1883) Coming to Faith in North Korea

Posted June 1, 2018 at:  http://www.opendoorsusa.org

     Hea Woo’s life has been full of trauma.  In 1997, in the midst of a great famine in North Korea, Hea Woo’s daughter in her mid-twenties starved to death in her own home.  Hae Woo’s husband escaped to China.   He found God, but sadly he was caught by the secret police and six months later died in a North Korean prison camp.  Hea Woo said, “I was shocked to hear that my husband had become a Christian, but instinctively I knew he had found the truth.”

     It wasn’t too long after this that Hea Woo herself escaped to China.  There, she became a Christian through a series of events similar to those that had influenced her husband’s journey to faith.  She was then caught by the secret police, sent back to North Korea and placed in a prison camp.  She shares about the horrors of life in these prisons: death so rampant that bodies would lay on the ground for three or four days without being picked up; mental and physical abuse that would make you sick in the pit of your stomach.  Every day was torture.

     In one of the darkest places on earth, Hea Woo chose to do something so radical, and so dangerous, but so Christ-like.  In this prison, God gave her a heart to tell her fellow prisoners about Jesus.  And so, right there in the middle of a North Korean labor camp, a secret fellowship church began.

     In her words: “The Bible verses that I’d recall from memory gave the others hope.  They also saw the Spirit at work in me.  I stood out among the other prisoners because I helped them.  Sometimes I shared my rice with the sick.  Occasionally I washed their clothes, too.

      “God used me to lead five people to faith.  I tried to teach them the little I knew about Jesus.  I didn’t have access to a Bible in the camp. But on Sundays and at Christmas, we met together out of the view of the guards.  Usually, that was in the toilet.  There we held a short service.  I taught them the Bible verses and songs that I knew.  We sang almost inaudibly so that no one would hear us.”

     It’s believers like Hea Woo who suffer persecution for their faith that brings much-needed perspective on real discipleship, and what it means to obediently, selflessly and courageously follow Jesus.

     Hea Woo planted a church in a prison latrine, a place so putrid that no one dared go near them as they worshiped.  If caught, she would have been tortured and killed.

     We serve Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, who calls us to a radical lifestyle.  Our response should be to uncompromisingly, unashamedly and passionately follow Him whatever the cost.


Hea Woo tells her story:


     For the last 17 consecutive years, North Korea has ranked as the #1 most dangerous country for Christians on the ‘World Watch List.’  The country has become infamously known for its human rights violations of all North Koreans and harsh treatment of North Korean Christians.

     The Kim regime uses isolation and fear to rule the country–keeping the 25.4 million people living there uninformed and immersed in propaganda.  North Koreans must worship the ruling family–nothing else–and Christianity is illegal and believers are punished.  The discovery of faith results in imprisonment in the country’s notorious prison camps, and sometimes even death for not only the individual or family, but also three generations of that family.

      As the U.S.-North Korea Summit approaches on June 12, Open Doors is calling on Christians to pray for Presidents Trump and Kim Jong-un in their historic meeting, and, for the underground church of North Korea and its 300,000 Christians.

     As people of prayer, we want to lean on God’s Word and claim His promises.  Open Doors Founder Brother Andrew reminds us that our prayers “can go where we cannot … there are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray.”

     Below are 12 specific prayers of petition that we can bring to God—interceding for and standing with our North Korean brothers and sisters in Christ both before and during the Summit.

  • Pray that President Trump and Kim Jong-un’s historic meeting on June 12 will be the first in a series of actions that sets Korea on a new course of religious freedom.
  • Pray that Kim will be convinced to release the more than 50,000-plus Christians unjustly held in detention centers and prison camps throughout the country.
  • Pray that Kim will loosen age-old requirements that residents attend indoctrination classes and display and bow to Kim family portraits.
  • Pray that Kim will lift information embargoes and allow his people greater access to radio shows, TV programs, and websites.
  • Pray that Kim will allow for the creation of new churches where North Koreans can freely worship outside of the one “show church” that currently exists.
  • Pray that the underground church In North Korea would grow in boldness and be ready for widespread evangelism efforts when the opportunity arises.
  • Pray that extended families who have been separated across North and South Korea may be reunited.
  • Pray that organizations like Open Doors will be allowed access to provide Christian training and resources to believers in North Korea.
  • Pray that other relief and aid organizations would gain entrance to provide relief aid, trauma care, and other needed services.
  • Pray that North Korea’s food supply would be enriched through education and increased trade, so that the 2 in 5 who are currently undernourished will be provided with adequate nutrition.
  • Pray that parents will ultimately be able to freely share their faith with their children and raise them to know Jesus.
  • Pray that U.S. and other world leaders would put in place the right sanctions, pressures, encouragements and opportunities to restore peace and well-being for North Koreans and their neighbors.


Luke 18:1  —  Then Jesus told his disciples … that they should always pray and not give up.