North Koreans

Five Topics to Pray for North Korea

North Korea is a chaotic and confusing nation. Their government tests nuclear weapons while their people suffer from starvation. They speak of peace and unity one day and war the next. Listed below are items we feel need your prayer:

  1. Pray for the people in North Korea – If you’ve read the Bible, it is clear that God has a soft spot for the poor, the widow and the orphan. North Korea is filled with such individuals. There are no signs that the food situation in the country is moving toward any form of stability, and eyewitnesses invited into the country have confirmed this. This is causing instability in families, disease and suffering. The poor, the widow, and the orphan desperately need our prayers.
  2. Pray for North Korean refugees – North Korea can be enigmatic because of the lack of good reporting in the country. The regime controls most media outlets in the country and the ones it doesn't control are not allowed full access to all parts of the country. The best information coming from North Korea is through North Korean refugees who travel beyond the country's borders to find hope in a new and terrifying capitalist world. These refugees, many of them homeless, hungry, impoverished, seek a life free from the North Korean regime. Please pray for these North Korean refugees. Please pray especially those in China, North Korean refugees who are scared and in hiding due to China’s zero tolerance policy toward escapees from North Korea.
  3. Pray for North Korean politicians – North Korea is a political problem for world leaders, most of who are afraid of a nuclear North Korea and rightfully so. But this can often divert the world’s attention away from the suffering people of North Korea. For things to change in the world on a global scale, there must be a political response. Pray that our politicians would not lose focus on the pain of the North Korean people.
  4. Pray for North Korea’s leadership – Some say it is a waste of time to pray for North Korea’s leadership who are often seen as power-hungry hedonists who would crush a whole nation to remain in power. The worst thing we can do is to turn this group of people into caricatures. Jesus was clear when he commanded us to “pray for our enemies.” This accomplishes two things: 1. If they are in the wrong, prayer can change their hearts and 2. prayers for our enemies instantly humanizes them. These are fallen people just like us. They need our prayers.
  5.  Pray for North Korea’s underground church – This is perhaps the most persecuted church in the world. No one is sure how large it is. No one can be sure what their activities are. But it has been confirmed by multiple sources that the underground church in North Korea exists. Not only do Christians fear the government’s heavy hand but they also fear their friends, family, neighbors and even their own children. North Korean children are taught to report their parents if they do anything the regime finds threatening. Christianity is at the top of this list. The only way for North Koreans to have true and lasting peace is through the gospel. They can have food. They can have freedom. But we believe the gospel is the only way for them to truly be transformed and to find healing.

The Problem with Numbers and North Korean Refugees

One of the biggest hurdles in trying to convince people to help North Koreans is that there is so much mystery surrounding North Korea. For all the press on the Great North Korean Famine of the late 1990s, experts still disagree on exactly how many North Koreans died from starvation. In 2001, North Korean foreign minister, Choe Su-hon told UNICEF that 220,000 North Koreans died of starvation between 1995 and 1998.

A 1998 memo to the House International Relations Committee stated that 300,000 to 800,000 North Koreans were dying per year at the famine’s peak.

But there is another phantom statistic that makes it hard for Crossing Borders to promote our work: how many North Korean refugees are there in China? People like solid numbers and the absence of one makes people skeptical that a problem even exists. With an absolute statistic people can assess what exactly needs to be done. They can put a dollar figure next to the issue and throw the appropriate amount f money and resources to experts who work in the field.

In 2003, when Crossing Borders officially started work, most experts estimated that there were between one hundred to three hundred thousand North Koreans hiding in China. A recent study by W. Courtland Robinson from Johns Hopkins University pegged the figure at 10,000.

The only thing we know for sure is that the number is big but that’s the equivalent of going to the international community, spreading our arms as wide as we can and saying, “we need this much help.”

Crossing Borders is among the few organizations that has kept our eye on the situation among North Korean refugees for a prolonged period of time. Though we cannot quantify the problem objectively, we are noticing that the number of North Koreans is decreasing in the area in which we work. In 2004 our wait lists for those who needed support were long and the problem at hand was too big for us to handle. Today North Korean refugees are still plentiful in the area but there is no waiting list.

Despite the absence of a solid figure, we have an amazing amount of anecdotal evidence backed by the testimonies of North Koreans who have defected to the South. We also meticulously vet each person who comes through our doors to get the clearest picture on the refugee crisis and on how we can expand our work. We have people on the field who keep their ears to the ground in refugee communities and underground churches. Thus far all the evidence we have gathered indicates that the great number of North Koreans who need our help throughout China are not going away any time soon.

If only that were enough.