Contemporary Christian band Casting Crowns was scheduled to leave Beijing Monday night after spending nearly a week in North Korea.
"We're headed to Beijing airport," Casting Crowns frontman Mark Hall informed fans around 6 p.m. Monday CST (China Standard Time) via Twitter.com. "I'm ready to be home."
The popular Christian group had left the United States on Easter Sunday to participate in North Korea's annual Spring Friendship Arts Festival, held this year April 10-18 in the country's capital city, Pyongyang. Casting Crowns was one of two American Christian bands invited to perform this year – the other being the Annie Moses Band.
It was Casting Crowns' second invitation following their first in 2007, and the first for the six-sibling-strong Annie Moses Band.
"DPRK trip was great," Hall informed fans Sunday morning after arriving in Beijing. The official name for North Korea is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"Made many friends. We performed twice and were awarded for the performance of Lifesong," he added Monday. "We also recorded the Korean song, White Dove, in their studio in Pyongyang."
The annual Spring Arts Festival in North Korea reportedly emphasizes artistic exchange and promotes peace and good will.
Notably, however, the North Korean government is known for having arguably the worst human rights record in the world. The majority of people there are reportedly cut off and isolated from the rest of the world, dependent on the totalitarian regime for their needs.
Furthermore, of the country's more than 23 million people, about 9 million are in need of urgent food assistance, according to the World Food Program.
Coincidentally, this year's Spring Arts Festival concluded just one week before the start of North Korea Freedom Week, when Christians and concerned citizens will pray for the freedom of North Koreans.
According to reports, all citizens in North Korea are forced to adhere to a personality cult revolving around the worship of the current dictator and his deceased father.
No other religious beliefs are allowed in the country.