To many people, 10 October is just a normal day. But to North Koreans, it is Party Foundation Day – an annual public holiday to celebrate the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea. This year is the 75th anniversary. If you’re wondering how Kim Jong-un’s government came to be, and what they value, we’ve answered some key questions below.
The Workers’ Party of Korea is the ruling political party in North Korea, currently led by Kim Jong-un. It was previously led by his father, Kim Jong-il, and his grandfather, Kim Il-sung.
The party charter states that the party will be led by the ideas of the ruling Kim family, which can be seen in the ‘Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System’. This establishes rules for the party to follow, such as:
With these rules stating that the Kim family are the highest authority, it’s easy to see why Christians – who believe that God is the ultimate authority – are labelled enemies of the state. The Kim family’s control and their efforts to clamp down on those who put God before their loyalty to the government cannot be overstated. The safest way to follow Jesus in North Korea is to keep your faith secret; those who are found out can be tortured, imprisoned, or even killed.
The party charter once said that the party was committed ‘to building a Communist society’, but this is no longer the case. It now speaks of a commitment to Songun, a ‘military first’ policy which means the military are first in line for the country’s resources.
Sadly, because of policies like this, millions of North Korean citizens have died due to starvation and lack of resources. Between 2-3 million died during the ‘Arduous March’, the name North Koreans gave the great famine of the 1990s.
But Open Doors secret workers are keeping 90,000 North Korean believers alive with vital food and aid through its networks in China, thanks to your prayers and support.
The party was founded in October 1945, although at the time it had a different name, and was associated with the Community Party of Korea. The party went through various changes before becoming known as the Workers’ Party of Korea in 1949.
In 1945 there were two other democratic parties in North Korea, the Christian Social Democratic Party of Korea and the Christian Liberal Party of Korea, established by pastors and Christian activists. When the early version of the Workers’ Party of Korea was established, it was just another political group.
But after Kim Il-sung became the leader of North Korea in 1948, he used his powers to arrest democratic Christian political groups, leaders and members. They were offered two options: either support Communism or flee the country. Over one million North Korean activists and Christians fled to South Korea – and no other legitimate political groups have been allowed since then.
As the party is the only political party in North Korea, the whole of society is controlled by it. The national system is built on the bloodshed and persecution of anyone who dares to question the authority of the Kim family, including tens of thousands of Christians. Millions of North Korean people have lost their lives under this party’s rule - either directly through punishment for disobedience, or indirectly through starvation due to the party’s poor stewardship of the nation’s resources.
Today, Open Doors estimates there are around 300,000 secret Christians in North Korea, courageously choosing to follow Jesus over the Kim family.
Party Foundation Day is an annual public holiday; North Korean people have to celebrate for this day, singing songs and holding dance performances in schools, universities, factories and public arenas. Special films of the Kim family’s fight against imperial enemies are also shown.
As it is the 75th anniversary of the founding of the party, North Korea is currently preparing a big military parade which will be held in Pyongyang square. However, many commentators have expressed concerns about this gathering of tens of thousands of people in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Officially, nobody has died of Covid-19 in North Korea – but most commentators think this is unlikely to be true.
North Korea has been number 1 on the World Watch List since 2002. But where will it fall in the 2021 ranking? Invite your MP to save the date for the World Watch List launch on the 13 January 2021 where they can find out more about how to help persecuted Christians around the world.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.