June 19: Pray for our North Korean brothers and sisters
Twenty-five million people live in North Korea, the country with one of the worst human rights records in the world. A United Nations investigation in 2014 produced a 372-page report that documented crimes against humanity, including execution, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, forced abortions, and knowingly causing prolonged starvation.
There are currently an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 people in North Korea’s six political prison camps, in which the U.S. State Department has found evidence of starvation, forced labor, and torture.
June 20: Pray for North Korean defectors
There are currently 31,530 North Korean defectors living in South Korea, according to the unification ministry. Nearly all North Korean defectors escape by crossing the northern border into China before embarking on another dangerous journey to escape China, which repatriates escaped North Koreans discovered on Chinese soil. Many women refugees have been sold into sex trafficking in China.
PTSD is common in North Korean defectors after surviving such a journey, and many struggle to adjust to the South, where they often face discrimination. Catholics have been working with North Korean defectors for years to help them adjust to South Korean society.
June 21: Pray for the leaders of North and South Korea
Kim Jong Un was 26 years-old when he became the leader of North Korea in 2011, following the death of his father Kim Jong Il. He is the third “Supreme Leader” in the Kim family dynasty begun by his grandfather Kim Il Sung.
Kim made history in 2018 by crossing the military demarcation line into South Korea to meet the South Korean president in April and then being the first North Korean leader to meet an American president in June. While it is unclear whether this is an indication of Kim’s willingness to make serious changes in North Korea, the South Korean bishops request prayers for Kim Jong Un.
Moon Jae-In became president of South Korea in May 2017 after his predecessor was impeached on corruption charges. Moon is a practicing Catholic, former human rights attorney, and the son of North Korean refugees. He prioritized peaceful diplomacy with the north at a time when tensions with North Korea were high.
June 22: Pray for the evangelization of North Korea
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In 1945, there were about 50,000 Catholics registered in parishes in what is now North Korea, according to the Korean Bishops Conference, with more than double that number of Protestant Christians. Before the Korean War, Pyongyang was referred to as the “Jerusalem of the East” and was considered a center of Christianity in Northeast Asia.
Just before the Korean War broke in 1950, most of the priests who were in North Korea were captured, killed, or disappeared, according to the Korean Bishops Conference. The beatification process has begun for 40 monks and sisters of Tokwon Benedictine Abbey who were martyred by the Communists.
In 1988, the “Korean Catholic Association” created by the Communist government registered 800 members. This association is not recognized by the Vatican, but is one of three state-sponsored churches that operate in North Korea under strict supervision of the Communist authorities.
Mass is occasionally celebrated in Pyongyang's Changchung Cathedral when a foreign priest is on an official visit to the country, but on Sundays the liturgy of the word is usually celebrated by state-appointed layperson, explained Father Lee Eun-hyung in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need.
Persecution of Christians is worse in North Korea than anywhere else in the world, according to the World Watch List by Open Doors, who estimates that there could be as many as 300,000 Christians practicing their faith underground in North Korea. Christians within the atheist state have faced arrest, re-education in a labor camp, or, in some cases, execution for their faith.
Pastors who have traveled to North Korea with the hope of secretly evangelizing have been arrested, but Christian organizations in Seoul continue to broadcast the Gospel via radio into the North with the hope that someone will find a way to tune into the signal.