“Why can’t you just stop launching for a while?”: A word to Christians around the world about our situation in South Korea

“Why can’t you just stop launching for a while?”

This is the question we at Voice of the Martyrs Korea are always asked about our work of sending Bibles into North Korea by high-altitude helium balloons. It is work that began 18 years ago in response to a promise Dr. Foley and I made to underground North Korean Christians. It is work that has continued every night over the past 15 years when the weather has permitted us to successfully launch (typically 10-15 times each summer), as according to our computer modeling software and GPS tracking devices. It is work that has continued even during the moments of greatest conflict between north and south: when Kim Jong-Il died, when the Cheonan submarine was sunk, and when Yeonpyeong Island was shelled. By the grace of God, it is work that has enabled us to place more than 600,000 Bibles inside North Korea, raising the percentage of North Koreans who have seen the Bible with their own eyes from 0% when we started to nearly 8% today.

However, from the day we started, it has always been unpopular work.  

In 2018, people said to us, “Peace is upon us now. Why can’t you just stop launching for a while?”

Now in 2020, people say to us, “War is upon us now. Why can’t you just stop launching for a while?”

The answer is this:

As long as it is day, we Christians in South Korea must all do the works of the Lord Jesus who sent us. Night is coming, when no one can work. (John 9:4)

From now on, each day that passes, it will become more and more difficult for Christians in South Korean to partner with underground North Korean Christians. The goal of the enemy (and our enemy is not flesh and blood; Ephesians 6:12) is to cut off South Korean Christians from North Korean Christians, to make us believe we are two bodies, not one.

People think that it is the South Korean Christians who are supporting the underground North Korean Christians, but from the moment Christianity came to Korea, continuing on up through today, the North Korean underground Christians have been and still remain the foundation and the pillars of the whole Korean church, north and south. So when the enemy cuts off the South Korean church from the North Korean underground church, it is not the North Korean underground church that will struggle but the South Korean church.

The South Korean church is always in danger of trusting in its money and whatever freedom the government grants it. That is how it allowed itself to become separate from the North Korean underground church in the first place.

But the North Korean underground church has never had money or freedom. It has only ever had Christ. And it has always found that Christ is sufficient. Christ is and always has been the light of the North Korean underground church. That light has always shined from the North Korean underground church to the South Korean church.

God’s word for today for all of us Christians in South Korea is this:

“Then Jesus told them, ‘You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.’” (John 12:35)

Warmly in Christ,
The Rev. Dr. Eric Foley
CEO,  Voice of the Martyrs Korea
July 5, 2020

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VOMK publishes full audit, NGO permit online ahead of police investigation into balloons

In advance of Tuesday’s (July 7) investigation by Seongbuk-gu police and the Seoul Division of Cultural Policy regarding its balloon launching activities, Voice of the Martyrs Korea has published its 14-page 2019 independent financial audit and its NGO permit online for public download at https://vomkorea.com/en/about/financial-accountability/.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea CEO Pastor Eric Foley says that the ministry has made the materials easily available in order to allow not only government investigators but also the general public around the world to evaluate the organization’s financial transparency and whether it has done anything in violation of its NGO permit. “Now anyone can see how much money we have in the bank, how much salary and rent we pay, and even how much we spend on office supplies,” says Pastor Foley. [Note for readers outside Korea: Our currency is the South Korean Won (KRW), so when you read our audit, please remember that the figures are reported in KRW, not USD or other currency.]

Foley notes that Voice of the Martyrs Korea has never received any support at any time from any government or government-funded agency. “We are 100% supported by donations from individuals and churches,” says Foley. He notes that he himself has never received a salary from the Korean NGO.

VOMK’s NGO permit, which it has also now posted on its website,  lists six purposes of operation, including the following: “Provide Bibles, broadcasting, electronic materials, and medical aid to areas where Christianity is restricted or Christians are persecuted by the government or despised by their neighbors, discipling them in martyrdom through Christian history and supporting them financially.”

