Religion and Atheism in North Korea

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North Korea practices state atheism and belief in God is actively discouraged.[1] Open Doors, an organization based in the United States, has put North Korea at the very top of its list of countries where Christians face significant persecution – for 12 years in a row.[2] Under the militant state atheism of North Korea other religious people are persecuted as well. The situation in North Korea can be only compared with the persecution by Enver Hoxha or Pol Pot.

Yoo Sang-joon is a well-known example of Persecution of Christians in North Korea.


In 1907 Pyongyang was called the "Jerusalem of Asia" and Christians could live peaceful with Buddhists and Confucianists. In 1910 the Japanese emperor attacked the Korean peninsula. Christians who did not bowed down to his portrait were tortured, imprisoned and/or executed.[3] After the Second World War the dictator Kim Il Sung came in power who is often treated by the North Koreans like a god. The government mandates belief in the Juche-ideology. Every competing religion is forbidden. The Christians pray in underground and if they get caught, they will be imprisoned. These prisons are comparable with the labor camps in Nazi Germany where the prisoners are treated like slaves and massively tortured.[4] This strategy was continued by Kim-Il Sungs son Kim Jong-Il and his grandson Kim Jong-un. In 2009, a North Korean Christian woman was executed for distributing Bibles.[5] In addition five church leaders were punished by being run over by a steamroller.[6]

Today there are three churches in North Korea but they are not used to exercise the religion, but they serve as a tourist attraction.[7]

See also


  1. Elizabeth Raum. North Korea. Series: Countries Around the World. Heinemann, 2012. ISBN 1432961330. p. 28: «North Korea is an atheist state. This means that people do not pray in public or attend places of worship. Buddhist temples exist from earlier times. They are now preserved as historic buildings, but they are not used for worship. A few Christian churches exist, but few people attend services. North Koreans do not celebrate religious holidays.»
  2. Repressive, atheist North Korea has a surprising relationship with Christian missionaries

External links