Most North Koreans typically go their whole lives without seeing a Bible. But according to letters received at Easter by Voice of the Martyrs Korea from Bible recipients inside of North Korea, that may be changing--especially among younger North Koreans.
“One letter writer wrote us from inside North Korea, ‘There is no way people in NK possess the knowledge of God throughout their whole life. But we early in our twenties have been allowed to come to know God [through these Bibles we received],’ says Voice of the Martyrs Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. Her organization supplies 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. Some of the Bibles, including the ones received by those who wrote thank you letters back to the ministry, are individually distributed to recipients by underground Christians from North Korea and the other countries where Voice of the Martyrs Korea reaches North Koreans.
Representative Foley says Voice of the Martyrs Korea distributes 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 notes that the Bible is also read daily on Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s five shortwave radio broadcasts to North Korea.
According to Representative Foley, independent surveys show that such distributions are having an impact on the number of North Koreans who have seen a Bible inside of North Korea.
“The North Korean Human Rights Information Center, an independent data-gathering NGO, has been conducting an ongoing study where they found that in the year 2000, effectively 0% of people inside North Korea had ever seen a Bible with their own eyes,” says Representative Foley. “They have continued to update that study, and at the end of 2020 they determined that around 8% of people inside of North Korea have now seen a Bible with their own eyes.”
She says that number is likely to have increased even further during the COVID pandemic. “The requests for Bibles from North Koreans outside of South Korea doubled each year during the pandemic,” she says. Her organization does not disclose information about the means used to receive and fulfill requests for Bibles, noting that South Korea’s Anti-Leaflet Law could put the safety of Bible couriers and recipients at risk. “With the exception of radio broadcasting, anyone bringing the Bible into North Korea from any country in any format, whether printed or electronic, using any means of distribution, remains at risk of prosecution,” says Representative Foley.
Representative Foley says her organization publishes select letters from North Korean Bible recipients in order to help Christians outside of North Korea understand the impact the Bible is having today inside of North Korea. “Christians outside of North Korea wrongly think that the only kinds of mission activity possible toward North Koreans are things like teaching at North Korean universities, sending money for humanitarian aid through North Korean government-approved projects, or conducting training programs to plan for missions in the future when North Korea might ‘open’ to the gospel,” says Representative Foley. “But as the Apostle Paul wrote Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:9, ‘The word of God is not bound!’ The Bible is continuing to get inside North Korea today, and more North Koreans are reading it and being transformed by it today than literally any other time in history.”
Representative Foley says the latest letters received by Voice of the Martyrs over Easter from Bible recipients inside of North Korea show evidence of this transformation.
“One recipient wrote, ‘I am giving thanks to God who washed away agony and hatred but gave us the eyes of love and joy to see the world.’ Another wrote, ‘Many comrades here have been surprisingly transformed (after believing in God)…The only hope of the NK young people is to believe in God.’ And a third recipient wrote, ‘After coming to know God, we did not pray only for ourselves but also for others who are greatly in pain. Then, I could not believe even at this moment to say this, but through our prayers, our comrades began to recover from sickness.’ University teaching, humanitarian aid, church planting—these are all good things from a human standpoint. But only the word of God can transform the human heart. That transformation is what is happening today in North Korea as more and more North Koreans read the Bible.”
The letters from Bible recipients inside North Korea received by Voice of the Martyrs Korea this Easter are shown here, with slight alterations in appearance to ensure the safety of the writers.
The past three years were truly a difficult time to most of Chosun people including myself. We still do not see today when it will end. Nevertheless, I am truly thankful for you to continually support us through this challenging period. Above all, we are so grateful especially for letting us hear the Words of God. The only reason why these young comrades like me have not died through this difficult time is because of only the word of God that has sustained us. I have been thinking deeply about sharing the God I experienced with others. I am giving thanks to God who washed away agony and hatred but gave us the eyes of love and joy to see the world.
There is no way people in NK possess the knowledge of God throughout their whole life. But we early in our twenties have been allowed to come to know God. I know this is such a tremendous blessing to know Him. I also have learned with what mind I should live and discerned the lies of the NK government. It was such a moment that I was set free from mental slavery. Many comrades here have been surprisingly transformed (after believing in God). I believe and hope that God will perform God’s mighty action in NK. The only hope of the NK young people is to believe in God. I certainly believe it. I give thanks again to you who gave us this opportunity (to know God).
Some say that the Covid has gone away, but we are still fighting an unknown disease. Many comrades suffer side effects from Covid. When they got infected, they did not have proper treatment and had to just wait for death to come. I felt terrifyingly sad as I was seeing my comrades dying on the field without a chance of going to hospital. After coming to know God, we did not pray only for ourselves but also for others who are greatly in pain. Then, I could not believe even at this moment to say this, but through our prayers, our comrades began to recover from sickness. As getting to know God more, I was empowered to overcome pain, and now have hope. We are greatly thankful for all these. Thanks to everyone abroad who are praying for us.
Yesterday, I had to attend a late–night lecture (communist moral education). It was explaining to us about how to reject reactionary elements (against anti-government propaganda). If we were deceived by these, it means we would betray our nation, our parents and our brothers all at once. In truth, if I had not known God, I would have believed all these voices of the lecture. I feel I am reborn every day as listening to God’s words. I now understand how important it is to live a day with a right spirit. I give thanks to God. I also give thanks to those who helped us.
Individuals or churches interested in supporting Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s North Korea ministry can make a donation at www.vomkorea.com/en/donate or wire transfer to:
국민은행 (KB Bank) 463501-01-243303
예금주 (Account Holder): (사)순교자의소리
Please include the phrase “NK Ministry” with the donation.
(File photo) SD cards being loaded with North Korean dialect Bibles.