Christian activity aimed at North Korea shifts with American policy

Christian activity directed at North Korea is continuing despite sanctions and travel bans, even if such efforts are changing their focus from evangelism to social service, according to political scientist Joseph Yee. In a paper presented at the Association for the Sociology of Religion, the researcher reported that from 1985 to 2012 there were 480 foreign Christian-related organizations in North Korea. Since 2010, when sanctions were imposed on the country, foreign secular organizations declined while Christian ones increased. This continued until 2017, when travel bans were introduced and many Christian activities were curtailed. Western Christian activity has since been replaced with Christian leaders writing and engaging in “public discourse” about North Korea from outside its borders. Some of this public discourse, as in the case of some conservative South Korean churches, may demonize North Korea. Such groups may take a conspiratorial approach, even linking North Korean communism with gay rights activism and homosexuality. But Western Christians have also taken a more conciliatory posture toward North Korea, perhaps reflecting the recent talk of peace by President Trump. In 2018, a prayer conference in Washington, DC sought to encourage policy makers to stress engagement with North Korea rather than treating the nation as a threat. Such an effort may have been a success, according to Yee, as indicated by such a prominent evangelical figure as Franklin Graham talking about seeking peace with North Korea.