LONDON – A charity supporting oppressed believers around the world says persecution against Christians in North Korea is set to worsen in 2010.
Practicing Christianity is currently illegal in the reclusive communist country and Christians can face imprisonment, torture and even execution for their faith.
And as the North Korean economy continues to collapse, U.K.-based Release International says it has received reports of worsening persecution against Christians.
"2010 is forecast to be a year of tremendous hardship and food shortages since the country's harvest in 2009 was a poor one," commented Release International partner Tim Peters in a report featured in the charity's latest magazine.
"It is like a giant prison camp has crossed the land," added Kang Cheol Hwan, a former prisoner who converted to Christianity after finding refuge in South Korea.
He told Release that the situation was getting worse in North Korea and that starvation "spreads out over the entire nation."
"It has become the norm," he reported, before describing the ten years he spent in a prison camp being treated like an animal.
"I had watched many people die from starvation and beatings," Kang recalled. "I witnessed open executions and watched helplessly as people died miserably.
"These fearful scenes have not left my mind."
Mary, whose surname was withheld by Release for security reasons, is another Christian refugee from North Korea now living in China. She secretly delivers food parcels into North Korea together with Bible verses.
In one month alone, she delivered 100 packages containing sausages, bread, soap and a toothbrush, together with the hand-written Bible verses.
Release said people living in the border area, including Mary's uncle, Mr. Lee, had come to know Christ as a result of her visits.
Release currently works through local Christian partners to support North Korean refugees fleeing to China or South Korea, by providing pastoral care, safe houses, and Christian literature and Bibles.
Around the world, the organization serves the Persecuted Church by showing God's compassion, serving God's Church, sharing God's love, spreading God's love, and speaking as God's advocates.