North Korea | Crackdown on Defectors

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By Nicole Todd | 23 July 2019

Family members of North Korean defectors are being held hostage to put pressure on those who have fled.

North Korea has topped the World Watch List of the most dangerous countries to follow Jesus every year since 2002.

Anyone who believes in a higher authority than the Kim family is considered an enemy of the state. Christians in North Korea must keep their faith secret. They are often unable to tell even their closest family members.

As North Korea and China crackdown on defectors, whole families suffer and are often punished for their relatives' actions. If a citizen is accused of being a Christian, often authorities send their whole family to a labour camp. Most are never seen again.

“This could be to keep the defectors from working with human rights groups and churches, or even to pressure the refugee to come back,” said an Open Doors researcher. “Sometimes these returning defectors are trained to become spies and then sent out again. This is not voluntary… they have no choice.”

Since Kim Jong-un came to power in 2011, the number of North Korean defectors has dropped. Border security has increased between North Korea and China, where defectors often flee. This is partly fuelled by China’s fear of an influx of refugees due to drought and famine in North Korea.

Raids across China have increased since mid-April, breaking up the North Korean “Underground Railroad”, an informal network of brokers, charities and middlemen who help those wishing to flee. At least 30 North Koreans have been arrested.

Even when North Koreans do escape the country, they are subject to intense surveillance and pressure, especially in China.

For North Korea:

  • As North Korea becomes increasingly hostile towards Christians, pray believers will have wisdom to know how and when to share Jesus.
  • Pray that those who have fled the country will find safety and that their families who remain will not be punished in their place.
  • Praise God that despite intense persecution, the underground church is growing.

Stay updated with the latest news from the persecuted church. 

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