Last week we met Chun, a formerly high-ranking officer in the North Korean Army. After fleeing to China several times and being repatriated, Chun first heard about Christ from another inmate while she was imprisoned. Her life became increasingly difficult when her marriage fell apart and she found herself alone caring for her young daughter. In desperation, Chun decided to make one more attempt to escape to China, this time with her three-year-old daughter. Making it safely across the river, they were immediately captured by Chinese authorities. Separated, they were put into separate taxis; Chun never saw her child again.
Chun was taken to a village and locked up with the other women. The human traffickers invited local Chinese to come to the house. “Everybody looked at us. Then the auction started. I felt like cattle. It was so unreal and yet utterly humiliating.” Chun was sold to a new “husband” for around 800 dollars. Her daughter had been sold somewhere else, probably to a childless couple for less than 500 dollars.
Though being in a North Korean prison was horrible, Chun shares that the abuse she endured at the hands of her new “husband” and his father was little better. “They hardly gave me any clothes and I did not receive any shoes. At first, I tried to beat them off me with a bamboo stick when they came on to me, but to no avail. For exactly one month and three days I was beaten and raped on a daily basis. I wanted to escape, but the farm where we lived was surrounded by a high wall. There was simply no opportunity, except for one. The outside toilet had a hole which led to the other side of the wall; one day I crawled through the mud and the feces to freedom.”
God’s hand was on her escape; this time she ran into Christians who offered to help her. “They took care of me and shared the gospel with me. But I was still in a dangerous situation. I needed to flee to South Korea as soon as possible. The Christians paid a broker to take me and some other refugees to Mongolia, where we would try to reach a South Korean embassy. Before I left, the Christians asked if we wanted to become followers of Jesus. We politely refused. They told us, ‘It is no problem that you don’t believe. But mark our words. God has helped you, and He will continue to help you on your journey.’ We said our ‘goodbyes’ and left.”
As is usual for this escape route, the broker brought the refugees close to the Mongolia border and told them they had to exit the van and walk the rest of the way. Chun and the others did as they were told, but could not find the correct route across the border. As they trekked in search of the path, a police car appeared. “We tried to escape, but they were too fast. They arrested all of us; men, women and children. I had brought poison to commit suicide if necessary. Anything was better than going back to North Korea as a prisoner. We begged for our lives and pleaded with them to show mercy. The officers were puzzled. Then they said, ‘You were walking on the wrong way. The border is in that direction. We will let you go and we will make another round. If we see you again, we will arrest you another time.’ After they released us, we walked as fast as we could and this time we did reach Mongolia.”
But the refugees were not out of danger yet. They had arrived in the Mongolia desert without transport, food or water. “There was a girl with us, about twelve years old. She begged her mother to be just left behind and die right there. Her mother tried to encourage her to keep on walking. Walking was all we could do. And hoping the Mongolian authorities would find us. After several days we were so weak. I saw cows, I saw water, but when I walked towards the ‘pond’ there was nothing but rocks and sand. We needed to drink and caught our urine and we drank that. It was so disgusting. Six days after we had entered Mongolia we ran into a Mongolian patrol. They gave us water and brought us to a refugee camp.”
Free at least, or so they thought. The camp was managed like another prison. “There was one major difference. There was total anarchy. Some refugees had been in this camp for many months. They were bored and frustrated and fought a lot with each other. However, there was one tent where Christians would meet. One of us remembered what the Christians had told us, that God would help us through other people. That was the turning point. From that moment on I believed in God.”
Chun regularly met with the other North Korean Christians during her time in the camp. When the Mongolians decided who would go on the next plane to South Korea, they gave priority to the well-behaving Christians. “Only when the plane took off from Mongolia did I feel really free. However, arriving in South Korea was like arriving on a different planet. I had never seen such luxuries. The other women and I were totally flabbergasted by the toilets at the airport. I had never used a ‘sitting toilet,’ so I climbed on it and squatted. I washed my hands by flushing the toilet. I can laugh about it now, but it was all so weird. One of the ladies even got into an argument with a stewardess because she didn’t want the flight attendant to take away her used tissue. She wanted to use it again.”
Chun’s story reflects the difficult lives led by many North Korean people-born and raised in a military dictatorship that betrayed her, caught in an abusive marriage, living on the streets for years, spending time in prison, being separated from her daughter and sold in China. But God’s strong intervention in her life drew her to Him from her first encounter with Him was in a dirty, dark prison cell, where God took care of her through the hands and prayers of a Christian lady.
“I am convinced that one day I will meet my daughter again; in this life or the next,” Chun says. “She is eleven years old now. Despite all my suffering I love God with my whole heart. Even before I arrived in South Korea, He had prepared a new husband for me, the most humble, loving and godly man I know. I am so grateful for him.”
Open Doors helps small groups of trafficked North Korean women with Bible study, pastoral care and trauma counseling. Through our Bible studies not only do many of the women go through radical transformations, changing themselves, but their husbands’ lives are changed as well.
Father, we pour out our thanks for the ways You have worked in Chun’s life to draw her to Yourself, to protect her and to bring her to a place of safety. And we thank You for her godly husband who is a picture of Your love and care for her. We pray for her daughter, almost a teen now, that You will continue to protect her and bring her to a place of saving faith in Christ. And we pray for them to be reunited. As we think of Chun and her daughter, we think of the multitudes of other North Korean Christians who suffer in prison or who flee to China. Protect them, Father, and place them in the care of Chinese Christians who will treat them tenderly and lead them to Christ. Thank You for the work of Open Doors in discipling these women who have been in abusive situations both in North Korea and China. Provide the resources they need, spiritual and temporal, to minister to the needs of these women. In the name of Jesus, whose balm of healing brings peace and comfort. Amen.