North Korean woman imprisoned for faith shares how God sustained her amid horrific abuses

by Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Contributor |
North Korea has been the No. 1 persecutor of Christians on the group's annual list for a consecutive 18 years, and the U.S. State Department has included North Korea on its list of countries violating religious freedom every year since 2001. | Image: Open Doors

A Christian survivor of a North Korean prison camp describes the horrific torture she endured for her faith and how God stayed with her through the brutality.

In an interview with persecution watchdog group Open Doors, a woman identified only as "Prisoner 42" shared how she became a Christian after fleeing to China in the midst of North Korea's great famine. In China, she was captured and sent to a North Korean prison camp, where she spent one year in solitary confinement.

When she arrived at the prison camp, guards shaved her head and stripped her down to nothing. Each morning when they would call for her, she would crawl out of a door flap — typically used for dogs or cats — and keep her head bowed low because she was not allowed to make eye contact with the guards.

She recalled how, for an hour, guards would ask her the same questions: "Why were you in China? Who did you meet? Did you go to church? Did you have a Bible? Did you meet any South Koreans? Are you a Christian?"

To stay alive, she was forced to lie: "Am I a Christian? Yes. I love Jesus. But I deny it. If I admit that I was helped by Chinese Christians, I will be killed, either quickly or slowly," she said. "They will murder me in this North Korean prison. Every day, I'm beaten and kicked — it hurts the most when they hit my ears. My ears ring for hours, sometimes days."

During her year in solitary confinement, she was trapped in a cold cell and never saw sunlight or another prisoner: "I spent one year in prison, and for one year my skin didn't touch a single ray of sunlight," she said.

So she prayed and sang a song she wrote in her head — but never out loud. Lyrics included the lines "My heart longs for my Father in this prison/Although the road to truth is steep and narrow/A bright future will be revealed when I continue."

"It has been a year now. I don't know how long I will survive in this place," she wrote. "One day they will call me, and I won't move. I will have died here in a North Korean prison. They will dispose of my body, and the first new prisoner that comes in will be 'Prisoner 42.' They will wear my clothes."

One day, she appeared in court where she officially divorced her husband against her will. Officials found her not guilty of being a Christian and sentenced her to four years at a re-education camp.

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