Neighbors, media, and public officials have asked Voice of the Martyrs Korea why we are peacefully refusing to accept the government’s present ban on balloon launching to North Korea and instead continuing to try to head out for balloon launches from our office each evening even though we are prevented from doing so by the Mapo Police Department. In response to these inquiries, we offer with the following statement.
First, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to the men and women of the Mapo Police Department, especially Mapo police chief Park Chang Ho. Chief Park and his officers continue to treat us with courtesy and respect. Even though our different responsibilities have brought us into conflict with each other at present, we are able to work together in peaceful opposition in a way that we believe can and should be a model for other police departments and NGOs doing North Korea work—especially other balloon launchers, who through their antagonistic and immature approaches have often given quiet and peaceful balloon launchers like Voice of the Martyrs Korea an undeservedly bad name.
Second, we would like to apologize to our neighbors in Mapo who may presently be inconvenienced by the police presence that surrounds our office day and night. We continue to keep the police fully apprised of our actions and intentions regarding balloon launching, and we have requested that they report about our cooperation and non-violent resistance to the government officials who are ordering their presence here. We hope these government officials will agree to reduce the police presence to the minimal amount necessary to enforce their goals.
Third, we would like to assure the citizens of South and North Korea that their security has always been the highest concern in our balloon launching efforts. To those in the south, we want you to know that this is why we always inform police of our launches but why we never inform the media. It is why we launch away from populated areas, and only at night. It is why we use expensive balloon technology (including GPS, precise mathematical calculations, and extensive safety procedures) to ensure that all of our balloons land where intended. To those in the north, we want you to know that the only thing we launch is Bibles, not anti-North Korean leaflets. The Bible text we use is the one published and authorized by the North Korean government itself, with only the slightest alterations for editing. It is the Bible text which the North Korean government proudly writes about in its own human rights report. It is the Bible text which the North Korean government claims that all North Korean citizens are entitled to read, as guaranteed under the freedom of religion in the North Korean constitution.
Finally, as to the reason why we would seek to continue to launch balloons even during this tense period between the governments of South and North Korea, we offer the following explanation. Voice of the Martyrs Korea believes that the security of North and South Korean citizens has never been endangered by our Christian ministry including Bible distribution, work which has continued uninterrupted, quietly, peacefully, and as lawfully as possible using a wide variety of methods (including balloon launching) for the past fifteen years. Instead, Voice of the Martyrs Korea believes that the security of North and South Korea is continually and seriously endangered by the system embraced by both governments for nearly 70 years that has attempted unsuccessfully to achieve and maintain security through ever-escalating shows of force. This has resulted in ever-decreasing security, further dividing Koreans in the north and south from each other and causing them to become complete strangers. We have permitted ourselves to become Koreans who must rely entirely on our respective governments to dictate how, when, and why we may interact with each other.
Even today, powerful men in the north and south continue to insist that the use of force and threats of force are necessary to ensure happiness and stability on our peninsula. It is a dangerous experiment which for 70 years has continually returned us to the brink of war. Having once again returned us to the brink of war due to their deep trust of force, these powerful men in both the north and south now say to Voice of the Martyrs Korea, “You are behaving dangerously by refusing to stop your work in order to allow us to continue behaving dangerously!” It is like living in the home of drunken parents, who every few weeks brawl, curse, and shout at each other, and then shout at their children who are quietly doing homework, “Stop your dangerous work! You are making our fighting worse!”
At some point the children must simply continue to do their homework. This is what we have chosen to do for 15 years, and what we will continue to do each day. In this we follow the footsteps of the great Korean independence leader Cho Man Sik who warned that a Korea built on any sword would forever have many bloody swords plunged through its own heart. He died rather than consenting to Korea being cut in half by the swords of powerful men. We also follow in the hopeful footsteps of the ancient Korean sage Yulgok Yi I who taught that “a good person, through self-transformation, could transform the entire cosmic order.” Here on the brink of war we call on good Koreans everywhere—from the north, south, east, and west, and from all religions, nations, and political parties—to engage in self-transformation, renouncing our trust in the swords and words of powerful men which today further divide good Koreans. We encourage good Koreans everywhere not to rely on so-called “peace talks” which, because they are based on the continuing trust of force to compel peace, can only eventually lead us back to the brink of war again and again and again.
Instead, we encourage all Koreans to act according to the best of their consciences and engage daily in peaceful, lawful, and simple acts that unite ordinary Koreans in love as best we know how. As a Christian ministry, one of the many ways we do this is by distributing Bibles because the Bible teaches us that all people are valuable and deserve to eat and live in peace not because of their loyalty to a particular government but because God created each one of us in his image. We do not force anyone to accept our message or our Bibles, but we follow in the footsteps of Jesus who commands us to share this message with all people at all times, speaking truth to powerful men and nations even in the moments when they may be drunk with their trust in force. We willingly obey their laws but refuse to let our hearts, minds, imaginations, or actions be constrained by their swords.
In conclusion, we will seek to continue our fifteen year work of Christian ministry without interruption, including our efforts to distribute Bibles by balloon. Powerful men may stop us today, but the word of God will endure forever.
The Rev. Dr. Eric P. Foley
CEO, Voice of the Martyrs
Dr. Hyun Sook Foley
President, Voice of the Martyrs
For further information in English please contact the Rev. Tim Dillmuth at 02-2065-0703 or [email protected].
For further information in Korean please contact Miss Jin Ju Won at 02-2065-0703 or [email protected]