Joy Yoon, who was born in Illinois and raised mostly in South Korea, lived and worked in North Korea for more than 10 years. This article is adapted from her unpublished book Insights into North Korea: Living a Decade in the DPRK.

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Living as Christians in North Korea

by Joy Yoon 07-25-2018
In North Korea, Christians are sometimes cast as enemies of the state.

CHRISTIANITY IS THE ONLY religion in North Korea that is considered to be strictly a foreign religion. North Korea considers Christianity to be the forefront of American imperialism. The country is taught that Christian missionaries in the 19th century came to Korea to indoctrinate the people with Western civilization. Then, in the Korean War, the U.S. soldiers who massacred their people were depicted as Christian crusaders. To fan these flames, the largest group of Koreans who opposed communism when the government was established in 1945 was the Christians. Therefore, in North Korea, Christians are likened to spies, foreign imperialists, and anti-government traitors.


Despite this, Christianity has been allowed to persist in North Korea. The vast majority of churches were destroyed during the early years of communism in North Korea, but in 1989 Kim Il Sung brought life back to Christianity by rebuilding the home church of his mother. Since then, two other state churches have been erected: one additional Protestant church and one Catholic church.