How Do We Disciple North Koreans Who Visit The Outside World?

NK DefectorsThere are many ways North Koreans manage to cross the border of North Korea to the outside world. Some swim across the Tumen River with guns blazing, dogs barking and search lights glaring in their wake.

Most, however, leave the same way that you or I would leave our home states or countries – by train, airplane, car, or on foot, walking across a bridge! Every day, North Koreans travel in and out of NK for a variety of reasons, most of which have to do with visiting relatives in China or earning money for the regime in a number of different countries.

Others leave because they are forced. Korean-Chinese gangs sex traffic them in order to make money. This has been fueled by China’s one-child policy, since there are now more men than women in several areas, especially rural ones. Chinese men in Northeast China are thus ready customers for North Korean women. Sometimes three or four Chinese men, too poor to afford a wife of their own, band together to purchase one North Korean woman. Consider what one NK defector recently said to us:

I was kidnapped by a man and could not go outside the house at all. I could not speak the language and was always worried about being sent back to North Korea.

Another woman shared with us,

My relatives could not help me financially, so I had to earn money by working at a kimchi factory. Then my boss sold me to a Korean Chinese man who could not speak any Korean. My married life was really harsh. He didn’t work; he simply drank every day.

So what does Seoul USA do to help the wide variety of women and men who come across the border, some legally and some illegally, some by choice and some by force?

We invite those individuals to receive physical and spiritual refreshment along with discipleship in a safe environment.

For example, we first met Mr. L in the market. We invited him to come learn about Jesus and stay at our base. He shared with us that he didn’t have enough money for food and shelter. We told him that we of course never charge.

Mr. L had left North Korea on a travel visa but quickly learned that the relatives he had planned on visiting were no longer there. Many Korean Chinese travel to South Korea in order to make money, often staying for several years before returning. Some stay permanently. 

In order to get a visa to visit relatives, NK people often have to pay in the range of $700—a staggering sum in a country where most citizens do not earn any hard currency at work. Many NK people go into debt to get these visas, selling their homes and furnishings to pay the debt. They do so in the belief that they can receive much more from their relatives in return.

After Mr. L came to the base, he started to read the Bible and the DOTW discipleship training materials. Also he watched the He Lived Among Us DVD three times. He said it was fun to watch, but he was nervous because the NK government did not allow him to watch or read any Christian materials in NK. However, through reading the DOTW booklets and the Bible, he came to realize that God was guiding him and taking care of him.

He tried to memorize the Lord’s Prayer first. It is of course very dangerous to take any Christian material inside NK, so he wanted to memorize the Lord’s Prayer in order to share it with his family. He said that he cannot share God publicly or even say the name of God out loud in NK, but he would start to believe in God and depend on him in every situation. He also asked how to share the Gospel with his wife and family step by step, so our missionaries taught him how to do this.

We shared with him about others who are seeking to follow Christ inside of NK. We also shared with him the story of creation, which is always especially impactful to North Koreans, since they are steeped from birth in evolutionary theory. We taught him how to pray to God and the reason that we pray in the name of Jesus. We shared that we can have eternal life through Jesus Christ when we accept him as our personal Savior. He decided to believe and follow Jesus Christ, a commitment that he intends to keep even after he goes back to NK!

About tdillmuth

Pastor Timothy Dillmuth is the Discipleship Pastor of Voice of the Martyrs Korea. He oversees Underground University, a missionary training school for North Korean defectors, and does discipleship training with Christians from all over the world. Pastor Tim received a bachelor's degree from Zion Bible College and an M.Div. from Regent University. He lives with his wife, Melissia and their three children in Seoul, South Korea.
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