Despite the extreme persecution of Christians in North Korea, more people in the Hermit Kingdom are reporting they have seen a Bible. Each year, the North Korean Human Rights Center (KNHR) publishes a report on religious persecution in that communist regime considered to be the worst in the world.
NKHR gathers its information by interviewing people who have managed to defect from North Korea. In a recent White Paper, the organization reported that the number of people who reported seeing a Bible in North Korea has steadily risen by 4% annually over the past 20 years.
Prior to 2000, the organization said only 16 defectors had reported seeing Scripture while in that communist country. However, that number has grown to 559 since that time. This is all the more remarkable considering it is illegal to own a Bible and being found with one will result in a person being sent to one of the country’s infamous prison camps, from which they never return.
The persecution of Christians in North Korea significantly increased in 2014, when the country’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, ordered the arrest of anyone who has come in contact with Christianity. This includes arresting people who hadn’t even embraced the Christian faith but had simply seen a Bible or came in contact with a believer.
But despite this, North Koreans are asking for Bibles that are being smuggled into the country often a single page at a time.
Some are employing very creative methods. Over the past 15 years the Voice of the Martyrs Korea (VOM), led by Pastor Eric Foley, has been using helium-filled balloons to carry Bibles over the border from South Korea. VOM is also inserting pages of the Bible into sealed bottles and putting them into currents that will cause them to wash up on North Korean shores. Because of the desperate poverty in that nation, bottles are valuable.
The organization estimates that it has managed to get 600,000 Bible into the country through various means.
And it’s obvious that the Bibles are getting through because Kim Jong-un has recently threatened South Korea with retaliation if those Bible balloon drops are not stopped.
In an interview with Mission Network News (MNN), Foley said that because of these threats, the South Korean police is recommending that Foley be charged on three counts in an effort to stop the Bible drops. This includes charges of violating a law affecting inter country trade that regulates the sale of goods between the two countries and a law related to natural disasters as the police suggest Foley’s activities is creating a national threat. The third charge is related to the use of pressurized gas.
The police started interfering with the balloon Bible launches for the first time last summer by requiring VOM to move its traditional launch points.
Foley told MNN:
“For 15 years, we’ve had a good relationship with the authorities. We’ve had police, military, even the intelligence services present at all of our launches. This year in a couple of launches, I asked the police, ‘is this illegal?’ And the police responded, ‘well, no, you just can’t do it here in this location.’”
With South Korean police recommending charges, Foley says it is just a matter of time before it happens. Foley adds that the police are concocting these charge as a way of getting around the basic issue “is it illegal to launch Bibles into North Korea?”
Foley is asking for prayer and I think we need to follow the instruction the Apostle Paul gave the Thessalonian church when he asked them to pray for his deliverance from “unreasonable and wicked men” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
We see both these types of men at play in Foley’s situation.
On the northern side of the border you have a wicked dictator who is mercilessly persecuting believers. One defector told of how a Christian was beaten till she “shed excrement” and then murdered by being deprived of water. Another told the story of a Christian man being forced into an electrified metal cage that was only 3′ by 4′ in size for hours.
But on the South Korea side of the border, Foley is facing unreasonable men. The Greek word ‘aptos’ translated ‘unreasonable’ in the New King James means absurd, improper, unusual, inappropriate and out-of-place and certainly fits the bill as the South Korean police have made ‘absurd’ charges to stop VOM from sending Bible balloons into North Korea.
One of the reasons the police may be doing this is to avoid antagonizing the large Christian population in South Korea.
READ: Report finds more North Koreans have access to the Bible despite extreme persecution AND Number of North Koreans exposed to Bible increasing annually despite persecution: report AND Christian leader awaits charges for sending Bible balloons to North Korea