North Korea Since the 1950’s North Korea has been a prison to its own people, with Christians suffering the worst. When a person is discovered to be a Christian, they and three generations of their family are sent to labor camps to be worked or tortured to death. The North Korean government does this to “purge” bad blood from their country. In other places in the world people die for becoming a Christian; in North Korea, people die simply because someone else in their family became a Christian- whether they know it or not. With the average North Korean evangelist having an average life span of 90 days, the cost of discipleship is high in North Korea.
The atrocities that take place in North Korea are worse and have lasted far longer than the Nazi Concentration camps, and the Soviet Gulag’s under Stalin. For many years, North Korea has received more food aid than any other country in the world, yet literal millions of its people have starved to death. The leadership of the country hoards the food and gives it to the country elites and the army.
In the midst of mass starvation, the previous leader of North Korea (Kim Jong Il) spent over $1,000,000 a year on cognac (whisky). To put this in perspective, as his people starved, he spent more per year on whisky than most people make on Wall Street.
Because of the sever famines that have plagued the country for years, many have tried to escape to seek food. Crossing the southern boarder is impossible as it is the most heavily militarized area in the world. To flee the country, the only exit is crossing the border that is shared with China. To leave North Korea without permission is a capital offense, punishable by death.
How We Started In the late 1990’s South Korean businessman Ki-won Chun was visiting along the Chinese-North Korean border looking for new business opportunities. Little did he know he would be led out of multiple successful business ventures and into full-time ministry rescuing the world’s most forgotten people. While along the China-North Korea border he saw, for the first time in his life, a North Korean. She was frozen dead in the Tumen River. She died trying to escape her country by crossing the river comprising the border between North Korea and China. As he continued to walk around the city scores of North Korean children scurried out of the shadows to beg bread, only to be beaten back into hiding by the Chinese authorities.
Upon seeing this, he left a lucrative business career, went to seminary and became a Pastor dedicating his life to proclaiming the grace of God to the North Korean people. The ministry began in Seoul, South Korea in the year 1999 with 25 people praying, weeping, and crying out to God on behalf of the physically and spiritually starved people of North Korea. From there God orchestrated events very naturally and began to open doors, simply calling his people to trust Him one step at a time.
We could not rescue everyone, but we would rescue all we could and trust God to keep us in the process. There has always been difficulty and danger along with way. We have seen and can say with Hudson Taylor, “our faith is often tested, His faithfulness often proved.” In 2001, just two years after beginning the ministry, Pastor Chun was arrested in China at the China-Mongolia border while helping a group of North Korean defectors escape. He was held in a Chinese prison for nine months and finally released in August of 2002. The North Korean’s who were with him were sent back to their own country. Their fate is unknown.
Escaping North Korea Many North Korean’s are killed trying to cross the border in search of food. Smugglers have risen to meet the need of those looking for safe passage across the border into China. Unfortunately, the intentions of the smugglers are anything but good. A North Korean will pay an exorbitant sum of money to cross into China. However, the smugglers are usually double dealing those they help out. Once they arrive in China, the smuggler sells the defectors to sex traffickers, who then take them and sell them to the highest bidder. Very often, those who escape one brutal tyrant find themselves now bound under another. Many of the women who escape North Korea and are caught and sold as sex slaves in China have husbands and children waiting for them back home in North Korea.
By the grace of God, Durihana has reached and rescued many of these women sold into the sex trafficking industry. By the time they are rescued, many of them have children. Many of those children are now receiving a loving home, healthy food, and a solid education at Durihana International School.
How We have Grown Two months after the ministry was founded, the first refugee shelter for North Korean’s was established in China. Two months after that, churches were planted in three separate Chinese cities. And in July of 2000, the first rescue of a North Korean defector took place. By the end of that year, 20 more souls would be rescued. By the end of the following year, Pastor Chun would be imprisoned in China, having been caught trying to rescue more North Korean’s. He was released nine months later, and went right back to work. Over the next 13 years, 1,100 North Korean’s would be rescued and brought safely to South Korea or the United States. Pastor Chun pioneered North Korea’s underground railroad. Growing up among the mountains in his youth became a tool that helped him lead refugees through mountains to safety.
In August of 2005 Durihana opened up a branch in the United States. As more North Korean’s came to the United States, the U.S. branch began to work with them and teach them the Bible, equip them with work skills, teach them how to integrate into society, provide help for them to deal with the profound trauma that had been their life thus far, and work to give them a new beginning. As more and more souls were rescued and came to the U.S., more and more work was given to the U.S. Branch to do on U.S. soil. With the increased need to help the North Korean’s now living in the United States, a decision was made in 2015 to dedicate the entirety of their resources to those North Korean’s living in the U.S. A sister ministry was born, now known as Durihana, U.S.A.
While Durihana, U.S.A. turns its focus fully to the much-needed ministry of helping those who have escaped to the U.S., Durihana continues to move forward and keep the focus on its priority of rescuing North Korean’s. In May of 2016, the new U.S. Branch was opened in Santa Fe, to work directly with the headquarters in South Korea. While our sister ministry helps North Korean’s adjust to life in a new country, we at Durihana keep our focus on the work in North Korea itself.
While the nature of the work has made Pastor Chun the friend to the broken and drawn international attention, it has also drawn enemies as well. With a few subsequent trips into China after his initial release from prison, he knew upon his last arrest there (and was told) that he can never return. The work still continues however, for where the devil sits one of God’s workers down, God raises three more up in their place. Rescues are now more dangerous than ever, especially with the advancement of technology, but the sophistication of technology can never match the power of prayer. It is now other members of the Durihana Mission that lead the rescues.
Reunification While everyone wants to see peace on the Korean peninsula, and see the Korean people reunited as one people, the issue of North Korea is a political hot potato that nobody wants to touch. We strive for a peaceful reunification and seek to raise up workers who will be ambassadors of peace bringing the gospel to North Korea. The very name of our ministry, Durihana, is Korean for “two become one.” We pray, labor, and long to see Christ bring the two Koreas become one again.