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ICC Note: This article clearly describes the current state of North Korean Christians and summarizing the years of mission work that has been carried out in and near North Korea.  Although the repressive nature of the government is depressing, particularly toward Christian believers, it is encouraging to see how God has been at work through it all.

By reporter, Seoul

10/13/2015 North Korea (

North Korean prison authorities asked a host of questions, says Im Eun-ha, then a petrified 13-year-old girl. They demanded to know if she had tried to defect to South Korea during five illegal years across the border in China ending with her capture by police.

“The main question though was: ‘did you go to church?'” says Im, recalling how she lied about converting to Christianity in China. “This seemed to be their biggest concern.”

Still considered the toughest of missionary assignments, atheist North Korea has seen unprecedented exposure to Christian missionaries since a famine caused thousands like Im to flee to China in the late 1990s. After the collapse of the state distribution system, Christian aid groups have stayed on along the border, offering everything from food to clothing — and faith.

Before the famine that killed upward of 300,000 people, North Korea was hermetically sealed to religious groups, its people forbidden from worshipping anyone but the ruling Kim dynasty. Few of the Christians that made up 13 percent of Pyongyang’s population in 1945 — before partition and the subsequent Korean War — are thought to still be alive.

Those who have in recent years reached China, converted and been forced back are reportedly more numerous. Some, like Im, have managed to escape to China again. Others remain trapped in a country ranked among the least tolerant of religion. Some 300,000 Christians reportedly live in North Korea with about 60,000 believed to be imprisoned due to their beliefs, according to Open Doors, an international ministry that tracks worldwide Christian persecution.

The North Korean regime claims 3,000 Catholics worship freely under the state-run Korean Catholic Association, while the U.N. says there may be just 800 Catholics.

Although debate continues as to whether the few churches in Pyongyang are staged for foreign guests, there is strong evidence of secret worship.

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