North Korea: The Dangerous Invitation

North Korea: The Dangerous Invitation

Mr. Park shares his story

When a North Korean man’s relatives invited him to read the Bible, everything changed.

Years ago, Mr. Park traveled from his home in North Korea to visit relatives in China.

His relatives, who were part of China’s vast underground church movement, invited him to read the Bible while he was there. When he declined, they fasted and prayed for a couple of days, hoping he would change his mind. That puzzled Mr. Park even more than the original invitation.

Finally, out of curiosity and a desire to appease his family, he agreed to give the book a cursory read. But the more he read, the more questions he had for his relatives. The Bible translation used the South Korean dialect rather than the North Korean dialect. The two dialects differ roughly 40 percent of the time. Still, the parts he understood fascinated him.

Seeing Mr. Park’s interest, his relatives took him to their house church, where church members explained the need for the gospel in North Korea and implored him to start an underground church there. They were prepared to provide him with food and money to sustain him, Bibles to distribute and a bicycle to help him reach more people.

Mr. Park grew increasingly fearful as he considered their idea. Possessing a Bible, let alone several of them, is extremely dangerous in North Korea. Being caught with even a few pages of Scripture could result in detention in a concentration camp, so North Korean Christians often memorize passages of God’s Word to safely “possess” it.

Mr. Park was too frightened to smuggle the first set of Bibles he was given.

Overcome by fear, Mr. Park left the Bibles behind and returned to North Korea, where he told his wife about the Bible he had read in China and how it had moved him. To his surprise, she said she also wanted to read the Bible.

Out of love for his wife and a desire for her to learn about Jesus as he had, Mr. Park decided to return to China, get a Bible and then risk his life smuggling it back into North Korea. When he arrived back in China, his relatives joyfully gave him a Bible and some money from church members. He then returned to North Korea and gathered some relatives to tell them about the Jesus he had come to know through the Scriptures. Mr. Park’s relatives wanted to hear more. They took turns reading the Bible, and even though they didn’t always understand the dialect, they said its words brought them peace.

Inspired by his family’s reaction to the Bible, Mr. Park committed his life to the Lord and carefully began to share the gospel with other North Koreans. When he met someone who would soon be traveling to China, he would encourage them to visit a church there. And when they returned to North Korea, he would ask them about their visit. If they had attended a church service and had a positive experience, he would then discuss the gospel with them and disciple them.

Although many people think of North Korea as a place no one can enter or leave, North Koreans commonly engage in trade and other business across the border into China.

Over time, Mr. Park learned that some of his neighbors were also underground Christians. That knowledge encouraged and emboldened him, but he also realized that his life in North Korea would be further endangered as more people learned of his Christian faith.

Mr. Park eventually defected to South Korea, where he learned about VOM Korea. Through our Underground Technology program (basic Christian discipleship) for North Korean defectors, he is now studying Scripture in the North Korean dialect, using the same translation we smuggle into North Korea.

Like Mr. Park, many North Koreans are now reading God’s Word and coming to faith in Jesus Christ, despite the persecution that they know may follow.