North Korean Christian Martyr: ‘Even If I Die, I Do Not Have Any Regrets’
Her name isn’t Hae Woo, but—like a lot of traumatized North
Koreans—she doesn’t want to take any chances.
“I’m a believer,” she says, “because of my husband, because
of the things he told me and my children about Jesus. ‘You cannot see Him,’ he
would say, ‘but He is alive and working.’”
That became harder to believe when he was taken from them, locked
away in a prison where he would die.
“The torture he went through was so gruesome that it is
unimaginable,” she says.
Every single day, the guard would come and punish him for his faith, “with
blood,” she explains quietly, “everywhere.”
But “even in the midst of these horrible tortures, he had
compassion for those who did not know about Jesus Christ,” Hae Woo remembers. “He
went into the prison walking, but after all the torture, he was dragged loose
on the ground … . Although his body was all torn apart, he handed the last
pieces of rotten corn that he had to his prison mates. He spread the Gospel to
“He prayed for the sick, [and] as he continued the good work, God
built an underground church in the prison through my husband.”
One of the last times her children saw him, she thinks back, “he
wanted to pass on his faith, but there were guards everywhere. So, he did
something simple and profound. He wrote three words on his hand: ‘Believe in
Not long after, he was killed by prison guards for giving that
same advice to others. “Even if I die,” he had told her, “I do not have any
Today, a lifetime after Hae Woo was hauled into prison to
experience the horrors for herself, very little has changed. “Every year,”
David Curry of Open Doors USA on “Washington Watch” told me, “I keep hoping
that we’ll have some signs that [the persecution of Christians] is receding.
But all of the driving forces … that are oppressing the expression of faith—all
of these things are still in place.”
In North Korea, which is once again at the top of their 2020 World
Watch List, nightmares like Hae Woo’s aren’t rare.
The Christian community is significant there, he explains, but
they’re “deeply underground.”
“There are many Christians,” he explains, but “they’re facing
every kind of pressure you can imagine.”
Tens of thousands of Christians are in labor camps—a nightmarish
place that Hae Woo describes like Nazi-era holdovers. “Each person received one
handful of rotten corn, [and] there was nothing else to eat. We got something
watery. It wasn’t even a soup. We got those as food for the whole year. Nothing
else. People are obligated to work more than cows or animals.”
Usually, they’re on the verge of death. They’ve been starved,
beaten, and abused.
They’re there, Curry explains, for things Americans take for
granted every day: owning a Bible, being a Christian, or talking about their
faith. “The reality [is] to be registered as a Christian or to be thought of as
a Christian, it means you are the No. 1 enemy of the state.”
In the Middle East and Africa, places like Afghanistan (No. 2 on
the list), Somalia (No. 3), and Libya (No. 4), the situation isn’t much better.
The punishment for being a Christian is quick and decisive. “It’s not uncommon for believers to be beheaded. There’s no trial. There’s no kangaroo court [or] anything like that. This is where Islamic extremism really shows itself in that top 10 and even beyond, so many of these countries … .
“It may not be the government itself,” Curry pointed out, “but
either the government is powerless or impotent to respond to these non-state actors
within their boundaries.”
Here at home, where practicing our faith is second nature—something
we never think twice about—it’s hard to imagine a life of constant terror.
If anything, that should drive us all to our knees—in gratitude,
for one thing—but also for our brothers and sisters overseas.
“Every year,” Curry wanted people to know, “there are silver
linings. Faith is growing deeper in these places where people are being
persecuted for serving Jesus. Communities are getting smaller but stronger. And
I think it’s causing people to [reflect] on the cost to faith.”
When I asked him what people can do, miles away from the stories like Hae Woo’s, Curry’s answer was simple. “We need everybody praying. I would love to see people pray daily—even, at a minimum, weekly—for the persecuted church.
“Adopt a country, a cause, a person. Let’s pray. Let’s talk. Let’s advocate for these individuals and make a big difference.”
Originally published by the Family Research Council