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At least ten of the 200+ refugees who were forcibly returned from China to North Korea last year have been sent to political prison camps because they read the Bible, met with Christians, or tried to reach South Korea, SAY RECENT REPORTS FROM DailyNK.

According to an anonymous source, they were detained and investigated (which could mean, tortured) for three months before they were brought to the political camps.

“Christians are considered Western and South Korean spies by the North Korean authorities”, says Simon Lee*, Open Doors field worker for ministry among North Koreans. “That’s why they are fiercely persecuted. One of the main tasks during interrogations of imprisoned defectors is to find out if they have been to Church, read the Bible or met with Christians in China.”


Punishment for refugees who may have become Christians is usually very harsh. “When I was arrested in China, it was because I wanted to attend a secret meeting with Christian North Korean women”, says So Young*. “I knew I had to lie and stick with my lie that I wasn’t a Christian and that I came there by accident. I would be severely tortured and probably be sent to a camp with no chance of a release. Instead, I was sentenced to three years in a re-education camp.”

So Young survived her sentence and escaped to China again two years after her release. She now lives in South Korea.


North Korea has five distinct types of prisons/camps:

Labor/detention facility: These are short-term hard labor detention facilities for those serving up to six-month sentences.

Mobile corvee (forced labor) brigades: The labor-training centers for mobile labor brigades are even shorter-term, initially set up to accommodate the over-flow from the established detention centers caused by the large numbers of North Koreans who have been forced to return from China.

Interrogation and detention center: The North Korean interrogation and detention centers are some of the worst places on earth and is where people are first locked up for months before they are sentenced. The regime in the prison is brutal and reports suggest many prisoners do not survive the day-in, day-out torture they have to undergo.

Long term prison labor facilities: North Korea has these prisons in every province, holding both political prisoners and persons convicted of criminal offences. The education component of the imprisonment, according to the former prisoners, consists mostly of: forced memorising of Kim Il-sung’s speeches and organized “self-criticism” sessions, mostly in regard to work teams and production quotas.

Political penal-labor colonies: These camps are for those North Korean citizens who have been cleansed or purged and deported to areas of North Korea “outside the protection of the law” because of their perceived counterrevolutionary attitudes or associations. They hold between 5,000 – 50,000 prisoners per camp, totaling up to around 200,000 prisoners.

The ten refugees mentioned at the beginning of this article have been sent to one of these political prison camps. Most of the others are still in re-education camps. Open Doors’ sources estimate that between 50-70.000 Christians are being held in North Korean prisons or prison camps.

*Name changed for security reasons


For the many Christians and other innocent people who suffer in North Korea’s prison system


Pray that there would be a change in North Korea and that people would be free to choose to follow Jesus.


That God will give them strength and helps them survive. Pray that they will soon be released

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