A Prayer for a Dictator
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is reported to be in grave danger due to underlying health conditions. Media speculation based on intelligence reports would imply a significant regime change if there is any truth to these reports and Kim Jong Un passes away.
If you are familiar with our World Watch List, you may recall that North Korea has been on the number one position for almost 20 years. It is the topmost country known for persecuting Christians.
Some important questions come to mind if Kim Jong Un is no longer in leadership of the country. What would it mean for the North Korean Christians if there is a regime change? Also, how are North Korean Christians feeling about the situation? And lastly, how can we pray for North Korea and for the secret believers living there?
What do we actually know?
Because Kim Jong Un – like his deceased father and grandfather – is treated as a deity, all information is strictly weighed before it goes out. The North Korean government will only announce bad news if there’s no denying it and so far, they have remained quiet about Kim Jong Un’s health.
That is surprising, because in the past, whenever the international media has speculated about his health, the North Korean government has countered this with propaganda messages. The fact that this hasn’t happened indicates that something is going on.
It’s likely that Kim Jong Un underwent heart surgery in a hospital in Hyangsang on April 12th and is recovering from the surgery in a villa outside of Pyongyang. Both the hospital and the villa are for the exclusive use of the Kim family. According to DailyNK, a news website run by North Korean defectors, several doctors are with Chairman Kim to attend to his medical needs.
Open Doors wants to emphasize that this news cannot be confirmed.
It seems clear, however, that his health condition is not good at all currently, though we don’t think he has died. On April 22nd, the Korean Central News Agency released a statement that Kim Jong Un had thanked the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad for expressing his respect for the late president Kim Il-Sung on his 108th birthday (April 15th). North Korea would take a huge risk to send a thank you message on behalf of a dead leader.
Kim is only in his thirties and there’s no designated successor. What would happen if he dies?
The current leaders are very dependent on the Kim family for their survival. Kim Jong Un has at least one child, but possibly two or three. All of them are below the age of ten and not ready to succeed their father.
Despite North Korea being a male dominated society, it is very likely that for the time being, Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, would be appointed as the new formal leader of the country. However, the most probable scenario is that political figures such as Vice-Marshal Choe Ryong-hae would form a collective leadership, with Kim Yo-jong as the figure head.
After the previous leadership transitions in 1994 and 2011, there was an increase in social control. The weaker the leader, the more he or she needs to exercise an iron fist policy to make sure people stay in line.
Kim Jong Un was not even 30 when he “inherited” a country. Most generals and politicians thought he couldn’t do the job because of his young age. He worked on his public image and tried to resemble his grandfather more, but in the meantime, he increased his restrictive grip on the population.
A new leader will have to do the same—especially if the new leader is Kim’s sister, a young woman. We expect that the situation for Christians and others who are considered to be enemies of the state will continue to be fragile.
How do North Korean Christians feel about the situation?
They are earnestly praying for the situation. Most refugees outside North Korea are very concerned. At the moment, because of the COVID-19 restrictions, they are unable to contact their families.
We can’t speak for all refugees, but many feel a lot of resentment towards the current leadership. It’s difficult for them to forgive Kim Jong Un and all that he represents.
What are North Korean Christians praying for?
The believers pray for the safety of the underground churches, for an end to the corona virus situation, for the country’s stability, and for alleviation of the persecution of Christians. Above all, they pray for the Gospel to shine through in North Korea.
Refugees also pray for the safety of their families inside North Korea, for a regime change and the collapse of the current system, and for a government that’s more open and less controlling. They pray for a reunification, through the Gospel, that leads to a democratic system.
We hope you will join us in praying for believers in North Korea, as well as for the government, including the dictator Kim Jong Un- pray that he would know Christ.
- Pray for the North Korean Christian believers to be strengthened at this time, that they will continue to hold on strong to Jesus.
- Pray for the leadership of the country, for wisdom for any decisions they take going forward during so much speculation.
- Pray for the health and salvation of Kim Jong Un. May the government be open to freedom of religion and allowing its citizens to freely live and practice their faith.