Pastor Tim – Park Sang Hak (famous NK defector) was recently in the news because of his efforts to utilize cutting edge Silicon Valley technology to get information into North Korea. Utilizing technology in NK ministry has also been important for Voice of the Martyrs Korea over the years as well. For example, we use GPS technology to track our balloons, and we constantly improve our launches based on the GPS tracks.
But while we value the benefits of technology, we’ve also learned over the years the surprising lesson that low-tech is the new high-tech and nearly always the best solution for NK ministry.
We are often approached by pioneering techies with impressive proprietary technologies (which they are happy to share with us freely) to get the gospel into NK. We get offers for everything from drones to concealable and disguised devices to electronic Bibles that are encrypted, encoded, and protected beyond detection (and sometimes comprehension). In other closed countries we would probably be all over these cutting edge technologies, but in NK ministry, we’ve found that their effectiveness pales in comparison to much more primitive fare.
Let me explain.
If we utilized custom, high-tech equipment, and it was discovered by the North Korean State Security Agency (a reasonably safe bet, no matter what folks may tell you), the devices would become worse than worthless. Searches would be conducted in both the immediate area and among friends and relations. Every NK who had one of these devices (and, in NK’s principle of guilt by association, every NK associated with someone with such a device) would be targeted by the government. None of the remaining devices would ever get across the border. These devices would become exposed on NK news and in town hall meetings. Ordinary NKs wouldn’t be able to have them, no matter how easily or quickly they could be erased or hidden.
Bottom line – It is not just dangerous; it’s also strategically ineffective.
NK homes are regularly searched overnight without warning. Spies are everywhere in NK, even within the same family. High-tech devices always draw unwanted attention. And of course, the surest way to spread news in NK is to say, “Make sure you don’t tell anyone about this . . .”
That’s why you literally can’t pay NK Christians to use these types of things . . . and believe me, many have tried.
We do like and regularly use things like MP3 players and USBs, but we’ve found that the best devices to use are ones that are already commonly used inside NK. Devices that an average NK would be bringing back across the border, devices that could easily be bought in the marketplace–no special or unique high-tech devices.
But we’ve found that there is an even better method of evangelism and discipleship than these helpful low-tech MP3 players and USBs. It’s a method that actually requires no materials at all – it’s the lowest of low-tech. In fact, it’s a method that NK Christians have been using for years and years . . . much longer than computers, tablets and MP3 players.
If a North Korean Christian encounters a portion of Scripture, instead of carrying it around with them in paper or electronic form, the best way for them to smuggle it into the country is for them to memorize it.
And they can. (So can you, by the way.) In North Korea, every citizen is required to memorize the hundred stories of Kim Il Sung’s life, in every detail. And when an important speech is released from the leader, citizens are frequently required to memorize it word for word, in just a few days. This is a perfect example of God using for good what the enemy intends for evil. The government trains them to memorize well, and when they encounter the Scriptures, we can help them put their memorization skills to work to memorize the words of life. These NK Christians then become walking Bibles and are able to spread the gospel without the limitations that other means have–including even the highest of high-tech devices.
Not only is memorization the best way for each of us to carry the Scriptures across every closed border, but it is also a powerful way to grow in Christ! In fact, the Scriptures emphasize that memorizing is foundational to the Christian life.