Myoung-Hee Escapes North Korea
Myoung-Hee* still remembers seeing her father stumbling into their home, pale and weak. He gestured that he desperately wanted to speak, before breaking down in tears. He cried so loudly that Myoung-Hee feared the neighbours would warn the police. Her mother pushed him into the bathroom and locked the door. “Someone must have died,” she thought to herself. She was right. Her uncle was brutally executed for his faith.
A Family Secret
That day Myoung-Hee was let in on a family secret: most of them were Christians. But she wanted nothing to do with their faith after seeing the suffering it caused.
“I wanted life to go back to normal,” she said, “So I focused on school; in my free time I read lots of translated Russian books. I got the books from the local library. I particularly liked Leo Tolstoy. Back then, I didn’t know he was actually a Christian.” The books she read began to change her world view. Life outside North Korea was much different than what she was led to believe. As Myong-Hee grew up, more and more people realised she went missing.
“I wanted to leave North Korea,” Myong-Hee said. Sometime after graduating high school, she swam the river by the Chinese border and left her home country.
Image: Border river between China and North Korea
“I was caught by human traffickers and sold to a Chinese farmer. He wasn’t as bad as most Chinese men who buy North Korean women. I had a child with him. But still… I thought I could never feel at home in this family.”
Her mother-in-law also lived with Myoung-Hee and her Chinese husband.
Discovering A Hidden Faith
“My mother-in-law showed suspicious behaviours. Some days she left without telling where she was going. One night I decided to follow her. It was a long way before she reached the place where some kind of meeting was going on. I called her. Of course she was very surprised to see me. But I was still invited to participate. I quickly discovered it was a Christian meeting, which made me uncomfortable because in my country I had always been against Christianity. My curiosity beat my fear and I decided to stay. I actually wanted to learn more about God.”
After some time Myong-Hee decided to tell her family back in North Korea that she had become a Christian, which meant risking her life. On her way, the border crossing went horribly wrong. Myong-Hee was arrested and sent to a North Korean prison. Prisons in North Korea are some of the worst in the world.
Image: Women's Prison at the border of North Korea at Dandong
“When I saw how the other prisoners and I were treated, as if we weren’t humans, I gave up life. I trembled often in prison and thought I would never see my earthly family again.”
But even in some of her darkest moments, God was near. “Something was stirred in my heart that was impossible to resist, like an invisible power. I felt it every time I wanted to give up hope. That power was God himself. He was with me and didn’t want me to give up.” She repeated Bible verses to herself that she had memorised when she was free.
“And then I begged God for mercy,” Myoung-Hee said.
“He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.” – Psalm 62:6-7
A New Mission
But for Myong-Hee her mission didn’t end there. “I decided I needed to go back to my Chinese family. My husband and my son had to hear the Gospel too. It was a dangerous trip. I could get arrested again and be severely punished. But nothing could extinguish my passion for Christ.”
She escaped North Korea a second time and arrived safely in China thanks to other believers.
“They were truly the hands of God to protect and guide my journey. I wish more people could have the blessing that I received through them.”
Myoung-Hee lives in South Korea now with her husband and son. They both accepted Jesus and became Christians after she returned. Together they serve God by supporting North Korean missions.
“I will never forget my childhood. There are so many Christian parents in North Korea who cannot share their faith with their children. It breaks my heart. I was once a victim of this too. But thanks to praying people I found God in the end. And thanks to the prayers of my mother-in-law, I survived prison too. My life story testifies of the power of prayer. I hope it’s a call to all brothers and sisters in Christ to join in prayer so that God will bring grace and justice to my country.”
*Name changed for security purposes