As a citizen of the United States, freedom is an automatic certainty. Physical bondage is scarcely something that people throughout the U.S. will experience during their lifetime. Around the world, however, people are not so fortunate.
North Korea is a country where freedom is nonexistent. Run as a dictatorship, North Koreans are starved, indoctrinated with lies, and controlled by fear. Exiting North Korea occurs illegally and involves great risk. A man by the name of Pastor Chun Ki-won has risked his own life by running an underground railroad that helps rescue North Koreans from their physical and spiritual bondage. By the grace and provision of God, Pastor Chun has been able to help rescue over 1,100 North Korean refugees and to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. The name of the ministry, founded by Pastor Chun, is Durihana. It is Korean for “two-become-one.” In addition to rescuing refugees, Durihana runs a boarding school where North Korean refugee children are provided basic needs, education, and, most importantly, they are taught about the gospel of salvation in Christ Jesus.
On May 21st 2016, Durihana launched the opening of their U.S. headquarters in Santa Fe, NM. Pastor Chun spoke about the origination of Durihana, and the details that surround the process of rescuing North Koreans. Pastor Chun also shared a live video call with two North Korean women who he was going to help rescue out of China the following week. After refugees are rescued from North Korea, they have to be rescued again from China (where they are in hiding). The difficulties these refugees face during their rescues are extremely dangerous. During nightfall, they walk hundreds of miles through rainforests and across rivers. At any given moment throughout their journey, their lives could be taken by dangerous wildlife, serious injuries, or they could be caught. If caught, they are sent back to North Korea and imprisoned or even executed. Two North Korean refugee women who once endured that treacherous journey to freedom so bravely shared their stories with us.
The first woman took the stage and spoke of her life in North Korea. She was always hungry, always keeping her eyes open for anything that could appease the severe hunger pains she constantly felt. During her one hour walk to school as a child, she would try to find anything that appeared edible. She would eat acorns, bugs, wild grass, or even steal food from farms along the way. She was walking to school with her friend one day when they came across a purple colored grass. Her friend immediately rushed to eat the grass. Her body began to turn purple as she had consumed poisonous grass. She died shortly thereafter. Starvation is prevalent all throughout North Korea with the majority of their citizens always in search of something to eat. Occurrences of death and sickness from eating inedible plants and foodstuffs is not uncommon, it’s reality.
The second woman whom Pastor Chun helped rescue shared her story next. It was blatantly painful for her to momentarily re-live the pain she so desperately wanted to forget. She struggled to speak through her tears. She spoke of many situations throughout her life in North Korea. She shared a particularly devastating reality; one that’s all too common for many North Korean women. This 28 year-old woman was working diligently to try and provide food for her children. Working in North Korea does not guarantee a steady income. North Koreans could work daily and not see payment for months or even years at a time. This woman decided to escape North Korea and go to China to find food for her family. She paid a broker to help her escape from North Korea, but, upon her arrival in China, the broker had arranged for her to be sold to a man in China–as a sex slave. She was sold from one man to the next as a piece of property. She was placed in situations where numerous men would sexually assault her. When she’d put up a fight, she was beaten for it. She was separated from her children. She was helpless and under the rule of men who viewed her as less than human. She was emotionally damaged, without hope. She eventually heard of Pastor Chun and was able to contact him. She pleaded with him to rescue her, and he did just that. She was freed from a life of physical bondage, but even more than that, from a life of spiritual depravity. Today, she is a believer in Jesus Christ. Rescued from a life of hopelessness and brokenness to a life of faith in the One who came to save her, she now safely resides in the United States. She yearns for the day that her children and family can join her. She continually prays for the Lord to not only bring her loved ones out of North Korea, but also for the communist regime there to soon collapse.
There are many, many people in need of being rescued from North Korea. They are without the hope and faith in Jesus Christ–the only one who can truly save and redeem them. We will never fully comprehend their suffering, but our Creator does. He longs to set them free. Remember the lost. Pray for them–ceaselessly.