Young Pioneer Tours

Are there missionaries in North Korea?

Whilst missionaries in North Korea from any religion are for all intents banned within the republic, that is not to say that they do not, or indeed have not existed over time.

Their current status and indeed that of missionaries within the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) is indeed a controversial one. 

Religion in North Korea

We have covered the wider concept of religion in North Korea in this article (link), but the short story is that people are free to practice their own religion as part of the constitution of the DPRK. 

The main religions in North Korea are Buddhism, Christianity and Chondoism, as well as the state also heavily supporting atheism, particularly for members of the Workers Party of Korea

And of course foreigner can indeed go to church in North Korea, as well even celebrate Christmas in North Korea

Yet while personal religion, as well as state sponsored religion is tolerated the DPRK make a firm distinction between that and people coming to the country proselytizing.

North Korean Christian Worshipers in Pyongyang
Are there missionaries in North Korea?

History of missionaries within Northern Korea

Missionaries have of course been present in the Korean peninsula for a long time, withe including North Korea. In fact Kim Il Sung’s parents were famously Christian, with him even getting a Christian education. 

In fact the Chilgol Church is considered a revolutionary site due its connection to the Kim family and the Paektu Bloodline.

Since the Japanese occupation and the subsequent formation of socialist Korea missionaries have not been welcome in the DPRK.

Inspecting goods at the Rason Trade fair
The Rason Special Economic Zone of North Korea

Are there missionaries in North Korea now?

By now will talk about North Korea since the end of the Cold War and indeed when it started opening up to the wider world. Since then it has been well known that many evangelical Christians have since then seen North Korea as the “final frontier”.

This has led to many different incarnations of missionaries in North Korea, some good, some not so good. It is well known that there are Christians doing good work in Rason, which includes farming and even arranging a bus service. They do though officially at least not try to convert people.

This has not always been the case though and some such as Keneth Bae have even found themselves on the wrong side of the law. And of course he is not the only one, with other Americans having also been found to have been going out religious propaganda. 

We will keep ourselves neutral as always here, but will state that North Korea allows you to take a bible into the country, they do not allow you to hand them out.

Missionaries around North Korea

More troublesome that missionaries in North Korea have tended to be those around North Korea. These people congregate on the border with North Korea and China trying to “save souls” through the controversial so called |underground churches”.

These have not only been known to get Koreans into trouble, but also foreigners such as the Canadian couple that ran Peters Cafe in Dandong. These two were the original “arrested Canadians”, before anyone had even heard of Michael Spavor, or Michael Kovig.. 

So, to sum up while missionary work is illegal in North Korea, much like as it is on North Sentinel Island it sadly does not put people off doing it. Therefore there are undoubtedly missionaries in and around North Korea.

You will be pleased to know we tend not to attract missionaries on our trips, which usually means our North Korea Tours are for the most part bible free zones.

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