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I Didn't Even Notice There's a Church in Pyongyang
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Date :
2016-01-25 18:02:33
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I Didn't Even Notice There's a Church in Pyongyang 

 

Eun-Hye JEONG 
Manager/Missionary Work Chief, 
Baekdo Hanra Association, ROK 
 

Due to my belief in God and reading of the Bible, I was accused of criminal activity by the North Korean government and lost my father and aunt in the place, they call, the "Socialists' Paradise." After suffering from all the pressure, regulation and surveillance of the North Korean Security Agency, I now finally have a life in South Korea as a North Korean refugee. Today, I want to share the testimony of my life in North Korea and how my family and I led our lives as "rebellious criminals" who dared to stand by their religious beliefs. 
     
The Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea says "[e]very person has a freedom of religion." Actually there are two churches called, Chilgol and Bongsoo in Pyongyang, and I believe all of you here would have heard about formal Sunday service in Pyongyang. However, I find it ironic that I was born and raised in North Korea, and lived there for more than 20 years, without being aware of a church in Pyongyang. Later, I learned that fact later in China, through the book written by some of the [South] Korean pastors.

 

After I settled in South Korea, I have met some pastors boastfully saying that they had experienced a Sunday service in Pyongyang. Whenever I heard what they said, I felt so sad. There are so many poor people praying underground, avoiding the government's eye. They all struggled to find something to eat and even made soup with tree bark. I cannot hide my sorrow and grief toward those people, who proudly say they went to a church in Pyongyang. In fact, those churches are fake, established by North Korean authorities to establish the illusion that they do have a church and they allow worship in North Korea.

 

I want to ask those pastors that if North Korea is a country which respects people's freedom of religion, why do North Korean authorities kill people or throw the people into the prison for holding religious beliefs? Also I want to ask them, if they had ever tried to see the truth under the hypocritical surface or tried to hear the voice of the poor sufferers in North Korea. Would any of them know that most people in North Korea do not know there's a church in Pyongyang, and attend secret underground prayer meetings? Some of people were caught by the government and died unknown for their religious beliefs.

 

The North Korean government teaches the public that there no God exists. They say if there were such things, it would be only Kim Il-Sung or Kim Jong-Il. In spite of the government's strict atheistic education, I was the 4th generation of a devout Christian family. From the time of my great- grandfather, we held sincere faith and held a secret worship and praise for the lord. 
      
However, my great-grandfather’s underground worship sessions were disclosed to the North Korean authorities. Soon, he was sent to the Security Agency and couldn't get back from it. Other families were expelled from their hometowns and sent to the barren remote mountain villages. Although all of my relatives were persecuted and oppressed by the government for having a religion, thanks to my grandmother's strong will, we continued in our faith on. My parents were married through the underground prayer meeting, as did my aunt and uncle.

 

My parents and grandmother prayed and guided me to have a certain faith and belief even though I was raised in a country where the basic right of freedom was not allowed. I ate meals after my grandmother's prayer, and I learned many gospel songs from her before I went to bed. In spite of the poverty, my grandmother never forgot to give tithes as an offering. She was willing to help the poor with her tithes. Thanks to my grandmother and parents' endless love and God's protection, I could grow as the "happiest girl in the world."

However, such pleasure and happiness could no longer exist in the place, where one dictator was highly idolized and deified. For a long time, my home was sort of a shelter for the Christian neighborhood. One day the Security Agency took a suspicious interested in us, and they began strict and strong surveillance among us. Soon afterwards our gathering was revealed to the government, and all the people involved in the worship were arrested. All of them were sent to some remote areas, and even now we don't know whether they are alive or not. That was not all. The National Security Agency, a loyal servant of Kim Jong-Il, searched all around my home and took all the bibles that we cherished for ages.

 

Also, remaining families or relatives were detected by the Security Agency and forced to confess to unrelated crimes they had not committed. They labeled us as "rebellious criminals," and it was hard for us to live normal lives. Even though expelled by the government once already in my great-grandfather's generation, we were expelled once more to some other remote mountain village. We could not escape the strict surveillance of the government. All of my relatives were kicked out from their company and fired from their work, simply because they were the family of the "rebellious criminals" who had a religious faith.

 

It was too much burden for me to just sit back and watch all of my family and little cousins be outcast from society without a proper reason. Whereas my friends would go to college or work after graduation, I had to start my first job in a remote land under the strict surveillance and regulation of the government.

 

Although I was struggling under enormous pressure and hardship, I believed that the Lord would lead me to the eternal heavenly life the future. With this belief, I was happy enough to endure all the hardship. The more hardships I faced, the stronger my belief of God's protection and salvation became.

 

In 1994, right after the death of Kim Il-Sung, the North Korean government released a slogan called the "Arduous March." As the financial status of the country declined, tons of people suffered from the famine and died. My hometown was also full of dying people, starving because of the famine, and there were countless dead bodies. Since we were expelled to the remote mountain region, we started to grow some crops and raise livestock. Thanks to that, we always had something to eat. The North Korean authorities thought to punish us, but I think it was the Lord who led our family away from the crisis, like he did for Joseph in the Bible.

 

One day, I got a call from a pastor from China; he said my parents were trying to get in touch with us. He found us by asking the North Korean refugees in China. With the help of the pastor, I crossed the Tumen River and finally got to China.

 

When I first went to a church in China, I expected that people would quietly sing the gospel and worship God. But it was totally different from my expectations. When I went to the church, led by the pastor, I could see the bright light of the cross on the wall. When I got a bit further into the room, all the sisters and brothers were loudly singing the gospel and praising the Lord. I was surprised by what I saw and asked the pastor, "Pastor, won’t the Security Agency raid and arrest all of us? Are we safe doing do this?" He was smiling and said, "This is China and you are safe to worship God here." After his remarks, I recalled the underground worship in North Korea and could not help but start crying.

 

Thanks to the pastor and the church community's help, I managed to adjust myself into my new life in China. My situation was unique, as most of the North Korean refugee women have no identification card and they often become victims of human trafficking. They say it takes roughly 5 to 8 years for North Korean refugees to get South Korea and to settle down. Fortunately, due to the protection and guidance of God, I came to Korea a mere six months after my defection.

 

I always thank God, and I truly appreciate all the love and help from the South Korean community church. I always try to share my grace with others and although it is a bit late now, I have become a college student. I have a dream to lead my life under the miraculous vision of the Lord, my Father. I believe that someday God will allow us to open the door of North Korea to freedom, and then I hope to show my love and send the amazing grace of God to the people in North Korea.

 

The Lord came to this world to give us peace and freedom, and it has been 2000 years since the Christ's coming. However even now there are so many brothers and sisters who are still oppressed, imprisoned and violated of their human rights by the state. There are so many underground Christians, who cannot vocalize their praise for the Lord they believe in. There are still so many people waiting for the bright light of God and salvation from the Lord. Please do not forget our brothers and sisters, who can hardly have one bowl of rice. I sincerely hope there will be freedom for the oppressed people in North Korea, which will lead them to religion, cure their wounds, and free them. Now I will finish my testimony here. Thank you for listening.