What began in 2004 in Washington, D.C. came to South Korea for the first time last year. This past week has marked the second North Korea Freedom Week in Korea, which was founded by chairman Suzanne Scholte. The schedule of events have been designed to bring awareness to the situation in North Korea and to push for getting the North Korea Human Rights Act signed.
As Suzanne Scholte shared in a prayer rally that was held at my church this past Friday, North Korea is the only place of its kind on earth where humans have no rights WHATSOEVER. It is literally the worst place to live. Period.
During that prayer rally a North Korean defector, Mr. Kim, spoke to us and shared his life story, his testimony. I am in the middle of reading Nothing To Envy by journalist Barbara Demick, which follows the lives of six North Korean citizens over fifteen years. The same things I have been reading about mirrored exactly what Mr. Kim was sharing on Friday. Reading these truths in a book is hard, but hearing them through a person who has lived through it… I just can’t put words to the sickness I felt.
The story he shared that hit me the hardest happened when he was in middle school. He was walking by a burning building when he stopped along with many other people who were just watching it burn. A five-year-old little boy was trapped inside the apartment calling to be rescued. His father, who had heard about the fire, came running. Mr. Kim thought, “this is right. A father should love his son and go running into the burning building to save him. That is how a father loves.”
Every North Korean is required to have a portrait hanging in their home of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. People from the government periodically check in on homes to make sure these portraits are hanging up and properly clean.
Instead of rushing to his sons aid and answering his pleading calls, this father ran to the two portraits of his leaders and took them out of the frame. He rolled them up, stuff them under his shirt and ran back outside. The burning home collapsed on his son.
The next day there was an article ran on the front page of the newspaper giving this father the highest honor a North Korean could receive because he had saved the portraits of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il.
A couple inserts from Nothing To Envy by Barbara Demick:
By 1998, an estimated 600,000 to 2 million North Koreans had died as a result of famine, as much as 10 percent of the population…
She knew a boy, Song-chol, nine years old. He used to come to the market with his father, a gruff man the other vendors nicknamed “Uncle Pear” because that was what he sold. But the pear business wasn’t so good, and Uncle Pear had difficulty feeding his family. “Why don’t you go and snack yourself something to eat like the other boys?” Uncle Pear told his son one day at the market. Song-chol was an obedient boy. He marched off to stand where men were drinking alcohol and eating crab. Back by his father’s side, he complained of a stomachache. He had picked up fish entrails from the ground that had spoiled. He died of acute food poisoning, before Uncle Pear could spend his last won to pay a porter to take him to the hospital.
Friends, family, pray with us here in South Korea. Pray that South Korean’s hearts will change and they will long for reunification instead of turning a blind eye and caring only that they are doing well here in South Korea. Pray for a break through to North Korea. Pray this Human Rights Act gets passed. Pray.