From the Rev. Dr. Eric Foley, CEO and Co-Founder, Voice of the Martyrs Korea
Over the past 15 years, the respectful cooperation between Voice of the Martyrs Korea and Korean police, military, and intelligence services has served as an admirable international model for how the freedoms of speech and religion, the protection of property and public safety, and the advancement of political and economic peace and prosperity can all be safeguarded and jointly fostered, even during the most dangerous moments of inter-Korean tension and conflict.
We are disappointed that authorities have chosen to suddenly and unilaterally disregard this proven model of effective cooperation. We are grieved that they have criminalized even the most responsible and cooperative exercise of long-cherished rights as an inherent, imminent threat to peace and prosperity.
We call on all Korean authorities to return to their long-demonstrated commitment to cooperative, responsible, respectful dialogue among all stakeholders—listening not only to state actors but also NGOs and citizens who have acted responsibly for many years. We believe this remains the only truly safe path forward. Cooperative, respectful preservation of the full range of rights has served us all well over the past 15 years, even during the times of greatest national danger. It has ensured that we can all make progress in all of the areas of importance to all of us, even in the midst of the most threatening rhetoric and actions.
Our commitment at Voice of the Martyrs Korea remains unchanged: We will continue to support all Korean Christians, both North and South, as they follow Christ. This is what our suffering Christian brothers and sisters in North Korea request, and it is what Christ commands.
There are times when governments criminalize the actions we as Christians are called to undertake. In such times, we remain subject to the governing authorities. This means that we will continue to do what God calls us to do, and we will willingly and joyfully suffer whatever penalty the authorities lay upon us as the price for that faithfulness.
VOM Korea has continuously pioneered numerous innovations to make balloon launches safe for all Koreans North and South, including:
• the use exclusively of non-flammable helium gas;
• predictive computer modeling and GPS tracking, to ensure that balloons are only launched when it is certain • they will reach their intended destinations in North Korea;
• high-altitude balloons, which cross into North Korea well above the range of ground artillery;
• environmentally-friendly materials and clean-up practices; and, most of all,
• a cooperative arrangement with all enforcement authorities to ensure that the goals of all stakeholders may be achieved as far as possible.
We have launched without negative impact to life or property during even far more contentious periods in North/South relations. Positively, in the past 15 years, the percentage of North Korean citizens who have seen a Bible with their own eyes has increased from essentially 0% to nearly 8%, according to the North Korean Human Rights Database.
We have never at any time sent any form of political message or propaganda but only the Chosun Bibles published by the North Korean government and protected under the North Korean constitution’s freedom of religion for all North Korean citizens. All of our North Korean ministry projects are undertaken at the request and advice of underground North Korean Christians.