Getting God’s Word into North Korea remains an extraordinary challenge; pray for current efforts to be fruitful. Pray for technological solutions where importing paper Bibles is impossible. Ask for Spirit-led understanding of God and His ways among those with access to even a carefully preserved page of a Bible. May His Word give deep comfort to the suffering. Some North Korean refugees have (amazingly) managed to flee the country and are trekking across Asia to find a new and safe place to call home; pray that they would meet Christians and be lovingly welcomed. Pray also for the Korean women and children who have been drawn all too easily into slavery in China.
There are strict limitations on ministry in this country but foreign NGOs, both Korean and Western, are active through aid and development projects. The very presence of believers can make a difference in many lives through this ‘ground force’. But there is also an ‘air force’. Radio is able to reach into North Korea, and despite many radios being pre-tuned to government stations, greater numbers of tuneable radios from China are making their way into the country. Pray for the impact of Reach Beyond gospel broadcasts that are transmitted via shortwave radio from Australia, and more opportunities for local people to tune in.
Media reports have indicated that large numbers of South Koreans have been arrested in North East China over recent months. They are thought to have been involved in ministry to North Korean refugees escaping to China. Some reports have suggested that more than 1,000 South Koreans have been detained or deported over recent months as China continues its crackdown along their border with neighbouring North Korea. Some westerners were also arrested in August 2014 and remain in detention. Pray for the Lord to free those detained. Ask Him to guard His people. Pray that China’s authorities would exercise justice and mercy towards the many minority groups in the country, including those from North Korea who are frequently repatriated.
During April, North Korea returned from several months of relative quiet by firing rockets into the sea. This in itself is not unusual – North Korea often puts on an aggressive show of strength during South Korea’s joint annual military drills with America. Many believe the rockets are simply a demonstration of their anger at the drills, which they say are ‘preparation for invasion’. However, on this occasion over 30 rockets released - considerably more than the usual amount. Please pray that the rockets remain nothing more than harmless demonstration. Ask the Lord to use political talks to reach agreements that benefit ordinary North Koreans and increase stability on the troubled peninsula.
After the death of Kim Jong-Il in December 2011, power transferred to his son, Kim Jong-Un, but so far there have been few signs of genuine reform. Most North Koreans are chronically malnourished and live miles below the poverty line and more than 1% of the population lives in labour camps. For Christians the suppression is still severe. All religious activity is seen as a revolt against the cult of the Kim dynasty. Owning a Bible could get you killed or sent to a labour camp. Many North Korean Christians have to keep their faith secret because it’s too dangerous to meet with other believers. Their isolation means they must rely even more on the prayers of their worldwide family.
New statistics on infant mortality rates appear to reflect improving conditions as North Korea emerges from the devastating famine that killed millions. A recent UNICEF report stated that the under-five mortality rate had fallen to 3.3% (from 5.8% in 2000). This compares favourably to many other developing countries yet is far behind South Korea at 0.5%. Despite these improvements, conditions are still highly unfavourable for North Korean children. Pray for creative ministry opportunities and for the government to be held to account for its actions so that reform can be realised.
It is estimated that there are 200,000 people in prison camps in North Korea of which 50-70,000 are Christians. Prisoners are exposed to severe violations of human rights, such as torture, execution and use of humans for weapons testing. Many die from starvation and overwork. Pray for the closure of the prison camps and the release of the captives. Ask God to sustain the thousands of Christians in prison camps and that during their captivity they would be a witness to their fellow prisoners.
Population: 25,155,317 (2015)
Official languages: Korean
GDP (PPP) per capita: $1,800 (2014 est.)
Life expectancy: 69 years
Religions: 64% Agnostic or Atheist, 16% Korean shamanist, 13% Cheondoist, 5% Buddhist, 2% Christian