Ahead of the historic summit between North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump, Open Doors spoke to John Choi*, a North Korean Christian who now lives in the UK.
It’s been confirmed President Trump will meet Kim Jong-un in Singapore on 12 June. What do you expect Kim Jong-un hopes to accomplish in the meeting?
Kim Jong-un must first agree to the denuclearisation process. In return, he likely hopes for economic support and the easing the international sanctions. But Kim will have difficulty doing this, because he has no intention of changing the level of power and control the regime holds. Also, Kim wants to demand an official peace treaty to end the Korean War of 1953. If that happens, it will be interesting to see what nations step in or withdraw. Kim wants the US to back away from South Korea, it seems. But at the same time, he seems to be trying to deepen his relationship with China.
Five things to know about North Korea, the nightmare nation
What specific actions could President Trump call on Kim Jong-un to take to restore religious freedom in the country?
It is almost impossible for me to expect that Kim Jong-un would allow a North Korean citizen to hold the Bible on the street of Pyongyang and walk to church freely. I don’t think he’s ready to grant religious freedom or other freedoms – the freedom of expression, of speech, of opportunity.
North Korea does not uphold Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” North Korea’s human rights principles of freedom of religion are their own interpretation: the Kim family is a god, and absolute loyalty is expected to the leader, party and state. This is part of North Korea’s own ‘prosperous socialism’ and communist dictatorial ideology. It’s the opposite of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Send a bible to North Korea
Kim Jong-Un recently met with South Korea’s President Moon. What was your reaction to this news?
I had a conversation with a former North Korean diplomat (who I can’t identify for security reasons) on this topic recently. We wondered if North Korean elites were trying to gain insight into South Korean politics and its military scale. As the world talks about the possible withdrawal of US troops from Seoul, former residents like myself find it hard to trust that North and South Korea might not end up in conflict in the days to come.
Right now, this meeting and President Moon’s second meeting with Kim Jong-un seem like a strategy. The international community is dangling a carrot – the ability to participate in the international market and trade. If Kim wants power and position, he has to cooperate at some level. But we should keep in mind that he might only be cooperating in order to get more power.
Are North Koreans hopeful that the peninsula might be reunited?
Perhaps more North Korean people want a reunified Korea, we can’t be sure, but only 12.3% of South Koreans wanted this according to 2017 survey. But the North Korean people don’t have all the information. They’ve been led to believe their poverty is caused by the division of the peninsula. If they ever discover the truth—that South Koreans lead such a democratic and prosperous life—their opinions may change.
Stand with your church family in North Korea
Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors, says, “Our prayers can go where we cannot. There are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray.” North Korea may the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian, but not even Kim Jong-un and his most deadly secret agents can hold back the hand of God. Our prayers make a real difference for our brothers and sisters in North Korea.
- That God will be at work in the summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, and use it for the good of the people of North Korea
- For protection, provision and encouragement for our North Korean brothers and sisters
- That soon the people of North Korea will be free to follow Jesus without fear of arrest and imprisonment.
You can also provide practical support for our brothers and sisters in North Korea. Incredibly, you can put food, medicines and Bibles into the hands of a North Korean believer, through Open Doors secret workers. It should be impossible, but they are keeping 60,000 secret believers alive by smuggling food into the country. Every £58 can provide this vital support for a North Korean family for a month.
*name changed for security reasons