By Mark Ellis
Since the unexpected death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il December 17th, and the succession to power of his third son, Kim Jong-un, the underground Christian church has faced increased persecution.
“Three weeks ago seven underground churches got exposed,” says Thomas Kim, executive director of Cornerstone Ministries, which is actively involved in serving the church inNorth Korea. “It’s been very difficult for the last month and I think it’s going to continue,” he says.
The North Korean leadership apparently fears the kind of insurrection that swept other communist regimes and is now sweeping the Middle East. “They are scared there will be an uprising,” Kim notes. “They are scared by the expansion of the Christian faith because Christians will die for their faith.”
The old guard surrounding Kin Jong-un are anxious for a smooth transition, and this is impacting the church. “The regime has been putting pressure on to stabilize society,” Kim says. In the months preceding Kim Jong-il’s death, there were few attempts to search for underground believers, but that has changed.
“Now the regime is putting out many people to search for the underground church,” Kim notes. “There is a need to pray for protection.”
Kim believes change will come when the old guard is replaced with younger reformers. “The current people surrounding Kim Jong-un are old and have been there a long time,” Kim observes. “They are not reformers; they want to keep the old system.”
“The father has set up a system that will be stable for a while, until Kim Jong-un desires to put in his own people,” Kim notes. “That’s when we will have a big conflict.”
The international community should continue to apply pressure for greater freedom in North Korea, Kim says. He also believes it is useful to provide humanitarian relief when necessary. “We must continue to pressure them to open up, otherwise people will die without hearing about Jesus Christ.”