Making A Difference in North Korea

What to pray for!



North Korea s 24 million strong population lives under constant propaganda. Isolated from the rest of the world, they are taught that North Korea is paradise on earth and that every good thing comes from the country s leaders. Kim Il Sung, the Great Leader is revered and worshipped by the population. The word for God is banned and any belief in a higher power is considered a very serious crime. The picture shows the immense statue of Kim Il Sung before which North Koreans must bow.

Pray that state enforced idolatry of North Korea's leaders imposed throughout the country will be broken.
Pray that the leaders, especially Kim Jong IL, will be convicted and converted.
Pray that there will be true religious freedom and that the True God who really reigns in  the heavens will be proclaimed as God.
Pray that all would freely hear and receive the good news of Jesus.



Those discovered to be Christians face brutal torture. Believers are sent to unbelievably cruel prison camps, such as camp 22 pictured here. Prisoners are forced to labour 16 hours a day to fulfil impossible quotas. Abuse and violence characterize daily treatment. Food rations are at starvation level. Sanitation is virtually non-existent. Prisoners labour under crippling conditions, dying from abuse and overwork. Arbitrary treatment at the hands of the guards goes unchecked, with prisoners killed at the whim of, or for the entertainment of, the guards. The extent of the cruelty is only defined by the limits of the torturers imaginations. Believer s children are also imprisoned in such camps in pursuit of the policy to eliminate the family of Christians and other undesirable elements . Over 100,000 prisoners are believed to be suffering terrible cruelty in the camps today.

Yet imprisonment in such camps is not the harshest punishment for having faith. Other Christians are tortured and executed for their faith. Young Hee Lee was a 37 year old North Korean woman who had fled to China to find food. She had heard about the gospel and embraced Christ as her Saviour and Lord. She decided to return to North Korea to testify to her faith and tell people about Christ. She took money and Bibles into North Korea and then repeated the trip, travelling across the border until she was caught. After two weeks of severe torture she was executed at the market place in Musan, Hamkyung North Province. According to an eyewitness report of the execution, she was already "half dead through severe torture", her legs were broken and she was blindfolded when she was brought out. She was tied to a wooden post with a rope around her neck, chest and waist. Her broken legs could not support the weight of her body. The village residents were told to stop their work and assemble at the public market field to witness the execution. Two members of the party performed a play about how she had betrayed her motherland and party and why she should be executed, as a warning to others not to follow her example. An officer shouted "ready to shoot" to the gunmen. As he did so Young Hee Lee shouted out "Believe in Jesus, oh, Jesus Christ" As she shouted, the gunmen shot her in the head, heart and stomach, silencing her with their bullets.


Soon Ok Lee (pictured) survived six years of detention in a brutal interrogation centre and a horrific prison labour camp. During interrogation she was subjected to terrible torture, including water torture. She says the pain is beyond all description. In prison she witnessed the mistreatment of Christians. She says they alone were not sentenced to a particular number of years, but were detained as long as they kept their faith. This meant that they were subject to ongoing abuse and pressure. The guards were very eager to force the Christians to recant their faith because they would be promoted for doing so. She says the Christians were not allowed to look up to heaven because they believed in God and had to always have their necks at a ninety degree angle, making them disfigured. Even in death they were buried facedown with their necks broken. She describes how Christians were given the worst jobs in the prison camps, working in dangerous factories or with the septic tanks, where they would suffer toxic poisoning. The Christians in the factories were exposed to particular danger. In the rubber factory they were forced to work almost naked, with just a little apron covering their fronts. If they could not flip the rubber fast enough before it went under the heavy rollers they would lose their hands and arms. She says she even saw a man fall onto the conveyer belt and the guard refused to stop it before he was crushed to death, saying I m glad to get rid of this crazy God-believing man . She saw other atrocities, including Christians being stamped to death. On one occasion, in the iron foundry, the guard ordered eight Christians to recant and when they refused, he had molten iron poured over them to kill them.

