North Korea has been deemed the "worst persecutor" of Christians by Open Doors USA, in its 2013 World Watch List - a report into global persecution. The country has held the top spot in the persecution list for the past 11 years now, and has been widely condemned for its human rights abuses and infringements on religious freedom.
"For the eleventh year running, this is the most difficult place on earth to be a Christian," the report stated. "One of the remaining Communist states, it is vehemently opposed to religion of any kind. Christians are classified as hostile and face arrest, detention, torture, even public execution."
Highlighting the oppressive regime in the nation, Open Doors pointed to recent reports of two North Korean Christians who were recently killed by officials for no other reason other than the fact that they were practicing their faith, which is not the religion enforced by the state. One man was shot at the state border between North Korea and China as he returned from Bible training, and the other died after reportedly being tortured at a prison camp. The first man was described by an Open Doors worker as "very excited about his new faith."
"He wanted to come back to China to study the Bible more so he could explain the Christian faith better to his family. It is heartbreaking that he was killed. I cannot stop thinking: 'If only he had arrived a little later at the border river, the guard would not have seen and shot him,'" the worker explained.
The other man was imprisoned for his faith. Not only was he forced to do manual labor, he was "terribly tortured," the Open Doors' source stated.
"We are devastated to hear about these murders. We know Christians die for their faith almost every day in North Korea, but it is still hard to deal with," the worker said.
The North Korean regime enforces the state religion of Juche on its civilians. Juche calls for the worship of Kim Jong-un as its deity; it previously called for the worship of his father, Kim Jong-il and grandfather, Kim Il-sung. Jesus is seen as a direct threat to the deity position of the North Korean leader, and the regime often enforces strict punishment on those who practice anything other absoluteness to the Juche way of life.
Being a Christian is often seen as the equivalent of being a traitor to the country and the leader, which is why persecution is so extreme and frequent. Out of the 24.5 million residents of North Korea, only 400,000 are thought to be Christian, though that number is growing, according to the World Watch List.
"There is no religious freedom whatsoever in North Korea. People are simply killed if they believe in Jesus. Kim Jong-un is a god and there cannot be any god besides him. Yes, there are church services in North Korea, but only when foreigners are present," a refugee has reported Open Doors. "The state calls up some locals to be present. There is no freedom of religion, speech, or press in North Korea."
For a complete top 50 list and more stories on the Open Doors' World Watch List, please click here.