North Korea: From ‘The Jerusalem of the East’ To The Worlds Top Persecutor Of Christians


AUSTRALIA — North Korea is an example of how quickly and totally circumstances can change. On 8 January 1907, 960 men registered for a week-long men’s winter Bible Study conference in the First Church of Pyongyang. The evening sessions, which were open to the public, attracted up to 2000 each night. A worship service was held on the Sunday, 14 January 1907. After the preaching the session was opened up for prayer. Missionary Graham Lee had already asked a few men to be prepared to lead, but before they could do anything the entire congregation erupted in spontaneous prayer. Missionary Samuel Moffett noted that though the sound was like ‘the falling of many waters’ it was not chaotic, but absolutely harmonious. Even after the meeting ended and everyone was dismissed, multitudes remained on the site confessing their sins to one another in tears and deep repentance. The Great Korean Revival had begun and it swept Korea in much the same way that the Great Awakening had swept America and revivals had swept Wa les. The event — also known as the Korean Pentecost — caused Pyongyang to be known as ‘The Jerusalem of the East’.

In 1910 Korea was invaded, occupied and annexed by Japan. The intensive religious persecution suffered at the hand of the Japanese contributed to the forging of a strong Christian Korean nationalism. Whilst World War 2 saw the Japanese expelled, the north of the Korean Peninsula came under Soviet communist control. Hundreds of thousands of Christians fled to the US-controlled south to escape communist repression. After the Korean War (1950-53) ended with a ceasefire and the division of the nation into North and South along the 38th parallel, some 200 Christian congregations with some 300,000 believers subsequently disappeared from the North.

In line with its policy of Songun (Military First), North Korea’s mismanaged and scarce resources are directed first to anyone with links to the military. While the system benefits the military, guaranteeing their loyalty, virtually everyone living outside of Pyongyang struggles to survive with virtually no food or electricity or anesthetics and so on.

Today North Korea is regarded as the worst persecutor in the world. There is an ‘underground church’, but it is gravely imperilled. Possession of a Bible is treated as treason because only the Kim family may be worshipped. Witnessing Christians are publicly executed while their whole family, to three generations, is purged from society in Auschwitz-type concentration labour camps where starvation and unparalleled cruelty are the norm and life is short. Many tens of thousands of Christians are believed to be suffering in North Korea’s ‘Hidden Gulag’. (see case of Ri Hyon Ok)

North Korea is so tightly closed to the outside world that very little leaks in and even less leaks out. Radios and TVs are all pre-tuned for North Korean propaganda an d brainwashing and the borders are tightly monitored. Even Western intelligence only learnt about the death of the ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong-il the same way local North Koreans did: via a North Korean news broadcast, two days later. Some analysts are warning we should expect a period of increased repression, complete with purges, as the regime of the ‘Great Successor’ Kim Jong-un consolidates.

In the absence of news, it is good to have some special dates in our diaries to help us remember North Korea and focus our prayers. For example: 8 January was the birthday of Kim Jong-un (the ‘Great Successor’); 14 January, the anniversary of the Korean Pentecost; 27 July, the anniversary of the ceasefire (known as ‘Victory Day’ in North Korea) and 9 September, Independence Day.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT —

  • God, who a lone is Sovereign, will use Kim Jong-un for his own divine purpose. ‘Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.’ (Proverbs 19:21 ESV)
  • the Holy Spirit will again visit North Korea with revival power:
  • – may the Spirit reach deep into the halls of power to set free those enslaved to and blinded by sin;
  • – may the Spirit reach broadly across the land so that multitudes amongst the destitute, starving, incarcerated, infirm, grief stricken and hopeless might find a Saviour who not only forgives sins and saves souls, but who answers prayers and for whom nothing is impossible. ‘But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”‘ (Matthew 19:26 ESV)

Source:  Christian News Today, International Christian Concern

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