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North Korea: 'My violin and your prayers saved my life'
10 February 2016
Jung Yohan is a gifted musician from Pyongyang. He used to perform before Kim Jong-Il. "Now I use my violin to point to Christ," he says. This is his story:
Performing for Kim Jong-Il
"My grandfather was an elder in the underground church. Only later in my life did I realise he was actually a Christian. He brought me to my music lessons and secretly prayed for me. He would hug me and whisper in my ear: 'Go to heaven when you die.' It made me very uncomfortable and I just pushed him away. When I was older, he confessed to me that he was a Christian, but I didn't really care that much.
"Because of my musical talent, I was selected for the music school at the age of five and tested again when I was seven. I also became a child actor and performed in some movies.
"I was selected to perform at parties hosted by Kim Jong-Il, who would succeed his father as leader of the country in 1994. To be honest, he was a very warm figure when he met with us. He was very charismatic. He seemed to be so interested in music and always gave us compliments. But the parties lasted forever. Often we were only in bed by 2 or 3am.
"Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il were like gods to me. I later confessed to God that I had worshipped them. It makes me so sad that older citizens in North Korea still worship the leaders with their minds and hearts. But back then I was the same. My goal in life was to glorify Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. I came very close to fulfilling that mission. I never even thought about escaping. Life was good. As an elite musician I was even allowed to travel to eastern Europe.
Discovering the truth
"About eight years ago, I was an exchange professor in eastern Europe. My experience there changed my life dramatically. One day, a foreign professor asked me: 'Why do you look so blue?' I told him I didn't know. To be honest, I wasn't that depressed. 'Go to church,' he said. 'It will make you feel better.'
"I replied: 'My grandfather used to be an elder in the church.' He responded: 'You see? This was arranged by God. Now go to church on Sunday.'
"I decided to follow his advice and took a cab on Sunday. He drove me to a small church with a cross on the rooftop. Before I entered the church, I suddenly became afraid. I realised this could easily be a trap. I waited until I head music coming from behind the doors, then I entered. I sat in the back. Because I spoke the language of that country, I could follow the service. What touched me most was the music. The melody, the lyrics... they made me weep.
"On Monday after I woke up, I asked myself: 'What happened? Why was I so emotional during that service?' I had no answers. I only knew I had to go back. I wanted to hear more about the man named Jesus. The preacher had said 'You will know the truth and the truth will set you free' (John 8:32).
"For some time, I had realised that I had been indoctrinated all my life. My grandfather had been a good man; the North Korean government was evil. They had said that Christians were bad people, but I didn't believe them. I so desperately wanted to know the truth. I wanted to know what my family believed. I kept secretly visiting the church and eventually decided to become a follower of Jesus.
"I was afraid that the North Korean government officials would soon find out about my conversion and I knew what could happen to Christians. I wanted to avoid the labour camps at all costs. I needed to escape to South Korea.
"I picked up only a few things from my apartment - so I would not arouse suspicion - and left. I contacted a broker who was able to help me, but he wanted a lot of money. The only thing of value I had was my violin. In order to save my life I had to sell it. My violin proved to be my ticket to freedom.
"If the instrument was the ticket, God was the guide. I'm so thankful for all the people who are praying for North Koreans like me, even though they don't know us. Throughout the dangerous journey across several countries, I completely relied on the Lord. In the end, I arrived safely in South Korea.
"After some time, I was able to save up enough money to buy a new violin. Now I am a deacon in a church and I perform my music everywhere. No longer do I live to make music for Kim Jong-Il. My violin and I glorify God. My dream is that one day I can return to North Korea and share the gospel through my music."
Stand with your persecuted church family in North Korea
While Jung Yohan now lives in South Korea, there are an estimated 300,000 Christians who remain in North Korea. Most of these believers keep their faith completely secret in order to avoid abduction, torture, and death at the hands of North Korean authorities - an estimated 70,000 believers are incarcerated in horrific labour camps.
North Korea has been number 1 on our World Watch List for 14 years in a row, making it the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. We pray that one day soon North Koreans will be free to worship Jesus, but until they do, we are determined to stand with them in prayer and action. Here are three things you can do:
- Pray. Jung Yohan's story shows how precious our prayers are to North Korean believers. Use the prayer points below. Perhaps you could ask your small group or church to spend some time praying for North Korea
- Give. Every £60 can provide swift, intensive training for a North Korean church leader, like Jung Yohan's grandfather, in a safe house in China.
- Become a partner church. Your church can partner with us as we support those who share our faith but not our freedom.
Listen to Jung Yohan perform Amazing Grace
When we asked Jung Yohan if he'd thought about composing a song about his life, he said: "It has already been written." He pulled out his mobile phone and looked himself up on YouTube. It was a video of him, playing Amazing Grace - watch it below:
- That many more North Koreans would have the opportunity to hear the gospel
- For courage and protection for North Korean Christians
- That one day soon Jung Yohan's dream will come true, and he will be free to share the gospel in North Korea.
More News from North Korea:
- Leader's half-brother dies; missionaries expelled
- Risking it all
- Trafficked to China - Hwa-Young's powerful ministry to women
- Newly discovered labour camp offers 'no escape'
- Devastating floods leave 133 dead, 395 missing, 107,000 displaced.
Find out more about persecution in North Korea.