November 2016 Persecution Magazine (2 of 3)

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North Korea

Explore the Bizarre World of North Korea:

A state-created false religion, a national

counterfeiting operation,

and first-hand tales of tragedy

and escape from the world’s

worst persecutor of Christians



Our Prayer for North Korea

Chilgol Church

Chilgol Church in Pyongyang,

North Korea, is one of only two

Protestant churches in North

Korea. It exists as propaganda

for foreigners to convince

visitors that North Korea has

religious freedom.

By Sandra Elliot

This issue of Persecution is the

second in a rare two-part series on

North Korea. Christians there face

the worst imaginable persecution in

the world, but the hermit kingdom

may be slowly unraveling.

North Korea is a totalitarian

regime with

little to no regard for

the lives of its own

people. In fact, North

Korea is concerned

with only one thing

and that is blind

loyalty. Twenty-five

million people are

imprisoned in a state run by an iron-gripping,

exorbitant, and ludicrous family name.

False Religion

The ideological underpinning of the

DPRK is the all-inclusive philosophy of

Juche (see page 18). Within the parameters

of this socio-political-religious concept,

the Kim family is the supreme authority

and spiritual head and the state of North

Korea is the provider of all things. There

are roughly 100,000 Juche research centers

spread across North Korea meant

to indoctrinate the population into this

false ideology. This is part of the North

Korean design to undergird and sustain the

regime’s power and longevity by playing

on human beings’ need to believe in and

live for something.

Christianity poses a direct and potent threat

to the ideological framework of Juche. Juche

dictates that your state and leader are your

religion and god. Christianity says that there

is only one God and we are all His children,

created in His image, equal before Him.

Nationality is of minor importance.

As a result, Christians suffer greatly for

their faith in North Korea as their neighbors

and friends are automatically pitted against

them in their practice of Juche. Christians suffer

the cruelest form of torture, imprisonment

and execution in North Korea, as the state sees

their faith as an existential threat to its claim.

And rightly so. The love of Christ and the

spread of His message by His followers is the

most lucid threat to the Kim regime.




The Kim family is

the spiritual head of

North Korea and is

the provider of all


Office 39

The Tower of the Juche Idea on the Taedong River was built as a monument

to the regime’s religion of Juche (see page 18). Creative Commons

photo from flickr by David Stanley.

At the end of World War II, the Korean peninsula was divided. See page

30 for some possiblilites that could affect the future of this nation.

So how does North Korea maintain the

loyalty of its people aside from Juche?

Well as with many things in life, through

money and fear mongering. The DPRK is

the only government in the world that has

established a branch of government which

collects illegal funds to operate effectively.

Office 39 is basically a secret branch

of government that engages in illicit economic

activities to create a slush fund for

the running dictator of North Korea (think

“mafia”). This includes counterfeit money

laundering, black market weapons trade,

and insurance fraud that crosses international

borders. All this illegal cash serves

to buy loyalties, build a nuclear arsenal,

maneuver around sanctions and support



the lavish lifestyle of the Kim’s and other


North Korea depends on Office 39 to

carry out its criminal activities domestically

and internationally. Perhaps the easy

solution to ending the terroristic Kim reign

is to choke them financially.


Most of what we know about North Korea

comes from the testimonies of defectors and

escapees of the DPRK.

On pages 23-27 you can read the personal

accounts of some who have heroically

escaped the hermit kingdom. They have faced

death, torture, enslavement, and great loss in

their journey to freedom. Once free, they must

overcome the trauma of their past and face the

real world as they never thought they would.

Thankfully, our Lord Jesus is sovereign and

merciful. In Sammy’s story you will see how

the untiring and powerful prayers of a mother

for her son’s salvation came to fruition. We

also interviewed New York Times bestselling

author and TED star, Hyeonseo Lee. The Lord

provided all the strength she could ever imagine

when facing impossible circumstances.

Their stories reveal the true nature of North

Korea and the power of Christ at work in saving


Future of North Korea

But Christ can do more. While we celebrate

and thank Him for the salvation of individuals

within North Korea, we beg Him for more.

The future of North Korea, according to many

scholars, is dimly lit and destined to fail (see

page 30). The severity and harshness of the

Kim Jong-Un regime is creating discontentment

and likely rebellion among his inner circle

of loyalists. China, while still the strongest

ally to North Korea, has also recently defected

in their alliance and support to the regime. But

most importantly, Christians are finding new

and creative ways to get the Gospel inside the


The Gospel, in and of itself, disqualifies the

Kim claim on these 25 million people. When

North Koreans learn of the true God, they will

undoubtedly recognize the counterfeit ones.

