north korea Christian persecution

Christianity reached the traditionally Buddhist and Confucian Korean peninsula (North and South Korea) in the 1880s.

A revival started in 1907, particularly in the north and three thousand churches sprang up in the present North Korea. Pyongyang, the present North Korean capital, was even called, "The Jerusalem of Asia."

Persecution of Christians started in 1910 when Japan annexed the Korean peninsula and mandated worshipping the Japanese emperor. Christians who bowed down to his portrait were spared. Those who didn't were tortured, imprisoned and/or executed.

Despite the persecution, Christians grew in number. The Japanese persecution lasted 35 years until 1945, when Japan surrendered to end the Second World War.

The respite was short-lived, however, as the Communists led by the Soviet-trained Kim Il Sung streamed into and occupied the northern half of the peninsula. Backed by the Soviets, Kim spent the next five years consolidating his power in North Korea, crushing opposition, including from Christians, and building an army of his own.

In 1950, Kim's Communist army of North Korea invaded the democratic South Korea. The ensuing Korean War killed millions, leveled both South and North Korea, and ended three years later in a draw, with the post-war border more or less where the pre-war border had been.

After the war, Kim Il Sung intensified the persecution of Christians in North Korea. Those who renounced their faith and swore allegiance to him and his "Juche" ideology were spared, although relegated to the lowest level of his new social order. Those who refused were executed or deported to remote concentration camps where they were starved, overworked, tortured and/or shot to death.

By the 1960s, North Korea's once ubiquitous Christians were nowhere to be seen, at least not on the surface.