Aside from a few “show” churches in Pyongyang, the practice of Christianity is outlawed in North Korea. Yet the Rev. Tim Peters of the Seoul-based charity Helping Hands Korea believes the church is alive and well, with an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 Christians still living in the country.
Statistics are notoriously difficult to come by in any restricted situation, Peters cautioned in a recent phone interview, “but Christian history shows us that wherever you have persecution, the church is flourishing.”
Leaving North Korea without official permission is a serious crime. Security guards closely question all refugees who are forcibly returned; many are tortured and/or imprisoned. Those who return with a Bible or admit having contact with Christians in China face certain torture and imprisonment, and, in some extreme cases, execution.
Despite these risks, hundreds of North Koreans continue to cross the border into China, seeking relief from the brutalities of the regime. The Chinese government recently increased the “bounty” payable for turning in a North Korean refugee from 1,000 yuan (US$125) to 3,000 yuan (US$374).
“The Chinese are extremely serious about ferreting out North Koreans,” Tim Peters confirmed.
According to Peters, China forcibly repatriates an average of 500 North Koreans every month, sometimes as many as 200 per week.
[Excerpt of article in Compass Direct]