Below is an excerpt from our recent report on our North Korea Radio Broadcasts as written by one of our VOM Korea interns.
Life in North Korea is very difficult for outsiders to comprehend. Many outsiders wonder, “how can North Koreans possibly think highly of Kim Il-Sung?” or “how can North Koreans take the blatant lies of the North Korean government seriously?”
I will always remember the first time I met a North Korean defector who could not believe that the Korean war started when North Korean invaded South Korea. The defector acknowledged the facts about the war. The defector even acknowledged that it was logistically impossible for the Americans to have invaded South Korea at the time. But the defector could not take the next logical step to say that North Korea had invaded South Korea.
“Even children know that the Americans started the Korean war,” the defector reasoned. “It’s common knowledge!”
Many people who experience this behavior in North Koreans come to the conclusion that they are illogical and incapable of reason. Something in them broke under the harsh conditions in North Korea. But this isn’t the case at all. After all, in North Korea, it is common knowledge that Americans started the Korean war.
Knowledge is created by groups of people. If you have only lived in North Korea and everyone agrees that Americans started the war, it is only logical that you will agree with them. When North Koreans meet South Koreans and Americans, however, this knowledge is challenged. The first time a North Korean is confronted with this challenge to their knowledge, they might dismiss it. But the more a North Korean is confronted with this challenge to their knowledge, the more the North Korean is forced to reconsider “common knowledge.” North Koreans are not broken. They simply need more interactions with people who are not North Korean.
This is where VOM Korea’s radio program comes in.
Our radio program not only acquaints North Koreans with scripture, it acquaints them with different ways of thinking. Other Christian radio programs will often tell the North Koreans: “when you are good, God will prosper you.” But very few people prosper in North Korea. These people may become distressed.
“I thought I was doing good by being a Christian!” These people may cry out. “But I am still experiencing suffering and persecution! Why is God punishing me?”
Our radio program teaches North Korean that suffering is normal. Each broadcast contains a lesson about how God works through suffering. One of the programs we air, for example, is In The Shadow of the Cross by Glenn Penner. Through this program, North Koreans learn new ways to think about their troubles from a man who they can relate to.
Our radio program also features interviews of North Korean defectors. Although we have been airing interviews with North Korean defectors in North Korea for a long time, we have only recently discovered how truly valuable they are. Our radio announcer once lived in North Korea. She used to listen to the radio with her father every night. She told us that everyone in her family loved to hear stories from North Korean defectors over the radio.
“Until I heard North Korean defectors talk about their experiences over the radio, I never knew leaving North Korea was possible,” our radio announcer admitted.
When a North Korean hears a South Korean talk about different ideas over the radio, they are able to write off the ideas as ‘strange’ and ‘foreign.’ “Of course they would say that,” the North Korean might think. “They’re from South Korea.”
But when a North Korean hears a North Korean defector talk about different ideas over the radio, they are given pause. This is a North Korean. But the North Korean is saying different things about the world. They’re saying that South Korea is a prosperous place. They’re saying that North Korea started the Korean war. They’re saying that the Christian God does exist. Suddenly, the world seems a lot larger than it once was.
In John 14:6, Jesus says that he is “the way, and the truth, and the light.” Through our radio broadcast, we find this to be the case. Although we set out to share Christ and Christ alone with North Koreans, the truth of Christ always seems bring more truths about the world with it. Under Christ, common knowledge has a very different meaning.
I agree! I’m thankful to Margaret for her faithful service this summer.