Have the North Korea/South Korea/US “Peace Talks” changed anything for Christians in North Korea?
The general consensus: Not for the better. They’ve actually been used by the North Korean government as an occasion for accelerating the reputation building of Kim Jung Un domestically. The youngest Kim, whose published exploits are beginning to rival those of his father and grandfather in North Korea’s divine pantheon even though he is still alive and considerably younger, is now described in state media as a “gift from heaven” who is “perfect and entrancing.”
Meanwhile, South Korea’s President Moon is faring nowhere near as well in North Korean state propaganda as he was last summer when peace was purported to be so close. This year he is back to being described as “the lapdog of the US.”
While political goodwill is fleeting, the Lord continues to shine upon and through his underground ambassadors to North Korea: the North Korean church. It is the glory of the Cross that is reflected there, in the lives of her 100,000 Christians, including the 30,000 in concentration camps. There, Christians are tortured, starved, and isolated from other prisoners in the hope of getting them to recant their faith, though even then release is impossible.
What is the glory of the Lord that shines in all this? It is that God’s grace is sufficient to enable North Korean Christians to remain today’s boldest witnesses to their captors and to serve as today’s most tangible signs of God’s love and care to other prisoners. North Korean Christians are trained from the earliest days of their faith that their reasonable worship is to make a faithful witness to Christ wherever he places them, no matter how hostile the surroundings.
Outside the camps, Christians in North Korea continue to be hunted down with meticulous precision and relentless concentration. Neighbors are required to report one another to the authorities on slightest suspicion. Spouses are ordered to inform on each other. Children are taught to spy on their own parents. All are warned to keep an eye out for telltale Christian behaviors: the bowing of a head in prayer, the giving of money to “useless” people like orphans and widows, the singing of Kim Il Sung hymns using strange and unauthorized lyrics. Failure to report Christian behavior results in punishment for you, and for your extended family for three generations.
Despite this, the North Korean underground church continues to worship and evangelize with unshakable confidence in her Lord. As one former Christian prisoner expressed, “Romans 8:28 works just as well inside a North Korean concentration camp as it does anywhere else.”
In North Korea, the real “gift from heaven”–the only ones in that country (and perhaps ours too) who know the things that truly make for peace–are not those who exploits are published or followed closely with international interest. They are underground, where the glory of the Lord shines upon them day and night.