(December 1) A commencement ceremony, complete with caps, gowns, a graduation march, and a speech from a noted missiologist, was held today for three North Korean defectors graduating from Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s Underground University (UU).
VOMK Underground University Graduates Ceremony
(December 1) A commencement ceremony, complete with caps, gowns, a graduation march, and a speech from a noted missiologist, was held today for three North Korean defectors graduating from Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s Underground University (UU). “UU is a two-year program in which North Korean defectors learn how to minister to other North Koreans wherever they are found,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. “They learn according to the traditional North Korean underground church methods and materials, rather than South Korean or foreign missionary and church planting training strategies.”
VOMK Underground University Graduates
All three of the graduates, whose names are withheld for security reasons, are women over the age of 65. Representative Foley says that this is the demographic from which the university primarily recruits its students. “Older North Korean defector women make the best missionaries to reach other North Koreans because they themselves have personally been sex-trafficked, spent time in prison, been separated from their children, been forced to work for low wages by the government, and lost their health and nearly starved. Because they have experienced the life situation of the North Koreans whom they are reaching on mission, they can minister to them much more effectively than the younger South Korean seminary-trained men who compose South Korea’s own missionary force.”
For many schools, a graduating class of three would be a small number, but representative Foley says that it is the typical number that UU has graduated each year in its eleven year history. “UU does not train North Korean defectors for a time after North Korea opens. Instead, our focus is on doing mission today, even while they are still enrolled in school.” Foley says UU students split their time about evenly between the classroom and the mission field, both domestic and international. “As part of their training, UU students evangelize North Koreans in South Korean prisons and hospitals, in North Korean-run factories and construction sites across Asia, and in the homes of sex trafficked women in China.
Representative Foley is very proud of these most recent graduates.
“Each one of these graduates experienced great suffering even after leaving North Korea,” representative Foley explains. “They worry about their families and struggle with the trauma left by wounds dealt to them in North Korea. However, each and every one of these graduates have continued to minister to their fellow North Koreans in Christ’s name.”
Representative Foley adds, “Although they have every reason to give up—and, like all of us, often waiver in their belief—these graduates harnessed their pain, using it to minister to others suffering from similar struggles.”
Each of the three graduates has a ministry placement awaiting them after graduation.
“I might be killed if I live as a missionary,” said Mrs. K, one of the new graduates. “But even if my flesh dies, my soul will live forever.”
Mrs. L, another graduate added, “I want to cry out to all the people in every region of North Korea, ‘Look at me! There is no one on earth who can keep you alive but God, who rescued me! Believe in God!”
“Before I can reach out to anyone else, I must change myself,” the third graduate, Mrs. S, explained. “I must become a good model for the people I want to follow in my footsteps.”
The UU school runs from February through December each year, with students given special assignments to complete during the months the school is out of session. Currently a total of 19 students are enrolled.
If you would like to learn more about or support the UU program, you can visit Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s website at https://vomkorea.com/project/northkorea/uu-school/. Any North Korean defector interested in learning how to do North Korean ministry can apply for Underground Technology (the training program which is preparatory to Underground University) by calling Voice of the Martyrs Korea at 02-2065-0703.