Tired of poverty, famine, and deprivation in North Korea, one man escaped to China to find a better life and entered into an unexpected journey with God.
“After 46 years of constant hardship I made my way to China,” Seo-jun* recounted to Cornerstone Ministries. “There I met a fellow Korean and heard from him about God.”
The Christian man gave Seo-jun a Bible, which he began to read. “My curiosity was immediately aroused when I saw this book since it is nowhere to be found where I lived in North Korea. I had never seen anyone who had a Bible nor heard any biblical reference in my entire life up to then,” he said.
The power of the Word and the Spirit touched his heart and Seo-jun was born again.
When he returned to North Korea, he smuggled his new Bible with him and would read it surreptitiously, when he thought no one was around.
But then disaster struck. Somehow, someone observed him with the Bible and he was arrested. “I was caught having the Bible and sent to a concentration camp without any trial,” he said.
In the camp, officers interrogated him about the Bible. “How did you obtain your Bible?” they barked at him. “Who gave it to you and how much have you read?”
After weeks of intensive interrogations, guards placed him in a tiny cell in which one person could barely squeeze. “I could not stretch my legs,” he recalled. “There was no light and I could hardly breathe because of the terrible stench of the latrine adjacent to the room.”
Why am I suffering like this? he wondered. Why am I under such persecution? Other than reading the Bible, I haven’t done anything…
Under the harsh conditions with little food, his body wasted away. “My body lost all its fat and I was reduced to just skin and bones.”
Severely malnourished, he lost control of his bowel movements.
One day he began to sing quietly to the Lord. “For God so loves the world, he gave his only Son, whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
God’s Spirit ministered to him and immediately he felt peace in his heart and his sorrows melt away. God refreshed his soul in a way that he could continue to bear his suffering.
After all, Jesus felt the terrible pain of my sins when he suffered on the cross, he thought.
After 15 years in the camp, Seo-jun was released. He went back to his hometown but could not find his family. They had simply vanished. People in the town rejected him because of his incarceration.
“The only thing I could do was flee to China to seek work,” he said. After he arrived, he was disappointed because there were few jobs available to illegal immigrants from North Korea.
Seo-jun met a Christian missionary and began to study the Bible with him. The man fed him and looked after him while they studied together.
One day in 2016 he was surprised by the voice of God: Go to all nations. Make them my disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the end of the age.
“Then, I found that very passage in Scripture,” he recalled. Does go to all nations include North Korea? he wondered. The thought of it made his head spin.
After further study of God’s Word, Seo-jun came to the realization he was being called to serve God as a missionary in his homeland. “I am going back to North Korea to bring those lost souls to Jesus,” he told his friend.
Seo-jun returned to North Korea with his Bible shortly after that. Pray that God would sustain him as he shares the Gospel in one of the most difficult nations on Earth. He has not been heard from since he left.
Photo: Michal Bašo