The topic of imprisonment comes up a lot in our work with North Korean refugees. One refugee woman we helped reported to us that she was imprisoned in a gulag in North Korea for illegally trading in minerals with Chinese businessmen because her family didn’t have enough to eat. She subsisted on 24 kernels of corn each day in prison. When they let her out she immediately fled to China. Through God's grace in circumstances, she was later placed under our care.
Another North Korean refugee escaped her abusive husband and family after she was sold to them in the mid-2000s. Her husband’s family beat her for not knowing how to speak Mandarin. They beat her if she didn’t cook Chinese food right. She was raped repeatedly by her husband and her husband’s teenage son. Upon escape, she was also taken in by Crossing Borders.
Many refugees found daily life in North Korea stifling. They were always being watched, monitored by their neighbors, family members and even their own children (children are taught at school to report their parents if they speak ill of the regime). North Koreans are denied freedom of thought, movement and speech.
The North Korean refugees we’ve spoken with in South Korea have more money than they have ever seen in their whole lives. The government helps them with housing, education and job training. And yet there is a profound emptiness in the North Korean refugee community in South Korea. Some report discrimination. Some say they are depressed from the trauma of what they have endured in China and North Korea. Other North Korean refugees say they just miss their families in North Korea. Whatever it is, they too are in a prison of grief and distress.
There is an even greater imprisonment that all North Koreans feel whether they are in a gulag in North Korea, whether they are in China and afraid of being captures, or whether they are free in South Korea. We believe this is a spiritual imprisonment. They in bondage to sin and it is our job as believers to pray for their spiritual freedom in Christ.
As we pray this week, let us remember the prison that North Koreans all over the world are trapped in. Let's pray for light to overtake the darkness.