Eugene Cho

Pray for the people of North Korea. Lord, may your light shine forth.

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I’m sitting in front of my computer and I’m crying. And I can’t stop.

There’s a tidal wave of emotions. As a follower of Jesus, I’m ecstatic over Kenneth Bae’s release from jail. Many will know that he was detained in North Korea not because he was trying to topple its government but because of his faith in Christ and his love for the people of North Korea. And while many question the wisdom of going to a country like North Korea, I know that following Christ will sometimes lead us to places that might be irrational to many – even to the Church.

As a pastor, I’m overwhelmed with joy for Terri and Andy Chung, and their two daughters. Terri is Kenneth’s younger sister and their family worships at the church I lead, Quest Church. Having had numerous meetings with Terri’s mother, Myunghee, I can’t imagine how she must be feeling right now. For goodness sake, her love and devotion to her son led her to visit him in North Korea about a year ago. Just last Sunday, our church spent time hearing from Terri and praying for their family. It was emotional as we pondered his two years in captivity. Kenneth was in captivity for a total of 735 days…and tonight, they will be reunited.

And as I genuinely rejoice…

I’m reminded of what remains: a people under a brutal regime. Approximately 24.5 million people.

North Korea will always remain close to my heart. My great-grandfather was among the first to become a follower of Jesus in his village near Pyongyang. My parents were both born in what is now North Korea. My father was 6 when he fled away from the rising communist government. His stories are harrowing.

What my parents witnessed as young children were only the beginning of what has been labeled by many as one of the most oppressive governments in modern history. One can just reference the 2013 report on North Korea from the Human Rights Watch or this interview of “unimaginable suffering.” North Korea also ranks as “the place where Christian persecution is most extreme.” According to the Open Doors, approximately 50,000-70,000 Christians are imprisoned in labor camps. And that may be a very conservative number as some cite there are over 200,000 Christians in labor camps.

But the injustice doesn’t just extend to Christians, it’s pervasive:

Human rights in North Korea are severely restricted. International human rights organizations assess North Korea as a category of its own with no parallel in the contemporary world when it comes to human rights violations. Despite numerous rights being enshrined in the country’s constitution, in practice there is no right to free speech, and the only radio, television, music and news providers that are deemed legal are those operated by the government. It is estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 political prisoners are detained in concentration camps, where they perform forced labour and risk summary beatings, torture and execution.

North Korea’s human rights record has been widely condemned, especially by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the European Union and the United Nations. North Korea is widely believed to have amongst the worst human rights record in the world. The General Assembly of the United Nations has since 2003 annually adopted a resolution condemning the country’s human rights record. The latest resolution of December 19, 2011, passed by a vote of 123–16 with 51 abstentions, urged the government in Pyongyang to end its “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights”, which included public executions and arbitrary detentions. North Korea rejected the resolution, saying it was politically motivated and based upon untrue fabrications. In February 2014, a UN special commission published a detailed, 400-page account based on first-hand testimonies documenting “unspeakable atrocities” committed in the country. [source]

And so, as we rejoice over the amazing news of Kenneth Bae’s release and other Americans (today and recently), let’s not forget the people of North Korea.

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. In 2003, 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.

These are my people but I know that God has not forgotten them.
May we not forget the people of North Korea…

Lord, may your light shine forth in North Korea.
Lord, in your mercy.
Lord, for your glory.

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11 Responses

  1. Dylan says:

    The US and possibly other countries had to give up concessions for the two Americans that were released, including Bae. Both Bae and the other American were arguably foolish in even going to North Korea, much less participating in activities that they knew would lead to their incarceration. North Korea is run by an evil dictatorship and regime no doubt but foolishness is foolishness.

    • David Knapp says:

      But as followers of Jesus what He commands trumps the US and any other country.

      Jesus looked like a fool when He lost His life on the cross. Why would His followers be called to anything less?

      • Sam says:

        This is something that I’ve struggled with. As a Christian, I understand Jesus’ call to go and make disciples of all nations and his command to seek to do away with injustice, break chains, and fight for the oppressed. But at the same time, we are also to use discernment and wisdom, are we not? Paul ignored the pleas of his contemporaries and went on Jerusalem anyway. He went knowing full well the consequences of his actions and accepted them. Yet, it seems hypocritical to enter N. Korea for the purpose of spreading the gospel, be captured, and then ask the US to help get you out. What will Mr. Bae do now? Is he called to witness to N. Korea or not? Will he go back? If God were to send missionaries to N. Korea, wouldn’t they go knowing full well the cost and rejoice in being worthy to suffer for Christ’s name? I hope you understand why many Americans are displeased with individuals who choose to go to a country like N. Korea and then ask for help getting out, wasting taxpayer dollars. Yes, we pray for N. Korea. Yes, we go where God sends us. And yes, even support missionaries who choose to go there. But for any missionary, I sit down and ask them: are you aware of the cost? Are you willing to lay down your life for the gospel? Do you count your life of any value compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ? If there is no question, then go, and be counted as among the righteous when you receive your reward in heaven. But if not, then perhaps we need to reevaluate where our hope lies and whether or not this is the wisest thing to do.

      • Dylan says:

        Nah, Jesus to Bae is comparing apples to donkeys.

  2. Joseph Kim says:

    Praying for this family and rejoicing with them. Thanks so much Eugene for sharing and praying for this family. – Joe K

  3. thank you for this post and for reminding your readers about the plight of Christians internationally that face persecution. praise God for his return, praying for him and his family.

  4. Dave & Claire Robins says:

    Welcome Home Kenneth! All things are possible through God. We are overjoyed for all of his family. In Jesus name!

  5. JS Park says:

    Reblogged this on J.S. Park and commented:
    As a fellow Korean-American, this is absolutely fantastic news. Prayers are still needed for the nation of North Korea.

  6. kathy b says:

    I’m just an average Christian white woman in New York City, have been praying faithfully for you Mr. Bae, now praising the Lord for His rescue of you. Continued prayers for you, your family, and all people in North Korea.

  7. Hank Song says:

    Finally some common sense thoughts from a Korean-American pastor regarding North Korea – going into North Korea is not doing missions – people, especially Christians, need to stop supporting the regime by going to North Korea. Praise God for Bae and the other Americans being released, but there are more concrete ways of helping North Koreans by working with the defectors and working to send information into North Korea.

  8. […] Bae in NK. After he came home, we prayed.” Cho, whose parents were born in North Korea, also reflected on praying for the country and its […]

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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.

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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!

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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. 
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