North Korea (MNN) — Nine days ahead of scheduled high-level talks between North and South Korea, saber-rattling has caused military tensions to skyrocket.
Minor skirmishes on the border over the weekend created North Korean bluster of an “unpredictable” retaliatory strike against South Korea. And the talks are not set in stone. The talks were scheduled for October 30, but the North has yet to respond to the request.
At the same time, there are questions about leadership within the hermit kingdom. Dictator Kim Jong-Un was out of the public eye for six weeks, missing high level meetings and the country’s anniversary. The timing is hard to read, but speculation abounds.
Greg Musselman, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs Canada, says first, “When there are high level meetings with South Korea, what’s going on there? Why has he been out of sight for so long? Really, it’s hard to know what’s actually taking place.”
However, an inside contact says that Kim Jong-Un is still in control. He made two public appearances just last week, although if his physical appearance is any indication, he may be recovering from an illness or injury.
Still, there’s a lot of ground to cover before anything can move forward diplomatically. Musselman says the bad economy may force their hand. “If they’re going to have legitimate talks, one of the first things that come up is their human rights violations–not only against Christians but anybody considered a political ‘enemy of the state;’ they’re tortured, executed.”
Specifically, says Musselman, “They have been heavily criticized by the UN and human rights
organizations for their human rights violations, so they’re trying to soften that. If they’re going to get anywhere with getting economic help from outside, they’re going to have to present a better image.” In fact, in response to a rights abuse report issued earlier this year from the United Nations Human Rights Council, North Korea blamed Christian discipleship bases located in northeast China for influencing their citizens.
How did Christians become the scapegoat of North Korea’s woes? Under the ideology of Juche, the only acceptable religion is “Kim-Il-Sungism.” Musselman explains, “The reason the Christians are so singled out and targeted is because they’re the ones, really, that can expose this false religion, the worship of the Kim family and the dynasty there. Christians are heavily persecuted. They are ‘enemies of the state.'”
Despite the challenges, VOMC is partnering with a Korean ministry reaching into North Korea. “We’re broadcasting the Gospel on shortwave radio. There are balloon launches that go in there: gospel tracts are in these balloons, and people are finding them and reading them.” In the broadcasts, Scriptures are read and dramatized. They also read from books on Christian persecution to help underground believers there understand why they face the challenges they do and how to bear up under them. There are an estimated 2 million North Koreans who tune into their illegal radios each evening.
Because of the desperate circumstances in North Korea, people are open to anything that brings hope. Some Christians share their Christ story whenever the opportunity comes up, occasionally, even as they were being taken to prison. “They would start to share the Gospel with fellow prisoners, the non-Christians. Many of them were responding to the Gospel. As a result of that, when it became known to the authorities, they were having the Christians executed before they got there.”
Coming alongside the persecuted church of North Korea means prayer. Musselman reminds us that “in spite of all the obstacles that the North Korean government puts up, they can’t stop the work of the Gospel, and the Kingdom continues to go forward.”
VOMC asks you to pray for the 50,000-70,000 Christians imprisoned in labor camps: ask God to sustain them.
Pray that God would change the heart of Kim Jong-Un and use him to reform the country. Pray for protection for Open Doors workers and contacts bringing practical and spiritual support to believers.