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How Do North Koreans Pray?

A secret meeting in North Korea

In North Korea, it is against the law to choose to follow Jesus or to own a Bible. A listener on VOMRadio.net asked the following questions.

  • In a country like North Korea, how do Christians pray?
  • How do they gather together?
  • What is a worship service like in North Korea?

Todd Nettleton, host of VOM Radio, asked Rev. Eric Foley to answer the listener’s questions. Rev. Foley is the leader of VOM Korea.

Rev. Foley: A lot of ideas we have about North Koreans hiding under a blanket to read the Bible or sneaking out of their homes at night aren’t exactly accurate. And the reason why is that everyone in North Korea is required to spy on homes that are near their own.

Things like hiding under a blanket or sneaking out of your home would make the neighbors suspicious. So when things like that happen it is usually on the border of North Korea.

North Koreans who are in the interior of North Korea who have been Christians for generations actually worship very differently. They have developed ways of worship that they can do even when people who are not Christians are watching.

One of the ways is that underground [secret] believers pray with their eyes open. They look at the person they are with as if they are having a conversation with that person. And instead of referencing God, for example, they use a phrase like “Dear Leader.” [“Dear Leader” is a title used for the former leader of their country, who is now dead. In this case, Christians are using the title to talk secretly about God.]

So instead of bowing their heads and closing their eyes, they might look at the person sitting next to them and say, “I am so concerned about Sister Kim, who is sick. But I am thankful that our Dear Leader will show special care for her as she needs love and attention.” That would be how underground Christians pray.

The way that they have worship services is on a family level. People in the same family worship together. But people from different families typically do not gather together for worship in North Korea.

(Source: VOMRadio.net. Edited and paraphrased for length and clarity.)

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