Christian North Korean Defectors Discuss Faith, Hardship

North Korea Freedom Week brought together a wide-range of people including pastors, human rights activists, congressmen, and North Korean defectors in the fight for freedom in North Korea.

Last Thursday, following the House hearing on “North Korea: Human Rights Update and International Abduction Issues,” two North Korean defectors sat down with The Christian Post to speak about their Christian faith and their experiences in the communist state. Soon Ok Lee, a prominent defector in her 50s and former general manager of the chief product supply office of the North Korean government, and Sung Il Ju, 25, urged Christians to be concern about the humanitarian crisis in North Korea.

CP: How were you able to maintain your Christian faith under such difficult circumstances?

Lee: I was with Christians for seven years in prison from 1986-1992.

Ju: I went to South Korea and was evangelized.

CP: Can you describe your experiences in North Korea?

Lee: I was not a Christian before coming to prison but my parents were Christians and came to North Korea in 1945. When I was small, I heard my parents pray in the closet to someone but I didn’t know who. Every so often they would tell me, “You have to know this God.” When they were dying they each told me that they were going to a better world and hoped that I would know God.

I was sent to prison after serving in the high position as the chief of the merchandise distribution center in North Korea. One day I was sent to the Christian department. Some of these people were in jail since the 1950s, they were captured everyday and put in prison. They were sharing about God to me. They kept talking about God. I tried to help them by saying don’t talk about God or you will be killed. But they kept talking about it and one day they ran out to the fields, held their hands up, and looked up to sky. They are not allowed to lift up their heads. They would get kill or beaten. When I saw them keeping their faith I was deeply moved and thought, “If they believe God, I cannot abandon God.”

Ju: I was a soldier on the DMZ (demilitarized zone). In North Korea, you cannot and should not find out about God. And I was a soldier so I cannot even dream about God and there is no reason to think about it. If you ever express any interest in God, it is the end of your life.

When I was a soldier on the DMZ I listened to radio stations from South Korea all the time. Out of all the programs I heard there were three programs for Christians including praise and worship and the Word of God. After four years, the DMZ soldiers were all singing praise and worship because they heard the Christian radio day and night. Everyone was used to it, but we didn’t believe. It was just normal music. I didn’t know what it meant and I didn’t try to believe it. When I was in North Korea, I didn’t believe.

So in the beginning when I first heard the Word of God, I was not interested, but I was there for six years and I heard it day and night for six years.

But I kept one thing in my heart – “this is good.” So after six years I fled the country and went to South Korea where I was evangelized and became a Christian.

CP: What do you hope to accomplish through your testimony?

Lee: Human rights, democracy, and religious freedom for North Koreans.

Ju: I am young (25) and the country is divided. I know this. I want to learn what I can do and I want to learn and find out what God wants me to do. I want to go back to North Korea and make the country a good country.

CP: What message do you want to deliver to Christian brothers and sisters around the world?

Lee: Not many people know about North Korea; that it is a complete dictatorship with completely no human rights. I want to let all the people – not only Christians, but everyone who loves peace, truth, and freedom – know what is happening over there so that the horrible country where atrocities are being committed will be demolished from this world.

So I want there to be more interest in North Korea. I want dictatorship to be demolished so the country will be free and all the Christians in prison released. I want them to be all freed.

There are 23 million that are starving everyday. For 14 years there was no food distribution or wage. So everyone is killing all the animals that they can find and some even eat their own child.

So I want not only all the Christians to be released but all the people in North Korea to be released from this dictatorship.

Ju: Help North Korea. North Korea is without God and only people of the world that believe in God can help North Korea. Pray. Pray that the people in North Korea suffering will know God and that will be the end of suffering. Please pray.