Eugene Cho

someday, i will return to north korea

My great grandfather was one of the first christians in a village nearby Pyongyang.  God’s grace was poured over his entire family but they experienced intense persecution because of their faith.  As a result of the persecution, his family “escaped” with his entire family from what it now known to the world as North Korea.  My father was five during this time and the stories he shares don’t seem real.  Not everyone in his family survived that journey southward that one chaotic night.

NK as some may know is one of the most isolated nations and subsequently, some of the gravest human rights violations and suffering go unnoticed – including approximately 200,000 Christians that are in prison labor camps simply because of their faith in Christ. This past weekend, Minhee and I had the privilege of spending some time with friends that left Seattle three years ago to go to Yanbian, China [via Singapore].  They left – with their three children – the comforts of home, family, and friends to act upon their convictions. The father recently relinquished his well paying job with full benefits to serve the people of North Korea – initially at the border of NK and China and in a few months, he’ll be [hoping to] receive his “resident card” that would allow him to enter to and from North Korea to do development work.  There are no salary or benefits to his work as a “tentmaker.” 

Who in their right mind wants to become a “resident” of North Korea?

It was humbling and inspiring. 

When people ask us why we feel so compelled about starting and building the new global poverty organization, it’s because of these people and thousands more that are on the ground fighting poverty: serving people, enabling education, feeding people, building community development projects, digging water wells, distributing medicine, writing letters to governments, giving hope by restoring human dignity – and so many who do these and so much more – many who do so in the love of Christ.

Some day, I will return to North Korea.  Some day, I will return to the birthplace of my ancestors; the birthplace of my father and mother.  We still have family in North Korea…that is, if they are still alive.  We do not know.  Some day, I will return with my wife and children to not only proclaim and demonstrate the gospel of Jesus Christ but the good news of human dignity that must be afforded to all people.  13 years ago, I climbed Mt. Baekdusan at the border of China and North Korea and prayed for an opportunity some day to return home.  I echo that prayer again. 

Some day, I will return to Korea.

But till then, I hope to be an advocate and activist for many around the world that have no voice.  Did you know that, “Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, almost two-thirds of whom reside in Asia and the Pacific?” 

Before I submit another entry in the coming days about some of my views about international policies with North Korea, I want to humbly direct you to an organization called Liberty in North Korean [LiNK] and their narrative of the situation in NK.  Would you take 3 minutes to read about the story and suffering of my people?

And then take a minute to pray? Please.

[this post was written for Sojourners God’s Politics]

Filed under: family, religion,

17 Responses

  1. Tyler says:

    As someone relatively ignorant on what North Korea is like…this doesn’t sound much different than what Hitler did in WWII. Yet…I don’t see the USA doing much to change that. Isn’t that wrong?

  2. beattieblog says:

    Powerful post, Eugene. It’s amazing how isolated NK remains. It’s difficult to imagine the reality of such injustice. Hope the sabbatical is going well.

  3. Christ says:

    North Korean border reportedly is now largely open to shipments of arms, North Korea’s main source of hard currency. Christ

  4. elderj says:

    The DPRK has been much in my thoughts and prayers, if intermittently, for several months. I pray for the time when in north korea, every one will sit under his own vine and fig tree and no one will make him afraid.

  5. Jenny says:

    Thank you for this post, Eugene. It is disturbing to read, yet contains such powerful information that does not get enough attention in our country, or around the world. Praise God for your friends who are willing to go. May He bless their efforts, and yours.

  6. jewelsintheashes says:

    Thanks for posting this as heartbreaking as it is. I didn’t know it was that bad there. Gives a glimpse into the dark situation, and where you got your compassion for those in places of oppression.

  7. Paul L. says:

    Eugene,
    Thanks for this powerful post and doing your part to open our eyes and hearts to the atrocities that are going on in North Korea?

    I’m curious to hear of your thoughts of the new South Korea’s president’s hard stance on North Korea?

  8. Jan Owen says:

    heartbreaking…….and hard for us to imagine.

  9. Michelle says:

    Wow, awesome post. Thank you for sharing all this information. It is a great reminder to pray for North Korea and the Christians who live there.

  10. a sister in Christ says:

    I cried my eyes out when I saw these children.
    How much more God’s tears will flow for NK.

