The Winter Olympics and Christian freedom in North Korea

(PHOTO: REUTERS)

North Korea's decision to send Olympians to South Korea has given much hope to people in the South.

When Olympians from both South and North Korea marched together during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, millions of people cheered and North Korea's gesture was clearly well-received by people in South Korea.

The meeting of the the two Koreas in PyeongChang has even prompted Pope Francis to say that the Winter Olympics 'gives hope' for a world where conflicts can be resolved in a peaceful manner. The resolution of conflict, the Pope continued, should be done through dialogue and mutual respect. These things are taught by sports, he finished.

One of the clearest gestures seen during the opening ceremony was the presence of Kim Yo-jong - the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and head of the North's Olympic delegation. She has even invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit the capital of Pyongyang in North Korea. If this pushes through, the event would only be the third inter-Korean summit in history since the split of the two Koreas.

However, things are not entirely peaceful for everyone. There remains the glaring issue of Christian persecution in North Korea.

Esther Spencer from Open Doors UK, an organization that provides aid to persecuted Christians around the world, says that Christians in North Korea are given no rights and no religious freedom. The state of North Korean Christians are 'abysmal,' she continued.

According to Open Doors UK, there are an estimated 300,000 Christians in North Korea. While the 'official' ideology is atheism, the state actively encourages the worship of the Kim family.