Imagine living in a place where talking about Jesus, or even God, could get you into serious trouble. It sounds unbelievable, but, in North Korea, if a friend mentioned the name of Jesus, you’d have a choice, report the person to the police, or listen and find out more. Kyung-So*, decided to find out more.
“I had someone’s life in my hands,” he says. Kyung-So first time heard about God from an older friend. At the time, he didn’t even know what the word ‘God’ – ‘Hananim’ – meant. ‘Hananim’ was used to refer to the heavens or the sky; a sort of superstitious term you’d use only half-seriously.
“Whenever we met up to talk, he kept bringing up ‘Hananim’… At first, I did not know what he was talking about. When it rained, he would say, ‘Hananim is giving us rain.’ I would say, ‘Of course, rain falls from the sky.’”
“He replied, ‘No, Hananim provides the rain.’ And so I asked him what ‘Hananim’ meant.”
And that’s when Kyung-So first heard about who God was. His friend was one of North Korea’s secret believers and courageously shared the truth of the gospel and the character of God. They continued to talk about God every time they met together. In North Korea, these conversations are extremely dangerous. They had to be very discreet.
Image: Kyung-So – now living in South Korea
Kyung-So knew there would be severe consequences if they were caught. With just a few words, he could have sent the man and his family to a labour camp for life, and absolved himself of blame.
“I had someone’s life in my hands. If I had believed in the North Korean government, a quick solution would have been to report him, risk-free, in exchange for a reward.”
Instead of reporting his friend, Kyung-So listened.
Image: One of many statues of the Kim family (the country’s rulers) in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital
Eventually, Kyung-so decided to follow Jesus too. He knew this was dangerous. “I personally know of three people who were executed by the State Security Department for spreading the gospel. My belief in Jesus could have meant my end.”
But he decided that following Jesus was worth the risk. He shared his faith with his wife and son, who also made the courageous decision to follow Christ.
Kyung-so says, “I found myself living as part of the underground church, spreading the Word. I constantly met up with other Christians and spent time with them.”
Image: A river acting as a border between China and North Korea
Eventually, though, Kyung-So’s faith was discovered by the authorities. They arrested him and questioned him:
“My fellow Christians and I had already put our lives in each other’s hands. They had given me their lives and I had given mine to them. I did not reveal any evidence about Christians in prison.”
Amazingly, Kyung-So and his family were spared and though they weren’t executed, they were banished to the mountains: “When I lost my home, I thought that God did not mean for me to live in North Korea, but wanted to use me to spread the message of persecuted Christians to the world. Accepting God’s answer to my prayer, I decided to escape North Korea.”
Miraculously, he and his family did eventually manage to escape. They live in South Korea now. And Kyung-So firmly believes that it’s the church in North Korea that will bring change to the region:
“North Korean Christians are like the tree stumps of faith that our Lord has let remain. Pray for them. Pray for those that do missionary work, and assist them. Please pray for human rights and the freedom for North Koreans to worship Jesus Christ. Imagine the desperation of the people who live in such a place. Please pray for them.”
Open Doors are supporting North Korean Christian families like Kyung-So’s, helping them survive with food, medicine and clothes, and giving spiritual encouragement and support.
*Name changed for security purposes.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.