Pastor Foley says that police have said they will investigate the organization to see if it has violated its NGO permit through its balloon activities. “From the beginning, from the moment we filed our NGO application, we have made clear that our most important purpose as an organization is to get Bibles into nations where Christianity is restricted, in partnership with the underground Christians in those nations,” says Pastor Foley.

Foley adds, “Since 2005, we have sent an average of 40,000 Bibles per year into North Korea, in printed and electronic forms, using balloons and many other methods. The Bible we use is the one based on the translation published by the North Korean government. We also broadcast the Bible into North Korea by radio. We have never sent a single political flyer into North Korea, only Bibles and Bible study materials. This is what our underground Christian partners in North Korea request.”

Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea also sends Bibles and Bible study materials to China, the countries of the former Soviet Union, and countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, in partnership with underground Christians in each country. It also provides persecution training to the Christians in these countries, through books and videos.

Pastor Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea is eager to cooperate fully with next week’s police investigation. He says he hopes the investigation can restore what he says is the “spirit of partnership we have experienced with government authorities at all levels” since the organization began in 2003, first as a member of KCCMO and then as an independent NGO.

“Balloon launching into North Korea is only about 10% of what we do,” says Foley. “Since 2005, we have had a warm and mutually respectful relationship with police, military, and government officials in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province, and throughout Korea, in all our work. Then two weeks ago Governor Lee called for investigation of all balloon launchers, alleging that launchers were committing fraud, misusing donations, and endangering the public. Suddenly, after 14 years of complete cooperation with authorities at all levels on our balloon work, this vital ministry activity was banned overnight through the confusing application of dozens of city laws related to everything from trash disposal and outdoor advertising. To us, that is a dangerous precedent that could threaten all responsible private ministry activity by us and other Christian ministries in the future.” Foley asks, “North Korea hates our radio broadcasting and our publication in South Korea of the testimonies of persecuted North Korean Christians. Will they also be banned when North Korea demands?”

Foley adds, “Rather than using litter laws to take away our NGO status, we would urge Governor Lee and other authorities to permit us to join with them to find ways to preserve responsible, non-governmental, private ministry activities so that freedom of religion and freedom of speech can continue to co-exist in South Korea, just as they have throughout the history of Voice of the Martyrs Korea.”

“But if the authorities decide just to throw away our long history of safety and transparency and cooperation and declare us to be criminals, then we will willingly and joyfully submit to their determination. Christians are called to obey only God but also to be subject to the penalties of the government whenever ministry is declared to be a crime.”

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Response to Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee’s Call For Investigation of Balloon Launching NGOs

For 15 years, Voice of the Martyrs Korea has experienced only the utmost respect from all levels of Gyeonggi Province’s government and law enforcement, due to our spirit of cooperation and communication. As a result, we were stunned and, frankly, extremely puzzled by Governor Lee’s statement today.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea has only ever launched the Bible by balloon. We have never printed or distributed political flyers at any time. In fact, we launch the Bible translation published by the North Korean government itself, which the North Korean government repeatedly affirms in its public statements is completely legal in North Korea and is in accord with the freedom of religion granted all citizens in the North Korean constitution.

As regards our financial accountability, Voice of the Martyrs Korea is regularly recognized internationally for our commitment to the highest possible accounting standards. In addition to an annual financial audit conducted by an independent Korean CPA firm, Voice of the Martyrs Korea is accredited by the Christian Council on Financial Accountability in Korea (CCFK). Our external accountability ensures strictest compliance with all Korean and international (FASB) accounting standards. Individuals wishing to learn more about our commitment to financial transparency can visit https://vomkorea.com/en/about/financial-accountability/.

As Voice of the Martyrs Korea has always done, we will continue to obey God and be subject to the authorities. In the case of balloon launching, the next time the weather enables a launch, we will keep the promise we made to underground Christians 18 years ago: We will send Bibles to North Korea by balloon. If this is then accounted as a crime, we will willingly and joyfully be accounted criminals and accept the punishment given to us by the authorities.

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