Despite all the horrors endured, Soon Ok Lee says she never saw a Christian recant their faith. Instead they would say Amen and sing to God when they were being beaten. She says the Christians were the happiest of the prisoners despite the harshness of their treatment. They alone would volunteer to take punishment for the offences of others, even laying down their lives for their fellow prisoners. At the time, convinced by the all-pervasive propaganda, she could not understand why they held onto their beliefs, but their faithfulness made her wonder about God. Their testimony helped lead her to her own faith when she reached freedom and could hear the gospel for herself.


Pray for God to uphold those believers who follow Christ so wholeheartedly in such a spiritually hostile environment.
Pray for all those Christians detained for their faith and subject to inhumane treatment, appalling conditions and horrific abuse.
Pray for those who are undergoing torture and interrogation at the moment.
Pray for those facing execution for their faith.
Pray for family members who are incarcerated.
Pray that God would be with believers in the fiery furnace as he was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Pray for the secret believers in North Korea to grow in their faith and be shielded from those who would persecute them.
Pray for the growth of the church and the spread of the gospel, even in this harsh environment.



Prisoners in the camps receive starvation rations, but even those outside the camps cannot feed themselves. Over a million people have died of starvation in the last ten years and the famine has left up to 85% of the country s children malnourished. The little child pictured died the day after the photo was taken.

Even the food that is given by foreign governments and aid agencies is very often diverted to the military. At times it is distributed in front of the giving agencies, only to be demanded back on their departure.

The desperation and hunger has led to horrific human suffering. Lee Min Bok, who was imprisoned in a camp after attempting to defect to China stated: The food situation was so bad that cannibalism was quite widespread. A woman who had just given birth was so hungry that she ate her own newborn baby. Brothers ate their own brothers in order to survive.

Due to the severe food shortages, North Koreans have become desperate enough to risk their lives to cross the border to China in the hope of finding food. However, life in China is fraught with hardship and danger.

Pray for those desperately clinging to life and for their loved ones.
Pray that aid would not be diverted to the military.
Pray for effective international access to those areas where 'opposition classes' reside, who are deliberately cut off from food by the regime.
Pray for those ministering aid in the country.



Chul Min (pictured) was seven when his father decided to leave North Korea. He had watched as his four year old brother had starved to death next to him. His mother too fell victim to the famine s clutches and died from starvation. Only Chul Min and his father, Mr Yoo, were left. Already severely weakened by the famine themselves, they knew that the same fate would be likely to befall them if they remained in North Korea. Despite the high risks involved, they decided to escape over the border. Mr Yoo sold their house for about 5, bought some shoes for Chul Min and arranged their escape. The two travelled illegally on a train heading to the Chinese border. Chul Min hid in the bathroom while his father had to jump out of a window each time the train stopped for police checks. They managed to reach China, but barely survived the next few years, constantly moving to avoid detection by the police and scarcely earning money. Chinese employers know that they can exploit North Koreans who have no recourse to law and face repatriation to terrible brutality if found by the police. In desperation, Mr Yoo left Chul Min with a missionary and escaped to South Korea where he secured enough money to bring his son to freedom. However, as Chul Min was close to the Mongolian border, his pathway to freedom, he and his group were separated from their guide. Unfamiliar with the inhospitable terrain, they wandered for the next 26 hours. Tragically Chul Min, weakened by years of malnutrition, died of dehydration before reaching freedom.

Chul Min s story is just the tip of the iceberg of the situation faced by the estimated 150,000 North Koreans hiding in China. Lacking legal status, they are highly vulnerable to criminal elements and exploitative employers. Women are often sold into prostitution or as brides, at times unwittingly. Once married the man considers her his property and may keep her under lock and key, abusing her physically and sexually, even renting her out or selling her on to other men. Tragically these women have few alternatives. They have nothing to escape to. If they go to the police, or are turned in by their husband, they will be sent back to North Korea. Chinese police are known to attach refugees together with wire passed through their wrists and noses. Once back in North Korea, they are liable to face torture, and cruel imprisonment. Those who have been in contact with missionaries or South Koreans are subject to especially harsh treatment. Christians are likely to be executed or sent for life to hard labour camps.

