Tuesday, March 11, 2014

RLPB 251. North Korea: dozens detained, 33 to be executed

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 251 | Wed 12 March 2014

NORTH KOREA: DOZENS DETAINED, 33 TO BE EXECUTED
By Elizabeth Kendal

On 27 February South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook (50) fronted a North Korean press conference in Pyongyang to 'confess' to his crimes and plead for mercy. For seven years, Kim Jung-wook had been providing food, clothing and sanctuary to North Korean refugees and job-seekers in the Chinese border city of Dandong. Kim was arrested in North Korea on 8 October 2013, a day after crossing into the state, although a source in China told South Korea's Chosun Ilbo that Kim was kidnapped by North Korean agents in Dandong. In the press conference, Kim confessed to conducting 'anti-State' crimes with funding and assistance from South Korea's intelligence agency. When arrested, Kim reportedly had Christian literature and DVDs that allegedly he was going to use to set up 500 underground churches to spy on and overthrow the regime (link include photos).

When Hong Kong-based Australian missionary, John Short (75), was arrested in North Korea in mid-February, he confessed to his 'crimes', apologised and was expelled. As an Australian, Short was of little value to the regime in Pyongyang. The situation is more serious for Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae. Arrested in late 2012 while leading a tour, Bae gave a similar press conference confession in April 2013 before being sentenced to 15 years' hard labour. In August 2013 Bae was transferred to a hospital due to his deteriorating health. However, on 20 January the regime returned Bae to the labour camp to protest American B-52 bomber flight drills around the Korean Peninsula. As an American, Bae is a pawn of great value.

There is no word yet as to what punishment Kim Jung-wook will face. According to Radio Free Asia, 'dozens' of people have been detained, accused of assisting Kim. Border guards who let Kim slip through security, North Korean believers, new converts and the families of the accused are amongst those banished to labour camps upon Kim's 'confession'. Now South Korean news agencies report that 33 of the accused have been sentenced to death, charged with conspiring with Kim to overthrow the regime. It is reported they will be executed in a secret cell at the State Security Department. Doubtless these 33 are predominantly Christians, probably significant Christians who may or may not ever have been in contact with Kim but whose ministry is deemed an existential threat to the regime. This will be a terrible and traumatising blow to North Korea's remnant Church. 

As noted in RLPB 248 (18 Feb 2014), the regime's main concern is managing the state monopoly on information in the face of severe challenges posed by new communication technologies, while endeavouring to raise living standards so as to ward off revolt. In response to pressure, the regime is ramping up repression, spreading darkness and stoking fear (as has been done before). Security on roads has reportedly doubled, making it more difficult for North Koreans to travel around the country. Furthermore, North Korean security agents now have new signal detectors, enabling them to intercept mobile phone signals in real time. Now people using cellphones smuggled in from China can be arrested within minutes. The recent wave of arrests will ensure that people stop using their cellphones.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* 'lift up his hand' to 'break the arm [instrument] of the wicked' and 'call his wickedness to account'. Pray Psalm 10 for North Korea.

* spare the lives of the 33 who are to be executed. However, if that is not to be, then sustain and comfort them so that instead of being overwhelmed with fear, they will know 'the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding' (Philippians 4:7 ESV) as God himself encompasses them. 'And he will become a sanctuary [Hebrew: miqdas, the place where God dwells] . . .' (from Isaiah 8:11-14a ESV). [For more on this subject see: The Promised Presence, by Elizabeth Kendal]

* comfort and encourage the North Korean remnant Church; may they know 'the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding' (Philippians 4:7 ESV). 'When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."' (See 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 ESV.)

* take this evil event of the executions and use it for his glory to effect the exact opposite of the regime's intent. May the news of these executions spread through all the country, establishing not terror, but the link between Christianity and freedom. May interest in the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ and in God's power and grace spring up all across the nation. 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.' (John 12:24 ESV)

'Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.' (Psalm 24:7 & 9 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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DOZENS DETAINED IN NORTH KOREA, 33 TO BE EXECUTED


On 27 February captured South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook (50) fronted a North Korean press conference in Pyongyang to 'confess' to 'anti-State' crimes and plead for mercy. Dozens of people accused of assisting Kim were immediately arrested and banished with their families to labour camps. It now emerges that 33 of the accused have been sentenced to death and will be executed in a secret cell at the State Security Department. This will be a horrific and traumatising blow to North Korea's remnant Church. Furthermore, security agents now have new signal detectors that enable them to intercept mobile phone signals in real time and arrest mobile phone users within minutes, further isolating the State. Please pray that God will intervene in North Korea and pray for the remnant Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)