North Korea

World Watch Ranking: 1

What does persecution look like in North Korea?

North Korea remains a brutally hostile place for Christians to live. If discovered by the authorities, believers are either sent to labour camps as political prisoners where the conditions are atrocious, or killed on the spot – and their families will share their fate as well. Christians have absolutely no freedom. 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. A new 'anti-reactionary thought law' makes it amply clear that being a Christian or possessing a Bible is a serious crime and will be severely punished.

A report issued in 2022 by The International Bar Association and The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea said that Christians are particularly targeted and exposed to torture in North Korean prisons. "Detention periods have been documented as being longer for Christians than other groups, and witnesses have reported that ‘identified Christians are interrogated for longer periods, usually under torture’, and subjected to some of the worst forms of torture to force them to incriminate others during interrogation," it said.

The reason for such extreme persecution is that Christianity is seen as a particular threat to the dictatorial ideology and governance of the country's barbaric regime. Christians are viewed as enemies of both the leadership and society in general.

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Christians the length and breadth of North Korea are equally susceptible to extreme persecution at the hands of North Korea’s authoritarian state. Insurgency is unthinkable and the regime keeps a watchful eye on all citizens. The border with China is now more closely monitored, making it even more difficult for citizens 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 "Yong-Gi"

"Step by step, I realise how the Holy Spirit leads my life. I decide to put all things onto God’s hands"

Yong-Gi is a North Korean Christian who was helped through our safehouse ministry

What has changed this year?

Across the year, Open Doors contacts heard from reliable sources that several dozen North Korean believers from several underground churches had been discovered and executed. More than 100 members of their families were also said to have been rounded up and sent to labor camps.

These reports show that life has got even harder for North Korean Christians, with the recently introduced ‘anti-reactionary thought law’ – which makes it clear that being a Christian and/or possessing a Bible is a serious crime and will be severely punished – coinciding with a rise in reported incidents of violence against believers.

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

Open Doors secret workers are keeping 80,000 North Korean believers alive with vital food and aid through secret networks in China, as well as providing shelter and discipleship training for North Korean refugees at safe houses in China.

How can you pray for North Korea?

  • Please pray that the Holy Spirit will continuously pour supernatural peace and strength into believers held in labour camps
  • That Christians who bravely gather in secret will be protected from the prying eyes of the authorities
  • Pray for the North Korean regime, that they will allow the country to be helped and influenced by the wider world.
a prayer for North Korea

Father God, we thank You for the remarkable bravery of our brothers and sisters in North Korea. Continue to encourage, equip and empower them as they follow You amid such extreme persecution. Protect secret gatherings of believers – may their meetings be places of divine encounter. Give wisdom, boldness and discernment to Your children to know how to express their faith in society without drawing the attention of the authorities. We cry out to You for this nation, Lord, asking that You will build Your church and soften the hardened hearts of Kim Jong-un and his regime. Amen.

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Persecution Level


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

Population of Christians
400,000 (OD estimate)

Main Religion

Single-party dictatorship

State Affairs Commission President Kim Jong Un