The picture released by Open Doors UK shows show a man wearing a blue and white striped uniform leading a bull along a dirt track. The animal is pulling a cart laden down with what appears to be branches and scraps of wood. Although the prisoner seems to be looking at the camera and aware he is being photographed, his face has been blurred to protect his identity.
The Christian charity which supports secret believers in North Korea said it could not confirm if the man was imprisoned for following Jesus Christ.
North Korea is thought to have up to 200,000 political prisoners.
In a statement, Open Doors said: “We don’t know who the man in this photo was, or why he has been imprisoned, or even which prison or labour camp he belongs to.
“He might be a Christian who has been imprisoned for his faith, or there may be any number of other reasons that he’s ended up where he is.
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“He might not even know the reason himself.”
The charity said the man appears to be one of the “lucky ones” given the fact he is seen carrying out agricultural work.
Because prisoners are given so little food, working outdoors affords them the opportunity to catch insects or rodents to eat.
“These prisoners are allowed to do agricultural work outside the camp, which makes them the ‘lucky ones’ – because, though it’s illegal, they might have the opportunity to find edible plants, insects, snakes, rats or frogs,” said the charity.
“The food provision they get in a prison or labour camp is only about 500-600 calories per day.
“That’s about half the minimum recommended amount.”
The group posted the shocking image on its website, urging people to pray for persecuted Christians in North Korea.
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The body works to support members of the underground church in what is arguably the most mysterious nation on earth.
“Please pray for protection for secret believers in North Korea, and that they would find ways to meet together and encourage each other,” they said.
Open Doors distributes bibles, which are illegal in North Korea, and also funds safe houses near the country’s border with China for those fleeing persecution.
A team of “secret workers” carry out the mission inside the country, which has been ruled with an iron fist by leader Kim Jong-un since the death of his father Kim Jong-il in 2011.
Last weekend Mr Kim was pictured in public for the first time in 22 days amid the coronavirus outbreak fast sweeping across Asia and the wider world.
Although Pyongyang has yet to declare a single case, analysts are sceptical the country has so far escaped the mass outbreak.
Despite North Korea’s ban on foreign tourism over coronavirus fears, the isolated nation hasn announced plans to stage its “Mass Games” in August, featuring thousands of dancers, gymnasts and singers, as soon as August, tour companies said on Tuesday.
North Korea has stopped flights and train services with its neighbours, set up month-long mandatory quarantines, suspended tourism, and imposed a near-complete lockdown on cross-border travel.
But the Mass Games announcement suggests Pyongyang hopes the crisis will ease by the summer, allowing it to cash in on foreign tourism, one of the few business areas to escape
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