Statistics on the spread of the Coronavirus inside North Korea are the subject of considerable speculation among governments, media, and aid agencies, but according to Voice of the Martyrs Korea representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, one fact is well established: Demand for Bibles in North Koreans has increased sharply during the pandemic.

“It’s not only masks and medicines that have been in high demand from North Koreans inNorth Korea and Northeast China,”

says Representative Foley. 

In the first three months of 2020 we have already distributed close to 2,000 audio Bibles in the area, which is double the quantity that we distributed in the same period last year.”

 Representative Foley notes that Voice of the Martyrs Korea does not do mass distribution of audio Bibles inside North Korea and China but instead distributes them one at a time through specially trained workers to individuals who indicate a desire to receive them.  

Representative Foley attributes the surge in demand to what she describes as “a desperate search for any kind of hope amidst the very real possibility of death due to infection” on the part of North Korean people.

“We received a letter from the field this month from a North Korean who received masks and one of our audio Bibles, as part of a special campaign funded by our supporters,

says Representative Foley.

The North Korean man wrote, ‘I receive hope of living as I am praying. The virus situation in Pyongyang and Sinuiju is more serious than the border areas. I think we will all die from starvation or being infected. Both are deadly and cause despair, but after knowing Him, my fear has vanished. We truly thank you again.’” 

Note that the man who wrote the letter received both masks and an audio Bible from us, but his thankfulness was focused on the Bible,”

says Representative Foley.

Of course that doesn’t mean that medical aid isn’t important, but it is insufficient. People need to hear the word of God at all times, but especially during crisis situations like this. Only the word of God, not a mask, can bring hope in the most fearful times. 

Representative Foley says Voice of the Martyrs Korea received frequent inquiries this month from reporters and researchers asking for specific information about the spread of the virus in North Korea. But Representative Foley says that neither Voice of the Martyrs Korea nor the recipients of their audio Bibles are in a position to give any kind of a knowledgeable estimate.

“Even in the best of circumstances, North Koreans are like frogs in a well when it comes to statistical knowledge about what is happening even in their own city,”

says Representative Foley.

“What we do know is that every North Korean in North Korea and China with whom we have had contact this past month has referenced the Coronavirus as an everyday reality of life there, just as it is for us here.”  

Representative Foley says that the North Koreans that Voice of the Martyrs Korea works with in South Korea are concerned for all North Koreans, not only their own families, who may be infected with the Coronavirus inside North Korea.

One of our missionary trainees from North Korea said she was working at a hospital in North Korea during the SARS outbreak in the early 2000’s,”

says Representative Foley.

She said that at the time the hospital staff prepared a separate room for the SARS patients. They covered the windows so no sunlight would get in. They chained the patients to their beds. If the patients recovered, they were sent to the State Security office on suspicion of having been in China. She also said that the medicine aid received from the U.N. would go to the marketplace, not to the hospital. She said that the government was not really concerned about whether the people lived or died. At that time, she thought, How can these people be here in a room with no sunlight for days and days like this?’”

An NK defector receives a mask in addition to an audio Bible during a recent distribution by VOMK.

Individuals or churches interested in supporting Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s ongoing discipleship work with North Koreans in China and North Korea, including its present Coronavirus outreach work, can make a donation via website or wire transfer to:  

  • 한국 VOM 웹사이트    
  • Bank Account – KB bank 463501-01-243303예금주: ()순교자의소리  

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