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Illegal Bible. Illegal faith…

Kim Sang-Hwa* is the daughter of a North Korean church leader. She now lives in South Korea, separated her from her parents and her North Korean brothers and sisters in Christ. Growing up she had no idea her parents were Christians – in North Korea, the punishments on Christians and their families can be very severe, so many hide their faith. Even owning a Bible can get people sent to a labour camp. This is the story of how Kim discovered her parents illegal faith, and how that faith became hers.

In our house was a hidden closet. When I was 12, I accidentally found it. I don’t know why, but I started to feel inside the cabinet with my hand and I felt a book. I pulled it out, opened the book and began to read:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light…

I began to shiver and dropped the book. I was so scared. My discovery could cost me my life. I was afraid to touch the Bible, but I couldn’t just leave it there. I closed my eyes, picked up the book and put it back.

I weighed up my options. Should I tell my teacher? Should I visit the local security official? For fifteen days I couldn’t think about anything else. I knew it was my duty to report this illegal book. But it was my family which was involved. And I also had all these questions: Who is this God? Or ‘what’?

Finally, I had the courage to ask my father. He was very surprised and sat next to me. “Do you see those old trees?” he asked me. “Who made those?” I said I didn’t know.

My father explained the story of creation to me, including how God had made Adam and Eve. Then he turned to me and asked me another question. “What is the most dangerous animal?” I did not know why, but I answered: “The snake.” He told me how sin came into the world.

It was the first of many conversations we had about the Bible, about God, Jesus and the Gospel. He explained many Bible stories to me. I was not a real believer yet, but they did make a lot of sense to me. I felt sorry for all those people who didn’t know the truth. Even my older siblings were unaware.

My mother taught me to memorise Bible verses and also explained the gospel to me. My grandfather showed me how to pray. “It is just talking to God. Nothing more, nothing less.” He spoke a lot about Jesus’ Second Coming. He really longed for that.

I also read the Bible for myself. But I realized it was dangerous. My father always emphasised not to share anything with anyone else. Then he would start to pray in whispers, almost inaudible. “Father, help the North Korean people to seek your Kingdom first.”

“I know everything about you, your family and your faith. I was a spy and ordered to watch you.”

Sometimes my father met people in a secret location. Many children of believers came to that location too and learned the Bible. We prayed together. Among the people visiting the secret meetings were some non-believers too, even spies.

When one of those visitors was dying, my father went to see him on his death bed. He confessed: “I know everything about you, your family and your faith. I was a spy and ordered to watch you.”

“And?” my father asked.

“You are a good man. I never told anyone you were a Christian. Tell me how I can become a Christian too.”

In the final moments of his life, this man repented and entered the Kingdom of God. My father was able to lead him there.

God protected us time and time again. Once there was a random house check and it seemed this man also knew we were Christians. But this official was a really great guy and really nice. He never gave us away. All this strengthened my father’s faith in God. He always experienced so much peace. I really think most believers in North Korea experience more peace and trust God more than believers in free countries.


Kim eventually had to leave North Korea when she and her husband discovered they were going to be banished. They made the dangerous escape into China, and travelled on through Myanmar and Thailand, dodging soldiers and facing many challenges, before eventually coming to South Korea several years later. Kim says:

My dreams and hopes haven’t changed much since I left North Korea. There is much more freedom here in the South, but our belief is the same. I wish I could go back to North Korea and share the Gospel with the people there and have fellowship with the local believers. I love their faith. I’d be ready to die for the Gospel. I think that if I didn’t have a family here in South Korea, I would have returned already to help the people in need.

If you won’t pray, who will? Rely on Me. Believe in Me.

How would my father want us to pray for North Korea? He always told me to seek the Kingdom first. That will always be his prayer for his country and all believers. This is also what I pray. But sometimes I’m discouraged. It seems like nothing is changing in North Korea. When I pray, I often ask God: ‘What’s the point? Why do you want me to keep on praying for North Korea?’ But then God reminds me: ‘You know North Korea better than anyone else. You know the people and their suffering. If you won’t pray, who will? Rely on Me. Believe in Me.’

*Name changed for security reasons

Source: Open Doors

Please pray…

  • For the children of secret believers; they often can’t speak to their children about their faith for fears over their safety. Ask that these children would find Jesus, just as Kim did.
  • For leaders of the secret church in North Korea, like Kim’s father; ask God to give them wisdom to know who to trust, and strength as they shepherd God’s people in such difficult circumstances
  • Pray with Kim and her father that the church in North Korea will seek God’s kingdom first.

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.