10 August 2022

North Korean Christians targeted in prisons, confirms new report

A new report confirms that North Korean Christians are particularly targeted and exposed to torture in North Korean prisons.

New report confirms that Christians in North Korean prisons are particularly targeted for torture

The findings of a new report probably won’t be surprising to any Open Doors supporters. North Korea has long been recognised as one of the hardest places in the world to follow Jesus, where Christians face almost unimaginable suffering if their faith is discovered. A new report confirms this.

An inquiry by The International Bar Association and The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea found that ‘there are reasonable grounds to conclude that crimes against humanity have been, and continue to be, committed on a massive scale’ in North Korea’s detention centres. And Christians are particularly targeted, and exposed to torture, in North Korean prisons.

“Systematically imprisoned without due process”

The report details how prisons in North Korea are an extension of a political structure that aims to eliminate any threat to the country’s leadership and state ideology. And believing in a higher power than the Kim family is considered one of those threats. That means that anybody who follows Jesus, or even owns a Bible, is vulnerable to indefinite imprisonment in appalling conditions.

“Christians in particular were targeted for detention and particularly grave treatment in detention.”


“Members of the population are systematically imprisoned without due process and intentionally subjected to severe physical and mental suffering and severe deprivation of fundamental rights while in detention,” the report says.

“Christians in particular were targeted for detention and particularly grave treatment in detention,” the report adds. “One detainee estimated that between 50-60% of their fellow detainees at Onsong Shorter-Term Labour Detention Facility (Jip-kyul-so) had attended some form of Christian service in China.”

Even Christians who have managed to escape to China, or who became Christians after they had fled North Korea, may be targeted by secret police and taken back to North Korean prisons. 

Christians held for longer periods

“Detention periods have been documented as being longer for Christians than other groups, and witnesses have reported that ‘identified Christians are interrogated for longer periods, usually under torture’, and subjected to some of the worst forms of torture to force them to incriminate others during interrogation,” the researchers found.

“The State considers the spread of Christianity a particularly serious threat, since it challenges ideologically the official personality cult and provides a platform for social and political organisation outside the realm of the State,” a 2014 UN report on human rights in North Korea said.  

Keep praying for North Korean Christians

For many years, North Korea was number one on the Open Doors World Watch List. In the World Watch List 2022, it fell to number two, overtaken by Afghanistan – even though persecution against Christians in North Korea is worse than ever before. 

“With the introduction of a new ‘anti-reactionary thought law’ last year, the number of Christians arrested and number of house churches closed increased, as did the overall score for violence,” World Watch Research analysts said when the World Watch List 2022 was published. 

Open Doors fieldworkers support North Korean Christians through safe houses and secret networks in China – but tens of thousands of believers are held in North Korean prisons, and need our continued prayers. As Brother Andrew said, our prayers go where we cannot.

Thank you for praying for your North Korean family. It really makes a difference. Let’s ‘be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people’ (Ephesians 6:18).

  • For North Korean Christians in prison to know God’s sustaining love and power
  • That Open Doors secret fieldworkers in China would be equipped to support and strengthen North Korean believers
  • For God to intervene in North Korea, to break the tyrannical rule of the Kim family and bring true religious freedom to the nation.
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