While North Korea and the generally unknown Christians there remain isolated on the world stage, British Methodists are among those who have been developing relations and providing assistance.
At the beginning of the New Year, the Church's Fund for World Mission will grant £5,000 to help the Church in North Korea run a food production company to help people there.
The Methodist Church in Britain will also be joining in the Global Day of Repentance and Prayer for North Korea on 14 January 2009, highlighting concerns for the country in it Prayer Handbook, which is used by a large number of individuals and congregations.
Steve Pearce, Partnership Coordinator for Asia and the Pacific, explained: “Times are particularly hard for all the people of North Korea at the present time. The North Korean population is cut off and isolated from the rest of the world and dependent on the regime for their needs. Food is scarce for many – there are problems in the supply of humanitarian aid."
Pearce continued: “Christianity is treated as ‘a bad element’ in this hardline socialist country. Christians have been beaten, arrested, tortured, or killed because of their religious beliefs but local sources estimates the number of underground Christians to be at least 200,000, maybe many more, and many of them are imprisoned for their faith."
He added: “Raids are made regularly, both in North Korea and China, to arrest refugees and those helping them.”
The British Methodist Church and the Ecumenical Forum for Peace, Reunification and Development on the Korean Peninsula have been developing common projects with Church representatives from North and South Korea, North America and Europe.