Chilgol Church is one of the oldest and most important protestant churches in Pyongyang, and yes, it can be visited on tour.
Despite the reputation North Korea has for lack of religion, religious freedom is guaranteed in the constitution, and President Kim Il Sung’s mother was a known patron of Chilgol Church (more on that later). The difference with North Korea compared to other countries is that much like in China, religions are governed by state-run patriotic organizations; in this case, the Korean Christian Federation.
Chilgol Church and Christianity in North Korea
The Korean Christian Federation was initially founded in 1946 by communist Christians and officially represents almost 10,000 North Korean Christians.
Chilgol church itself was founded and built-in 1899 and was attended by Kang Pan-Sok, the mother of President Kim Il-Sung, and herself a known communist, revolutionary, and indeed Christian.
In June 1950, the church was levelled during the Korean War. Following the war, President Kim Il Sung ordered that the church be rebuilt in the same space, and in 1989 it was rebuilt to fit the original style of the building.
Aside from the church itself, there is also a museum to Kang Pan-Sok, which can be viewed by visitors.
Some have accused it of being a “fake church,” but officially, it welcomes foreign residents, tourists, and of course, local devotees alike. Officially there is a congregation of about 150 people that regularly attend services at the church.
Believe it, or not we at Young Pioneer Tours can indeed confirm that the church is open to foreign visitors. Back in 2012, we had a predominantly Christian group who wished to visit, and we duly obliged. You can read about that little adventure here.
Now with that being said, you are much less likely to find Chilgol Church on a YPT itinerary than say drinking beer at Kwanbok Department Store but is undoubtedly available to visit on independent tours if that is your thing.
Get in touch to learn more.