SEOUL – North and South Korea have made a lot of headlines in the past year, including North Korea’s ballistic missile tests and nuclear potential, South Korea’s hosting of the Winter Olympics, and the historic meeting between North Korea’s Kim Jung Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore.
While the complete denuclearization of North Korea is President Trump’s clear objective, it is clear that that is a precursor to the potential reconciliation. By the same token reconciliation is a step toward the possibility of reunification. Americans – and American Christians in particular – need to understand some essential obstacles that stand in the way of these lofty goals.
- North Korea’s Korea policy supports atheism. South Korea has no dominant religious group and about half of its citizens have no religious affiliation. Professed Christians comprise close to 30% of the population while Buddhist account for about 23%
- North Korea’s official state ideology of “Juche” supplanted Christianity with the rise of the Kim family regime. Juche “mixes Marxism and self-reliance with veneration for Kim Il-Sung, the nation’s first leader.”
- Some sources say that South Korea has fewer government restrictions on religious freedom than the United States.
- Seoul, South Korea is home to the Yoido Full Gospel Church, the world’s largest Pentecostal church. It has an average weekly attendance of 480,000. Two arms of the Presbyterian denomination (Hapdong and Tonghap) claim a membership of 2.8 million.
- Christians are subject to persecution and incarceration in North Korea for “crimes” against the government, including the simple act of praying to the One True God.
- The South Korean Institute for National Unification discovered that 70.2% of South Koreans under the age of 30 oppose They believe that reunification will lead to a tsunami of North Koreans flooding the South, taking jobs, and threatening the South’s high standard of living.
- North Korean refugees settling in South Korea (There are about 31,000) typically have had a very difficult time adjusting. Neither have they always been welcomed.
- The Trump Administration said today that reconciliation could take as long as 15 years. A lot of things could go wrong along the way.
Despite these obvious obstacles, individual believers, Christian churches, and faith-based NGOs have been praying and laying the groundwork for possible reunification by coming to the aid of current North Korean refugees.
Rev. Chun Ki Won established a Christian school in Seoul exclusively for North Koreans. In pointing these young people, the staff teaches them that God has a purpose for their lives and that He wants a personal relationship with them.
We recently published a news article about the Ben Torrey’s Fourth River Project that prepares South Korean Christians to present the Gospel to North Koreans whose minds and hearts have atrophied in the darkness of the communist rule. Torrey is convinced that reunification will be an uphill struggle, but that Korean Christians firmly believe that with faith all things are possible.
That is the final thing we need to understand. Although much of what needs to be done is political, all that needs to be done is spiritual. Ben Torrey reminds us all that, “God has to do it. It has to be a miracle.”
Now that you know these things, we encourage you to pray for the people of Korea with understanding and faith.
- Missions Box News, Christian Leader Concerned About Korean Unification
- Religion News Service, For Many South Korean Christians, Reunification is a Religious Goal
- Pew Research Center, 6 facts about South Korea’s growing Christian population
- @Challies, Three Things to Know about Korean Christianity
- Wikipedia, Christianity in Korea
- Geopolitica, Juche and North Korea, or the strong between an ideology and a regime