The best hope for a North Korean escapee is to be cared for by Christians.


Pray for the North Koreans in hiding along the border areas, for their protection as they seek food and shelter and as they come into contact with Christianity, usually for the first time.
Pray for North Korean women who arrive in China terribly vulnerable to being unknowingly sold as brides and then subjected to appalling sexual, physical and emotional abuse.
Pray for refugees who become Christians, that they would grow in their faith and be protected.
Pray for those forcibly returned to North Korea from China, especially those who have become Christians who face very severe torture and likely execution if their faith is discovered.
Pray for protection, wisdom and guidance for all those helping North Koreans.
Pray for those who have been arrested and detained in China and North Korea for their efforts to help North Koreans.
Pray for solutions to be found so that North Koreans can reach freedom and safety.



Chun Ki Won (pictured) is a South Korean missionary to the North Korean people. Moved by the terrible plight of those suffering in China, he has helped provide food and shelter. For most North Koreans this is the first time they will ever have met a Christian, seen a Bible or heard the gospel. Many accept the gospel with open hearts.

However, sheltering in China is not a long-term option. The international community has failed to provide any effective protection for North Koreans who manage to escape the regime. China refuses to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees access to the North Koreans, in breach of international law. Thus the only way to reach safety is to make the perilous journey across China to a third country.

Chun Ki Won has helped many North Koreans reach freedom in this way. However, others have been caught and returned to an unknown fate. Chun Ki Won himself was arrested by the Chinese authorities. He was imprisoned and a long sentence was expected. However, through prayer and international pressure he was released after seven months. Many other missionaries have been detained in China and many have been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Again, China is in breach of international obligations.


Other missionaries have faced an even worse fate. Reverend Dong Shik Kim (pictured), a South Korean pastor, with serious disabilities, witnessed firsthand the sad plight of the North Koreans who fled their country. He moved to China and became very involved in helping the North Korean people, advocating for their human rights and providing humanitarian aid for their immediate needs.

Rev. Kim taught North Korean refugees the gospel, training them to be disciples of the Lord Jesus. He translated the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John into the dialect of the North Koreans and sent these Bible booklets into North Korea. Unfortunately the North Korean authorities misinterpreted his religious activities as efforts to subvert the North Korean government.

On 16th January 2000, after a Sunday service in Younbyun city, three secret agents from North Korea told Rev. Kim that they would guide him to a new refugee couple. Rev. Kim served the men lunch and followed them. He has not been seen since.

An eyewitness told Mrs. Kim that he had seen her husband being interrogated in a prison in Musan, in which prisoners are placed in boiling springs during interrogation.

All of Rev. Kim s eight children, five of whom are adopted and the youngest of whom is 12, eagerly hope for the safe return of their father. However, no one knows whether he is alive or dead.


Reverend Ahn Seung Woon (pictured), a South Korean pastor, was working in China when he was abducted by North Korean agents. On 7th July 1995 he had attended a worship service and was talking to a North Korean couple by his car. He had the car running with his wallet and glasses inside, when he was approached by two North Koreans. They took him aside and made him get into a taxi. He was not seen again until he appeared on North Korean television two weeks later. His wife was horrified to learn that he had been abducted into North Korea and described him as looking very tense and thin. 

Mrs Ahn has never seen him since. She and her three children, who were 16, 20 and 22 when he was abducted, miss him greatly. He also has four grandchildren. She describes him as a very loving and caring family-oriented person, with a fun, warm personality.

She says: I am convinced that he does not want to be in North Korea and that he was forced to go there.  However he was very concerned about the spiritual life of the North Korean people and very keen to see them find salvation. Maybe that is why God has allowed him to be there, to reach them in a way that would be impossible otherwise. Whatever the situation I ask people to pray for him and for the mission work amongst North Koreans.

(We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Christian Solidarity Worldwide for the development of this material.)