Since the mid-1990s, more than 1 million North Koreans have died of starvation from famine and economic collapse in North Korea. Because of this, many desperately attempt to cross the border into South Korea every year. In fact, each year, more than 1,000 people enter South Korea. As of March 2017, 8,848 men and 21,642 women (more than 70%) defectors live in South Korea. Many of these women were trafficked in China, where they had children that they brought with them to South Korea.
Although the number of North Korean defectors is only about .1 percent of the North Korean population, each life is valued. We believe that interacting with those from the north gives South Koreans a foretaste of what an integrated society after unification will be like. We also see that when those who defect adjust successfully to South Korean culture, they become indirect missionaries to family and friends in the north.
North Korean defectors now enjoy better economic stability and are enthusiastic about education opportunities for their children to live a better life. But unfortunately, the drop-out rate for North Korean defectors is 1.4 percent in elementary school, 8.8 percent in middle school, and 14.4 percent in high school, over 10 times that of South Korean students! For most children and teens from North Korea, the hardest part of the school is adjusting to using English.
Many North Korean defectors experience discrimination and inhospitality, so they are tempted into crimes such as sex trafficking, and some even return to North Korea. The reason the over 30,000 North Korean defectors are not adjusting well to South Korean society and have degenerated into failures, lawbreakers, and vulnerability is that they have not been embraced with love and acceptance.
For this reason, Sarangnaru, a ministry partner of One Mission Society, run a group home and after-school classes, which show compassion and can be effective tools to maintain continuing relationships with North Korean defectors for missions. The ultimate goal of this ministry is to share Christ and build disciples for Christ.
Resources are needed to prepare for the coming unification and the evangelization of North Koreans.
To give, click here.
By Rev. Yoonhoe Koo, Sarangnaru director
Did you know that before the division of North and South Korea, there were about 3,000 churches in North Korea, with 132 of those being Korea Evangelical Holiness Churches (KEHC), started by Koreans trained by OMS missionaries? But during the Korean War, the churches in the north were laid waste, and the majority of the Christians fled to the south.
Dozens of North Korean pastors stayed to watch over their churches while they sent their families to flee south. Many of them were captured and suffered greatly, finally dying a martyr’s death. In the following decades of continual persecution by the North Korean government, the churches and Christians in North Korea disappeared altogether.
One pastor, who in spite of his sadness over losing his father to the communists, has devoted his life to restoring the church in North Korea. For several decades, he has embraced his enemies, the North Korean people, with the love of Christ. Because of the mission of unification in the Gospel, although he is in his 80s, he is still working hard to restore the North Korean church.
Here is a passionately written except from a letter he wrote to his father, who was abducted by the North Korean government:
“What has happened to Shinuiju Dongbu Church now . . . father! Restoring that fallen church is my fervent hope and prayer. Someday a church will stand tall again in that place. Father, in that church where you shared the Gospel and pastored, I see a vision of your descendants sharing the Gospel.”
This pastor has been doing the dangerous ministry of setting up a shelter for North Koreans, sharing the Gospel with those traveling overseas, and training them to go back to North Korea. Because South Koreans cannot go into North Korea to share the Gospel, he has also been training ethnic Korean Chinese nationals and Mongolians who can enter North Korea.
There are North Korean evangelists who, in obedience to God’s Word, are risking death to accept Jesus while overseas and then return to North Korea. They are keeping the faith in the midst of persecution and danger, building the underground church and sharing the Gospel.
Among the one billion people that OMS is pursuing to share the Good News of Jesus with, there are 25 million North Koreans who have never heard the Gospel. They are waiting for someone to share with them. OMS has focused on training national evangelists in Korea since the start of the Korea Evangelical Holiness Church (KEHC) over 110 years ago. The North Koreans that we have discipled will rebuild the fallen North Korean church and bring salvation to the souls dying without knowing Jesus Christ. The North Korean underground Christians who have kept their faith through suffering will fulfill the task of being witnesses of the light of Jesus Christ all over the world. We ask for your prayers and support as this ministry is dangerous and difficult.
Rev. Sungho Kim, Sarangnaru adviser
Sixty-seven long years have passed since the Korean War. As relations between North and South Korea grow more difficult and North Korea’s nuclear threats increase, prayer is urgently needed above all at this time. We believe that in the midst of all this, God has a wonderful plan for the lost people of North Korea. Here is an overview of a few of the ministries you can support:
1. Ministries for North Korean refugees~Shelter ministries for North Korean refugees are taking place near the border of North Korea. One missionary was martyred for this ministry, but his wife is continuing this ministry. Prayers are needed for safety and fruit above all.
2. Ministry of food aid for North Korean children~A unique ministry of food aid for children is taking place through the cooperation of various organizations. As we hear in the news, many North Korean children are suffering from hunger, so prayer is needed for funds for this humanitarian food distribution for children.
3. Project to rebuild Korea Evangelical Holiness (KEHC) churches in North Korea~Before the Korean War, there were 134 KEHC churches in North Korea. So, local South Korean churches are being matched with them to raise resources to rebuild these 134 churches when unification comes. Prayers are needed for the fundraising strategy for this project.
4. Ministries for North Korean defectors~Prayers are needed for more denominational support and interest in the youth and educational ministries for North Korean defectors being carried out through the cooperation of Sarangnaru and One Mission Society.
5. North Korea Missions Committee~Through the activities of the North Korea Missions Committee, various forums and seminars are being held for North Korea and unification missions, as well as prayer networks, financial support, and participation in North Korea missions are being mobilized. Prayer is needed for more expert workers to participate in this ministry.
If you would like to donate to this ministry, please give here.
By Rev. Dr. Johnny J.H. Song, KEHC Missions Department Director
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A few years ago, mission researchers produced a map contrasting well-lit areas of the world with dark ones. Based on the best data available at the time, dots of light were imposed on an otherwise dark map of the world. Each pinpoint of light represented a certain number of evangelical followers of Jesus. The result was a compelling portrayal of the areas of the world where there is relatively rich access to the Gospel in comparison to the areas where access is critically low.
South Korea has a heavier concentration of light than any other nation. In contrast, North Korea is strikingly dark. Knowing the Lord of the harvest does not desire for any to perish (2 Peter 3:9), what can we do to help more people in, and from, North Korea have access to the light of Christ?
Along with many other partners, One Mission Society is deeply concerned for the people of North Korea. Christ loves them and died so that they could have life. Yet, so few of them have ever had the opportunity to hear and understand the truth of Christ. By God’s grace and with his help, OMS is seeking ways to make the Gospel available to North Koreans. May the walls keeping it from them come down. And when they do, may God’s people be ready to blanket this dark nation with light!
~Bob Fetherlin, President, One Mission Society
Editor’s note: This is the first in a six-part series on our outreach to North Koreans. Stay tuned for stories of about changed lives and how God is piercing the darkness. If you’d like to donate to this ministry effort, give here.