Christians are being urged by persecution watchdog group Open Doors to pray for the 33 people who are facing the death penalty in North Korea reportedly for their connection with a South Korean missionary.
"We need to bathe the country of North Korea in prayer," said Open Doors USA President/CEO David Curry in a statement Monday. "North Korea has been the No. 1 persecutor of Christians on the Open Doors World Watch List for 12 years in a row. And for good reasons. Usually when persecution increases in a country, the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ is rapidly spreading. Join me in prayer today."
South Korean papers reported last week that Kim Jong Un has ordered the deaths of 33 people found to have received money for building 500 underground churches from South Korean missionary Kim Jung Wook. Engaging in secret religious activities is a crime punishable by arrest and even public execution in the Pacific nation.
Open Doors noted that it is unknown whether all the arrested people are converted Christians, but said that it serves as more evidence of the brutality of the North Korean regime, which last year executed Kim Jong Un's uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, allegedly along with his children, brothers and grandchildren.
Human rights groups have also been condemning the North Korean government for its systematic and ongoing human rights abuses. North Korea Freedom Coalition Chairman Suzanne Scholte reminded U.S. Congress last week that the international community promised after Nazi Germany's treatment of Jewish people to never allow such atrocities again.
"Yet, if you are a North Korean these words ring hollow because we have known of these atrocities for decades and yet we are allowing them to continue. Consider that the North Korean political prison camps have been in existence 10 times longer than the Nazi death camps, three times longer than the Soviet gulag, and existed even longer than the China's laogai," Scholte said.
Open Doors said that the background of the South Korean missionary Kim is unclear, with some sources claiming he was arrested in North Korea in October, while others have said he was kidnapped in China by North Korean secret agents.
North Korea's government regularly detains missionaries. While it recently released Australian Christian missionary John Short, partly in consideration of his old age, it still has U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae imprisoned despite calls from the American government to see him released.
Open Doors asked believers to pray for those who have been sentenced to death, for the missionaries who are being held against their will, for the entire North Korean population and for Kim Jong Un to "soften his heart" and turn to Jesus.