No one is promising quick fixes to our current economic crisis. As we look for the “long term” corrections that will make a difference for the future, we might learn some lessons from Korea. Euna Lee and Laura Ling’s four month ordeal in a North Korean prison brings into stark focus the differences between the two Koreas. Fifty-five years ago the conditions in North and South Korea were almost identical. Today the gap between the two is huge.
A few years ago my wife and I boarded a plane at DFW and landed sixteen hours later in Seoul, South Korea. We found a prosperous modern city in a growing economy. We rode efficient subways in complete safety while visiting the city. At 6 AM one morning, we attended a prayer meeting in one of the churches where more than one thousand South Koreans gathered to pray quietly with friends and family. Today South Korea sends out more Christian missionaries than any other country except the United States. It is the fourth largest economy in Asia and it is referred to as the “Miracle on the Han” because of its remarkable economic progress in the last fifty years. South Korea has one of the smallest gaps between the rich and the poor in Asia.
North Korea, by contrast, is poverty stricken. It’s economy is a fraction of that in South Korea. Ruled by a strict Communist regime, its only hope for economic improvement rests in global nuclear intimidation. In 2007 the U.S. and other nations sent more than 1 million tons of fuel oil and other benefits in exchange for an agreement to dismantle its nuclear facilities. However, in 2009 North Korea conducted its second underground nuclear test and boasts more than 1,000 missiles that can strike as far away as Hawaii. More than 3 million North Koreans died of starvation in the 1990s in what some have called the “last slave society on earth.”
Clearly much of the difference between North Korea and South Korea is found in the contrast between Communism in the North and a free market Democracy in the South. But at a deeper level lies the difference between a nation where faith in Christ is illegal, punishable by death, and a nation where many embrace faith in Jesus and His teachings. Democracy, in and of itself, can neither set people free nor guarantee prosperity. Only faith that creates people of honesty, integrity, character, generosity and hard work can do that. We ourselves are learning hard lessons about the ravages that greed, corruption and short-cut economics can cause.
Perhaps the most helpful thing we can do to hasten the long term health of our nation and its economy is to follow Jesus so that we live our lives with integrity, honesty, generosity and faith. Jesus said, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”