As ambassadors and followers of Christ, our

contribution to the freedom of North Korea is

to pray He opens the eyes of the blind.

As you read through the pages of this

month’s magazine, pay close attention to

what you could do beyond praying for North

Korea. Join us in our efforts to free the prisoners

of North Korea and spread the Gospel to a

desperate and desolate people. Remember the

word of your Savior:

I will build my church, and the gates of hell

shall not prevail against it. I will give you the

keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever

you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and

whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in

heaven. - Matthew 16:18-19 (ESV)


False Religion

and the Repression

of Christianity

By Sandra Elliot


Political Independence

Yielding to foreign

pressure or idea (i.e.

Christianity) is


In early 1907, a city that was known

for its debauchery was set ablaze

with a powerful revival after years of

prayer. Fifty thousand people were

converted to Christianity in 1907

alone! Afterwards, there were so

many Christians living out their faith

that Pyongyang, the present North

Korean capital, became known as

“The Jerusalem of the East.” The

Pyongyang Great Revival lasted through 1910.

Two years later, a baby was born – the

son of Christian parents and grandson of

a Christian pastor. The baby’s name? Kim

Il-sung, the founder of North Korea.

Kim was intimately familiar with

Christianity and witnessed Christians choose

martyrdom over worshipping the Japanese

Emperor during Japan’s colonization of the

Korean peninsula. Recognizing the power of

Christianity, he wanted the worship directed

at himself. So he took Christianity, removed

God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy

Spirit, and set up himself, his wife and son

as the new trinity. This false religion was

later complimented with the addition of a

full-fledged ideology known as Juche. It is a

counterfeit religion that is deathly afraid of the

true version, and rightfully so.

The Philosophy of Juche

Juche (JOO-chay). It’s not a word with

which most of us are familiar. In fact, I doubt

any one of us knows how to correctly pronounce

it upon reading. Juche. It means selfreliance,

in some sense or another. It has been

described as Kim II-Sung’s “original, brilliant

and revolutionary contribution to national and

international thought.”

In the Democratic People’s Republic of

Korea (North Korea), it is the reigning philosophy

and the

most adhered-to

line of thinking. In

1972, when Kim

II-Sung established

his iron grip

on North Korea,

Juche became the

autarkic state ideology

of the nation.

Any other beliefs,

Christianity included,

are considered

a threat to Juche


Military Independence

Violence is the best

way to defend the


and the survival of the state of North Korea.

If you want to understand North Korea, you

must first understand this twisted ideology of

self-reliance and the extensive irony under

which it operates.

Kim II-Sung, upon instituting Juche as a

national thought, explained it as so:

“This means holding fast to an independent

position, rejecting dependence on others,

using one’s own brains, believing in one’s

own strength, displaying the revolutionary

spirit of self-reliance.”

Why is this so blatantly and grossly ironic?

If you know anything about North Korea, you

know that it is a nation obsessed with controlling

its people, specifically the minds of its

people. So by use of this “self-reliance” and

self-determination, Kim II-Sung enslaved a

whole nation into thinking as one and believing

this as freedom.

The regime at the time instructed the North

Korean people in Juche by using an analogy

of the human body. Kim II-Sung, the great

leader, was the brain in which decision making

and issuing orders are the primary role.

The government is the nervous system that

channels information to the bone and muscle

(the North Korean people) who must, in turn,


These components

of Juche illustrate the

self-sufficiency of this

false religion.


Economic Independence

To establish total political

independence, North

Korea must be selfsufficient

physically execute the orders of the brain.

This is probably the greatest example of

the success of socialist revolutions in that the

masses have rallied around and supported

leadership under a single ideology and line of

thought. Now we must better understand what

it is they believe/are indoctrinated with.

There are three main components to Juche

ideology: (1) chaju, which means political

independence, (2) charip, which is economic

independence, and (3) chawi is military independence.

Chaju is the central tenant of Juche in that

it is the obsessive focus on state sovereignty.

This basically means that yielding to ANY

foreign pressure or tolerating ANY foreign

ideas (i.e. Christianity) is an abomination.

Chaju is basically a justification for the political

grip of the Kim family and the hermit

kingdom style of North Korea.

