Christianity Growing in North Korea Despite Persecution, Defector Says

Kim Chung-seong, a North Korean defector now working as a Christian missionary, says despite the persecution faced by Christians in the world's most difficult place for Christians, the church continues to grow there.

(Photo: Reuters)Kim Chung-seong fled North Korea the night before his execution. He is now a radio presenter in South Korea.

"The one thing that the North Korean regime fears the most, and is afraid of, is the spreading of the Gospel," he said Friday at the first annual World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington, D.C. "Because the Bible and the Gospel speaks the truth. Once the light shines in the dark room, there is light in the room."

Despite the efforts of the government in North Korea, he said, the faith of Christians in that country continues to grow.

"They (the government) will do anything to prevent the spread of the Gospel in North Korea. [But] as you can see, we cannot block the sunlight with our hand," Kim said.

Open Doors, an organization serving persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries, ranks North Korea "as the most oppressive place in the world for Christians."

"Christians are forced to hide their faith completely from government authorities, neighbors and often, even their own spouses and children. Due to ever-present surveillance, many pray with eyes open, and gathering for praise or fellowship is practically impossible," Open Doors explains.

"Worship of the ruling Kim family is mandated for all citizens, and those who don't comply (including Christians) are arrested, imprisoned, tortured or killed. Entire Christian families are imprisoned in hard labor camps, where unknown numbers die each year from torture, beatings, overexertion and starvation. Those who attempt to flee to South Korea through China risk execution or life imprisonment, and those who stay behind often fare no better," the organization adds.

According to The Sun, Kim, 41, was once a singer in former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il's official band but was forced to run for his life wearing just a pair of pants when he was convicted of a petty crime at the age of 20.

He was reportedly recruited as a spy for the Chinese and later became a Christian pastor and radio presenter in South Korea where he has been living since 2004.

Kim called on Christians around the world to pray for Christians and religious freedom in North Korea.

"It is my prayer that all the international Christian communities will pray for those North Korean Christians to really help and engage them to spread the Gospel, not only through the works of the underground church network, but also through the government and request for this religious freedom that they are earnestly praying for," Kim told reporters through a translator, according to a CNA report.

The defector explained that the North Korean government uses a "façade" network – the Korea Christian Association – to identify Christians in the country while portraying a false narrative about religious freedom there.

Of the more than 24.4 million population in North Korea, just 300,000 identify as Christian, according to Open Doors. 

Through his work with the Far East Broadcasting Company, Kim helps send Gospel messages, Christian music, and world news into North Korea through USB drives and SD memory cards, according to CNA.

"However, the most important work is to fill the North Korean peoples' minds with Jesus Christ because the truth will set you free," Kim told the summit audience Friday. "It's my earnest prayer that the truth will set each of my North Korean brothers and sisters free."