"He was very excited about his new faith and wanted to share the Gospel with his family," an unnamed Open Doors worker said in a statement. "He wanted to come back to China to study the Bible more so he could explain the Christian faith better to his family. It is heartbreaking that he was killed. I cannot stop thinking: 'If only he had arrived a little later at the border river, the guard would not have seen and shot him. He could still be alive today.'"
The other Christian who was killed also apparently took Bible courses in China, but returned to North Korea eight months later. Open Doors says that he was a dedicated and faithful Christian, which is a criminal offense in North Korea, punishable by prison and even death. When authorities found out about his faith, they sent him to one of their notorious prison labor camps.
"We just received an update that he was dead," Open Doors said. "He was terribly tortured because of his faith. He was also forced to do heavy labor while hardly receiving any food. Before his return to North Korea, he was baptized and willing to deal with the all the hardships he had to face. We never tell people to go back to North Korea, but he was happy to. We are devastated to hear about these murders. We know Christians die for their faith almost every day in North Korea, but it is still hard to deal with."
The watchgroup, which reports on Christian persecution around the world, has had North Korea as No. 1 on its list of most oppressive countries in the world for 11 years running.
"Nowhere else in the world is the persecution of Christians so intense. Even the possession of the Bible is enough to be killed or sent to a labor camp for life with your family," Open Doors says. The organization added that between 200,000 and 400,000 Christians may be living in North Korea, but official figures are hard to come by since profession of faith must be kept a secret. Of those believers, as many as 50,000 to 70,000 are believed to be living in concentration camps, where some face a grim death.
"There is no religious freedom whatsoever in North Korea. People are simply killed if they believe in Jesus," a North Korean refugee whose name was withheld for security reasons told Open Doors. "Kim Jong-Un is a god and there cannot be any god besides him. Yes, there are church services in North Korea, but only when foreigners are present. The state calls up some locals to be present. There is no freedom of religion, speech or press in North Korea."
In December, a U.S. citizen connected to a Protestant group was reportedly arrested in North Korea. Details of his case remain vague, but sources have said that authorities found in his possession a computer with "delicate information" about North Korea. The information in question allegedly referred to photos of orphans and the struggles people face, which the Pacific nation does not want to be spread around the world.