A North Korean defector, who was arrested while leading Bible studies in China, thanked God for guiding her “in the valley of death” after she was miraculously released from prison.
Lady Eunji, the leader of a Bible study for North Korean women refugees, was held in a Chinese detention center for nearly ten months, after she was arrested in August 2019 around the North Korean/China border, according to persecution watchdog Open Doors USA.
She was waiting for repatriation back to North Korea as a Christian. Because of her faith, Eunji would likely be transferred to a Kwan-li-so, a maximum-security political labor camp in North Korea, where Christians are often tortured and killed.
While the details of Eunji’s release and escape are few, Eunji said that because her deportation to North Korea was delayed, she was able to remain in China and be released before she was repatriated. The delay gave her Chinese husband an opportunity to rescue her.
Eunji thanked God for His protection over her and for guiding her “in the valley of death” and expressed gratitude for the prayers of Christians around the world: “Thanks for your prayer support and love in Christ.”
North Korea has for the last 19 years ranked as the worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List. Open Doors estimates that approximately 50,000 Christians are held in inhumane prison camps in the isolated country, where Christianity is seen as “hostile to the state.”
The group reports an “increased number of arrests and abduction of South Korean and Chinese Korean Christians and missionaries in China, strengthened border control with harsher punishment for North Korean citizens who are repatriated from China, and increased efforts by the North Korean government to eliminate all channels for spreading the Christian faith.”
In a previous interview with Open Doors, a woman identified only as "Prisoner 42" revealed the horrific conditions captives endure in North Korean prisons. After fleeing from North Korea to China, she was captured and sent to a North Korean prison camp, where she spent one year in solitary confinement.
At the prison camp, guards shaved her head and stripped her down to nothing. Each morning when they would call for her, she would crawl out of a door flap — typically used for dogs or cats — and keep her head bowed low because she was not allowed to make eye contact with the guards.
She recalled how for an hour, guards would ask her the same questions: "Why were you in China? Who did you meet? Did you go to church? Did you have a Bible? Did you meet any South Koreans? Are you a Christian?"
To stay alive, she was forced to lie: "Am I a Christian? Yes. I love Jesus. But I deny it. If I admit that I was helped by Chinese Christians, I will be killed, either quickly or slowly," she said. "They will murder me in this North Korean prison. Every day, I’m beaten and kicked — it hurts the most when they hit my ears. My ears ring for hours, sometimes days."
During her year in solitary confinement, she was trapped in a cold cell and never saw sunlight or another prisoner. "I spent one year in prison, and for one year my skin didn’t touch a single ray of sunlight," she said.
She was later sentenced to four years at a reeducation camp where she and other Christians formed a secret church. She was released after two years in detention.
Last year, Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American pastor who was held hostage in North Korea from 2012 to 2014, claimed the North Korean government is more afraid of Christians than nuclear weapons.
"They said, 'we are not afraid of nuclear weapons ... we are afraid of someone like you bringing religion into our country and use it against us and then everybody will turn to God and this will become God's country and we will fall," Bae said.
Because of his evangelistic efforts, Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, and was then sent to a North Korean labor camp. He was ultimately released in 2014. He revealed that when he would talk about Jesus with North Koreans, they would ask him if Jesus lives in Korea or China.
"North Korea is not a country where Christians are being persecuted; it is a country [where] Christianity has been eliminated, the total elimination taking place," he stressed. "And if you're Christians, they'll kill you, they'll kill your parents."