North Korea (MNN) — The United States’ President Donald Trump put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism on Monday. This designation will allow the US to put harder sanctions on North Korea.
This move has been praised by leadership in South Korea, Japan, and Australia. The hope is that harder sanctions will pressure North Korea to step down from its dangerous nuclear posturing. The North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has continued to pursue nuclear and missile programs, despite sanctions from the United Nations Security Council.
However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang is concerned the US designation will exacerbate the “precarious situation” on the Korean Peninsula.
Meanwhile, Voice of the Martyrs is monitoring Gospel ministry efforts into North Korea and they have noted a tightening grip of control from within North Korea.
VOM’s Todd Nettleton shares, “One of the things we’ve seen in recent months is a dramatic decrease in traffic across the river into China. That border had been pretty porous. There was a lot of crossing back and forth. There was a lot of trade back and forth, of people who made their living by going to China and buying products and then carrying them back into North Korea and selling them. That traffic has decreased, by some estimates, 70 percent in the last few months.
“We don’t know exactly what that means other than the regime is obviously trying to exert its influence, exert its power. But that also affects ministry because a lot of the ministry that was happening involved transfers across that border with China. So when there’s less people crossing, that means there’s less ministry going on there.”
In the midst of escalating tensions with North Korea internationally and tightening border control internally, we asked Nettleton if any of this is affecting the North Korean people within.
Nettleton’s response: not really. “It’s interesting because our interview this week on the VOM Radio podcast is with the leader of our office in South Korea and he says no, it doesn’t change things on the ground. In fact, he says the average North Korean citizen would be very surprised to know that any of this is even happening because their media certainly is not covering it in an open fashion. So their lives on a day to day basis are the same as they were a week ago, a month ago, a year ago. They don’t notice any change.”
Despite more difficult access at the North Korea-China border, Nettleton says creative Gospel ministry into and within North Korean continues.
“Voice of the Martyrs’ ministry into North Korea, it’s kind of somewhat of an iceberg. There’s ten percent we can talk about and then there’s 90 percent we can’t talk about for security reasons. A couple of the things we can talk about; we do balloon launches carrying both Gospel tracts and now carrying complete New Testaments across the border into North Korea.
“Another thing we do is radio broadcasts telling the stories of persecuted Christians to encourage North Korean Christians. As well, a part of the radio broadcasts we sponsor is simply reading the Scriptures in a very slow, deliberate voice designed to help North Koreans be able to write down what is being said because it is so difficult, almost impossible for them to get a copy of the Bible of their own. So that radio broadcast Bible is the only access they may have to God’s Word.”
It is understandable to feel the quickening of fear any time an update on tensions with North Korea flashes across our screen or in the papers. But Nettleton emphasizes that as believers, we should be intentional in our response.
“I hope that every time we see the name ‘North Korea’, we’re reminded to pray. Because I think that is the correct response. There’s a tendency to feel fearful as we see the news reports.”
He says, “We want to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in North Korea. We want to pray for God to sustain them and encourage them and empower them. I think we want to pray for government leaders as well. We want to pray for salvation to come to people in leadership positions that can really influence the regime, influence the course of events inside North Korea. It would be great if those people came to faith in Christ.
“Another item to add to our prayer list is just that materials and Scriptures and other things will be able to get into North Korea in spite of the increase of control by the government of that border.”
(Header photo courtesy of John Pavelka under Creative Commons via Flickr: https://goo.gl/MTyLEW)