Recently Open Doors, a Christian organization, spoke to Brother Simon* who works for them with North Korean believers. Simon has worked with the North Korean underground church for many years. He knows exactly how deadly working with Christians in North Korea is. Here I summaries this interview:
Kim Jong-Un’s government has sent hundreds of security officials along the North Korean border with China. The aim – to kidnap, and now kill, missionaries and others helping North Korean refugees.
In April 2017, a Chinese Pastor, Han Chong Yeol, was murdered by suspected North Korean agents. It was a warning to everyone helping North Korean refugees in China, and in particular Christians. Brother Simon is aware of the risks and lives everyday knowing the danger of this ministry.
Brother Simon, how did you find out about what had happened to Pastor Han?
“I heard from a person who lives near the Chinese-Korean border that his friend was called in by the police. They showed him CCTV footage of four people crossing the river: one lady and three men, one of them very muscular. They carried some sort of box. The lady was later recognized as someone who had been in touch with Pastor Han a year ago. She probably knew Han and made a phone call to him. They agreed to meet in the woods. Pastor Han fell into the trap and was brutally killed. The assassins left China before the murder was discovered.”
In recent years, missionaries and church workers have been kidnapped by North Korean secret agents. The risks are real, including for people working with Open Doors. Is this sort of ministry just too dangerous?
“No. We are a risk-taking organisation and we will never abandon the North Korean Church. God has called us to do this work. Besides, the North Korean Christians are far more dedicated than us. In a sense, they are spiritually much stronger than we (are). Yes, it’s true that perhaps some of them – especially young believers – don’t know the Bible that well. Their understanding of the Bible may be limited, but their faith runs deep. There are so many unknown heroes in North Korea and they are able to withstand torture.”
What happens when a North Korean Christian refugee is captured in China?
“When a person is captured in China and brought to North Korea, it usually doesn’t take long before there are a wave of arrests. The people this person was connected to, are then taken to prison and tortured as well. But usually they don’t arrest new people. That means the North Korean Christians didn’t talk despite the torture.”
The North Korean church has little or no access to the Bible. It seems that though they lack Biblical knowledge, they remain faithful?
“Yes, but you have to understand that when the Bible speaks about possessing knowledge, it means ‘living knowledge’. In other words, knowledge and action. We often separate Biblical knowledge and daily living. The Bible and the persecuted church cannot afford to separate the two. We still operate safe houses in China where we disciple North Korean Christians. I can’t share with you how many exactly, and I hesitate to say this because I don’t want to boast, but we are successful. Those disciples, when they are arrested, don’t collapse but remain faithful.”
In Simon’s mind, the gospel cannot advance without sacrifice. After all, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) North Korea’s underground Christians are even more than friends, they are our family in Christ. To support our family, we may need to sacrificially lay down our lives through speaking out, prayer and giving.
§ Pray for North Korean believers and those ministering to them.
§ Pray their faith and trust in God would grow, and many new believers would be added to their numbers.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.