Open Doors’ World Watch List has revealed North Korea is the country where Christians face the most extreme persecution.
Hitting the highest score ever recorded in the list’s history, North Korea has returned to number one on the list after being topped by Afghanistan last year.
The East Asian nation's ranking reflects an increase in arrests of Christians and more underground churches being discovered and shut down.
The enforcement of the new “Anti-Reactionary Thought Law”, which criminalises any published material of foreign origin in the country, including the Bible, is also partly to blame for it's return to the top of the list.
The law is also being used to track down underground churches and believers.
“North Korea [has] always targeted the Christians and Christianity. [It is] the first group to be eliminated or targeted or destroyed. This has been going for many years, since 1948 with the establishment of the Communist dictatorship,” Timothy Cho, a North Korean escapee who now works for Open Doors as the spokesperson for the region, told Premier.
“This new law [brings] a new wave of persecution. They are trying to find out every single person who has been influenced by religious materials.”
When asked how Christians grow their faith whilst facing such difficult situations, Cho said it only takes one person having had a encounter with God to spread the Gospel.
“Just imagine a country that doesn't have mobile phones or internet but you have, human community. That’s how the story can pass on one by one.
“So if someone has one Bible, when we face a dark situation, we need comfort. We need hope, without hope, humanity couldn't come all the way until this moment. And that hope we find in faith, which I did in prison.
“When I was praying to God, that faith gave me hope. And that comforted me and gave me hope of survival. And that same faith and same remains in that darkest prisons. And Christians talk about it, and they pray. And that's what I call ‘purify faith’. They know they can be killed, but they know their faith will not be destroyed,” Cho added.
Although it is hard to know how many Christians are in North Korea, Open Doors estimates there are 400,000 with about 50 to 70,000 in labour camps.