Tuesday, April 03, 2007

North Korean missionaries

Of the half-dozen North Korean refugees I interviewed, two stood out: Esther, a quiet 16 year-old whom the [North Korean Underground Railroad] had purchased for $800 from a broker ready to sell her as a wife to a Chinese farmer, and 17-year-old Grace, who had already been caught in a safe house two years earlier, sent back to North Korea and beaten for converting to Christianity.

The striking thing about them was not their sadly typical pasts. It was what they planned to do with their futures. Both said they would return to North Korea -- "to spread the Gospel."

North Koreans caught illegally crossing the border are no longer put to death, with one notable exception: those who return to proselytize.

From the moment they emerge from the womb, North Koreans are taught unquestioning reverence for three forces: Kim Il Sung, North Korea's late leader; his heir and current dictator, Kim Jong Il; and juche, the national philosophy of Korean self-reliance. To convert a North Korean to Christianity is thus, in a sense, a simple process of substitution: Kim Sr., Kim Jr. and juche become Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

[Excerpt of an article by Josh Chin, a student at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, writing in The San Francisco Chronicle]

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