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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One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Father, please bless and protect these Iraqi and Syrian "refugee" children that have already endured so much. Protect their hearts and mind from unfathomable trauma. Plant seeds of hope and vision in their lives. And as we pray for them, teach us how to advocate for them. Amen. "We don't call them refugees. We call them relatives. We don't call them camps but centers. Dignity is so important." -  local Iraqi priest whose church has welcomed many "relatives" to their church's property

It's always a privilege to be invited into peoples' home for tea - even if it's a temporary tent. This is an extended Yezidi family that fled the Mosul, Iraq area because of ISIS. It's indeed true that Christians were targeted by ISIS and thatbstory muat be shared but other minority groups like the Yezidis were also targeted. Some of their heartbreaking stories included the kidnapping of their sister. They shared that their father passed away shortly of a "broken heart." The conversation was emotional but afterwards, we asked each other for permission to take photos. Once the selfies came out, the real smiles came out.

So friends: Pray for Iraq. Pray for the persecuted Church. Pray for Christians, minority groups like the Yezidis who fear they will e completely wiped out in the Middle East,, and Muslims alike who are all suffering under ISIS. Friends: I'm traveling in the Middle East this week - Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Make sure you follow my pics/stories on IG stories). Specifically, I'm here representing @onedayswages to meet, learn, and listen to pastors, local leaders, NGOs, and of course directly from refugees from within these countries - including many from Syria.

For security purposes, I haven't been able to share at all but I'm now able to start sharing some photos and stories. For now, I'll be sharing numerous photos through my IG stories and will be sharing some longer written pieces in couple months when ODW launches another wave of partnerships to come alongside refugees in these areas. Four of us are traveling together also for the purpose of creating a short documentary that we hope to release early next year.

While I'm on my church sabbatical, it's truly a privilege to be able to come to these countries and to meet local pastors and indigenous leaders that tirelessly pursue peace and justice, and to hear directly from refugees. I've read so many various articles and pieces over the years and I thought I was prepared but it has been jarring, heartbreaking,  and gut wrenching. In the midst of such chaos, there's hope but there's also a lot of questions, too.

I hope you follow along as I share photos, stories, and help release this mini-documentary. Please tag friends that might be interested.

Please pray for safety, for empathy, for humility and integrity, for divine meetings. Pray that we listen well; To be present and not just be a consumer of these vulnerable stories. That's my biggest prayer.

Special thanks to @worldvisionusa and @worldrelief for hosting us on this journey. 9/11
Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.

Today, I had some gut wrenching and heart breaking conversations about war, violence, and peacemaking. Mostly, I listened. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having these conversations on 9/11 of all days. I wish I could share more now but I hope to later after I process them for a few days.

But indeed: Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.
May it be so. Amen. Mount Rainier is simply epic. There's nothing like flying in and out of Seattle.

#mountrainier
#seattle
#northwestisbest Took a train to Busan. Did not encounter any zombies but I was ready just in case.

Busan. First visit to this city (couple weeks ago) and was blown away by its beauty. Also, shocked that it has become the fifth largest containment port city in the world. That's a lot of import and export.

#MyAttemptToBeTheBestSmartphonePhotographer 
#Pusan #SouthKorea

my tweets

  • Every convo with Iraqi/Syrian refugees included: 1 Have tea with us 2 We want peace 3 We hate ISIS 4 We want to go home 5 Don't forget us || 13 hours ago
  • Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan to assess @OneDaysWages' partnerships & to film mini-documentary on refugee crisis. So many emotions. || 13 hours ago
  • Pray for Mexico. For those mourning loved ones. For those fighting for life - even under rubbles. For rescue workers. Lord, in your mercy. || 13 hours ago
  • Don't underestimate what God can do through you. God has a very long history of using foolish and broken people for His purposes and glory. || 2 days ago
  • Father, bless these Iraqi and Syrian refugee children that have already endured so much. As we pray, teach us how t… twitter.com/i/web/status/9… || 4 days ago
  • Pray for Iraq. Pray for persecuted Church, minority groups (Yezidis) and Muslims alike who are suffering under ISIS: instagram.com/p/BZF2j6Ngrna/ || 4 days ago