Country rank


Persecution score


Last year’s rank




Persecution Type

Communist and post-Communist oppression (Very strong), Dictatorial paranoia (Very strong)

Persecution Level





400,000 (OD estimate%)  According to OD-estimate

Main Religion



Dictatorship, single-party state; official state ideology of “Juche” or “national self-reliance”


State Affairs Commission Chairman Kim Jong Un

Through our networks in China, Open Doors  partners with North Koreans to provide the ff:

• Emergency relief aid of food, clothes, medicine, etc.
• Christian literature distribution
• Training through radio broadcasts
• Shelter, aid, training and training materials to believers


What does persecution look like in North Korea?

Being discovered as a Christian is a death sentence in North Korea. If you aren’t killed instantly, you will be taken to a labor camp as a political criminal. These inhumane prisons have horrific conditions, and few believers make it out alive. Everyone in your family will share the same punishment. Kim Jong-un is reported to have expanded the system of prison camps, in which an estimated 50-70,000 Christians are currently imprisoned.

How women experience persecution

Open Doors estimates that up to 30 percent of Christians in labor camps for their faith are women. Sexual violence and rape are common parts of interrogation and prison life, and even outside prison, sexual abuse is normalized.

Approximately 80 percent of North Koreans who defect to China are women – including many Christians. Here, they are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking or being forced to marry Chinese men.

How men experience persecution

All North Koreans are under extreme control by the government, but particularly adult men. Their jobs must be allocated by the government and cannot be changed. Anybody found to have any Christian connection in their family tree will be denied any advancement, such as prestigious jobs or preferred military service.

What has changed this year?

The year 2021 is the 20th year in a row that North Korea has been ranked as the country where Christians face the most extreme persecution. North Korean Christians continue to face extreme persecution in every element of their public and private lives. 

Though the North Korean authorities claim that COVID-19 has had little impact in the country, North Koreans call it the “ghost disease” – because people are so malnourished already that they die very quickly from COVID-19. The pandemic has led to tighter security at the Chinese border, and a stranglehold on the black market, which many use to survive.

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Any Christian, anywhere in North Korea, is extremely vulnerable to persecution. The North Korean authorities’ control goes beyond the borders: Secret agents in China are tasked with finding and abducting North Korean Christians who have fled the country.

How can I help Christians in North Korea?

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in North Korea?

Open Doors secret workers are keeping 90,000 North Korean believers alive with vital food and aid through its networks in China, as well as providing Bibles, training through Christian radio broadcasting, and providing shelter and training for North Korean refugees in China.


– Pray for North Korea’s secret believers, that God will continue to strengthen them, provide for their needs and keep them safe. 
– Pray for the believers who are imprisoned. Pray for comfort and strength for them, and that even in prison, they would know God’s presence and love. 
– Despite the risks, we have heard stories of believers sharing the gospel with others, even in North Korean prison camps. Pray that North Korean believers will shine as lights in the darkest places on earth.
– Ask that God would bless the work of Open Doors’ secret networks in China, and give wisdom and discernment to those providing vital aid and fellowship to North Korean believers.


Lord God, it is hard for us to imagine life in North Korea for Christians. But thank You that You will never abandon Your children, and that You are with them whatever they suffer. Please help North Korean believers not just to survive but to be joyful, despite everything – prepare a banquet for them in the presence of their enemies. Tear down the strongholds of the Kim family and replace them with prayer and praise.

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in North Korea, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.