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New Documentary Highlights Story of Brave Pastor Who Rescued 1000+ North Koreans

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A new documentary even critics call a miracle provides a shocking inside look into life inside North Korea.  

From the cruel treatment of its people to the treacherous journeys defectors face when they try to flee their home country, Beyond Utopia follows a heroic pastor dedicated to helping North Koreans find freedom. 

"I've rescued over 1000 people since my son's death 10 years ago," Pastor Sengeun Kim said in the film's trailer. 

Audiences worldwide are being stirred to act after watching the never-before-seen footage from inside North Korea and hearing shocking revelations of the extent of the humanitarian crisis exposed in the film. The documentary also shows a family risking everything to escape North Korea as fearless Pastor Kim trusts God to safely lead them to freedom. Videographers follow them on their journey through four countries on their path to freedom. 

slider img 2"It turned out to be a scarier situation than Pastor Kim anticipated or that we anticipated, but they as documentarians were completely game to go and document this journey," Beyond Utopia producer Rachel Cohen told CBN News.

It also shows a free North Korean mother's desperate attempt to reunite with the son she was forced to leave behind. 

"I will save my son no matter what it takes," Soyeon Lee said in a trailer for the film.  

But even Hollywood couldn't control the outcome of Soyeon's sons' journey.

"I like to ask people to pray for me and also pray for those families who are separate," Soyeon told CBN News. "They're their own family because of the North Korean regime."

Soyeon told CBN News she almost pulled out of the documentary when authorities captured her son who was attempting to escape and sent him to a North Korean prison. After a lot of prayer, she said she decided to keep her story in the film hoping any publicity and global awareness might help protect her son. 

"Because of God and people praying here, I know that I would meet him one day," Soyeon told CBN News. 

Cohen said the filmmaker's primary concern was the participant's safety and they gave her the option to pull her story out at any time when it didn't go as planned, sharing in her devastation, trauma, and disbelief.  

"Soyeon is courageous," Cohen said. "The filmmaking, the filmmakers, I think the team is courageous - but she is to me a marvel of a mother, and her pain is so deep and so acute and her rage is as well. And, every time she talks about the film, I feel like it must stir so much and she does it as a way to keep her son alive."

Cohen hopes the film helps convince people the humanitarian crisis in North Korea is far worse than the world realizes. 

"We want them to come out more aware, more connected to people that many of them have never even thought twice about," he said.

Filming wrapped just as the COVID shutdown began, closing borders and making it nearly impossible to escape North Korea. 

"During the time, Pastor Kim didn't hang around," says his colleague at Caleb Mission, Sunny Parker, who is also an associate producer for the film. "He actually built a North Korean defectors community in South Korea."

Parker said rescues recently resumed, but new laws and stronger security measures have made the cost of rescue attempts to skyrocket from about $3000 per person pre-pandemic to $20,000. 

"The hard thing is that Caleb Mission is ready, the pastoral team is ready, but saving the soul that's more important to the world, we still have to raise the money," Parker said. 

Fathom Events is releasing the film for two days Oct. 23 and 24 before its theatrical release on Nov 3.  The film is considered an Oscar hopeful that has already won multiple top film festival awards this past year, including the audience award for best U.S. documentary at Sundance. 

Watch Beyond Utopia's trailer below:

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About The Author


Abigail Robertson serves as the White House Correspondent for CBN News, where she has worked since 2015. As a reporter, Abigail covers stories from a Christian perspective on American politics and the news of the day. Before her role at the White House, Abigail covered Capitol Hill, where she interviewed notable lawmakers such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. During her time on the Hill, Abigail loved highlighting how God is moving in the House and Senate by covering different ministries on Capitol Hill and sharing lawmakers’ testimonies and