North Korea's underground Christian community is thriving despite followers of Christ suffering horrific torture and brutal deaths at the hands of the communist government, according to Fox News.
According to Open Doors, a Christian persecution watchdog site, North Korea has ranked No. 1 as the deadliest place for Christians for the last 16 years. Yet, North Korea still has an estimated Christian population of around 9 million people, or 36 percent of North Korea's total population.
The Korea Risk Group told Fox News that North Korea's Constitution maintains a non-discriminatory policy concerning the practice of religion, but this is just a facade to please visiting foreigners. Foreign diplomats and tourists are wheeled past state-run churches and mosques for various faiths. Each of these churches has the appropriately dressed clergy worshiping at the appropriate alters with congregations of people passing around collection plates.
According to the Korea Risk Group, this is a show performed by hand-picked state workers. The reality is that Christianity is seen as dangerous to the state, according to Fox News. Those caught practicing it face the harshest penalties.
In May, Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, explained why North Korea despises Christianity, saying the faith “offers an alternative set of beliefs, an alternative way of life, a way of life that does not tolerate tyranny. The North Korean regime fears Christianity because it offers a venue for the exchange of ideas.”
“Christians are accused of being imperialists seeking to overthrow the government and those who are caught practicing their faith are arrested, horrendously tortured, imprisoned and [sometimes] immediately put to death,” Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern. told Fox News.
North Korean defectors have reported that Christians are sent to concentration camps where they are "crushed by steamrollers and used to test biological weapons, or hung on a cross over a fire," according to Fox News.
Fox News reported that according to the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, there are around 70,000 Christians within these camps. Reportedly, 75 percent of Christians who wind up in the camps do not survive.
Fox News reported that North Korea's Christian population is very wary about exposing their faith, even to their own children:
Vernon Brewer, founder and president of humanitarian organization World Help told Fox News that he often thinks about a case involving a girl named Eun, whose third-grade teacher gave the class a “special assignment” to go home and “look for a book” and if it’s the right book, the student will be honored. Eun ended up finding a Bible.
“The next day she received a prize at her school. But when Eun returned home, her parents weren’t there,” he recalled. “It’s hard to imagine such cruelty that would unknowingly turn children on their own parents.”
North Korean authorities will reportedly snatch up family members of Christians under the suspicion that they share their Christian family member's faith.
The Christian faith is growing in North Korea despite the country's hostility toward the faithful.
According to Fox News, North Koreans are sometimes allowed to visit China. There, they gather Bibles, and other Christian literature. They smuggle the texts back into North Korea at great peril.
“Despite efforts to eradicate Christians, we have found the church is North Korea is actually growing,” Brewer said. “They know only God is powerful enough to break through the darkness of the most oppressive regime on earth.”