North Koreans in LA Find Comfort in Christianity

North Koreans find spiritually and comfort

North Koreans who immigrate to the United States more often than not settle in localities with large Korean populations. These areas, colloquially known as Koreatowns, have Korean churches as well. Among these churches, a few were established primarily to minister to the spiritual needs of North Koreans. The latter visits these churches as the larger Korean ones leave them cold.

For North Koreans, a church is an oddity. North Korea has a Juche Government, a communist off-shoot, under the leadership of the Kim family. Religious freedom is non-existent. The Kims actively promote a personality cult which demands unequivocal loyalty from all North Koreans.

It is hard to imagine now, but at one time, Pyongyang, the North Korean capital city had a large population of Christians. According to Kyung Moon Hwang of the University of Southern California, the city was even popularly known as Jerusalem of the eastern world. The history professor said that this was natural as Pyongyang was then Korea's second biggest city and was discriminated against by the ruling elites residing in Seoul. The now North Korean capital was a more liberal metropolis and Christianity flourished in the metropolis.

The Second World War and the subsequent Korea division changed all that. Kim II Sung, the first leader of North Korea as a separate country in 1948 made policies which forced Korean Christians to hide their faith. Being a Christian meant forced labor in labor camps. Many faced much worse. This is as the Juche regime regarded Christianity as something of a western import. There was another problem too: many Koreans at that time converted to Christianity. Liberal thoughts were also suppressed.

One notable church created particularly for North Koreans is Giving Church . The LA church is a small one, mirroring the size of the North Korean community. The number of North Koreans does not exceed three figures in Los Angeles. This is a place for North Koreans who are often traumatized and can feel any sense of comfort and family.

The Giving Church itself was begun by a North Korean immigrant family, the Cho's. Their aim was to create a place where North Koreans could feel safe. It is hard to find out the number of North Koreans from arrival documents as they travel with South Korean passports.

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