Charip, meaning economic independence,

is the material basis for chaju. To establish

total and supreme political independence,

North Korea must be totally and supremely


Lastly, chawi, the military independence of

Juche ideology, sees violence as the best way

to defend the nation. It is decidedly belligerent





Kim Il-sung

Kim Il-sung

Kim Jung Sook (wife)

Kim Jong-il (son)

Writings and teachings

of Kim Il-sung

North Koreans are required

to worship Kim Il-sung with

all their heart and might


On Self

Man is master of the world

and his own destiny.

North Koreans must hang

pictures of Kim family in homes

and bow to worship.

Spy on your neighbor

North Koreans gather regularly

to admit their wrongdoings.

and overly presumptuous, referring to outside

ideology as imperialistic and aggressive.

The Repression of


In light of these tenets of Juche, it’s easy

to understand why the North Korean government

is so adamantly against Christianity.

Juche ideology allows the Kim family to act as





Holy Text









Jesus Christ

God the Father

God the Son

God the Holy Spirit

The Bible

“Love the Lord your God with

all your heart and with all your

soul and with all your mind.”

Matt. 22:37 NIV


On God

Jesus in submission

to God.

“You shall not make for yourself

an image in the form of anything in

heaven above or on the earth beneath

or in the waters below. You shall not

bow down to them or worship them.”

Ex. 20:4-5 NIV

Love your neighbor

“Therefore, confess your sins to

each other and pray for each other

so that you may be healed.”

James 5:16 NIV

stand-in gods to the North Koreans. In Juche,

you rely on your nation, your teaching and

your leader…and no one else. Juche is your

absolute religion, false though it may be.

There are estimated to be some 200,000 to

400,000 Christians living in North Korea today.

Of that number approximately 60,000 are serving

in prison and labor camps for their faith.

Prison camps in North Korea closely resemble

the concentration camps of WWII, which killed

almost 12 million people. It doesn’t take much

to end up in such a dreadful place.

Christians in North Korea can be prosecuted

for propagating religion, possessing religious

items, carrying out religious activities, or having

any sort of contact with religious persons.

Secret police are integrated into society at the

most intimate level. For this reason, Christians

in North Korea must keep their faith an absolute


Those who are found out easily suffer arrest,

torture, imprisonment and execution. Perhaps

the greatest challenge and tragedy is that

Christians are often turned into authorities by

their own neighbors and friends.

Juche means total loyalty to the government.

You do not love your neighbor in Juche, you

spy on him. You do not feed the poor in Juche,

for that man is not self-reliant. Christianity is

the anti-juche, the greatest threat to the Kim

dynasty and pet nation. This is why North

Korea fears Christianity and makes examples

of anyone daring to accept this faith.

Stories from defectors paint horrifying illustrations

of living conditions and punishments

inflicted on the Christian population. For

example, reports tell of ‘execution by train’ in

which the authorities go to the extreme trouble

of having men and women tied to railroad

tracks and run down by trains. This is not a

simple execution to rid a threat; this is a terrorizing

form of persecution.

When looking at the history and timeline

of Juche, one can easily see spiritual forces of

evil at work. This false religion and counterfeit

Christianity is not just the work of one crazy

man but was birthed through him.

In 1907, there was one of history’s most

amazing revivals in Pyongyang. Thirty-five

years later, the Soviet Union installed Kim

Il-sung as a puppet leader who went on to

lead the Korean War that killed 2.5 million

people. After the Korean War, he consolidated

his power and then went on to strangle


As Christians, we know that our battle is not

against flesh and blood, but against the rulers

and principalities of darkness (Eph. 6:12).

Satan wanted to extinguish the light that

burned in North Korea and then to build a

fortress to keep out the light and to imprison

and blind the North Korean people from truth.

Juche and the false worship of Kim and his

progeny were keys to that prison. Belief in

both are fading quickly inside North Korea

and it’s only a matter of time before the locks

break and the prison doors of North Korea

swing open.





Two North Korean defectors share their stories of loss,

freedom and salvation with ICC.

By Brianna Young and Ashley Shay

Praise and Sammy are two North

Korean defectors who shared

with ICC their stories of courage

and escape from one of

the most evil regimes of the

modern world. Now living in

a free world, they both share

how the power of the Gospel

has impacted their lives since

escaping North Korea, and

how the Word of God reaches across the borders of a

nation where to be a Christian is punishable by death.

Sammy’s Story: Plucked from


“My life there was empty,” recalls Sammy of his

existence in North Korea. “People in North Korea are

living empty and meaningless lives.”

