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11/25/2020 North Korea (International Christian Concern) – Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (as known as NKDB) recently published their annual White Paper on Religious Freedom in North Korea. NKDB began their survey on religious persecution since 2007 and has collected information from 1,234 people and 1,411 cases of religious persecution.

The number of respondents who testified on the ban of religious activities stays the same between 2007 and 2020. Until now, religious activities in North Korea are regarded as “anti-state” act and punished as a political crime. When the NKDB asked about the level of punishment for religious activities, 46.7 percent of the respondents answered they have to go to prison camps. While 38.6 percent of the interviewees answered they do not know about the level of punishment, it is expected given their ignorance about religion.

After the rise of Kim Jung-Un regime, there was an order from Kim to “arrest the people who contacted Christianity” in April 2014. Since then, the arrest teams are actively searching for defected Christians even in inner China. It is known that even employees of the National Security Department, Reconnaissance General Bureau, and the Embassy in China are mobilized to arrest people who have contacted Christianity.

However, despite the persecution, the report illustrates that the number of North Koreans who responded that “they have an experience of seeing the Bible” is increasing by four percent every year. While there were only 16 people who confessed they had seen the Bible before 2000, the survey demonstrates that the number of North Korean defectors who saw the Bible has reached 559 since 2000.
Below are a few testimonies published in the NKDB report:

“When we were living [in North Korea], we did not know she was practicing religion. However, when I came back home, I heard she was killed. When I asked why she died, I was told she was arrested alone whereas the whole family left the town as they were practicing religion. I heard she was suffering and prayed until the point she died. She believed in Christianity. I heard she believed in God. She was investigated in the provincial political security department, and I heard they hit her until she shed excrement. I heard they dried her out to death as not giving her a drop of water. I heard she died after suffering like a dog.” (Testimony of an interviewee who came to South Korea in 2018)

“I saw Young* at the detention center of the security department. It was about June 2010, and s/he went to a political prison camp. I am talking about the political prison number 12. I heard s/he lived in China for ten years. S/he was trying to proselytize me. I was so surprised that s/he could entertain that in the detention center.” (Testimony of an interviewee who came to South Korea in 2013)

“He was living next door. He was having a hard time in July 2007, so he went to China for two months to earn money. He was deprived of the money and detained in the training camp for six months after his return. After that, he had conflicts with his wife and said he would no longer live with his wife. This made his father in law report to the security department and told them he believed in Buddhism… so he disappeared quietly. He was in his 30s by then.” (Testimony of an interviewee who came to South Korea in 2014)

The White Paper on Religious Freedom in North Korea investigates and analyzes the conditions of religious freedom in North Korea systematically. The document aims to collect the basic information on conditions of religious freedom in North Korea and prevent religious persecution and develop a measure of saving the victims from persecution.

In sum, the White Paper on Religious Freedom in North Korea aims to:

  • Analyze the patterns of backgrounds of religious policy changes in North Korea;
  • Demonstrate the conditions of religions in North Korea and suggest their exchanges with South Korea and the international community;
  • Investigate and record the religious persecution events and victims in North Korea;
  • Provide the basic information to prevent the religious persecutions and save the victims;
  • Provide basic data on the development of strategies for north Korean missions and evangelism;
  • Provide information to domestic and international organizations, as well as governments, whenever they request information sharing.

The White Paper product is available through contacting [email protected].

*Name changed for security reasons.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].