This week the control of North Korea is expected to pass into the hands of Kim Jong-un, the young son of Kim Jong Il who died last week. He will be the third generation dictator to rule North Korea since it was established in 1948. He inherits a country still officially at war with South Korea.
Since a cease-fire truce was signed in 1953, the two nations have gone in radically different directions. South Korea, pursued democracy and religious freedom. As a result, South Korea has prospered becoming the fourth largest economy and the second largest missions sending country in the world. By contrast, North Korea is the last Communist dynasty. It remains mired in poverty, boasting the largest standing army in the world armed with nuclear weapons. According to Open Doors, Christians in North Korea suffer the most severe persecution of any nation in the world.
The stories behind the history and headlines are personal. I first met Robert about five years ago. He survived the Korean conflict on the streets of Seoul as a child. After the war, he was one of the orphans rescued by Pearl S. Buck and given an education in the United States. He achieved a prosperous and promising career in finance living in Canada, but was battling despondency and contemplating suicide until he met Christ. He is now pastor of a Korean church in the United States. Several years ago he began planting churches in Cuba. He said that he hoped working in Cuba would help him prepare for the day when he would be able to carry the gospel into North Korea.
My good friend Benjamin, also Korean, watched his father killed by North Korean soldiers. For years he harbored hatred toward the North Koreans for what they did to his father, but he found forgiveness through faith in Christ. In recent years he has been helping plant churches in China. Like Robert, he hopes to carry the gospel to North Korea. When asked why he wants to do this, he says, “Jesus told me to love my enemies.”
Last year a young North Korean student told her story to the Lousanne Congress on World Evangelism. Her father was an assistant to Kim Jong Il before coming to faith in Christ. As a result of his faith, he was later imprisoned. She has not heard from him since he was imprisoned in 2006 and suspects he was executed. You can hear and view her testimony by clicking on the image to the right. I have watched the video many times and still find it difficult to watch without weeping.
In these days following our Christmas celebrations, we need to join our Korean brothers and sisters in prayer. Let us pray that God will “shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:79; Matthew 4:18).