Editorials: Murdered pastor and his North Korea legacy

North Korea (MNN) – Today we see fewer people who would give up their life for what they believe in.

But somewhere in China, along the border of North Korea, Pastor Han Chung-Ryeol did just that. Knowing the risks of what he was doing, he persisted in his work of ministering the North Koreans.

Han was ethnically Korean, but a Chinese citizen. Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrssaid Han worked along the border for decades, providing whatever was needed to people who approached him for help. For every person he helped with physical needs—like food, clothing, blankets, etc—he shared the Gospel.

Over the years, Han helped orphans and women who were sex-trafficked, among others in extreme need.

(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs)

“He was able to lead numerous North Koreans to the fellowship of believers, to the relationship with Jesus Christ. And many of those who heard the Gospel chose to follow Jesus Christ, turned around and went back to North Korea as missionaries into that culture which is so closed to the Gospel.”

Murdered for his work

Sadly, Pastor Han’s badly beaten body was found the end of April. VOM reports that he was hardly recognizable. It is believed people from North Korea murdered him.

Earlier this year, the North Korean government ordered for Pastor Han to be brought into the country for questioning. But this threat didn’t slow his work.

After his death, there were reports that people who went back into North Korea after being helped by Han have been gathered for questioning.

The Gospel: A threat and a call to life

(Photo courtesy Secret Church)

While Pastor Han’s story is disturbing, it brings to light this question: Why is the Gospel so offensive to the North Korean government? Nettleton says it undermines its very foundation.

The North Korean government teaches their people that the Kim family is divine. Nettleton says, “The children of North Korea are taught before they eat a meal to pray, ‘Thank you Father Kim Il-Sung that you have provided this food for us.’”

Just as the Gospel is inherently a threat to our own pride, it threatens the beliefs of the country. In reality, to follow Jesus is considered treasonous. If Jesus is God, the Kims can’t possibly be.

A need beyond our understanding

Despite the governments efforts to deceive its people, North Koreans face very real needs every day.

“This is a country that has been wracked by famine, it has been cut off from the rest of the world by the Kim regime. They want to control the people’s thoughts, they want to control what they read, what they see.”

North Korea’s people have needs beyond the physical. As Nettleton explains, they need truth, and they need spiritual truth. Pastor Han knew this and desired to spread truth to citizens of North Korea.

“There’s an incredible need for everything,” Nettleton says, “The people are starving in some places. The people are desperate for medical care. There’s just so many needs and so much desperation and we as Christians, we have hope.”

(Photo courtesy Open Doors)

“We have hope not only on this earth but we have hope for eternity, so it’s a message that’s desperately needed in North Korea.”

As you pray for Han’s family, for his church family, and for those who have gone back into North Korea to tell others about Jesus, VOM asks you to pray for the attackers who killed Pastor Han as well.

For some, this is an unusual if not alarming request. But it’s important to remember that nobody is too far for Jesus to call them to Himself.

Nettleton says, “One of the amazing miracles of salvation is that some of those who are persecutors can become the greatest missionaries, the greatest spokespeople for the Gospel message and for Christ.”

In addition to prayer, learn more about VOM’s work here.

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