North Korea: From ‘The Jerusalem of the East’ To The Worlds Top Persecutor Of Christians
01/13/2012 North Korea (Christian News Today) – North Korea is an example of how quickly and totally circumstances can change. On 8 January 1907, 960 men registered for a week-long men’s winter Bible Study conference in the First Church of Pyongyang. The evening sessions, which were open to the public, attracted up to 2000 each night.
The Great Korean Revival had begun and it swept Korea in much the same way that the Great Awakening had swept America and revivals had swept Wales. The event — also known as the Korean Pentecost — caused Pyongyang to be known as ‘The Jerusalem of the East’.
In 1910 Korea was invaded, occupied and annexed by Japan. The intensive religious persecution suffered at the hand of the Japanese contributed to the forging of a strong Christian Korean nationalism. Whilst World War 2 saw the Japanese expelled, the north of the Korean Peninsula came under Soviet communist control. Hundreds of thousands of Christians fled to the US-controlled south to escape communist repression. After the Korean War (1950-53) ended with a ceasefire and the division of the nation into North and South along the 38th parallel, some 200 Christian congregations with some 300,000 believers subsequently disappeared from the North.
In line with its policy of Songun (Military First), North Korea’s mismanaged and scarce resources are directed first to anyone with links to the military. While the system benefits the military, guaranteeing their loyalty, virtually everyone living outside of Pyongyang struggles to survive with virtually no food or electricity or anaesthetics and so on.
Today North Korea is regarded as the worst persecutor in the world. There is an ‘underground church’, but it is gravely imperiled. Possession of a Bible is treated as treason because only the Kim family may be worshiped. Witnessing Christians are publicly executed while their whole family, to three generations, is purged from society in Auschwitz-type concentration labor camps where starvation and unparalleled cruelty are the norm and life is short. Many tens of thousands of Christians are believed to be suffering in North Korea’s ‘Hidden Gulag’. (see case of Ri Hyon Ok)