The decision to leave North Korea is never made

lightly as it may end in your death or imprisonment.

In Sammy’s case, it was even more complicated

because he had loyally served in the military for more

than 12 years.

The path that led Sammy from his life in North

Korea to his final decision to escape is one wrought

with pain and loss. He had lost both of his parents

while serving in the military and, after being discharged,

nearly starved to death. Sammy knew that

his family could lead a better life outside of the confines

of the Kim regime.

In the summer of 2007, Sammy, along with his

wife and 14-month-old daughter, left their home for a

future in an unknown world.

The journey was daunting, beginning with a

40-mile trek to the Tumen River, the border between

North Korea and China. It was the rainy season, and

floods delayed the family’s escape by several days.

By this time, the police had distributed flyers and

were searching intently for the runaway family who

was hiding in a friend’s home.

On June 19, after 15 days of waiting in hiding for

the flood waters to subside, Sammy and his family

ventured out to cross the river into China.

Tragically, Sammy’s daughter, LeiSung, drowned

in the struggle to make it through the water.

“My wife lost her mind and she couldn’t remove

our daughter’s (body) from her back.”

Overcome by grief, Sammy and his wife were

forced to learn to live in a world without their daughter.

He purchased a blue teddy bear and gave it to his

wife in memory of their daughter: “Since that time, the




Many barriers keep North

Koreans trapped in an

oppressive life - some

physical, some geographic,

and some psychological.




Tumen River Bridge

The Tumen River runs between

North Korea and China. It acts

as both a barrier and route to

freedom for North Korean

defectors like Sammy. Creative

Commons photo from flickr by

user wifarm.

blue bear stayed with us through the fear, risk,

and suffering. Now it is sitting nicely in our

bedroom. That blue teddy bear is [figuratively]

our daughter LeiSung and also a painful scar.”

Despite the tragic loss of his child, or maybe

because of it, Sammy found Christ.

In all his years in North Korea, Sammy had

never heard of Jesus, and yet, looking back,

he realizes that God had been working in his

life long before he escaped and found Christ.

Years before Sammy’s escape, his brother

had recounted their mother’s strange actions

before she died. Desperate for food, she had

daringly crossed into China for food but

according to Sammy’s brother, his mother

brought back more than food.

“My brother told me that my mom had developed

a mental disorder after visiting China

several times. He said she kept talking to herself

every morning… saying, ‘Please take Sammy to

the father. Please let Sammy meet you, Father.’”

At the time of hearing the story, Sammy

assumed that perhaps she was speaking to

his father, who had died of starvation. After

Sammy became a Christian, he realized that

his mother wasn’t crazy but had been praying

incessantly for his own salvation.

“Now, I know that the Father, that my mom

was talking to was not my dad, it was our God,

the Father.”

Since his escape, Sammy has helped his

brother and sister-in-law escape North Korea.

He now lives in the United States and continues

to raise awareness regarding the plight of those

still living under the control of the Kim regime.

“Now that I look back to our journey, I

know that it would be impossible if God

hadn’t guided us with his love and [direction].

I thank our Lord for picking me out of hell,

[out of] the darkness; and guiding us to this

In all his years in

North Korea, Sammy

had never heard

of Jesus, and yet,

looking back, he

realizes that God had

been working in his

life long before he


land of freedom (the United States).”

Praise’s Story: God at Work

in the Market Generation

Praise Ju is a member of a young generation

of escaped North Koreans who are seeing

many North Koreans come to Christ after

years of labor to reach the closed country

with the Gospel. She shared with ICC her life

story and how the spread of the Gospel and

underground believers in North Korea are

the hope of the future of the prison state.

They’re called the Jangmadang (Market)

Generation. They grew up during North

Korea’s great famine and during the breakdown

of the country’s Public Distribution

System, a rationing system used to control the

populace and reward and punish citizens based

on their loyalty and use to the regime.

Early on, this generation was weaned from

dependence on the state; these youth have grown

up buying and selling on the black market, for

which their generation is named, and this has

shaped their worldview in a completely different

way than their parents and grandparents.

You see, the black market has brought in

more than food. It has brought in a flood of




media; everything from South Korean soap

operas to Western pop movies (Titanic is a

favorite) and access to this information is

changing the face of the most closed and

secretive country in the world.

