Korea, Democratic People's Republic of - (Asia)

Information about Korea, Democratic People's Republic of

122762 square kilometres
"traditionally Buddhist and Confucianist, some Christian and syncretic Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way) note: autonomous religious activities now almost nonexistent; government-sponsored religious groups exist to provide illusion of religious freedom"
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From the beginning of Christian mission in Korea in the 19th century to the division of Korea into two states, the church had particular strength in the North. The famous Korean Pentecost movement in 1907 was initiated in Pyongyang, and the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Peyong Yang was the spiritual center of the church in the whole country. Pyongyang was called the Korean Jerusalem. However, the Christian churches had to face an entirely new situation when the Socialist state was established after World War II. As soon as Korea was liberated from Japanese colonial rule, Christians in the North took initiatives for reconstructing the nation. They organized societies such as the “Self-government Society (Ja Chi Hoi)” or the “National Establishment Preparatory Society (Ku Kuk Chun Bi Woi Won Hoi).” Some leaders even organized political parties such as the Christian Social Democratic Party or the Christian Liberal Party. These Christian initiatives caused concern to the Communists and inevitably led to sharp conflict.
The first clash with the Communist regime arose around the issue of the anniversary celebrations of the March First Independence Movement in 1946. The church planned a special memorial service for this occasion but was forbidden to celebrate it and instead ordered to join the Communist celebration. The churches persisted in their plan. After the service Christians even went into the streets to demonstrate for religious freedom. A number of leaders were arrested. Another significant confrontation occurred in connection with the elections which were scheduled to take place on Sunday, November 3, 1946. Prior to this the government had already chosen Sundays for important political demonstrations and misappropriated church buildings as lecture rooms for political propaganda. Faced with the demand to vote on Sunday, the Joint Presbytery issued a statement on Christian freedom and refused participation.
In order to facilitate the control of the churches, the Communist government organized the “Christian League (Ki Dok Kyo Kyo Do Yen Mange)” at the national as well at provincial and local levels. Protestant leaders were urged to join. More severe measures followed. The Presb and Meth theological seminaries were forced to unite. Many church buildings were taken over by the state. Before the Korean war (1950-1953) there were around 120,000 Christians and 1,400 congr in the North. During the war buildings were destroyed, and many people were killed or scattered. Many fled to the South.
From the time of the war until the 1980s the Christian churches in the North had no contact with the outside world. Little is known about their life and witness. The organization representing Christians in North Korea is the Korean Christian Federation (KCF). Under its auspices the Bible and a new hymnbook were published in 1983. From the beginning of the 1980s the World Council of Churches sought to establish contacts with the Korean Christian Federation. A delegation visited Korea for the first time in November 1985, and in 1986 a meeting of Protestant representatives from the North and the South took place in Glion, Switzerland. Since then contacts have become more frequent. They also included the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. In 1997 a delegation of four church observers from North Korea participated in the 23rd General Council of the Alliance in Debrecen, Hungary.
The Prot church in North Korea is in a post-denominational situation. But the teaching and the structure of the church are in line with the Presb heritage. The highest authority of the Korean Christian Federation is the Central Committee. Every province has its own committee; similar structures apply to cities and the countryside. According to the Federation there are 10,000 Prot Christians in North Korea today. In P’yongyang there are two Prot church buildings; a RCath church was built in 1988. Federation leaders indicate that there are 500 house churches throughout the country. Since there are at present only 25 pastors, most of the pas-toral activities, including the administration of the sacraments, are performed by elders and deacons. No statistical data have been made available.


  • Korean Christian Federation
    Rev. Kang Yong-Sub, Chairperson of Central Committee of KCF Rev. Hwang Si-Chon, Executive Secretary of International Affairs Department of KCF KCF


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