Tuesday, September 4, 2018

RLPB 471. North Korea: A stalemate in need of a breakthrough

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 471 | Wed 05 Sep 2018

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Also: Independence Day -- Sunday 9 September (9/9) -- 70 Years
by Elizabeth Kendal

On Sunday 9 September one of the world's most severe persecutors will celebrate its 70th birthday. In 1945 Soviet and US forces liberated the Korean Peninsula from Japanese occupation. The Peninsula was then divided along the 38th parallel with Soviets occupying the north and America occupying the south. In the north, a Soviet-backed regime was installed, headed by a Red Army-trained guerrilla fighter named Kim Il-sung. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) was proclaimed on 9 September 1948, with Kim Il-sung as the Soviet-designated Premier. In 1950 North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel, invaded the South and triggered the Korean War. An armistice (cease-fire) was brokered in 1953. While this brought an end to the military conflict, the state of war continues to this day.

It was in this context (as a country at war with the US) that the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-il (1991-2011) watched the US-led interventions in the Middle East (commencing with Gulf War One, 1990-91), and in particular the 'regime-change' operations through which the US removed their unarmed enemy Saddam Hussein (2003) and their disarmed ally Muammar Gaddafi (2011). Consequently, no matter how keen Swiss-educated Kim Jong-un is to end North Korea's isolation and integrate the DPRK into the East Asian economic community, the regime will not denuclearise; it will not surrender its deterrent/'insurance'. Interestingly, the existence of nuclear weapons was not a stumbling block in the Reagan-Gorbachev US-Russia rapprochement of 1987, 70 years on from the Bolshevik coup. Similarly, the existence of nuclear weapons has not precluded an American alliance with nuclear-armed Islamic Pakistan. Yet the US insists that a nuclear-armed North Korea is something with which it simply cannot live.

This year both the DPRK and the US have taken steps towards detente. The DPRK has returned the remains of US war veterans and dismantled its underground nuclear test site. The US, meanwhile, has suspended its joint military exercises with South Korea. The DPRK wants the US to sign a peace treaty, after which step-for-step, tit-for-tat or synchronised confidence-building measures and concessions can proceed. What the US administration (but not necessarily President Trump) wants from the DPRK is, first and foremost, 'complete verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation'.

Seoul, South Korea, Friday 27 April 2018.
South Koreans pray for the success of the Inter-Korean Summit.
Another Inter-Korean Summit has been slated for 18-20 September.

The stalemate exists primarily due to the absence of an agreed-upon roadmap. It hurts South Korea, particularly President Moon who is so personally invested in the peace process. But most of all it hurts North Koreans -- especially those who are poor, imprisoned and/or Christian -- by freezing them in a horrific and unhealthy status quo. One reason the situation is so profoundly complex is because it has been sidelined and covered over for decades, allowing it both to fester and advance. One reason the crisis seems so intractable is because many in the US administration would rather prolong North Korean suffering than soften any demand or allow any Trump initiative to succeed. Therefore, we have a stalemate in need of a breakthrough. Fortunately, our God is 'Baal-perazim', the God who breaks through (2 Samuel 5:17-21).


* bind and restrain all evil forces who seek to sow chaos and sustain repression where God seeks to sow peace and deliver liberty. '[Jesus Christ] has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him' (1 Peter 3:22 ESV).

* intervene creatively in the Korean Peninsula, according to his perfect wisdom and in line with his boundless grace, to bring peace, transformation and liberty, to the glory of his holy name.

* break through the seemingly intractable stalemate that currently exists between the US administration and the North Korean regime, so the slow and difficult work of peace-making might resume.

* protect, sustain and richly bless the long-suffering and severely persecuted remnant Church in North Korea. On North Korea's 70th birthday we pray Psalm 70:1 for the Persecuted Church: 'Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me!'

EXTRA: DPRK Independence Day -- Sunday 9 September (9/9) -- 70 Years

As a citizen of North Korea, Jang Jin-sung (47) worked in the United Front Department of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea writing poetry for use as propaganda. He was so good at it that in 1999 he became one of six poet laureates of North Korea permitted to write poems about Dear Leader, General Kim Jong-il. Forced to flee the North in early 2004, Jang is now a citizen of South Korea. According to Jang, Eternal Leader Kim Il-sung chose 9 September (9/9) as the day to declare DPRK independence precisely because he was deeply superstitious about the number nine, believing it to be auspicious. So convinced was Kim Il-sung that he spared no effort to ensure every significant date, project or office aligned with the number nine. For example, Kim's personal bodyguard corps was named Unit 963 [9, 6+3=9] in the belief that double nine was especially auspicious.

With this in mind, please consider setting aside 9 September (9/9, DPRK Independence Day) -- maybe even 9am of 9/9 -- to pray for North Korea and to proclaim aloud the 9 verses of Psalm 99. The current stalemate might seem intractable, but as Psalm 99 reminds us -- along with all 'cosmic powers' and 'spiritual forces of evil' (Ephesians 6:12) -- 'The Lord reigns' over the heavens and the earth. It reminds us that our sovereign reigning Lord loves justice and establishes equity; that he is personal, close and engaged; that he hears and answers prayers; and that he is faithful, holy and worthy of worship. An intense and furious spiritual battle is underway in what is destined to be the spiritual powerhouse of the future: The East. North Korea is the Lord's, as is the battle (1 Samuel 17:45-47).

9/9 Independence Day (2017) mass dancing in Pyongyang 

For more information see:
RLPB 446, A Step in the Right Direction, 14 March 2018


North Korea and America have taken steps to improve their relationship. However, a stalemate has set in which threatens to freeze millions of North Koreans -- especially those who are poor, imprisoned and/or Christian -- in an appalling status quo. North Korea wants America to sign a peace treaty, after which confidence-building measures and concessions can proceed. Meanwhile, the US is demanding, first and foremost, North Korea's 'complete verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation'; hence the stalemate needs a breakthrough. Fortunately, our God is 'Baal-perazim', the God who breaks through (2 Samuel 5:17-21). On Sunday 9 September North Koreans will celebrate the 70th anniversary of their Independence Day. Pray that our ever-creative God will break through the stalemate so the painstaking work of peacemaking can proceed. May God sustain his remnant Church in North Korea.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com