North Korea is still trying to kill Jesus through the torture and murder of Christians. The story of Soon Ok Lee is a testimony to that fact.
The previous article revealed Soon’s story of going from a privileged Communist Party worker to a sentence of 13 years in a North Korean prison of horrors. In her book, “Eyes of the Tailless Animals” she chronicles the especially harsh treatment Christians received while incarcerated in North Korea.
The Worst of The Work
The prison life in North Korea was almost unbearable at the best of times for the regular prisoners. The life of a Christian was made far worse and more dangerous in the prison system.
For one thing, they were assigned the worst of the work. Soon recalls:
They were given the most dangerous work in the prison. The rubber factory, smelting factory, mine and discipline department were the main places they were assigned.
She describes one horrendous example of a Christian man who worked in the rubber factory. He slipped and fell into the hot rubber and “began to get sucked into the roller.” Despite pleas to help the man, the North Korean officer in charge would not let others stop the machine.
She relates another time when six believers were charged with emptying a large “feces tank” containing a ton of human excrement. A woman slipped and fell into the tank, and three others jumped in to try and help her climb out:
Each of them tried to push the others up first. Then the officer said, ‘Close the door.’ The door was closed and the women were left in the tank. …No one ever tried to take the bodies out.
In the North Korean prisons, even accidents serve to systemically destroy Christian influence.
Tortured In Fire In Front of All
Soon writes of a most horrific torture and murder of Christians. One is forever embedded in her memory. She had to go the smelting factory to check the production, as one of her assignments at the end of the day.
She witnessed eight Christian prisoners who were carrying a metal kettle, which held some molten iron. The next day was “re-education training” when Christians were pressured to deny their faith. The North Korean method was for “re-education” to occur once or twice a month. One of the officers in charge warned these eight that they would be killed that day, yet none of them said a word in response.
The officer became enraged and screamed for the men to come and bow their faces to the ground in front of him. He ordered the other men to bring “boiling liquid iron” to pour on these men or they would die as well:
The frightened prisoners ran to get a kettle of molten iron. Then they poured the boiling iron on top of the people of God kneeling so quietly. Suddenly, the smell of burning flesh assailed my nostrils. the bodies began to shrivel from the intense heat as the metal burned right through their flesh. I fell to the ground and almost fainted from shock.
The impact this had upon Soon would not be realized until years later after she was out of prison. At that moment she began to ask what it was about these believers that made them seem not to fear death.
North Korea’s Hidden Tyranny
Soon writes much of how she was essentially brainwashed by her communist upbringing in North Korea, and that she did not really see it until her time in prison. Her formerly privileged position had hidden it from her:
Prisoners were not the only sufferers in North Korea. Once my eyes were opened to the truth… I began to realize how difficult the lives of the North Korean people were.
The officials in North Korea go to great lengths to hide their abuse of their people, especially of Christians, from the rest of the world. Soon gives one poignant example of a friend of hers who received a very unexpected letter from a son she thought had died as a prisoner of war in South Korea.
The son was living in America and asked to come and visit his mother. He was allowed to do so, but the North Korean government did not like the fact that he was living in a country they considered an enemy.
Nevertheless, arrangements were made for him to visit. Soon remembers how the town the mother lived in was cleaned and the people were given extra rations of food, “so they could pretend North Korea has plenty of food.” The mother was even moved into Lee’s house which was much nicer than her own. All to fool the visitor from America.
It did not work. Before she went to prison, Soon was privileged enough to have electricity at her home and recalls that her friend’s children:
did not know how to use… the electrical appliances because they had never seen them before.
Leaving Prison and North Korea Behind
Unexpectedly, after serving only six years of her sentence Soon was released. She remembered that it seemed a miracle. However, before the day of her release, the North Korean prison officials made sure she swore new loyalty and devotion to North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung, and swear that she would never speak of what she witnessed.
Soon understands how miraculous her being released truly was. At that time there were some 6,000 prisoners in the prison she was at in North Korea, and perhaps 200,000 more throughout the country:
I was one of the very few who got out. I was the first one in thirty years who was given the special privilege of a release from Kim Il Sung. No one else got out of prison before their sentence was completed. …God pulled me out of the real-world hell.
After her release, she made plans to escape North Korea with her son. In 1995, they made a daring crossing of the Tumen river on the border of North Korea and China. From there they made their way to South Korea and freedom.
Soon Finds Jesus and Her Mission
While Soon and her son were in China, they stayed with a couple who shared their own miraculous encounter with Jesus with them. These people risked their own lives should they be caught with fugitives from North Korea.
She was so impressed by this and the kind treatment of Christians in South Korea that she began to attend church the first week she could. Not long after, she and her son accepted Jesus, and her new life and mission began.
Jesus is still alive in North Korea
Soon’s mission was reflected in the eyes of 140 “tailless animals” who were believers in the North Korean hell of prison. She remembered seeing them in the front row as her number was called out and it was announced she would be released. She vowed she would tell their story and never forget them.
Her book is a remarkable witness to how North Korea is still trying to kill Jesus. Even twenty years later, organizations such as “The Voice of The Martyrs” are engaged in risky mission work to help believers in North Korea. Though the numbers are small, they show that all the North Koreans can do is try to kill Jesus. They can never succeed in the effort. The Resurrection proves that Jesus is still alive and living in the hearts of every believer, even in the darkest parts of the earth.
Opinion News by D.T. Osborn
Edited by Cathy Milne
The Voice of The Martyrs, March 2017: MARTYRED by NORTH KOREAN ASSASSINS
Living Sacrifice Book Company: Eyes of The Tailless Animals: Prison Memoirs of a North Korean Woman; Soon Ok Lee; 1999.
Broadman & Holman Publishers: In The Lion’s Den; Nina Shea; 1997.
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Top Image Courtesy of John Pavelka’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License