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North Korea

Religious Liberty Prayer List – No. 172 – Wed 12 Jun 2002


North Korea is in the grip of severe famine. The suffering of the people is intensified by the harsh living conditions, made worse by fuel and power shortages as well as drastic political and religious oppression and persecution. Since 1953, about 2300 Christian congregations with some 300,000 members have disappeared from North Korea, the birthplace of the Korean Church. Pyongyang was even once known as the ‘Jerusalem of the East’.

Today around 100,000 Christians live scattered throughout North Korea’s estimated 200 concentration camps where starvation, torture, forced labour and severe punishment are routine. North Korean Christians found with Bibles are executed. Kim Il-Sung, the dead but eternal president, is himself the god the North Koreans must worship, along with his son, present ruler Kim Jong-Il.

Since the famine began in 1995, some 300,000 North Koreans have illegally fled into China. Compelled by love, numerous Korean- Chinese (including many Christians) have settled along the North Korean border where they rescue the refugees, give them shelter and guide them to safety. This also is illegal and highly dangerous as China has agreed with North Korea to treat all defectors as ‘illegal migrants’ and return them. Some 3000 were returned in 2001. Many North Koreans have received their first ever introduction to Jesus from their rescuers.

In 2001, 583 defectors reached South Korea via China. This year the number has already reached 420, greatly alarming China and South Korea. Since March, there has been a huge increase in the number of North Korean defectors seeking asylum in the embassies. As a result, the Chinese authorities have massively stepped up security, fencing off the embassies and employing security agents to sweep the entire border region, offering cash rewards for information about defectors and their protectors.

Two South Korean Christian missionaries, Reverend Chun Ki-won and Joseph Choi (an American citizen), have been arrested. Sources in the Korean Christian Council say Chun and Choi have been tortured. They are being interrogated for information on the whereabouts of 1000 other missionary helpers. China has also detained some 1000 ethnic Koreans on suspicion of helping South Korean missionaries.


* Chun Ki-won and Joseph Choi, that the Chinese authorities will stop their torture; that this issue of torture which is routine in Chinese prisons will be addressed.

* faithfulness, courage and spiritual wisdom for the 1000 ethnic Koreans detained on suspicion of aiding missionaries.

* safety and spiritual strength for Christians who are presently suffering in Chinese and North Korean prisons and labour camps; pray that justice will ‘roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!’ Amos 5:24

* God to intervene radically in China and North Korea. ‘God’s voice thunders in marvellous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.’ Job 37:5


Increasing numbers of North Koreans are fleeing into China from severe famine and political and religious oppression. However, the Chinese government has agreed to return all North Korean refugees as ‘illegal migrants’. Whilst sheltering and aiding the refugees is highly dangerous, numerous Chinese and Korean-Chinese Christians and compassionate individuals live along the North Korean border doing just that. The Chinese authorities have commenced an intense crackdown on North Korean defectors and those who protect them. Two South Korean Christian missionaries, Chun Ki-won and Joseph Choi (an American citizen), have been arrested and reportedly tortured. The authorities have detained 1000 ethnic Koreans on suspicion of helping missionaries and they are looking for around 1000 more.



On 7 June the Philippine Military stumbled across the Abu Sayyaf on Mindanao. A firefight erupted that claimed the lives of NTM missionary Martin Burnham (42) and Edeborah Yap. Martin’s wife Gracia was wounded but was rescued and will be reunited with her children and extended family. Both Martin and Gracia’s faith and Christian witness remained miraculously strong through their year- long ordeal – they were never defeated, but were truly victorious. ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ 1 Cor 15:54. Thank you for helping them through your prayers. (2 Cor 1:11)

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