Christian North Korea, what was it like a hundred years ago?
Some of my readers/hearers may be feeling down today. It happens to me on a regular basis in the school system where I work. Some may be facing sickness or financial loss. But chances are none of us are experiencing anything like the constant stream of evil perpetrated on the Christian inhabitants of the Korean peninsula. We're back in the early part of the 20th century there, during the Japanese occupation. The new masters became so oppressive that native Koreans, led in large part by believers, took to the street. Japan reacted. The torture began. A reporter of the day wrote:
"Men and boys were trussed and suspended from the ceilings so that their weight hung on the shoulders. Thus they were raised and lowered til unconscious. They had their fingers pressed over red hot wires. Their naked flesh was lacerated with sharp hooks and seared with hot irons. Toenails were torn from the flesh with pincers. Men were placed in a tight box and then screwed up. They were tied up, their heads forced back, and hot water or a solution of water and red pepper poured down their nostrils. Slivers of wood were shoved far under their fingernails. They were flogged until they had to be taken to hospitals, where big slabs of gangrenous skin had to be cut off. In many cases they were flogged to death. [These tortures] were not done once or twice, but repeatedly for days and nights, hours at a time, until the victim confessed, whether he had anything to confess or not..."
A 21-year-old Christian female from Pyongyang gave Presbyterian missionaries a signed statement of how women were treated. I will not be able to share all of what she said. But the most dedicated followers of Jesus were humiliated, beaten into unconsciousness, burned with lighted cigarettes, compelled to "baby-sit" the bodies of dead men, bound hand and foot in stocks, exposed to vile indecent remarks, and on and on. "Some of the girls were so changed that they did not look like human beings."
Church papers in the U.S. begin relating the truth about the atrocities as they hear them from the missionaries. So the Japanese have to get rid of the reporters. Two hundred "thugs" are brought over from Japan to terrorize these representatives of Christ's kingdom. Homes must be guarded every night. People are beaten. Others sentenced to prison terms. Then the world press picks up the story. Japan relents and produces reforms, which last about ten years.
In the thirties there is again a fresh crop of Japanese hardliners that rises to repress Christians. More arrests. More rules. In 1937 students at Christian schools are told they must worship the Sun Goddess. Surely all Christians said NO? Wrong. The Methodists go along with the idea, saying that this is merely a cultural patriotic thing, not a religious one. Presbyterians do not comply but they decide to close their schools. The witness of Christ is being snuffed out.
Some churches are given similar regulations. Christians who fail to worship at a Shinto shrine are to be imprisoned. Then in '39 all foreign missionaries are forced to leave the country altogether. The believers who are left behind continue to be pressured into compromise. No more Old Testaments allowed in worship. No New Testament passages that claim Christ to be Lord and King can be proclaimed! Families are forced to "baptize" their children into the Shinto religion. Church buildings confiscated. Clergy drafted for work for the war effort (World War II).
Yes, all of this before Kim and Communism. And all of this after Pyongyang is known as the "Jerusalem" of the East. What a history this peninsula has known! How God's people have paid a price over the years! Gets you to wondering afresh, would I have stood firm? Would I have mentally sought escape from the cross by saying Sun worship is merely "patriotic"? Would I have hid an Old Testament and taught it faithfully to my children, as I would in the free world? Would I have found ways to preach Jesus IS Lord and King, and will one day rule the world when He comes in glory? I have now. Would I have then? Would I have let them force me into infant baptism and a false religion? I fought all of that here. What about there?
Easy to say, "Lord we are able to bear the cross, to drink the cup." It all sounds so poetic and romantic and wonderful. But Peter found out that all the talk in the world doesn't prepare one for an arrest in the middle of the night. May Jesus' Spirit make us ready. For now let us keep praying for those who gladly give their lives away to Jesus.
Oh how the enemy of our soul hates us! Though it is promised that if we resist his temptations he will flee from us, there is no fleeing from the vicious hatred he is at times allowed to pour out on those willing to bear the cross of Christ.
Still feeling down ? In the midst of the ups and downs of life, may Jesus keep His cross before us, and the joy of meeting Him, having borne it faithfully.
Quotes above also used by the Heflins, authors of By Their Blood.
http://chosunhouse.com is a website I put together a few months back to get the word out to believers that they need to pray for North Korea. Just about every day I'm writing a blog featuring some news, a book, or a story of North Korea. There's a live news feed on the site, lists of resources, picture essays, and ways to respond to the overwhelming need in North Korea. Let's love Chosun together!
And who am I? A man found of God over 50 years ago, called to the ministry, serving the Lord as needed in my world. Married, member of a local church in the Chicago area, with full time work in public education. Who are you? Would love to fellowship with believers who respond on my site.