Religious freedom concerns surface in South Korea

By July 16, 2020

South Korea (MNN) — Last month, North Korea demanded that South Korea stop all cross-border balloon launches. Two weeks later, South Korea officially banned all attempts to send material into North Korea. See our full coverage here.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea is the only group sending Bibles – not political flyers – across the border, but officials don’t seem to care.

“For 15 years, we’ve had a very respectful and cooperative relationship with authorities at all levels: police, military, and intelligence. That seems to have changed this year. The governor of Gyeonggi province, Governor Lee, has called for my immediate arrest, conviction, and deportation,” VOM Korea’s Eric Foley says.

There’s more to this issue than meets the eye. “Balloon launching is the tip of a much deeper iceberg,” Foley adds.

“The issue is the legitimacy of private ministry activity that’s conducted independently of the government in a responsible fashion. Those rights are, at the moment, in jeopardy.”

National interests or religious freedom?

As a democracy, South Korea protects certain inherent freedoms: the freedom of speech, for example, or the freedom of religion. However, government officials are pushing both aside to appease North Korea, Foley says.

“It’s dangerous to shift away and risk religious freedom, and the freedom of speech, to pacify North Korea – which, historically, has not been an easy proposition,” he notes.

“Those freedoms are hard-won, but easily and quickly lost. We’ve seen that happen in a matter of three weeks in our country.”

Investigations continue following accusations slated against VOM Korea and Foley. Meanwhile, critical questions lack answers.

South Korean police stop VOM Korea from launching sea bottles containing Bibles to North Korea.
(Photo courtesy of Eric Foley/VOM Korea)

“Will private organizations still be able to do ministry activity outside of the government? Are non-governmental activities still possible in South Korea? Or, will we be perceived as anti-government because our work happens independently of the North and South Korean governments?” Foley lists as examples.

“We believe it’s possible to achieve national security interests while at the same time protecting freedom of religion. Whether our claim is upheld remains to be seen.”

How to help

In this period of waiting, stand alongside VOM Korea and North Korean believers in prayer. Use the prompts listed alongside this article to guide your intercession.

“We pray, and ask people to join us in praying, that we will keep the promise we made 18 years ago to the persecuted Christians who asked us to send Bibles by balloon and by radio broadcast into North Korea,” Foley says.

“Pray with us that the Lord will give us the right opportunity to launch in the days ahead.”



Header image is a representative stock photo courtesy of Allef Vinicius via Unsplash.

Leave a Reply

Help us get the word out: