While the capital Pyongyang does boast several churches, these buildings are essentially empty shells used to sell foreign visitors a vision of religious tolerance. Instead Christians throughout North Korea are forced to practice in secret.
Kim Sang-Hwa, whose name has been changed for her own safety, is a North Korean defector now living in South Korea, told Open Doors: “Our house was very small, so we all slept in the same room. When I was about 6, I saw my father and mother under the blanket and I could hear the soft noise of the radio. Later I learned they were listening to a broadcast from a Christian radio station.
“In our house was a hidden closet. When I was 12, I accidentally found it. I started to feel inside the cabinet with my hand and I felt a book. I pulled it out, opened the Bible and began to read the first chapter of Genesis. …From that point on Ms Kim became a practicing Christian, albeit in absolute secrecy.
She said: “Sometimes my father met people in a secret location. Among the people visiting the secret meetings were some non-believers too, even spies.
“When one of those visitors was dying, my father went to see him on his death bed. He confessed ‘I know everything about you, your family and your faith. I was a spy and ordered to watch you. You are a good man. I never told anyone you were a Christian. Tell me how I can become a Christian too.’”