ADVERTISING
 
Tuesday, September 19   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Nature
Is creation care seen as a priority in your church?




SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Jamie Kim
1
 

The Irresistible Grace of God: The story of North Korea

From 1995 to 2012, there were about 480 foreign entities working inside North Korea, of which 70 were Christian. Christian groups have operated in 85 counties in the country, meaning that some 60% have had some exposure to Christian organizations. 

LAUSANNE MOVEMENT AUTHOR Jamie Kim 07 OCTOBER 2016 15:31 h GMT+1

Although North Korea seems impenetrable and impregnable, with no apparent religious freedom, there are signs of hope, both through its history and its present situation. Throughout the country’s history, God has used Christians, both foreign and indigenous, to woo the people of Korea with his irresistible grace.  



North Korea is a nation that has attempted to eradicate the Christian faith for over 70 years. The Kim dynasty has gone through many changes, and each change has been accompanied by hopes for political and religious reforms, but to no avail. Throughout these years, those who have sought to engage with North Korea have encountered ‘donor fatigue’ and criticism of the engagement approach, while some of those involved have suffered burnout or left. However, both throughout history and current Christian engagement, God is not absent in North Korea—indeed the display of God’s irresistible grace is manifested inside, and at times outside, this nation.[1]



 



Christianity in Korea



North Korea is in fact no stranger to Christianity. Christian revival, modern medicine, education, and the Independence Movement have been used by God to draw this nation to himself. In 1907, Pyongyang, the then capital of Korea, was declared the ‘Jerusalem of the East’ due to the vigour of its Christian presence and activities. 



 



Medicine played a monumental role in opening Korea to Christianity. Horace Allen, an American medical missionary, arrived in Korea in 1884 and providentially was able to heal the Queen’s brother. Through this benevolent work, missionaries were welcomed to Korea, and Christianity received a significant boost. Soon after, Allen was able to establish a medical hospital and a school, and missionaries were then given permission to establish educational institutions all over the nation; Christians started 293 schools and 40 universities. 



Christianity was identified with the Independence Movement against Japanese colonialism, which helped gain respect and legitimacy. This was a movement of unity which transcended socio-religious backgrounds. However, the role that Christians played was prominent and is recognized in history:



- Out of the 33 Independence Movement Declaration signatories, 16 were Christian. 



- According to the Japanese police report in 1919, of the 19,525 persons arrested, 3,371 were Christians and 489 were clergy. 



- Of the 471 women arrested, Christians accounted for more than 309.[2]



These figures are impressive considering that Christians amounted to less than 2% of the population at the time. These contributions gave Christianity credibility and legitimacy as a religion of Korea. 



 



Persecution in North Korea



From 1945 until the early 1980s, many Christians were persecuted for their faith as the ruling party attempted to eradicate Christianity from the face of North Korea. The persecution and extermination of Christians were so thorough that in the 1970s, Kim Il Sung and the government declared there were no Christians in North Korea. Then in the 1980s, Kim Il Sung welcomed prominent religious leaders such as Billy Graham, Sun Myung Moon, and other Korean pastors, and declared that there was religious freedom in North Korea. However, the persecution continued.



After Kim Il Sung’s death, many North Koreans went hungry due to the demise of the former Soviet Union and the consequent reduction in Russian assistance to the North. Millions of people died of starvation and malnutrition, and out of desperation, hundreds of thousands of people headed to China in search of food and help. 



From personal accounts during this period, we know that many North Koreans came to know the love of God and returned to North Korea with this hope. Thousands of North Koreans became Christians and are now living in North Korea with their personal faith in God. When it was not possible to come to know God’s love inside North Korea, many became Christians after coming out to China.



 



Engaging as Christians



It is important to realize that North Korea, although a Communist country like China, is very different. Christianity does not have the same historically negative associations as it does in China, where it is associated with issues related with colonialism, the ‘Unequal Treaties’, and the Opium Wars. Although underlying Communist ideology holds that religion is the ‘opiate of the masses’, Korean history associates Christianity with progress, education, and liberation. As a result, the recommendation is for Christian organizations to engage North Korea transparently as Christian entities.



 



Christian presence



Since 1995, over 70 Christian organizations and churches such as World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Christian Friends of Korea, and the Mennonite Church have been welcomed by the North Korean government. Information below has been provided by Jiehae Blackman’s research:[3]



- From 1995 to 2012, there were about 480 foreign entities working inside North Korea, of which 70 were Christian.  



- Christian groups have operated in 85 out of 145 counties in the country, meaning that some 60% have had some exposure to Christian organizations. 



