North Korea is often regarded as one of the most mysterious countries in the world, shrouded in secrecy and largely isolated from the rest of the world. But there are some surprising references to North Korea in the Bible. Here, we take a closer look at this fascinating connection.
The most common biblical reference to North Korea comes from the Old Testament. In the Book of Isaiah, chapter 64, verse 2, there is mention of a land that the Hebrews call “Haemim”. The Hebrew word “Haemim” translates to “the hidden” or “the secret” and is believed to be a reference to North Korea, which was then known as Goguryeo.
This passage reads: “As wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. He rooted out their cities; no one was left to inhabit them. Haemim was taken in his wrath and his fury, his fierce anger and whirlwinds of devouring fire.”
The passage appears to describe the power of God destroying the kingdom of Goguryeo and its inhabitants. It is also believed to be a prophetic warning to the North Korean government of the potential consequences of ruling an oppressive and authoritarian regime.
The Bible itself does not give any specific information about North Korea, but there are some scholars who believe that there are other references to North Korea scattered throughout scripture. In Deuteronomy 33:1, for instance, the author talks about a “people inhabiting the mysterious north”. This could be referring to the kingdom of Goguryeo, which was located in the northern part of the Korean peninsula.
Others point to the fact that the names of the two main rivers in North Korea, the Taedong and the Yalu, appear in the Bible as well. In the Book of Habakkuk, the prophet refers to “the streams of Taedong and Yalu”, which suggests that these were known to the Hebrews at one time.
Religious Freedom in North Korea
Religious freedom is severely restricted in North Korea and is officially limited to the worship of the ruling dynasty. In addition, North Korea does not have many Christian churches or places of worship and religious activity has been a danger for its citizens for many years.
There have been a few organizations that have been attempting to bring Christianity to North Korea, such as the Eugene Bell Foundation and Open Doors, but they have had limited success due to the government’s strict controls over religious practice. There are also reports of Christians who are persecuted in North Korea and are sent to labor camps.
Despite the restrictions, there is still a large community of believers in North Korea, some of whom manage to practice their faith in secret. This is largely due to the fact that North Koreans are still able to access the Bible through underground networks and some have even managed to make it their secret keeper in order to avoid persecution.
In recent years, there have been a few instances in which North Korean Christians have risked their own safety to bring the Bible to North Koreans living in South Korea. In 2018, a group of North Korean defectors smuggled nearly 300 copies of the Bible over the border, which was the first shipment of its kind in over 30 years.
Politicization of Christianity in North Korea
The prospect of the expansion of Christianity in North Korea is viewed as a political threat by the government. The government actively seeks to suppress Christian practices in order to prevent any sort of uprising or resistance against the regime.
The government of North Korea has also attempted to co-opt Christianity in order to legitimize its rule. In order to do so, the government has manipulated the narrative of Christianity and fused it with nationalism, portraying the Kim dynasty as divinely ordained and as the sole protector and savior of North Korea.
The government also stresses that it is the only religion that can bring peace and prosperity to North Korea, while outside religions are seen as a potential source of chaos and unrest. This has led to accusations that North Korea is attempting to control Christianity and use it for political purposes.
The religious freedom situation in North Korea has attracted the attention of the international community and in 2016, the United Nations adopted a resolution on North Korea’s human rights abuses. This included a call for North Korea to “end the grave violations of religious freedoms”, as well as allow access to the Bible.
Since then, there have been further calls for the North Korean government to end its restrictions on religious freedoms and allow access to the Bible. However, the government of North Korea has continued to resist these calls and has done little to address the issue.
Christians in North Korea Today
Despite the restrictions, there is still a large community of Christians in North Korea who are determined to practice their faith. According to some estimates, there may be as many as 200,000 Christians in North Korea, many of whom practice their faith in secret in order to avoid persecution.
The growth of Christianity in North Korea has been gradual, with some defectors stating that they have noticed a growing number of converts since the early 2000s. As such, though the situation is bleak, it is possible that there is hope for the future of Christianity in North Korea.
Conclusion of the Bible in North Korea
North Korea’s connection to the Bible is complex and often conflicting. On the one hand, there are references to the kingdom of Goguryeo in the Old Testament and other passages that may hint at North Korea’s existence. On the other hand, the government of North Korea has attempted to deny and restrict access to the Bible, as well as politicize its teachings.
Despite these restrictions, there are still Christians in North Korea who are determined to practice their faith and there has been some progress in terms of increasing the availability of the Bible in North Korea. Ultimately, it is up to North Koreans to decide how their connection to the Bible will evolve in the future.
Religious Policing in North Korea
Religious policing is also a problem in North Korea. The government employs strict monitoring and surveillance of religious activity and anyone found to be participating in religious practices can be arrested and sent to a labor camp. This has resulted in a climate of fear and the state attempts to control and censor any form of religious expression or discourse.
In addition, there are reports of Christians being arrested and tortured for their beliefs. In some instances, Christian prisoners have been sent to prison camps and subjected to “thought reform” in order to renounce their beliefs. This includes propaganda, forced labor and psychological torture.
The religious persecution in North Korea is a severe violation of human rights and the international community has a responsibility to end this injustice. In 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling for an international consensus on this issue and urging the North Korean government to address the situation.
North Korea and the Religious Landscape
Despite the restrictions, it is clear that there is a religious landscape in North Korea. Many North Koreans still identify with animistic and shamanistic religious practices, as well as ancestor worship, which have been significant parts of the North Korean culture for centuries. There are still some North Koreans who practice Buddhism and Confucianism as well.
Christianity is only a small part of the religious landscape in North Korea, but its presence is growing in spite of the restrictions. This could be an indication that, despite the oppressive atmosphere, there is a glimmer of hope for the future of religious freedom in North Korea.
Coexistence in North Korea
The situation in North Korea is complex and there is a wide range of opinions among North Koreans in regards to religion. Many North Koreans simply want to be able to practice their beliefs without fear of persecution, while others feel that it is important to preserve the teachings of the Kim family. Ultimately, it is up to North Koreans to decide how to coexist in a culture that has been heavily influenced by the government.
The current situation in North Korea is far from ideal and religious freedom remains elusive. However, there is hope that, with the support of the international community and the courage of North Koreans, the situation can improve in the future.
Churches and Aid in North Korea
In recent years, there have been a few attempts to bring Christianity to North Korea and there have been a few churches established in the country. These churches have been mostly built with aid from international organizations and South Korean churches, who have provided much-needed resources to the North Koreans.
These churches provide a space for North Koreans to practice their faith in a safe and welcoming environment and also provide food and other necessities, such as clothing and medical supplies. The churches also serve as an important source of spiritual sustenance and a sense of hope for many North Korean Christians.
In addition, there are a few charitable organizations that are attempting to provide relief and support to the people of North Korea, such as the Eugene Bell Foundation and Open Doors. These organizations are working to provide aid, charity, and information to the North Korean people in order to improve the situation in the country.
Outlook for Christianity in North Korea
Despite the restrictions, it appears that Christianity is slowly gaining ground in North Korea. There are growing numbers of converts and an increasing number of churches, and some North Koreans have even managed to obtain copies of the Bible and share it with others. It is clear that there is still a large community of believers in North Korea and the situation is beginning to improve.
The international community must continue to push for religious freedom in North Korea and seek a solution that allows North Koreans to practice their faith freely and without fear of persecution. Hopefully, in time, the North Korean government will abolish its restrictions on religious practice and allow for the growth of Christianity in the country.