Praise Ju, a young leader in this promising

generation, was born in 1991. In 1998,

her father brought home an illegal radio that

would change his family’s life forever. North

Korea routinely jams foreign broadcast signals,

especially Gospel broadcasts in a cat and

mouse game. But Ju’s father would diligently

search and find Christian broadcasts as well as

Chinese media coming in over the border. For

the next 10 years, Ju and her family would be

transformed by what they heard and watched

behind closed curtains and beneath blankets at

night. While her father was drawn to Gospel

broadcasts, Ju was initially more interested in

foreign songs, soap operas and movies coming

from China. Even though the content was

mostly drivel, this kind of media has been vital

in breaking the hold of the regime’s propaganda

stranglehold on the minds and imaginations

of its citizens and especially its youth.

By 2000, her father had come to the conclusion

that they had been duped by the Kim

regimes for their whole lives and it left him

outraged. For the sake of his children, he

decided to defect and began making preparatory

trips to China before finally escaping in

2007 to make way for his family. They agreed

to flee separately to avoid undue attention.

After a seven-month journey, Ju’s father

arrived in South Korea and began working

feverishly to earn enough money to reunite his

family. In 2008, Ju’s mother and two younger

‘‘People around the

world are praying

for you, so don’t be

afraid,” Ju’s father

told her. Ju said, “I

didn’t know what

prayer was, but I

prayed to God to save

my life.”’

siblings followed and arrived safely the same

year – leaving Ju alone at the age of 17.

Fortunately, her parents had moved their family

to the country during the famine to ensure

their children would continue to eat to survive.

After talking her way out of a close call with

North Korean police who had been tipped off

to her father’s use of foreign radio, Ju was able

to contact her father in South Korea and plan

her first attempt to defect in 2009. By an act

of providence, Ju was late to meet the broker

who was to assist in her escape. Her broker

was arrested upon his arrival – as she would

have been had she been on time. Her father

advised her to lay low for a time and even

suggested she remain in North Korea indefinitely

to spread the Gospel. Ju readily agreed

and enrolled in nursing school to pursue that

calling, but later learned her that mother was

becoming physically ill at the thought of being

separated from her daughter forever.

Street Market in North Korea capitol Pyongyang

The “Black markets” in North Korea have been a source of smuggled food, media,

and technology that has brought up a new generation of citizens who are more

aware of the outside world. Creative Commons photo from wikimedia.

In 2010, her father hired another broker who

helped her and another young girl to bribe the

border guards and escape across the river. In

China, Ju and her new friend were arrested when

police raided the broker’s home. Miraculously,

Ju was able to contact her father from prison.

“My father told me on the telephone,

‘People around the world are praying for you,

so don’t be afraid and pray to God,’” Ju told

ICC. “I didn’t know what prayer was, but I

prayed to God to save my life.”

In a short time, an underground organization

in South Korea raised nearly $100,000 –

enabling her father to bribe police. On the day

they were to be repatriated to North Korea, Ju

and her friend were loaded on a truck and driven

to safety. In 2011, Ju crossed through Laos

and Thailand and finally rejoined her family in

South Korea, where she still lives today as an

advocate for human rights and reaching North

Korea with the Gospel.

“We don’t consider ourselves lucky,” Ju

said of her family’s escape. “If not for the

intercessory prayers of other believers and

for us submitting ourselves in obedience and

humility to God, I don’t think we would be

where we are today.”

Ju’s exhortation to fellow defectors of her

generation is to send more than money back

to their families in North Korea.

“If the Church could train defectors to not

just be Sunday Christians, but true disciples of

Christ, they could send more,” Ju explained.

“Sending in the Gospel would bring about

true change.”

Never before has a North Korean generation

been so open to change and so likely to act.

North Korea is not the hermit kingdom it once

was. While it remains a prison state, there are

whispers within of coming change.

The people of North Korea are anxiously

awaiting the change of political salvation and

release from their prison. The need for regime

change is great, but their greatest need is for

release from their eternal prison. Economic

sanctions, diplomatic agendas, or even war

will not meet the deepest need of North

Korea—only Jesus can.

If there were ever a time to reach North

Koreans with the truth of the Gospel, it is

NOW! We have the treasure of Christ and

we are shepherds of the Word of the Lord.

We have been called by our master to take

that treasure to the end of the earth - to

North Korea!

Please join us in doing just that by going to

page 32 to see how to open the prison doors of

North Korea.




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Young North Korean girls take

part in a community event.

Keep the next generation of

North Koreans in prayer.

Creative Commons photo

from flickr.

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