We serve Christians around the world whose brave faith in Jesus means they are, beaten, threatened, imprisoned, tortured, falsely accused, disowned and hated.

North Korea

World Watch List ranking: 1

How many Christians?

400,000 (1.5% of the population)


Kim Jong-Un


North Korea is the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. The leadership are viewed as divine, so those following Jesus pose a real threat to their ruling status. Those suspected of following Jesus will be arrested and interrogated. Up to 70,000 Christians are living in horrific labour camps.


Could provide a young person from Central Asia with a Bible in their own language


Could provide trauma care for a victim of violent persecution


““Step by step, I realise how the Holy Spirit leads my life. I decide to put all things onto God’s hands.””

Yong-Gi (name changed), a North Korean Christian who has been helped through a safehouse ministry run by Open Doors fieldworkers.

NORTH KOREA: Quick facts

  • Christians are considered enemies of the state.
  • Up to 70,000 Christians are in prison camps.
  • The country has a three generations punishment rule, so if your faith is found out, your children, and their children, will also be punished.
  • Owning a bible will get your arrested.
  • If your Christian faith is discovered you will face arrest, disappearance, torture or public execution.
  • North Korea is the place where you’ll find more Bible’s hidden in the ground (literally buried) than anywhere else in the world.
  • There are an estimated 400,000 believers.
  • The church is growing. Amazing.

NORTH KOREA: The basics

Any North Korean caught following Jesus is at immediate risk of imprisonment, torture and death. The government, led by Kim Jong-un, views Christians as the most dangerous political class of people, and the persecution is violent and intense. North Korean parents must hide their faith from their children. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea’s notorious system of prisons and labour camps. To make matters worse, often a family will share the same fate as the person captured.

Christians are even more at risk because of the government’s decision to close all borders as a Covid-19 precaution. Even the limited ability of some believers to escape to China for help with food and medicine has become even more difficult.

Where believers are known to authorities for past ‘crimes’, like possessing a Bible, they are on the lowest rung of society and neglected for whatever meagre food aid is available. North Korea continues to be extremely dangerous for followers of Jesus, and it’s not likely to change any time soon until the Kim regime is toppled.

A report issued in 2022 by The International Bar Association and The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea said that Christians are particularly targeted and exposed to torture in North Korean prisons. “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,” it said.


Bae’s Story

Bae and her husband were sentenced to a lifetime of back-breaking labour after North Korean authorities discovered they owned a Bible. Every morning in the village she’s forced to live in, Bae spends the day working in the fields. She has to meet her work quota of crops. Like everyone else in her village, Bae is close to starving – she, along with everyone else, is given just enough food to survive. But at night, in the privacy of her home, Bae gathers with a handful of other Christians and they spend time together in worship and prayer. Bae is a secret house church leader – this is her real work.

Bae once managed to escape to China – a dangerous and risky journey – but once there, she found a safe house run by Open Doors partners. She sang worship songs and prayed loud prayers. She read the Bible openly with fellow believers, experiencing fellowship in a way that is impossible in North Korea.

You wouldn’t blame Bae if she praised God for her lucky escape and never looked back. But amazingly, when offered the chance to stay in the safe house, she refused. Instead, Bae returned home with the food and medicine she’d been given, and a precious Bible. She shared all these with her underground group of believers. These gifts will sustain the faith of these North Korean Christians for years.

What is life like?

In North Korea, Christianity is presented as an enemy of the country’s leadership and society. This means that many North Koreans greet any talk of Jesus with fear and deep suspicion. This is a huge barrier for fieldworkers as they seek to help those who’ve bravely fled the country and even been caught in trafficking across the border.

Amazingly, many of their hearts soften and they give their lives to Jesus. But it’s an enormously risky step to make, given how Christianity is regarded in their homeland. Escaping North Korea already made these North Koreans an enemy of the state – becoming a Christian entrenches this.

One person who encountered Jesus at a safe house in China is Yong-Gi (name changed). “I would like to thank God’s grace that He made my dream come true,” she says. “This morning, God spoke to me through Bible verses, and now all I can do is to follow His commands. Thank you always for your prayers and sacrifice for the sake of us.”

Secret North Korean workers

Matthew* and Peter* are two Open Doors field workers who support North Korean secret Christians. In this rare interview, they talk about the dangers of their ministry and, of course, ask for our continuing prayers for Christians in the most hostile country in the world.


Open Doors secret workers are keeping 80,000 North Korean believers alive with vital food and aid through secret networks in China, as well as providing shelter and discipleship training for North Korean refugees at safe houses in China.


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