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02/05/2019 North Korea (International Christian Concern) – In order to keep their faith, North Korean Christians have to pray or sing hymns in secret, so as to not be seen by the informers or local authorities.

A few North Korean defectors recently shared with the Associated Press about the lives of underground Christians inside North Korea.

A North Korean defector who now lives in Seoul describes her family back home quietly singing Christian hymns every Sunday while someone stood watch for informers. A second cowered under a blanket or in the toilet when praying back home. Yet another recalls seeing a fellow prison inmate who had been severely beaten for refusing to renounce her faith.

Given that once caught, they would face grave consequences, most of North Korea’s underground Christians do not engage in the extremely dangerous work of proselytism, according to defectors and outside experts. Instead, they largely keep their beliefs to themselves or within their immediate families. But even those who stay deep underground face danger, defectors say.

In recent years, North Korea has arrested missionaries from South Korea and the U.S. for allegedly attempting to build underground church networks or overthrow its government. China has also collaborated with the North Korean intel to arrest or deport missionaries in its northeast who are sharing the gospel with North Korean defectors.

A woman who risks her live in spreading the gospel said she converted about 10 relatives and neighbors and held secret services before defecting to the South.

“I wanted to build my church and sing out as loud as I could,” said the woman, who is now a pastor in Seoul. She only wanted to be identified with her initials, H.Y., worrying about the safety of her converts and family in the North.

H.Y. was later forced to deny her faith when imprisoned in the North, like many others, while being interrogated, in order to survive.

H.Y. was able to return to North Korea later, where she began evangelical work with money she received regularly from outside missionary groups. She said she first tried to win people’s trust by lending them money, handing out corn and helping at funerals before cautiously telling them about Christianity.

“We sang hymns very quietly, looking at each other’s lips. I ended up crying quite often,” she said of her converts.

Now in her early 40s, she said she regularly sends money to North Korea through brokers to maintain her village’s underground congregation.

For interviews with Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]