Voice of the Martyrs Korea, an NGO which serves persecuted Christians worldwide, released letters it received this week from North Koreans working abroad who received audio Bibles through the NGO’s distribution efforts.
“The workers wrote that they previously regarded the Bible as ‘the most terrifying thing’, a ‘scary book’, and even an ‘evil thing’,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. “But having listened to it for themselves, they’re now expressing heartfelt thanks and crediting it with freeing them from ‘mental slavery’ and ‘foolishness’.”
Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea supplies audio and printed North Korean dialect Bibles to North Koreans inside North Korea, as well as to North Korean laborers working abroad and North Korean sex trafficked women in China.
“The North Korean government’s COVID lockdown has prevented many North Korean workers from returning home,” says Representative Foley. “But the longer stays have given North Korean workers more time to access materials not available to them at home.”
Representative Foley quoted from the letter of one North Korean worker who wrote, “If I were in Chosun, I would not see it because the Bible of Christianity is the most terrifying thing. In [Location removed], I am seeing, and hearing things more than I was in NK. So, I am open to this scary book.”
According to Representative Foley, the Bibles are individually distributed directly to recipients, often as part of small care packages containing other items like masks, medicines, and hygiene items. She says that the distribution is done by underground Christians from North Korea and the other countries where Voice of the Martyrs Korea reaches North Korean citizens.
Representative Foley says distributing the audio Bibles to workers is dangerous work. “One worker wrote: ‘When I first received this thing called the Bible through (audio player), I was very terrified and suffered. I thought I finally was caught with evil things. I even thought to report this person who delivered it to me to the authorities.’”
But Representative Foley says that North Korean workers almost always respond with thankfulness after listening to the audio Bible. “One worker wrote to us, ‘If I do not know who God is in my life, I might miserably end up my life as a mental slave.’ Another wrote, ‘In [a city in North Korea], I visited a fortune teller to ask for my future. And I prayed to a ghost if I had wishes. As receiving the Bible for the first time, many people in Chosun are foolish and so am I. Now, I am truly praying. I truly believe that my fate and future are held by God.”
Representative Foley says that the letters were written in May and June and received by Voice of the Martyrs Korea this week. The letters are shown here, with slight alterations in appearance to ensure the safety of the writers.
In this factory, we have [number removed] women. Therefore, we have lots of fights and many of us are patients. And we are locked up to work. We sleep and then we work again. It seems like we become slaves. If we did not read and hear the Words of God every day through [audio Bibles] that we had received from [name removed], we may end up dying of disease or become mentally ill. We are in pain, but we are not really in pain because God is with us. God knows my pain and sufferings and we now have faith that God is with those who are in sorrow. For now, it is not pain every day but with prayer, through faith, I was reborn. Thank you. – Anonymously from Chosun
Greetings. When I first received this thing called the Bible through [audio player], I was very terrified and suffered. I thought I finally was caught with evil things. I even thought to report this person who delivered it to me to the authorities. But now, I am very ashamed as reflecting the fact that I had foolish thoughts before. If I do not know who God is in my life, I might miserably end up my life as a mental slave. I am not worried about it anymore. If I would die here, am I not going to the place called heaven because of the faith? I only have this mind that I want my beloved families and friends go to heaven, not hell, so that I need to share it with my people around me. I am giving thanks to God for letting me become who I am now. From [City removed], Chosun.
If I were in Chosun, I would not see it because the Bible of Christianity is the most terrifying thing. In [Location removed], I am seeing, and hearing things more than I was in NK. So, I am open to this scary book. Especially, the part of love in the book of 1 Corinthians, it is full of grace. My friend is more serious than I am. My friend rejected this in the first place, but now falling into it deeper than I am. I am so happy that I came to know God. From Chosun.
Hello, nice to meet you. I do not know what to write. In [Location removed], I visited a fortune teller to ask for my future. And I prayed to a ghost if I had wishes. As receiving the Bible for the first time, many people in Chosun are foolish and so am I. Now, I am truly praying. I truly believe that my fate and future are held by God. 2022.5.20 From [Location removed]
According to Representative Foley, the long daily work hours and tight security of North Korean worker groups requires Voice of the Martyrs Korea to rely only on the power of God’s word rather than the possibility of building personal relationships with the recipients. She says it is the strategy missionaries used in the earliest days of the Korean church, beginning with pioneering missionary John Ross.
“Missionary Ross believed that people met Jesus directly through reading or hearing a vernacular language Bible rather than through building a relationship with a missionary,” says Representative Foley. “The North Korean workers who are receiving these audio Bibles are being discipled only by the Holy Spirit guiding their Bible reading and listening. I think Missionary Ross would be delighted by that.”
File photo of an MP3 loaded with Bible content.
File photo of an NK with a Bible MP3 player.
Representative Foley says that for the safety of its workers and the Bible recipients, Voice of the Martyrs Korea no longer releases the specific quantity of Bibles distributed each year, or the media or methods by which they are distributed. “Generally we distribute 40,000 to 50,000 North Korean dialect Bibles a year in print and electronic formats to North Korean citizens outside of South Korea,” she says. She notes that the Bible is also read daily on Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s five shortwave and AM radio broadcasts.
Individuals or churches interested in supporting Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s North Korea ministry can make a donation at www.vomkorea.com/en/donation or via electronic transfer to:
- 국민은행 (KB Bank) 463501-01-243303
- 예금주 (Account Holder): (사)순교자의소리
Please include the phrase “NK” with the donation.