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South Korean missionaries spread political message in the North

ICC Note: We’ve heard about South Korean missionary efforts in places like Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, but we often forget about the mission field that is closest to home – their neighbor to the north. This story sheds some light on their efforts to spread the gospel in North Korea.

By Choe Sang-Hun
11/1/07 North Korea (International Herald Tribune) – For years, under the leadership of Choi Kwang, a hard-driving missionary from South Korea, North Koreans seeking refuge in China were taken to apartments where they were put through a rigorous training course in Christianity that began daily at 6 a.m. and continued until 10 p.m. The trainees repeated out loud the words of an eight-hour-long tape recording of the New Testament.

Before taking breaks for meals, Choi and the North Koreans would embrace and pray: “Let’s spill Jesus’s blood in North Korea! Let’s become martyrs for North Korea!”

By 2001, when his underground proselytizing network was broken up by the Chinese police, Choi had turned about 70 North Koreans who had come to him in search of food and shelter into missionaries. At least five of them are believed to have been executed in North Korea. At least six others are thought to be in North Korean prison camps.

“When we had our first martyrs, my body and heart were racked with pain and I could not walk, sit or lie down,” Choi, who is 51, said in an interview. “But, as I prayed, God told me that North Korea is a land that cannot be evangelized without martyrs.”

South Korean Christians, who send more missionaries abroad than any other country except the United States, recruit converts in some of the world’s most challenging places. Their zeal drew international attention over the summer when 23 South Korean volunteer aid workers, members of a Christian church, were captured in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Two were killed, and after weeks of captivity, the rest were released after South Korea promised to bar its Christian missionaries from Afghanistan.

But long before that, evangelical Christians in South Korea had focused on North Korea, which guards itself against Christianity with as much fervor as any Muslim country. Their crusade often smacks of a political campaign.

“In our Christian world view, Kim Jong Il is the anti-Christ and his government an evil regime,” said Kim Sang Chul, head of Save North Korea, one of several Christian groups in South Korea that call for the toppling of the North Korean leadership. “In our Christian world view, peace with North Korea is nonsense.” … [Go To Full Story]