A North Korean who escaped from the country and now lives in the UK has spoken via persecution charity Open Doors about his life under the regime there.
Against the backdrop of the much-heralded summit meeting between US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, John Choi (not his real name) said: 'I grew up believing Christians were evil and dangerous. We watched the government's propaganda alongside public executions. It told us that Christians wanted to kidnap children and that the cross was evil.
'The first time I saw a man being executed it was because he had smuggled Christian things into the country and enticed people into the church. The whole village was told to come and watch, the children were allowed to sit at the front to get a good view. It enforced that belief that Christians were dangerous.'
Choi found faith after he escaped.
He said: 'When I fled North Korea I went in a safe house run by a Christian man. He was saving me but because he had a cross necklace I ran away from him. I was frightened of him. He told me to pray and say "Amen". Later when I was in trouble I said, "Please keep me safe, Amen."'
Later, after he was caught and incarcerated in an international Chinese prison, he started to read the Bible.
'In the Chinese prison I met an ex-gangster from South Korea,' he said. 'He had a Bible and told me to read it so I did because I was bored and had read everything else. I didn't understand it because it was written in the old fashioned way. Proverbs was the only thing that resonated.'
Choi is now a human rights advocate in the UK.
'My first escape from North Korea was for survival,' he said. 'But my second was because I wanted democracy to come to North Korea. I hope to share "democratic light" with oppressed people in North Korea. I want North Korean people to have the life that I have here in the UK. I want the next generation to have freedom.
'When there is a church in my home town in North Korea then my dreams will be realised. When North Korean people can go to church and talk freely about their faith and have freedom of expression and opportunity then North Korea will be a free country.'
North Korea is number one on the Open Doors 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
All North Korean Christians know that one day they may have to die for their faith. Each year hundreds of Christians are exposed, tortured and sent to camps where they are worked or starved to death.
Persecution is led by the state which sees Christians as hostile elements that have to be eradicated. Due to constant indoctrination, neighbours and family members, including children, are highly watchful and report anything suspicious to the authorities. If Christians are discovered they are usually deported to labour camps as political criminals or killed on the spot; their families share their fate. Meeting for Christian worship is almost impossible, so it is done in utmost secrecy.
Despite the constant surveillance and horrific punishments, Open Doors estimates that 200,000-400,000 Christians remain in North Korea today. Of those around 70,000 are believed to be in prison camps. Christians are treated worse than the other prisoners. They are made to perform the most dangerous tasks, given less food and beaten in the hope that they will denounce their faith. If a guard succeeds in making a prisoner recant their faith they are given a promotion. Guards who show compassion are punished. Most Christians will not survive their imprisonment.