Il-Sung and his son, Kim Jong-Il. In North Korea, where children are indoctrinated into the Kim cult of personality as early as preschool, the eyes of father and son are always watching. Nationwide, preschools are required to teach a
“Greatness Education” curriculum
—90 minutes each day, ensuring generational worship of the ruling Kim family. Children are told that Kim Il-Sung had magic powers, able to catch a double rainbow with one hand. Pray that North Korean children will experience
the day where they can enjoy life without being watched and brainwashed. Pray that God would protect the eyes, ears and hearts of children and that they would meet Jesus through family members (North Korean parents often can’t share their faith with
their young children who may unknowingly, or intentionally, expose their family’s faith to authorities or neighbors who will report them). Pray that God would show parents and grandparents when it’s the right to time to tell offspring about their faith.
4. Lord, we pray for the church to be prepared when the country finally opens up.
Our local partners in China who work with North Korean believers tell us that this is a critical prayer. When God opens up the country, hearing the gospel from the inside—from friends, neighbors and co-workers—will be essential. Pray that when North Korean
believers are finally able to openly talk about the Jesus they have secretly followed at great risk, they will be ready to share their testimony and disciple those who were indoctrinated at an early age, taught to worship and bow to the Kim regime.
5. Holy Spirit, we ask You to move over North Korea.
The darkness of North Korea is daunting. It seems as if the government has covered all the bases, putting systems in place to crush and keep out the gospel. And yet, the stories continue to come—believers who have met Jesus in one of our safe houses in
China; new Christians who remember their grandmother’s faith and begin praying; a young girl who found God in a women’s Bible study; a Christian who saw Christ in the actions and prayers of her cellmate in prison. Pray that the Holy Spirit would move
over the darkness in the same way He hovered over the waters to speak life (Gen. 1:2). Pray that these stories of redemption and hope would multiply exponentially. Pray that the worldwide Church would wake up, see the North Korean church as our family
and get on our knees to plead for strength, peace and ultimately, freedom, for our sisters and brothers.
Pray with persecuted Christians
Learn how you can stand with your family in prayer
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12).
Despite the risks and that many COVD-19 restrictions remain, Open Doors still supports North Korean Christians through our covert network of safe houses in China. When North Korean Christians are able to cross the border into China, they can find help in these places. These believers receive food, medical aid, pastoral care and Bible study. Some who aren’t believers hear about Jesus for the first time in these Chinese safe houses and carry back their faith to North Korea, if and when they are able return.