July 7, 2018

South Korean Adventist Pastors Get Ready to Serve in North Korea

After the summit meetings between the North Korean and South Korean governments at Panmunjom on April 27 and May 26, 2018, the Korean Union Conference (KUC) church administrative organization convened a special meeting for pastors who are willing to serve in North Korea as soon as the door of opportunity opens. The education training session for “Pioneer Mission Movement for North Korea” (PMM NK) pastors was held in Yanji, China, from June 4 to 7, 2018.

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Byung Joo Lee, KUC director in charge of North Korea mission, hosted the meeting. “So far, twenty-four pastors from KUC have volunteered to serve in North Korea in the future, and seventeen of them attended the education meeting held in Yanji,” Lee said.

Onsite Training

On the first day, participants visited the city of Tumen, from which they were able to see the town of Namyang in North Korea across the Tumen River. In the distance, pastors could distinguish trucks stirring a lot of dust. In North Korea, 97 percent of roads are unpaved. Unofficial reports say there are no lights in that city at night due to a lack of energy. In 1904, Korean Adventism started taking root in what is now North Korea and eventually spread to what is now South Korea. After liberation from Japanese colonial rule, the Korean peninsula was split into two—the Communist North and the democratic South. Under communism, Adventism in the north went underground, as did other religions.

On the second day of the meetings in Yanji, participants visited a place where the borders of three nations — Russia, China, and North Korea — converge. In the past, a railroad on a bridge over Tumen River connected Russia and North Korea. The pastors discussed their hope that one day in the near future they will be able to travel to Europe and Russia via North Korea on a restored railroad over the bridge. 

Reaching Out Through Business

Before participants left the border, they had a chance to hear from a Han Chinese member who is conducting mission in North Korea through his business. The principle of his business is simple—he gives buyers more than they should receive at the regular price.

Participating pastors were able to learn how to approach the North Korean people when doors of opportunity open. “Showing the love of Jesus through our lives and meeting their felt needs are the methods which we can use to touch the hearts of people,” a training organizer said.

On the third day, most participants climbed the renowned 2,744-meter (9,003-foot) mountain of the Korean peninsula called Mount Baekdu in Korean, or Changbai Mountain in Chinese. The mountain lies in the territory of both China and North Korea. Pastors climbed the mountain from the west side, expressing the hope of climbing it again from the North Korea side in the near future.

Ready for God to Act

Northern Asia-Pacific Division Adventist Mission director Min Ho Joo and associate director Sun Hwan Kim attended the meeting. They encouraged participants to prepare for North Korea mission with much prayer, to be ready for the Holy Spirit to work.

“While people are seeking suitable methods, God is seeking the suitable person,” said Joo. “There is a need for humanitarian work such as orphanages, clinics, schools, and food factories to meet the needs of the people. Then the gospel might be easily accepted in the hearts.”

Joo said he believes everyone with a heart for North Korea should unite to work as a team. “There are many human resources, including Korean pastors, voluntary lay members, Korean Chinese, Korean American, and immigrants from North Korea,” he said. “When their efforts are united, the mission for North Korea will be accomplished rapidly.”