“Professor H” graduated from Seoul USA’s Underground University, our twelve month training program for North Korean defectors called to serve as missionaries wherever North Koreans are found. He recalls a time before the Korean War, before the ascent of Kim Il Sung, before the extermination of Christians and the burning of Bibles, when Pyongyang was the Jerusalem of the East and hippie evangelists freely roamed the streets of the city. Professor H writes:
Once upon a time before the Korean War, there used to be many churches in Pyongyang. I can remember seeing the crosses on the many steeples all over town. Pyongyang was even called the Jerusalem of the East.
We even had long haired hippie Christians in those days! I remember them evangelizing on the main street in the daytime, shouting out “Believe in Jesus and go to heaven!” But then the social and economic reforms of the communists took hold, and religious activities began to be restricted and selectively suppressed by the government, first indirectly and later directly. In the name of land reform, Christians who owned land were denounced as traitors. Their land was confiscated by the government.
Finally, on September 9, 1948, as they officially established the North Korean government, they announced that there would be no more religion in North Korea. No more steeples. No more long-haired hippie evangelists. No God except for Kim Il Sung.
Many Christians were frightened and fled to the South. North Korean churches were weakened by the suppression. Christianity itself was considered to be an enemy after the Korean War.
The North Korean government prohibited rebuilding church buildings destroyed by the war. They defined religious ceremonies as “anti-revolutionary agitation.” The church buildings in my neighborhood that were still standing after the war were converted into schools or hospitals.
By the early 1960s, churches could no longer qualify as official entities in North Korea. The North Korean government categorized North Korean citizens into 51 different groups like core citizen, unstable, or antagonist.
Christians were categorized as antagonists. Their families were strictly isolated. The government strengthened anti-religion propaganda campaigns across the country. Religion was denounced as a dangerous, anti-communist illusion.
The government tried to eliminate Christianity through education and administration. They fully expected it to perish. They boasted that communism had triumphed, pointing to the lack of Christian activity as evidence.
But God opened my eyes during my time at Underground University to an amazing truth:
The North Korean government was unsuccessful in exterminating Christians after the Korean War. They managed to get rid of all the steeples and the hippie long haired evangelists. They created an educational system to train us only to believe in the material world.
But now I have learned that God always preserved a remnant of believers in North Korea who to this day continue to faithfully serve him in my homeland.
It’s not too late to join together in worship with Professor H and other North Korean Christians through Seoul USA’s 100 Days of Worship in the Common Places! Click here for more details on how you can follow their faithful lead by using their blood-stained order of worship to hold a simple, brief daily service of prayer in your home, your workplace, your school, the coffee shop you frequent, from now through year’s end in solidarity with the most persecuted church on earth–the North Korean Underground.