More people in North Korea are seeing Bibles even though persecution has worsened in the country, according to a new report.
The findings are published in the ‘White Paper on Religious Freedom in North Korea’ written by the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights.
Twenty years ago, only 16 North Korean defectors claimed to have seen a Bible. But now, up to 559 say they have seen one.
The research collected information from 1,234 people who have fled the country. When asked about the punishment for those who engage in religious activities in the country, 46.7 percent of the respondents answered that they have to go to prison camps.
Religious persecution in North Korea has increased after leader Kim Jong Un issued an order in April 2014 to ‘arrest people who had contacts with Christianity’.
The country is ranked the number one persecutor of Christians on the World Watch List of Open Doors UK.
A recent report from the London-based Korea Future Initiative identified more than 200 Christians punished for crimes including religious practice.
In several cases, prisoners found with a Bible or religious pamphlets were executed by a firing squad, while others were locked in electrified cages and fed watery soup.
Meanwhile, in South Korea an American pastor is facing prosecution for floating balloons with Bibles across the border to the North.
Police in the South say Pastor Eric Foley is threatening national security, even though he has been launching balloons carrying Bibles into North Korea for the last 15 years.
He said, ‘For 15 years we’ve had a good relationship with the authorities. We’ve had police, military, even the intelligence services present at all of our launches.’
But in June South Korean police began cracking down on balloon launches following threats from North Korea.