  11. DK says:

    Eugene, thanks for this reminder. This was one of your most powerful posts. Keep on keeping on.

  12. Daniel Im says:

    Hey, I just stumbled upon your blog and find that we have a lot of things in common. I love your honesty and openness, and just your whole vision for this non-profit.

    In terms of this post, my father was merely a baby (only a few months old), when he was strapped on his aunt’s back, while the whole family marched down out of Seoul. In fact, my grandfather is the only one from his family who made it to the southern side of the border.

    I wonder…if my relatives in North Korea are still alive.
    I wonder…if they are part of the army, or if they are starving to death.
    I wonder…if they know the truth and beauty of Christ.

  13. […] a previous post, here’s an excerpt explaining my connection with North Korea: My great grandfather was one of […]

  14. […] are from North Korea.  My father and mother was born in North Korea. Some of you have read my burden and heart for North Korea.  Couple years ago, my parents trekked back to this part of the China and North Korea border in […]

  15. […] “tried” and sentenced in Pyongyang very recently.  I also read Pastor Eugene’s blog – he has a big heart for NK particularly because his parents are from […]

  16. ES says:

    In my memory, whenever families gathered, Grandfather prayed for his sister left behind who already married(her husband denied to follow) when the whole family decided to exile to South Korea. One day, I wrote down the sisters names of grandmother who never said anything about her families left in North Korea because she just followed her husband(grand father) and family anyway, So I promised grandmother when two Korea unified in future, I’ll try to find her sisters and let them know my grandmother’s life in South Korea.

    Grandfather(97 years old as of 2010) has a one dream to re-build the church in his birthplace. Church’s name was Young Pyoung Church located in the north area(city name as EuJoo, close to China, it will be 2~3 hours distance from north of Pyoungyang) of the North Korea. With out family, there are few other survived families who from same church in North Korea and most of them exile North Korea just before breaking of Korean War by oppression of North Korean Government. In 1990s, many of them met together to prepare the fund for the future rebuilding of church but there was one common concern about that who will go there and when? No-body said “I will return” or “my sons or daughters will go”. Just somebody will go there…. you know that generation never feels so good to North Korea and can no erase the really horrible memory in them too. So, as it is really shocking to me to see that somebody said “I”ll return to Korea Korea” even you added with “someday”.

    One guy, I do not know whether his family coming from North Korea or not but especially, I’m praying for Robert Park who crossed border last Dec ’09 even most of peoples are not thinking as important thing but to me, he looks like one of the prophet who has been just preached in the Nineveh in old testament. Somebody can say meaningless activities but who knows if he was sent by the God as Martyrdom.

    Sometime, I pray “someday” to come early as Rev 22:20

  17. […] Such is the situation for more people around the world than we want to believe. We know that persecution of Christians began…well…when it began with the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ.  Some Christian missions organizations cite that an estimated 100 million Christians face some form of persecution including death and concentrations camps – particularly in North Korea, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. I’ve written before of the concentration camps for mostly Christians in North Korea. […]

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One Day’s Wages

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#notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply. May our compassion not just be limited to the West or to those that look like us. Lifting up the people of Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan in prayer after the 7.3 earthquake - including the many new friends I met on a recent trip to Iraq.

The death toll rises to over 400 and over 7,000 injured in multiple cities and hundreds of villages along the Western border with Iraq.

Lord, in your mercy... We are reminded again and again...that we are Resurrection People living in a Dark Friday world.

It's been a tough, emotional, and painful week - especially as we lament the horrible tragedy of the church shootings at Sutherland Springs. In the midst of this lament, I've been carried by the hope, beauty, and promise of our baptisms last Sunday and the raw and honest testimonies of God's mercy, love, and grace.

Indeed, God is not yet done. May we take heart for Christ has overcome the world. "Without genuine relationships with the poor, we rob them of their dignity and they become mere projects. And God did not intend for anyone to become our projects." Grateful this quote from my book, Overrated, is resonating with so many folks - individuals and  NGOs. / design by @preemptivelove .
May we keep working 
on ourselves 
even as we seek 
to change the world. 
To be about the latter 
without the former 
is the great temptation 
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