The headline seems unbelievable, but it is true.

News agencies around the world are reporting the news, revealed by an official US report, about persecution in North Korea targeting a two-year-old.

The State Department report documents the previously unknown case of an entire family arrested because of their religious practices and possessing a Bible. The family, including a two-year-old child, were given life sentences in political prison camps. Although the arrest was in 2009, it had not been revealed before and the prison term is presumably still in force.

Conditions for Christians in North Korean prison camps are dire, and physical mistreatment is routine.

According to the State Department report and another account quoted in the document, Christians are categorised as a “hostile class” in the country’s songbun system, a social classification based on family background and presumed support of the regime, and Christians are targeted as a “serious threat to loyalty to the state.” It said Christians were regarded as the “most dangerous political class of people, and the persecution is violent and intense”.  

Life for Christians in North Korea was described as a “constant cauldron of pressure; capture or death is only a mistake away”. Parents often hide their faith from their children with worship done “as secretly as possible”. The report concluded that people known to be Christian occupy the lowest rung of society, and that every Christian is “vulnerable and in danger”.

Above: Propoganda poster of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-Il

Torture is routine and one account of a man who smuggled a Bible into the country said he was placed in solitary confinement, where authorities beat him with a metal rod and gave him one meal a day of boiled corn kernels. Another detainee said, “They [guards] would dash my head against the wall and people downstairs would hear the sound”.

There could be up to 400,000 clandestine Christians in North Korea, but the churches that Western visitors see are reported to be “showpieces for foreigners” and there is no freedom to worship.

The latest story is no surprise to the persecution watchdog Open Doors, which earlier this year put North Korea at the top of its World Watch List – making it the world's most dangerous place for Christians.

Open Doors is urging prayer for the North Korean leader with a campaign titled “Have you prayed for Kim Jong Un today”?

  • 1. Pray for the heart, mind and soul of Kim Jong Un. It is rare for the most severe persecutors to become believers, but it happens. Pray that Jong Un will finally see the truth.
  • 2. Pray for Kim’s family, his wife, his three children, and his brother and sisters. Pray they will turn from their ways and rely on God for their salvation. Also, pray for their protection. Pray against the indoctrination of Kim’s children. Pray that God will protect their minds, hearts and souls.
  • 3. Pray that North Korea will soon abandon its evil policies. Pray for protection of the Christians and other citizens of North Korea.
  • 4. Pray that North Korea’s elite will be saved and/or that they have to step down from their positions.
  • 5. Pray for the prayer movement inside and outside of North Korea. Pray that God’s Spirit will motivate and give strength to North Korean Christians so that they can pray for their government and their country. Pray for healing.
  • 6. Also pray that God will inspire millions of Jesus’ followers around the world to pray for Kim Jong Un, his family and his regime.

“All for Jesus”

Radio Free Asia reported another incident of persecution, in April this year, when police raided a dawn prayer and Bible study meeting at a farmhouse in central North Korea.

Tipped off by an informant, authorities arrested five believers on charges of believing in God. There is no further information on their fate, but it is expected that they were sent to a labour camp. Despite pressure from authorities, the five captured Christians have refused to renounce their religion, according to a witness who spoke to Radio Free Asia.

“A staff member of the judicial agency told us that the [believers] refused to tell where they got their bibles and said, ‘All for Jesus, even in death’.”

Main photo: North Koreans refuse to be photographed (RomanHarak)