http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/01/06/preaching_the_gospel_in_the_hermit_kingdomDespite the perception of North Korea as a country hermetically sealed to the outside — and despite the very real risks — dozens, if not hundreds, of Christian missionaries operate inside the country, sometimes living there for months at a stretch, in the capital, Pyongyang, or in the Rason region, near the country's Chinese border. Some run factories, distributing bread and soy milk to the poor. Others work for NGOs or universities, like the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, North Korea's first privately funded university (launched in 2010), which is bankrolled mostly by evangelical Christian movements.
Of the five NGOs that formed the consortium that the U.S. government worked with to deliver food aid to North Korea until 2009, four are evangelical Christian organizations. One of them, World Vision, only hires candidates who believe in Jesus. Heidi Linton runs Christian Friends of Korea, an organization that has sent more than $55 million dollars in food, supplies, and medical equipment throughout the country since 1995. Linton explains to North Korean patients and hospital staff that the donors give out of their love for God. "You don't go into a lot of detail at that point, but we love because God first loved us," says Linton. "No, we cannot give Bibles, we cannot give tracts, but we can live out for them what it means to be a Christian." Asked how many people have been converted, she demurs: "We plant the seed and God brings in the harvest, in his time and in his way."
So how do you bring the morals and values of Christianity to the world's most closed country? With infinite patience. A missionary from the United States with almost 20 years of experience working with North Korea explains: "We're not allowed to visibly pray. You can't bow your head, and you can't close your eyes. But when you're praying you're talking to God," she says. "All the education we're giving them is designed to make them think the truth — of all sorts." Linton brought four ambulances into North Korea emblazoned with the Christian Friends of Korea logo, which includes a prominent cross. "They've told us multiple times that we need to change our name and our logo," she says. "And we said, 'No, that's why we're here.'" Proselytizing inside North Korea "has to be done almost exclusively in a one-on-one setting, where you talk to someone, typically someone you know very well, about faith," says Todd Nettleton, director of media development at Voice of the Martyrs USA, who says that the organization and its partners dropped 1,467,600 Gospel fliers via balloons into North Korea in 2011.
Christian evangelicals have ruined America, after all N. Korea has been through, why kick them when they're down?
3:35 PM ET
January 9, 2012
Nothing quite like a short and sweet comment to bring it home TPH2010 – I agree with you completely. I honestly can't see a scenario in which Christian evangelicals will make a positive impact in the world news in 2012 – not in North America and certainly not in North Korea.
What I find really interesting is that in countries like India and South Africa, the missionary types are still revered despite the havoc they each caused in those countries. Suggesting that the impact would be no different in North Korea is ludicrous.
5:19 PM ET
January 9, 2012
Mother of Kim Il Sung
The guiding spirit of communism in Korea, Kim Il Sung, was exposed to the primitive christianity of his mother who reputedly broke into hysterics and spoke in tongues when moved. I have not seen any benefit for the West in his exposure to our higher morality.
5:25 PM ET
January 10, 2012
Here's the problem: Any time
Here's the problem: Any time you introduce a religion whose central tenets include the assumption that it alone is "right" and anyone who doesn't practice it is "unsaved" and is going to hell, it's a recipe for trouble. North Korea already has such a religion — Juche — but these evangelical Christians are looking to introduce their own.
5:13 PM ET
January 7, 2012
yup he holds the same book.
yup he holds the same book. 🙂
11:20 PM ET
January 7, 2012
I agree with TPH2010
In a lot of respects, the version of Christianity that these people are promoting in North Korea isn't much better than the Stalinist ideology they want to challenge.
Remember that it's thanks to evangelical Christian missionaries in Uganda that the government there has sought to commit literal genocide against gay people.
Also, these evangelicals tend to be deeply intolerant, often aggressively so, regarding other religions. Current South Korean president Lee Myung-bak has made numerous antagonistic statements toward Buddhism and people who practice it.
I don't mean to paint all Christians with the same brush, but this Protestant evangelical Christianity is a predatory belief system, an outgrowth of neo-colonialism that destroys traditional cultures, divides societies and oppresses gay people. I admire the efforts of the Chinese government to stem the rise of a belief system that, metaphorically and literally, would see ornate Buddhist temples replaced with tasteless megachurches and see society ruled under Christian Sharia law.
11:15 PM ET
January 9, 2012
"this Protestant evangelical
"this Protestant evangelical Christianity is a predatory belief system, an outgrowth of neo-colonialism that destroys traditional cultures, divides societies and oppresses gay people"
8:09 AM ET
January 8, 2012
As much as I commend the
As much as I commend the Christian community, both international and those based in South Korea, for trying to bring people out of North Korea, I have serious apprehensions as to whether using defectors to smuggle in Christian paraphernalia isn't exposing said North Koreans to take on unnecessary risks that could and often does lead to their persecution. Let's face it, the activities of these Christian philanthropists don't always stem from pure altruism; a lot of South Korean churches only engage in humanitarian efforts to raise their profile in the huge industry that religion has now become in the South. Take the Saemmul Church whose mission to Afghanistan was taken hostage in 2007. They had absolutely no reason to be in Afghanistan and undertook their expedition despite the government expressly forbidding it, with the end result being the death of two of their members and a dangerous precedent set by the South Korean government of having to capitulate to foreign insurgents. The missionaries operating in and out of North Korea are engaged in the same kind of vanity exercises that the Saemmul Church was. One more defector rescued from the pariah state might equate to dozens more followers for the churches involved, but in the broader scheme of things, Christians intervening in North Korea are nothing but hindering inter-Korean relations, as the military regime considers their activities a violation of North Korean sovereignty.
I'm all for Christian philanthropy; Christians had a huge role in the democratisation of South Korea and are consistent contributors to social justice. When it comes to North Korea, however, I just feel that their involvement is more problematic than problem-solving.
9:35 PM ET
January 8, 2012
Sorry, most of you religious folks won't like this response. IMO the whole church and Christianity is noting but a smoke screen to open gateways for big business and hypnotize the people into doing what ever you tell them to do becasue "god" of Jesus" said so… And he always seems to be broke and needs your money!
What do you think all this war(s) is about? Religion. Look at Iraq, they are free now… and they also learned the art of graffiti and rap music… soon they will have ghettos purposely formed by the new govt where they can preach democracy and god while stealing the shirt off your back with bogus taxes and false fear thus keeping these people in line with hypnotic substances like alcohol and drugs so they won't wake up to the fact it's all BS.