For the reasons I described here, if a resistance movement ever arises in North Korea, it will almost necessarily draw its essential inspiration and cohesion from Christianity. It requires extraordinary inspiration for anyone to sacrifice her individual interests for collective interests, and it is almost inevitably messianic faith — in Christianity, Islam, or Marxism in its various idealistic or pseudo-nationalist variations — that has supplied that inspiration to adherents of revolutionary movements. Pyongyang obviously knows this, which is why its propagandists stole so many elements of Christian dogma, and why it allows no gods before Kim. The comparison was the first thing about this leaflet that struck me.
As a non-religious person who often finds himself in sympathy (and in league) with Christian human rights activists, I often hear pastors, particularly Korean-American pastors, claim to have contact with underground churches or religious organizations inside North Korea. I always hope that it’s true, but it’s in the nature of a cynical lawyer to disbelieve whatever isn’t proven to me. In a place like North Korea, religious beliefs and associations are profoundly courageous and presumably scarce for the same reason: they are inherently subversive. That’s why the North Korean security forces carefully interrogate defectors to try to identify those who have had contact with Christians, and it’s also why the authorities single them out for the harshest punishments, including torture, long sentences in prison camps, and public execution.
One can find claims on the internet that there are tens or hundreds of thousands of secret believers in the North. I can’t help being skeptical of those claims. But recently, the Daily NK ran an interview with a defector who claims he converted to Christianity and returned to the North as a missionary. I’m in no position to verify any of the declarant’s claims, naturally, but their consistency with other facts I’ve read over the years makes it ring true. I won’t even bother to graf it, but there are many reasons to read it, including the story of escape, his emotional path to loss of faith in the state and the transfer of his faith, and his claim that high-ranking officials attended his underground church.