North Korean Choi Kwanghyuk is one of the lucky ones.
The 55-year-old managed to escape from the work camp where he was sent after being targeted and persecuted by the government for his Christian faith.
“We couldn’t raise our voice during a service, we couldn’t sing out loud during a worship … that was hard,” Choi told Fox News through a translator. “Also, we had to hide so that other people could not see us.”
Despite having to hide his faith in plain sight while living in North Hamgyong province, Choi was still compelled to bring religion to others when he started an underground church.
“There were about nine people,” he said. “I couldn’t do mission work because we had to keep it secret that we had a church.”
“If that information had leaked, we could have faced the death penalty.”
North Korea is officially an atheist state where – except for a “show church” in Pyongyang that tourists are shown — public worship is forbidden. The country is ranked the most oppressive place for Christians in the world and has had that ignominious status for years, according to Open Doors USA.
“[Choi’s] statements describing oppression, as well as his report of imprisonment for owning a Bible or practicing faith, align with everything we know about North Korea,” Open Doors President David Curry told Fox News. “Rated the worst place for the persecution of Christians, North Korea treats Christians horrendously and registers them as ‘enemies of the state’ for their faith.”
The totalitarian state forces the estimated 300,000 Christians living there to hide their religious beliefs and fellowship among each other.
“In a nation where the ruling regime demands total control over the general public, anything that challenges the government’s power is seen as a threat, including religion,” Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, told Fox News. “As a result, the North Korean government does everything in its power to squash the spread of Christianity.”
This leads much of the religious population in North Korea to go underground with their worship, much like Choi and his church were forced to do.
“We had only one Bible,” he said. “North Hamgyong province is very cold. In the winter, we would dig a big hole and store kimchi there. We sometimes had services there. In the summer, we had services in the mountain or by the river.”
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SOURCE: Fox News, Perry Chiaramonte