Some popular media depict North Korean underground Christians as superheroes of faith barely fazed by their government’s relentless persecution. Other media depict the group as barely surviving, desperate for help from their fellow Christians abroad. But according to a new batch of letters released by persecution ministry Voice of the Martyrs Korea, North Korean underground Christians are not too different from Christians in the rest of the world.

“They report facing the same temptations as we do, and experiencing the same grace to overcome them,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. Her ministry has partnered with North Korean underground Christians for more than 20 years. She says Voice of the Martyrs Korea periodically releases excerpts from the letters they receive from North Korean underground Christians in order to help Christians in the rest of the world better understand what underground Christian life is like inside North Korea. 

“Part of our reason for periodically releasing these excerpts is to help people know how to pray for North Korean underground Christians,” says Representative Foley. “But another reason is to correct common misperceptions about their lives. Often media reports portray them as either much stronger Christians than we are, or as much weaker Christians in need of our immediate help. But the truth is that they are really very much like us. Their political situation is of course very different, and they face situations we have a hard time imagining, like extreme food shortages. But as regards their life of faith, they read the same Bible. They face the same temptations. They call on the same God. And they praise that same God for answering their prayers.” 

VOM Korea file photo of a letter received from an Underground North Korean Christian.

Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea distributes 30,000 to 40,000 North Korean dialect Bibles a year in print and electronic formats to North Koreans inside North Korea, as well as to North Korean sex-trafficked women in China and North Koreans sent to work abroad by the North Korean government. She says that North Koreans who receive the Bibles sometimes send back notes of thanks through the organization’s contacts. The organization regularly publishes excerpts from these letters, sometimes changing words or expressions to conceal information that could be used to identify and locate the senders.  

Representative Foley shared excerpts from letters from underground North Korean Christians inside North Korea. The excerpts follow: 

  1. “The Lord who loves us told us to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. So we are living in difficulty, but we learned how to love one another.” 
  1. “As for us, we must not only receive the grace of God ourselves but live a life of delivering the grace and love of God to people who are in difficulty and are struggling. And we have to make them experience the love of God so that they can become people who are able to deliver the love of God, too.” 
  1. “We are amazed and thankful. We remember the grace of the Holy Trinity God who knows us more than ourselves, knows all of our hunger and difficult situations and always protects us. And we will work hard to fulfill the will of God.” 
  1. “As for us, while living a life of faith, there are very many times when we are caught in thoughts of greed. But God forgives all of our faults and catches us so that we can continue on the right road of faith and even blesses us. He makes us see that bright light of life away from the way of starving to death. I have deeply felt this grace in my chest.” 
  1. “Whenever I read the scriptures you send, I choke up at the love of God. I may be a sinful body, having nothing and only receiving. But God does not throw us away and fills us every moment with his grace, so I am thankful…” 
  1. “God, we know that we can do nothing on our own on the road of our lives. We entrust our existence to you. Our life which we must live is one of enjoying the grace which you give, living as God’s chosen ones. I will live, spreading this grace to many more people.” 
  1. “As for us, as we live always in the love of God, there are too many times when we do not have the basic posture of a Christian. But, no matter how insufficient we are, he loves us to the uttermost just as we are. Therefore we always give thanks again and again.” 
  1. “Our lives were ones of loving to tears, crying in loneliness so much that it hurt, and leading a life of starving to death. But now, we have met God and we are finding happiness in God’s grace. I will treasure this grace forever and only follow after the Lord.” 

A North Korean listens to an audio Bible on an MP3 device.

Representative Foley says this demonstrates the Bible-centered faith of underground North Korean believers. “Underground North Korean Christians are not able to gather together with believers outside of their own immediate family for worship,” says Representative Foley. “They aren’t able to have church buildings or pastors or seminaries. But they do have the Bible, and they know that when the message of the Bible is received in faith, Christ is fully present and ministering to them.”   

Representative Foley says the letters confirm both the importance and effectiveness of current efforts by organizations like hers to get the Bible inside of North Korea. “Today is the day for gospel ministry to North Korea,” she says. “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’s Voice of the Martyrs Korea organization does not disclose information about the means used to receive and fulfill the requests they receive for Bibles, citing concerns for the safety of Bible couriers and recipients. “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, imprisonment, and even death,” says Representative Foley.  

A North Korean defector holds up a North Korean study Bible.

Individuals or churches interested in supporting Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s North Korea ministry can make a donation at or wire transfer to:  

국민은행 (KB Bank) 463501-01-243303 

예금주 (Account Holder): ()순교자의소리  

Please include the phrase “NK Ministry” with the donation. 

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