The North Korean Cult of Juche – DPRK’s Deceptive Religion
Jesus continued to warn His disciples – “’Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.’” (John 15: 20-21)
Christians in North Korea understand this. North Korea is considered the worst nation in the world regarding Christian persecution. The national religion of North Korea, “Juche,” is considered the world’s newest major religion. The doctrine of this religion includes: 1. Leader worship (the Kim family dictators are considered divine, immortal, and worthy of all prayer, worship, honor, power, and glory) 2. Totalitarian subordination of the individual to the nation 3. Man is the beginning and end of all things 4. North Korea is seen as a “sacred” country 5. It is considered “paradise” on earth 6. Reunification of North and South Korea is both a political and spiritual goal (Belke 8-9).
Juche is the tenth most widely followed religion of the world. Images of the Kims and their “all-wise” pronouncements are everywhere in North Korea. Kim Jong-il’s birth was supposedly foretold by a swallow and “attended by miraculous signs,” including a double rainbow and a brilliant star. Schools in North Korea have rooms set apart for learning about the “achievements of the divinely guided dynasty.” Juche has it’s own sacred statues, icons, and martyrs; all associated with the Kim family. Self-reliance is a core principle of Juche, and the more threat the nation is under, the more an imagined need for a “supernatural” protector (the Kims). As daily life has disintegrated in North Korea, the Korean dictatorship has had to depend more on its paranoid ideology. (https://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2013/04/venerating-kims)
Before Juche was established by Kim il-Sung, Christianity was well established in North Korea. Protestant missionaries entered the country during the 1880’s. Schools, universities, hospitals, and orphanages were established. Before 1948, Pyongyang was an important Christian center with one-sixth of its population Christian converts. Many Korean communists had Christian backgrounds, including Kim il-Sung. His mother was a Presbyterian. He attended a mission school and played the organ at church. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_North_Korea#Christianity)
It is reported today that there are many fake churches in North Korea that are packed with “actors” portraying worshipers, in order to fool foreign visitors. Christians who are discovered secretly practicing their religion are subject to beating, torture, imprisonment, and death. (http://www.ibtimes.sg/christians-receiving-spine-chilling-treatment-reveal-north-korea-defector-23707) There are an estimated 300,000 Christians in North Korea out of a population of 25.4 million people, and an estimated 50-75,000 Christians in labor camps. Christian missionaries have been able to enter North Korea, but most of them have been blacklisted and red-flagged by the government. More than half of them are thought to be in hard labor prison camps. The North Korean government uses a “facade” network – the Korea Christian Association – to find out who the Christians are, and many have been deceived into thinking that this association is real. This association gives false information about religious freedom and religious pluralism to the international community. (https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2017/05/15/north-korean-defector-despite-horrific-persecution-christianity-growing/)
Lee Joo-Chan, now a pastor in China, grew up in North Korea in a Christian family but was not told about his Christian heritage until both he and his mother escaped. His mother told him that she had come to faith in North Korea in 1935 when she was nine years old, and that her parents were Christians too. Sadly, Lee’s mother and brother returned to North Korea, and were both killed by soldiers. His father and other siblings were arrested and murdered also. North Korean Christians often do not share their faith with their children. Inside the country, there is continual indoctrination. All day long through television, radio, newspapers, and loudspeakers, propaganda is fed to the citizens. Parents must teach their children when they are young to say “Thank you, Father Kim il-Sung.” They learn about the Kims at school everyday. They are required to bow at the Kim’s images and statues. Through books and animated movies they are taught that Christians are evil spies who kidnap, torture, and kill innocent children, and sell their blood and organs. Teachers at school often ask the children if they read from a “certain black book.” Sharing the gospel in North Korea is very dangerous. There are tens of thousands of children in North Korea who have become homeless because their Christian families were torn apart by death, arrests, or other tragedies. (https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/no-christian-children-north-korea/)
No doubt, Jesus was persecuted, and ultimately killed. Today, many of His followers are persecuted for their faith in Him. North Korean Christians need our prayers! Jesus was crucified, but rose from the dead and was seen alive by many witnesses. The “good news” or the “gospel” is found in the Bible. The gospel, no doubt, will continue to go forth to all the world, including North Korea. If you do not know Jesus, He died for your sins and loves you. Turn to Him today in faith. He wants to be your Redeemer, Savior, and Lord. When you know Him and trust Him, you do not need to fear what man will do to you. Even if you lose your life on this earth, you will be with Jesus for eternity.
Belke, Thomas J. Juche. Living Sacrifice Book Company: Bartlesville, 1999.