- Christian groups have operated in 23 out of the 27 cities. The four cities where they have not operated are: Kanggye city in Jagang province, Kimchaek city in N Hamgyong, Sunchon city in S Phyongan, and Tanchon city in S Hamgyong. Of the 23 cities in which they have operated, Pyongyang is the largest with 19% of all Christian projects. Rason accounts for 7%, Wonsan 6%, Nampho 5%, and Sariwon 4%.



Moreover, many secular organizations employ Christians inside North Korea. 



The North Korean government tolerates—and indeed welcomes—Christian organizations because of their integrity and benefit to the nation. In one of my trips, one minder commented to me: ‘Many of the people coming into our country want to take advantage of us, but you (Christians) want to help us.’



Therefore, a disproportionate percentage of people working inside North Korea (as well as with North Koreans outside the country) are Christians. These Christians are engaged in their respective areas because they love God and North Korea. As long as North Koreans perceive that Christians are helping them because of their love for them, Christianity will be viewed as a religion for Korea in both the North and the South. 



In God’s sovereignty, Christianity will not leave North Korea alone. Through secular and Christian employment, Christians engage in North Korea to bless this great nation. In God’s sovereignty and timing, he will allow Christian goodwill to bring spiritual dividends to the nation in ways we cannot fathom. 



 



Lausanne North Korea Consultation



In February this year, 80 professionals, ministry experts, and church leaders gathered in Pasadena, California, to pray and envision ways for the global church to be more involved. Through the meetings, Christians shared incredible stories of living and working inside North Korea in contrast to the negative international press coverage of detentions, nuclear proliferation, and sanctions. Businessmen, diplomats, educators, relief, and NGO workers from different continents and countries presented various projects. 



Moreover, Christian professionals shared testimonies of their concern for the plight of North Koreans and of their willingness to go and work inside. Various challenges were discussed too, including fears of imprisonment as well as member care, financial, spiritual, and relational issues affecting such potential workers. How is the church preparing to equip these young professionals to be engaged in difficult and uncertain circumstances in North Korea?



 



The challenge of unity



Christian unity will be one of the major challenges as North Korea opens up to foreign investment and commercial enterprises, one of its key policies. Throughout recent history, Christians have not done well in exhibiting cooperation and unity. Christian divisions, manifested in unhealthy competition, make it difficult for the world to grasp the gospel message clearly and differentiate cults from legitimate mainstream denominations.  



Unless Christians give priority to unity there, it will be difficult for North Koreans to differentiate cults working there (such as the Moonies) from orthodox Christians. Whether we are operating in more sensitive areas or working to improve the livelihood of North Koreans inside, it is imperative that we unite as the body of Christ. We are not engaged in competing or disparate enterprises. If Jesus is Lord of our organization and our purpose is to bless the people of North Korea, then we need to proclaim one unified message of God’s love.  



Theoretically, all Christians stand for unity until they or their organizations have something to lose. However, in order for true unity that will win the world to Christ (John 17:23) to be established, sacrifice is an essential factor in the equation. Are we willing to let go of our preconceived ways in order to receive a new thing (Isaiah 43:19) that God desires to do in and through the church? 



Lesslie Newbigin, a respected missionary and theologian, laments:



How can we, unreconciled to one another, proclaim one reconciliation for the world? How can we be heralds of the one Lord, calling all men to accept His Lordship, when we cannot ourselves live together under His one rule? (Newbigin 1959: 55)



May we be brought to complete unity so that the North Koreans will know (John 17:23). Soli Deo gloria!




Jamie Kim is the founder and Executive Director of Reah International, an NGO that empowers and equips Christians to engage North Korea, and serves as the Director of the Yanbian University of Science and Technology (YUST) Leadership Program in Yanji, China. He was the founding pastor of the English ministry for Light Presbyterian Church in Toronto, the church with the longest and most extensive history of engagement with North Korea, and holds a PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS).  




This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission as part of the LGA Media Partnership. Learn more about this flagship publication from the Lausanne Movement at www.lausanne.org/lga.







Endnotes



 



[1] Editor’s Note: See article entitled ‘God at Work in North Korea’ in the September 2013 issue of Lausanne Global Analysis.





[2] Kim, Sung-t’ae, ‘Chonggyoin-ui 3.1 Undong Ch’amyo-wa Kidokkyo-ui Yokhwal’ [Religionists’ Participation in the March First Movement and the Role of Christianity], Han’guk Kidokkyo Yoksa Yong’gu [Journal of the Institute for the Study of Korean Church History], 25 (1989): 17-24. Referenced in Timothy Lee (see reference below), 451.





