When North Korean authorities caught Mrs. “P” selling South Korean DVDs to earn extra money in 2008, her husband Mr. “K”, fled to China while other family members in government positions bribed those who oversaw the case in order to reduce the sentence. (Names have been abbreviated for security reasons.)
When Mr. K returned to North Korea following Mrs. P’s release from prison, he could not stop talking about God and about the Bible. A family he met in China had told him about the “Good News of Jesus Christ”, and now every time Mr. K ate a meal with his family, he gave thanks to the Lord.
“I thought he was crazy,” Mrs. P told a VOM Korea staff member.
One of Mrs. P’s cellmates wrote “Jesus Christ” on the prison wall and then shared the gospel with her. (Photo reenactment)
Mr. K’s Bold Faith
Although he knew his entire family could be severely punished for his bold faith, Mr. K shared the message of Jesus with at least 20 other people, according to Mrs. P. “At that time, I was so resentful of him. My case had just been closed. Why would he put all the family in danger again?”
Eventually, someone did report Mr. K’s activities. One night, authorities came to the couple’s home and arrested them, and Mr. K was immediately taken to a concentration camp. Mrs. P believes her husband died in the camp. “I still do not know how my husband died,” she said. She never learned who reported him.
At the time of the arrests, Mrs. P’s uncle, who held a chief position with the State Security Police, knew that Mrs. P was in danger of being sent to a concentration camp because of her husband’s Christian faith. So for her own protection, he instead had her sent to a labor camp.
Mrs. P remembers her husband as she views the Martyrs Wall at the VOM Korea office in Seoul.
Pursued by God
After more than six years in the labor camp, Mrs. P was finally released. She said she barely survived its brutal conditions, but she knows it could have been worse.
After her release, Mrs. P decided to defect. After a month in China, Mrs. P and the group of defectors she was with were reported to the police. “The police showed up,” Mrs. P said. “Because we had no proof of citizenship or visa, we were taken to a prison.”
While in prison, Mrs. P met Korean Chinese women who were Christian. “If we were sent back to North Korea and it was discovered that we had encountered a church and Christianity, we would surely die,” Mrs. P said. “So they would not share anything with me for the first month that we were together. But in prison, one has a lot of time.”
Eventually, one of the women grabbed her toothpaste and used it to write “Jesus Christ” on the prison wall. “It was my first time to see the words ‘Jesus Christ,’ so I asked her what it was,” Mrs. P recalled. “She began to share with me what Christianity is.”
Mrs. P has seen North Korean defectors be transformed by North Korean dialect discipleship methods and Bible study at VOMK’s Underground Technology program (file photo taken before the pandemic).
Due to some South Korean Christians who contacted the embassy in China, Mrs. P was released from prison. She contacted her nieces in South Korea, and they arranged for a broker to help her travel there.
Once there, Mrs. P learned about Voice of the Martyrs Korea through another North Korean defector and soon enrolled in Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s Underground Technology (UT) basic discipleship program. The one-year program uses traditional North Korean underground church methods along with the North Korean dialect Chosun Bible in an effort to make Christianity more accessible to North Koreans, according to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. “Mrs. P told us, ‘I want to follow in my husband’s footsteps. I have a heart to follow Jesus like my husband.’”
Looking back, Mrs. P wishes she would have considered her husband’s faith when he first shared it with her. “At the time, I did not see with the same eyes that my husband did,” she said. “If I had only had the spiritual eyes that I have now at that time. My concern then was only to earn money for my family and be loyal to my beloved nation.”
More than a decade after Mr. K joyfully shared his new Christian faith with her, Mrs. P’s own relationship with Christ has now taken root.
More information about Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s Underground Technology program and its North Korea ministry is available at vomkorea.com/en/project/northkorea/.