Defectors say most North Korean Christians don't survive religious persecution

Chilgol Church in Pyongyang. | Wikimedia Commons/Uri Tours

North Korean defectors have stated that most Christians who are caught practicing religion do not survive the punishments carried out by the Communist regime.

The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) has identified 65,282 cases of religious persecution through its interviews with defectors who came to South Korea after 2007, UPI reported.

More than 99 percent of the 11,730 defectors interviewed by NKDB have attested that there is no religious freedom in North Korea. Ninety-eight percent have confirmed that there are no publicly accessible religious establishments outside of Pyongyang.

The testimonies corroborate the September report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which stated that the four churches in the nation's capital are only meant as showcases for foreign tourists.

The South Korean non-profit organization noted that 1,040 North Koreans in 1,247 cases were victims of state-sanctioned human rights abuses.

Only 1.2 percent were reported to have engaged in secret religious activities. More than 10 percent of the religious practitioners identified as Buddhist. The others were either Roman Catholics of Protestants.

The testimonies of the defectors indicated that less than 23 percent of victims of religious persecution survive their punishment. Roughly 18 percent of those who were apprehended have died under the hands of the state while 80 percent are missing.

CSW noted in the summary of its report that there were documented incidents of Christians "being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges, and trampled underfoot."

For 14 years in a row, North Korea has been ranked in the Open Doors World Watch List as the most difficult place to live as a Christian.

Merely possessing a Bible can be punishable by death. Parents often have to hide their Christian faith to their own children in order to avoid being accidentally exposed to neighbors, teachers or government officials.

Many North Korean Christians want to share their faith to their neighbors but they are forced to flee instead. But despite the persecution, the church continues to grow and Christians still persist in having fellowship with other believers.

"We would have to meet in the woods to have fellowship. But we were so thankful to have the time together and to grow together!" one believer exclaimed.