I had the opportunity to spend most of the month of June at the Durihana headquarters in South Korea. I was able to see up close and be a part of the ministry, and it was a wonderful experience. While there I was able to go with Pastor Chun as he completed the rescue of two North Korean refugees. Below is a brief account of that completed rescue…
The world was cheering the summit taking place between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Eun. We were on our way to the airport, flying to southeast Asia to escort two North Korean defectors on the last stage of their rescue safely to the embassy. It was quite a contrast. It was also quite a statement. While Kim was talking peace with the world, his own people still lack it. The defectors were still in hiding in a safe-house Pastor Chun had set up for them. Kim was smiling on the world’s stage while his people were in hiding. These two defectors were both women rescued out of the sex-trafficking industry. More contrast I guess. He was basking in the spotlight, they were being rescued out of sex-trafficking. He had his moment of glory on the world’s stage, they are scarred forever with the shame they have been put through. So on the day that President Trump met with Kim on the world’s stage, others were to meet in secret hoping to find freedom.
It is always a dangerous journey for the North Korean who tries to escape. If they are caught they will be sent back to North Korea and, at a minimum, imprisoned. Execution is not an uncommon fate for those who commit the capital crime of leaving the country. If it is found out they have spoken with or met with a South Korean or an American, they would certainly be put to death. The two we were going to rescue had already risked a great deal, getting them all the way to safety was a priority.
As we walked into the room, they greeted us with polite smiles and the customary bow. They were the quietest North Korean’s I have ever met. When they spoke in conversation, it was barely above a whisper. Those who have been in bondage their whole lives are not loud people. The constant injustice and oppression is designed to break the spirit and force it into silence. They were still clearly frightened and it’s no wonder why. They have lived their whole lives unable to trust anybody.
Pastor Chun began to talk with them and ask them about their family, their upbringing, what they did in North Korea, how they got to China and how they ended up being trafficked. Both their stories were very sad. Then again, nobody escapes with a happy story. The youngest was sold at 17 years old, and at age 18 had a child from the man she was sold to. The oldest had been sold three or four times in less than five years.
We spent the day with them, fed them a healthy lunch, and then escorted them safely to the embassy. In a few weeks they will be in South Korea where they will begin to learn to live in a civilized society. At lunch I asked the older one of the two, “you have a lot of changes ahead of you, and your life is going to be very different now from anything you’ve ever known… what are you most afraid of?” Here response was telling. She said, “In North Korea, the government tells you what to do with everything. I’ve never had to make decisions on my own, I’m afraid because I don’t know how to do it.”
When all you have ever known is bondage freedom can be terrifying.