[3] The foreign engagement map has been a brain child of Jiehae Blackman and lists many of the foreign entities which have been engaged with North Korea. It can be located at http://www.engagedprk.org/



 



References



Kim, C H Sebastian, and Kirsteen Kim. A History of Korean Christianity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.



Newbigin, Lesslie. One Body, One Gospel, One World: The Christian Mission Today. London: Wm Carling & Co Ltd, 1959.



Lee, Timothy S. ‘A Political Factor in the Rise of Protestantism in Korea: Protestantism and the 1919 March First Movement’ in Critical Readings on Christianity in Korea, Donald Baker, ed. Leiden, Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2014.




 

 


1
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 

Debbie
08/10/2016
19:42 h
1
 
I just finished reading "Not Forgotten: The True Story of My Imprisonment in North Korea" by Kenneth Bae. The impression I received from that book about freedom for Christians is very different from what has been presented in this article. If Christians are so welcome in North Korea, why was he convicted of terrorism against North Korea simply because he, and others he brought in, spent their time in North Korea praying for the country and its people?
 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - The Irresistible Grace of God: The story of North Korea
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation

Pastor Gary Wilkerson talks about what all evangelical Christians can learn from the Protestant Reformation and underlines the need for more churches with both a sound doctrine and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

 
Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe

Is the arrival of thousands of Muslims to Europe a threat to Christianity? What is the growth of evangelical churches in Eastern and Southern Europe? An interview with theologian and Lausanne Movement representative Lindsay Brown.

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission

“We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers”, Evi Rodemann director of Mission-Net. The European Congress took place in Germany from December 28 to January 2.

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
Pablo Martinez comments on Evangelical Focus’ launch Pablo Martinez comments on Evangelical Focus’ launch

Author and international speaker Dr Pablo Martínez discusses the main challenges in Europe nowadays and hopes Evangelical Focus will be a useful tool to help build bridges between churches and society.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
I am not on sale I am not on sale

Young Christians gathered at Madrid’s central square Sol to denounce human trafficking. A flashmob highlighted the work of three evangelical NGOs which support women who escape sexual slavery in Spain.

 
Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

 
‘Reconciliation’ in the Basque Country ‘Reconciliation’ in the Basque Country

Bilbao hosted the Spanish Evangelical Alliance's annual meeting (assembly). Politicians, professors and evangelical representatives shared views on social reconciliation. The theme was also analysed from a theological perspective and in workshops. 

 
WPF17: A look at the world’s current issues WPF17: A look at the world’s current issues

A selection of pictures of World Press Photo 2017.

 
The Progress of Europe, deeply connected to Bible The Progress of Europe, deeply connected to Bible

Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi spoke about how the biblical worldview shaped the West. 300 professionals attended annual GBG meeting on faith and work in Cullera (Spain). Photos: J.P. Serrano, S. Vera.

 
Impressions of Lausanne's #ylg2016 Impressions of Lausanne's #ylg2016

Around 1,000 young Christian leaders from 150 countries are participating in the 2016 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering, to reflect on global mission.

 
“Spain, we pray for you” “Spain, we pray for you”

Hundreds of evangelical Christians from many denominations marched in Madrid (Spain) to pray for their city, the authorities and asking God to bring hope to its society. Many gathered in other cities on June, 11.

 
VIDEO Video
 
“It is inconsistent to say we love the Creator while we destroy His creation” “It is inconsistent to say we love the Creator while we destroy His creation”

In creation care, “we need more people who lead by example”, says well-known Brazilian politician and activist Marina Silva. 

 
Human traffickers recruit girls and boys online Human traffickers recruit girls and boys online

The new video of the European Freedom Network addresses the dangers of social media. 

 
“Remember you are dust” “Remember you are dust”

Vaughan Roberts speaks from 25 years of ministry experience to share four lessons on staying the course as a Christian, despite ongoing battles with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

 
Walk Walk

A two-minute video on the meaning of Jude 24.

 
Playmobil animation on Luther’s life Playmobil animation on Luther’s life

British video platform GoChatter uses 4,000 individual photos to create stop motion video on Martin Luther's life.

 
Individualism: from the Protestant Reformation to 21st century capitalism Individualism: from the Protestant Reformation to 21st century capitalism

Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi on how the Protestant Reformation underlined individualism as a means to please God, and how secular Europe corrupted it.

 
Students in Europe: “We are present” Students in Europe: “We are present”

A summary video of the IFES Europe conference which brought together 1,700 students from many countries in Aschaffenburg (Germany) to reflect on God's mission in society.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.