Life on the Run
Ben’s 1st Blog from South Korea
I came to South Korea to meet with a group of people risking their lives to rescue North Korean Christians. Just a few short hours after landing I was running. Around me, Koreans were pounding the pavement as well, their legs moving as fast as their lungs enabled. We were running hard…for exercise. Thankfully, nobody was chasing.
South Korea has embraced the jogging culture like many countries around the world. This morning I was out with a few others, running for pleasure through the Seoul metroplex where almost 70% of South Korea’s population lives. The city is located just one hour from the North Korean border, one of the most heavily fortified boundaries in the world.
Watching the runners in Seoul, I’m reminded of the stark differences between the two Korean worlds, which are still technically at war. South Koreans have freedom, prosperity, and the ability to worship as they desire. And yet just 35 miles away, their North Korean counterparts are experiencing almost the exact opposite.
But North Korea has runners too. Many persecuted believers or those facing starvation have risked a life on the run by fleeing their country. But the impenetrable fortification between the North and the South means defectors must escape through China, a country not very sympathetic to their plight. Hiding and running are the only ways to survive until safe passage can be found to South Korea.
It’s evening now and our small team is traveling Seoul’s brightly-lit streets by car. With us is Hana, a recent escapee from North Korea who is part of a growing church community that offers counseling, education, and discipleship for defectors. Heaven’s Family has aided many like Hana, and she has gracefully offered to share her story of pain and hardship with us.
Hana’s first escape attempt ended with capture in China while begging for food. Back inside North Korea, she was tortured and physically abused after guards linked her to a convicted Christian family member. When she was finally released, she and her small daughter tried again. This time she again avoided border guards, but nearly drowned crossing the river to get back into China. For 3 years the pair lived on the run, eluding capture and deportation, until finally they found a safe house network offering passage to Seoul.
Cramped in the backseat of the car, my leg muscles are now showing signs of soreness from the morning’s exercise. I wonder to myself if Hana will ever be able to look at running as a pleasurable activity. So much has changed for this young mother, but I know the culture shock will take a long time to get over. North Koreans are told Americans are the evil enemy. And yet here she is, riding in a car with us, smiling as she tells of God’s loving provision in sparing her life and letting her taste freedom.
Hana’s story has ended beautifully, as have the stories of many others because of your support to the North Korean Christians Fund. It is so encouraging to meet these incredibly brave men and women face to face. They send their abundant thanks! May we all continue running the race set before us, doing our part to join in God’s great rescue of His Bride. I’ll soon be sending out 2 more blogs from my trip, so I hope you’ll keep posted.
Director, North Korean Christians Fund