Home Church Mission-Revival Why There Are No Christian Children in North Korea by Lindy Lowry

Why There Are No Christian Children in North Korea by Lindy Lowry

7 min read

Lee Joo-Chan, now a pastor in China, grew up never knowing the “family secret.”

Lee Joo-Chan* (now in his 50s) is one of the thousands of North Koreans who grew up in a Christian family without knowing it. In this country (#1 on the 2018 World Watch List), parents can’t risk telling their children about their faith–perhaps the saddest consequence of North Korea’s high “squeeze factor.”

Some parents wait until the children are old enough, then let them in on the “family secret.” Others, like Lee’s parents, never feel that freedom. 

30 Years of Secrets Revealed

“I knew my parents were different. Everybody called them ‘Communist parents,’ because they took care of the sick, the poor and the needy. At night, they read from a secret book, which I wasn’t allowed to read from. But I heard them whisper the words, and I knew it was their source of wisdom. I also knew that if I ever talked about this to someone else, our family would be taken away.”

Lee Joo-Chan’s mother came to faith before the Second World War during the time that Korea was one country and Japan ruled it. When dictator Kim Il-Sung came to power after the war, Christian persecution started in North Korea, and churches were closed down. Lee escaped from his native country in the late ’90s. His mother came out after some time too. He describes their meeting.

“It was a very emotional moment to meet her in China. For the first time, my mother could tell me all these things that she had kept a secret from me for over 30 years. She took my hand and brought me to an empty house church. There, she told me how she became a Christian in 1935 when she was nine, that her parents had been Christians too, and how everybody served each other during the Japanese occupation of Korea. She longed for those days. She explained how Christ came to this world and died for us all. She told me everything I needed to know about our faith: that she gave birth to me, but that I was actually ‘God’s child,’” she said.

”He will protect you, and He will give you a place to live. Believe in Him. Be faithful. Your eternal life starts from here.”

Lee’s mother started to pray. Aloud. Shouting even. She prayed for three hours, sweat covering her entire body. “She prayed for me, for North Korea and the people of North Korea,” Lee says. “She pleaded with the Lord to save her people.”

Later, Lee’s mother and his brother, who had also come to China, went back to North Korea. They had no idea someone had betrayed them, and when they crossed the river, four hidden soldiers appeared. One hit Lee’s mother with his rifle and killed her instantly. His brother was stabbed to death with bayonets. Lee witnessed the murders from the other side of the river. He later learned that his father and other siblings were arrested and murdered too.

The young man who had been prayed over by his mother was able to reach South Korea, eventually fulfilling his mother’s wish by becoming a pastor and following Jesus.

Three reasons for silent faith

Based on our secret conversations with North Korean believers, there are three reasons why North Korean parents don’t share the gospel with their young children:

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