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After 73 Years Divided, South Korean Christians Pray Fervently for Reunification, Freedom for North Korea

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DEMILITARIZED ZONE, South Korea – Since the Korean War ended in 1953, North Korea has developed into one of the world's most dangerous dictatorships.

In South Korea, there's a growing movement to pray for the freedom of its northern neighbors.

The border between North and South Korea is filled with barriers. One type of barrier is to keep out North Korean infiltrators.

Seventy years ago, an armistice was signed to divide North and South Korea. Now, millions of Koreans are praying for the reunification of the country.

"We are praying every night for the liberation of those Korean people, and all the country members should shout together for the freedom of those Korean people," Professor Yong Hee Lee, president of the Esther Prayer Movement, told CBN News.

Each night for the past 17 years, from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m., intercessors with the Esther Prayer Movement have gathered to pray.

Professor Lee says that after learning of the horror in North Korea, he asked God to give him a heart for the people there.  

“Then for a few days, I cannot eat, I cannot sleep – so many things of North Korea. What they are happening there?" He added, "The children are stopped to die. So, I decided until those Korean people can freely listen to (the) gospel, take human rights, be recovered until the point I do every night (a) prayer meeting continuously – but also many intercessors, we made a decision to continue, every day, overnight prayer meeting.”

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Professor Lee noted that North Korea, unfortunately, ranks among the worst in many of the world's categories concerning quality of life:

  •   it ranks the lowest in democracy, economic freedom, and freedom of speech
  •   it's highest in slavery, bribery, and corruption  
  •   and it's number one in Christian persecution 

For decades, North Korea has been led by a personality cult of three generations of leaders, with millions in slavish devotion.   

“So they have no chance to listen to gospel, but also they have to idolize their dictator, so we should make them free from their bondage, so we pray for them," Lee said. 

He maintains the prison camps in the north resemble Nazi death camps. Drawings made by people who live there show some of the horrors. Guards put one small girl over a fire, and some prisoners – many of them Christian – are subjected to chemical experiments. 

CBN News interviewed two North Korean defectors who described what life is like inside the country, often called "The Hermit Kingdom." We hid their identity for their safety and that of their families still inside North Korea.

"Woman A" is one of the few ever to escape. 

“It’s a political prison camp and 70 percent Christian, and they’re actually, the crime is spying – that’s the name of the official crime,” she explained.

We asked her what it is like inside the camps.

She replied, “I can’t even express it in words. It’s worse than you can ever imagine. In the holding area, it’s like the size of a small van – in that tiny space, they usually put 30 to 35 people stacked inside that tiny space. And then the next day, every day, there’s somebody who died in that prison cell. She continued, "The torture, I can’t even express it in words.  Especially women, they make them strip naked and they do whatever you can imagine to them.” 

We interviewed a man we'll call "B" as he looked across this body of water into North Korea.

“The place you’re seeing across the river, across the sea, there’s people dying of starvation. They don’t have the freedom of movement. I feel very sad because when I look into the north, and especially for the North Korean people, because of Kim Jung Un – they are being enslaved and they’re dying as slaves and they don’t even know what is eternal life.”

Both defectors told us that COVID brought a big change to the country.    

“A”:  “During the first start of Corona there were many, many people that died from Corona. So there is no medical treatment, and there’s a lot of underground churches. So when there were severe cases, they were actually thinking, there’s one of the prayer people, let’s get a prayer from this lady. People gathered over there and they prayed over the sick and they prayed in the name of Jesus and they were healed. Kim Jung Un and the government is doing nothing but now they are gathering to this underground church after prayer in the name of Jesus, and they get healed, so the Name of Jesus is getting more popular (than Kim Jung Un). 

“B”:  “Because the Kim regime knows what is going on, they know because of this name of Jesus and the Christians, that people are getting more awakened (so) they’re coming down more strict on everything right now.” 

Despite the crackdown, they report the underground church has doubled since COVID, to as many as 400,000. Now, they spread the gospel by floating bottles filled with rice, money, and USB drives containing the Bible and Christian videos across the water to North Korea.    

Professor Lee believes the wall between North and South Korea will fall just like the Berlin Wall. 

“When I say the political-economic situation, there's no answer," he stated. "So delicate, so complex. Because of that, I more simply ask to the Lord, 'You are the perfect answer. Open your wisdom.' So, I perfectly rely on the Lord. He (is) opening the door to those (Koreans). So I think His proper wisdom will open the door, and I think it is miraculously. Like Berlin, they opened unexpectedly one night.”

On the 70th anniversary of the Korean peninsula's division, Professor Lee compared this time to the time the Jews were freed from Babylon. He's asking Christians worldwide to join in praying for the people of North Korea to be free.  

He urged that “All of the church members in the world, they should pray together – pray together, and shout together for North Korean people. ***As I told you, the 21st century's hell is North Korea and North Korea is the end of the earth, and the Lord told us, preach the gospel to the end of ours." This (is the) time to shout together, to pray together, to fast together, then the Lord will break the war of North Korea and destroy the authority of death over North Korea, and then the Lord will save those Korean people.” 

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