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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"He must become greater; I must become less." - John 3:30 We have to remind ourselves of this truth every day lest we forget:

Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant.

Be faithful.

PS: Also, it helps to get some Vitamin D especially if you live in the rainy Northwest Thank you, Brooklyn, for the reminder. Umm, @jlin7 is a Christian but he wasn't very Christlike with me on the basketball court. He muscled me into the paint, dunked on me, mentioned my momma, and then said, "Stick with preaching." Just kidding. Kind of.

If you haven't heard, Jeremy Lin is donating his one games wages (approximately $140,000) and an additional $100 for every 3 pointer made to support Girls' Empowerment and Education through @onedayswages. That game is this Friday vs the Boston Celtics!

Join his campaign as he's inviting his fans to donate just $7. - http://onedayswages.org/jlin

Did you know that 32 million girls of lower secondary school age are not enrolled in school.

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#jeremylin #jlin #linsanity #onedayswages Don't be held captive to either praise or criticism.

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The answer to who you serve makes all the difference... It's the day after International Women's Day - and it's still important to celebrate the contribution of women in our lives, society, and world. As we honor women all around the world, I'm also reminded of how women and children are those who are most deeply impacted by injustice - especially poverty.

Sadly, I have witnessed this reality in too many places. ​In 2012, I traveled to a remote area in Eastern Kenya as part of a @onedayswages response to a famine that struck the Horn of Africa region. This famine impacted nearly 13 million people and according to some sources, took the lives of about 250,000 people. During my trip there, I had the chance of meeting many people but the person that still remains in my memory was a Muslim woman named Sahara.

She was so hospitable in inviting us to her small and temporary home. During our conversation, I learned that ​Sahara traveled 300 kilometers (a little under 200 miles) – some by cart and some by foot – as they sought to escape the worst drought that has impacted East Africa (Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia) in the past 60 years.

This is not a misprint.
200.

She traveled about 200 miles on cart and foot. ​And all along, she was ill. If you look closely ​at the photo, you might notice the large lump in her throat - likely a large cancerous tumor.​ She did not travel alone. She traveled with her husband who I was not able to meet because he was staying with one of his five other wives in this polygamist community.  She did not travel alone. She also traveled with her six children – the youngest being about 1 and the oldest being around 8. She had just given birth to her sixth child when they began her journey. Her youngest was severely malnourished when they arrived to this new settlement in a town called Benane. 
Sahara and her children all survived this journey. They survived because she persisted. 
In honor of Sahara...and so many other women who keep...keeping on.

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