Voice of the Martyrs Korea today announced the release of Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley’s new book, The Hero’s Journey.
“In this book I am privileged to be able to tell the real-life ‘hero’s journeys’ of ten North Korean Christians,” says Dr. Foley. “I share how they and I each learned to give up our ‘victims’ stories’ and become victors in Christ, by coming to understand how Christ tells the story of our lives. The book shows readers how they can experience that same transformation.”
Dr. Foley holds a master’s degree in licensed clinical counseling with a specialization in trauma recovery from Colorado Christian University. She has worked with North Korean underground Christians and North Korean defectors since 2003, when she and her husband, Pastor Eric Foley, co-founded Voice of the Martyrs Korea.
”As North Koreans grow up, they have to memorize more than one hundred stories about Kim Il Sung’s life,” says Dr Foley. “Kim Il Sung is the hero of nearly every North Korean’s story. But when North Koreans escape their country, they learn that Kim Il Sung was no hero. They struggle to make sense of life. They quickly accept the stories that others tell them: That they are victims, or even traitors.”
Dr. Foley says that when North Korean defectors see themselves as victims, the results are often fatal. “North Korean defectors have the highest rate of death due to suicide of any group in the world,” she says. “That’s why I began coaching North Korean defectors how to retell their stories using the ‘hero’s journey’ framework. It is a way of seeing our life stories differently than we are used to seeing them, because stories involve so many ‘reversals’—events that seem tragic but are actually the gateway to new life.”
Dr. Foley says that the hero’s journey framework is especially meaningful to Christians. “The cross of Christ is the greatest reversal in history,” she says. “Jesus says that anyone who follows him must take up their own cross. That means we should expect God to include life-changing reversals in each of our lives as well. We must come to understand God’s purpose for these reversals, and we must be able to tell our life stories, including those reversals, the way God tells them. If we don’t learn to understand and share our life stories in that way, our stories will always have unhappy endings.”
Dr. Foley says that she has seen the “hero’s journey” framework make a difference in the lives of North Korean defectors and North Korean Christians. “Every North Korean who participates in our schools and training programs, we have them write up their life story at the beginning of the training,” she says. “Almost always it’s a victim story, where they recount all of the tragedies of their lives. This is how they are taught to think of themselves, even in church. It’s also how North Koreans are taught to tell their stories in books and news articles. Tragedy sells. Victimhood is popular these days. But then after they learn the hero’s journey framework, we have them re-write their stories. They begin to see God’s hand at work, turning even their worst tragedies into victories through Christ. And that changes them. They stop seeing themselves as needy people and instead see themselves as people loved by God who have something important to give to others: their victor’s story.”
Dr. Foley says she sees this book as part of their process of giving. “The Hero’s Journey book is not just a book about North Korean Christians. It’s a gift from North Korean Christians to the rest of us. In the book they teach us how to see our own lives differently. And I get to share how they have helped me to see my own life differently also.”
The book is currently available in Korean and English, with Russian and Chinese language versions scheduled for release in mid-2022.