Prayer for North Korean Orphans: Hardly a Chance

Please pray with us as we serve North Korean orphans while navigating through the difficulties and frustrations of Chinese government's bureaucracy. We have written in the past about how urgent the situation is with the half-North Korean, half-Chinese population - the North Korean orphans, stateless children - we serve in China. While China has made some concessions to accommodate this population, their system of bribes and corruption has made it almost impossible for most children to pull themselves out of poverty.

In China a child does not have access to education, health care or any government service unless he has legal identification. China now allows stateless, North Korean orphans to legally register and receive an ID, but, as we will explain, laws are not straightforward in China.

For a stateless child to receive legal identification, he must pass through three official Chinese offices:

First, the child must get an official document to prove their father is indeed a Chinese citizen. This can be obtained in most hospitals and in rare cases at an office of record keeping.

Second, the North Korean orphan must go to the police bureau and obtain proof that his mother was taken by the Chinese police and sent back to North Korea. The child can also make the argument that his mother has escaped to South Korea but in our experience it is much easier to pass through the police requirement if the mother was actually sent back to North Korea.

Let’s be clear about what this means. In order for a stateless child to obtain legal status, he must prove that his mother was sent back to North Korea where she will be put in a gulag and potentially executed. Earlier this year Yonhap News, a South Korean wire service, reported that four such people were publicly executed.

The last and most difficult hurdle comes at the end, after the child has gone through the first two steps. A stateless child must take his case to the Family Registration Department where, if the child can show proof of paternal citizenship and maternal arrest, he should be granted a legal ID. But this is not how things work in China. A bribe of 3,000 to 5,000 RMB ($475 to $793 at today’s exchange rate) is necessary to complete this step. There is no receipt for this fee and there is no official record of it.

For there to be any substantial improvements in the lives of North Korean orphans, change must come at a systemic level. And with China’s one-party, pseudo-totalitarian government, we are not holding our breath. This is why we firmly believe that outside intervention is necessary for these children to have a shot.

Please pray for us as we continue to navigate the confusing, ever-changing bureaucratic muddle of China on behalf of our North Korean orphans.

Prayer for North Korean Refugees: Effects of Hiding

A member of our American staff recalls his experience not too many years ago, standing over the Tumen River on a broken bridge. Not far from where he stood, across the river, was North Korea. Our staff member remembers seeing a few guard houses, mountains stripped of their vegetation. The river had frozen solid in the Siberian cold, and in the snow were the footprints of North Korean refugees who had fled across the ice. Once a North Korean refugee flees into China, their lives depend on how quickly they are able to blend in. Steps must be taken to avoid being noticed. Clothes must quickly be changed in the dark. They must clean themselves of any marks of travel or fatigue. Two things have a potential tip their hand: their height and their language. They must always be mindful of who is watching. Fear and suspicion begin to settle into their every waking moment as their lives depend on how cautious they are in everything they do.

Our staff was able to visit a small village in the Chinese countryside where the police had raided and captured much of the North Korean refugee population. One boy, now an orphan, had witnessed his mother being tackled by the police and dragged away.

One of the few remaining refugees approached our missionaries, dropped to her knees and begged. She pleaded, “Can you please help me get out of here?”

She couldn’t muster up any other words. She was shaking and visibly terrified.

North Korean refugees are aware that they have been watched for almost their whole lives in their homeland. Relatives and even their own children may be asked to inform on them as a test of their loyalty. They have heard of spies who will report any "unpatriotic activities". But in China, where refugees cannot grow close to anyone, cannot distinguish generous help from malevolent deception, cannot begin to even consider trust as a valid option, North Korean refugees are trapped in a state of unending instability and paranoia.

Some North Korean refugees in China have lived with this looming shadow of fear for more than a decade. For them, the anxiety and dread has seeped deep into their lives and have taken their toll.

One North Korean refugee who made it to South Korea after more than five years in China told us that, the day she got her legal ID, she slept with it in her palm and cried herself to sleep.

Please pray for those who are hiding this week. It is no way to live. Please help us as we minister to them, comfort them, and pray for their healing in the security and protection of Christ.

"Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, 'Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.'"

- Isaiah 35:3-4