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.”