The Forgotten Children of North Korea

June 5, 2013 by Open Doors in Stories of Persecution


Sun-Hi doesn’t know where the children cross the river. Neither does she know the background of the kotjebis, as North Koreans call these street children. She does not have to know. The tens of thousands children wandering on the street have all lost their parents, who have either fled, been arrested or killed by the ongoing famine. Kotjebis turn to each other for help, often forming groups that eventually turn into gangs that are involved in ‘criminal’ activities. They steal money, food and others things they consider to be valuable. In a sense, they are the parasites of the “mother country’s society and need to be eradicated.”

The children are not safe in their own country, but neither are they safe in China. Sun-Hi regularly tries to help a group of kotjebis. “The group I visit sometimes moves almost from day to day. They are always on the run,” says Sun-Hi. “Seeing them at their hideout is a terrible sight. The children are between 6 and 20 years old, have dirty faces and are clothed in rags. That is, if they have any clothes. Most children are half naked when they come out of their country. They have sold their shoes and their clothes, except for their underwear. Their filthy mattresses are often soaked wet. I’ve given them plastic so they can make a roof, but the group has grown bigger. The ‘tent’ is not big enough, so I bought a second one. I also brought clothes, food and money. If I hadn’t, they would steal and may get caught by the police. I pray God protects the children, not only from the authorities, but also from criminals who use the young children as smugglers.”

Whenever Sun-Hi visits the orphans she tells them one Bible story. “They all listen. But I don’t know what they think of the stories. The children just stay silent and their faces show no expression.”

So what is their future? A lot of kotjebis die from hunger or disease. The ones that survive their teenage years have no real chance of being integrated back in society. Without proper education and having lost most of their human norms and values, they turn to hard criminal activities like breaking into houses, selling drugs, robbing people, and perhaps even killing. Sun-Hi says, “That is why I tell the kotjebis about the Bible. They may not understand yet, but the Word of God can change them. Where there is Jesus Christ, there is Hope. Also for these ‘forsaken’ children, I pray fervently God will pull them out of this swamp, give them a future and Life.”