South Korea Bans Voice of the Martyrs’ Bibles in Balloons

SEOUL – One of the chief ministries of Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is getting Bibles to nations where the Word of God is restricted. The ministry uses innovative means to place Bibles into the hands of people – in their own language – who would otherwise live their lives without ever reading the Good News of Jesus’ love.

VOM staff and volunteers in South Korea have been sending copies of the New Testament across the border into North Korea using specially-made, helium-filled balloons since 1991. As unusual as it sounds, the technique is used by numbers of South Koreans, including private citizens, to send Bibles, USB sticks, and leaflets with information about the outside world. Some of the balloons are small, self-contained packages. Others are larger with as many as 20 soft-covered Bibles and MP3 players containing audio Bibles suspended in packages below.

In recent years, GPS tracking devices have made it possible for VOM to know where the balloons land or where they burst and release their contents into the air. The technology has also helped the ministry determine where and when to launch so that the prevailing winds and other weather conditions take the balloons to predetermined locations.

VOM CEO, Eric Foley, shared that the group has sent about 40,000 Bible balloons into North Korea per year over the past ten years.

Since the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, things are beginning to change.

South Korean officials recently banned the launching of the balloons because it does not want to do anything to disrupt the progress of peace talks.

“What we’re facing now is a complete blockade for balloon launches and the justification for it, that the South Korean government is giving to us, is that it ‘fouls the air for peace.’ What they mean by that is the North Korean government doesn’t like balloon launches.”

“We’ve faced restrictions in the past on balloon launching that were temporary and for a time, but it’s pretty clear that this time these restrictions are different. The government has issued a comprehensive ban on balloon launching.”

South Korean police prevented VOM from launching Bible balloons from a site they have used for many years on Monday, June 25th.

Citing an incident following a political activist group’s release of balloons carrying anti-North Korean leaflets in 2014 which was followed by gunfire from the north, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea ruled that there is “causality between the distribution of anti-North Korea propaganda leaflets and the North’s provocative acts which caused imminent danger to the life and body of residents near the cease-fire line.”

The court ruled that, although South Korean citizens are guaranteed freedom of expression under the nation’s constitution, the freedom “is not unlimited and the state can restrict it when necessary for the assurance of national security, order maintenance, or public welfare.”

The South Korean Ministry for Unification has declared that “The distribution of leaflets toward North Korea directly violates the spirit of agreement of the Panmunjom Declaration agreed by the South and North Korean leaders for the peace and prosperity of the Korean peninsula.”

We are reminded of one of the signs of the times that the Apostle Paul shared with the Thessalonians. He warned that the Day of the Lord would come as a thief in the night to a world that was prizing peace and safety above all else. (See I Thessalonians 5:3)

That day may be close at hand.


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