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In North Korea, the Constitution provides for "freedom of religious belief"; the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a secular state. The US and South Korean governments are the main sources of information of religion in North Korea.

North Korea is officially an atheist state,[1][2] and government policy continues to interfere with the individual's ability to choose and to manifest his or her religious belief. The regime continues to repress the religious activities of unauthorized religious groups. Recent refugee, defector, missionary, and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) reports indicate that religious persons engaging in proselytizing in the country, those who have ties to overseas evangelical groups operating across the border in the People's Republic of China, and specifically, those repatriated from China and found to have been in contact with foreigners or missionaries, have been arrested and subjected to harsh penalties. Refugees and defectors continued to allege that they witnessed the arrests and execution of members of underground Christian churches by the regime in prior years. Due to the country's inaccessibility and the inability to gain timely information, the continuation of this activity remains difficult to verify.

Religion in North Korea[edit]

Traditionally, religion in North Korea primarily consists of Buddhism and Confucianism and to a lesser extent Korean shamanism and syncretic Chondogyo. Since the arrival of Europeans in the 18th century, there is also a Christian minority. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, since the rise of Stalinism, free religious activities no longer exist as the government sponsors religious groups only to create an illusion of religious freedom.[3] North Korea sees organised religious activity as a potential challenge to the leadership.[4]

Status of religious freedom[edit]

The Government deals harshly with all opponents, including those who engage in religious practices deemed unacceptable by the regime. An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 persons were believed to be held in political prison camps (Kwalliso) in remote areas,[5] many for religious and political reasons.[6]

In March 2006 the Government reportedly sentenced Son Jong-nam to death for espionage. However, NGOs claimed that the sentence against Son was based on his contacts with Christian groups in China, his proselytizing activities, and alleged sharing of information with his brother in South Korea. Son's brother reported that information indicated that Son was alive as of spring 2007. Because the country effectively bars outside observers from investigating such reports, it was not possible to verify the Government's claims about Son Jong-nam's activities or determine whether he had been executed. A fellow inmate of the Pyongyang prison where Son was held states that he died there in December 2008.[7]

A South Korean newspaper reported 80 people were publicly executed in North Korea in November 2013, some for possessing a Bible, while a crowd was herded into a stadium in one city and forced to watch the deaths from machine gun fire.[8] The JoongAng Ilbo reported the executions were carried out in seven cities on Nov. 3, 2013.[9] Christians have faced intense persecution in North Korea, which is ranked as the worst country in the world in terms of Christian persecution by watchdog group Open Doors.[10][better source needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ World and Its Peoples: Eastern and Southern Asia. Marshall Cavendish. Retrieved 2011-03-05. North Korea is officially an atheist state in which almost the entire population is nonreligious. 
  2. ^ The State of Religion Atlas. Simon & Schuster. Retrieved 2011-03-05. Atheism continues to be the official position of the governments of China, North Korea and Cuba. 
  3. ^ CIA - The World Factbook - Korea, North
  4. ^ "North Korea confirms US citizen is arrested". BBC. 14 April 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "The Hidden Gulag – Exposing Crimes against Humanity in North Korea’s Vast Prison System" (PDF). The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  6. ^ "North Korea: Political Prison Camps" (PDF). Amnesty International. May 4, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  7. ^ Kim, Hyung-jin (2010-07-05), "AP Exclusive: NKorean killed for spreading Gospel", Associated Press, retrieved 2010-07-08 
  8. ^ http://www.thenewamerican.com/world-news/asia/item/16955-north-korea-executes-citizens-for-having-bibles-watching-tv
  9. ^ http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/11/12/reports-north-korea-executed-80-people-for-watching-tv-and-owning-bibles/
  10. ^ http://www.christianpost.com/news/north-korea-publicly-executes-80-prisoners-crimes-include-possessing-bibles-108651/

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_religion_in_North_Korea — Please support Wikipedia.
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5 news items

NK News

NK News
Sun, 10 Jan 2016 23:27:43 -0800

“Poorly informed people or the general public would see such statements like this as the evidence of freedom of religion in North Korea,” Pastor Eric Foley from Voice of Martyrs, an international missionary group told NK News. Foley emphasized it is ...
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (press release)
Mon, 21 Mar 2016 07:14:28 -0700

She also worked on country specific religious freedom issues such as the protection of Baha'is in Iran, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion in North Korea, and the situation in Turkmenistan with regard to compulsory military service affecting ...


Sun, 29 Sep 2013 14:03:50 -0700

There is absolute freedom of religion in North Korea, the monk told him, and it's your responsibility to tell that to the world. But of course, Sullivan says, religion has been crushed in the last 60 years. While there are a handful of churches and ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Wed, 01 Apr 2015 21:00:15 -0700

There is no freedom of religion in North Korea. Proselytizing is not allowed. The group I went to North Korea with (Pust) was a group of evangelical Christians who were cooperating with the North Korean regime by funding the school – it cost over $35 ...


Tue, 30 Apr 2013 07:22:06 -0700

Churches and individual Christians are signing up to pray for North Korea over the next two years. Project Cyrus is the initiative of BMS World Mission and is inspired by Cyrus the Great, a powerful Persian ruler in the sixth century BC who liberated ...

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