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06 March 2014

Steadfast in the face of persecution

Steadfast in the face of persecution

by Amelia Abplanalp, public policy officer, Evangelical Alliance

North Korea is one of the most oppressive nations in the world. Christians face intense persecution.  More than 24 million North Koreans are forced to live under a totalitarian regime and many denied basic human rights including freedom of association, movement and religion.   

Christianity is seen as one of the regime's biggest threats and has waged a vicious war against Christians. Just this week Kim Jong-Un ordered the execution of 33 North Koreans because they made contact with a Christian missionary from South Korea.

In the face of such great adversity, the steadfast faith of North Korean Christians such as Hae-Woo is especially inspiring. Her testimony demonstrates unwavering faith. Despite enduring numerous atrocities she never doubted God's goodness, protection, and faithfulness. 

Alliance member organisation Open Doors recently organised a lunch reception hosted at Parliament by Naomi Lang MP where Hae-Woo shared her powerful testimony.  

Hae-Woo raised her family near the northern border of China. In the 1990s her husband fled to China where he became a Christian and worked for the underground Church. Eventually imprisoned for sharing the gospel, he died as a result of the torture he endured. When his children visited him in prison he shared the gospel with them by writing it on the palm of their hands so as not to be overheard by prison guards.

After her husband's death, Hae-Woo became a Christian in spite of the danger she faced by doing so. She was inspired to continue his work sharing the gospel believing strongly that God had called her to finish the work her husband had started.  

Hae-Woo escaped to China where she had the chance to go to church. An elder began praying for North Korea which was especially moving for Hae-Woo because she realised that North Koreans and their plight hadn't been forgotten.  

She was imprisoned a number of times for escaping to China and eventually sent to a North Korean labour camp for sharing the gospel. Hae-Woo recalls standing at the entrance to the camp and reading: "Do not try to escape, you will be killed". Overcome with fear for what she was about to endure, she prayed that God would see her through and in that moment she heard God say to her: "Do not be afraid I will help you".  

Life in the camp was described as a living hell. Every day people died from starvation, disease, exhaustion and beatings. Forced to work long hours on tiny amounts of rotten grain and broth. She recounted how they were denied a right to emotions or the giving and receiving of love and affection.   

Yet Hae-Woo continually thanked God for being in that camp. She was compelled to share the gospel and asked God to help her be salt and light to those around her – she was doing so in small yet powerful ways. She would share what little food she had with others and she led a group who would meet in the toilets to worship and pray knowing the guards would rarely want to go there. Others became Christians and supported each other in their faith. 

Hae-Woo said Psalm 23 was a great encouragement. She said: "The Lord was our shepherd no matter what we faced. Even in the presence of our enemies God was our rod and our staff. We had hope. The goodness and love of God followed us…" 

Hae-Woo tirelessly shares her testimony around the world in the hope of encouraging others to join her in praying for North Korea. 

We encourage you to pray:

  • that the Christians of North Korea experience the deep love of Christ and God's protection;
  • for Christian NGOs as they offer aid including food, financial support, medicine and Bibles;
  • for the safety of North Korean Christians escaping to China; for change, freedom and justice in this nation;
  • that the UN would establish a UN Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity in North Korea, and have the wisdom to know what further action to take. about the situation in North Korea. 

Resources, videos and power point resources are available from Open Doors. Hear more of Hae-Woo's testimony