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Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 260 | Wed 14 May 2014
KOREA: HOPES FOR PEACE FADE
by Elizabeth Kendal
Koreans desperately need peace, as distinct from a frozen conflict that regularly threatens to blow hot. North Korea boasts nuclear weapons and South Korea boasts support of the US military. If peace could be achieved and the two sides stop threatening each other then perhaps the situation could normalise and efforts to improve the lives of North Koreans would make headway. The alternatives to forging peace are the totally unacceptable status quo with its paranoia and related gross human rights abuses, or conflict with the prospect of the peninsula running red with blood.
As noted in RLPB 248 (19 February) and RLPB 251 (12 March), the North Korean regime's main concern is managing the state monopoly on information in the face of severe challenges posed by new communication technologies, while endeavouring to raise living standards so as to ward off revolt. Whenever the regime feels threatened it intensifies repression and magnifies propaganda. According to a 12 May report in DailyNK (from Seoul), because a wave of executions has failed to stem the inflow and sharing of banned materials, security forces are now conducting surprise night-time raids on homes in Pyongyang. Citizens accused of viewing, possessing or copying banned content - particularly South Korean DVDs and magazines - are exiled virtually immediately upon arrest. In the past two months, at least 100 Pyongyang citizens reportedly have been internally exiled, 'disappeared' to remote mountainous areas after night raids. According to the source, 'people are panic-stricken'. Though these exiles might be alive, they have lost not merely their homes, but all that is available only in the capital, such as food rations, water and electricity. The border with China has been tightened significantly to ensure that no South Korean content or recording equipment of any kind enters the state. Restrictions on the entry of journalists and on tourists talking to locals are being rigidly enforced. Needless to say, the Church is gravely imperilled.
All the while, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un continues to consolidate his power. As was noted in RLPB 248, by the end of 2013, four members of Kim Jong-il's 'Gang of Seven' - an inner circle of elites tasked with guiding and mentoring the young Kim Jong-un - had been purged while another had been demoted. One of those purged was Kim Jong-un's uncle, Jang Song-taek who was executed on 13 December 2013. Stepping up to fill Jang's role as principal mentor and deputy was Choe Ryong-hae (64),the man Kim Jong-il had reportedly personally chosen to mentor his son, and the man believed to be responsible for Jang's execution. In early May, Kim Jong-un demoted Choe, replacing him with his own long-time minder and protector, Hwang Pyong-so (64). Having shaken off the last of his father's minions, Kim can now rule unchallenged. As one analyst comments, anyone waiting for a collapse of the regime is going to have to wait a lot longer.
On the other hand, tensions are soaring on the peninsula with North Korea firing rockets into the sea and flying surveillance drones over the South. Pyongyang denies it was spying, calling the accusation a 'conspiracy' devised by South Korean president Park Geun-hye, whom it called a 'disgraceful political prostitute'. Kim has referred recently also to US President Obama (who visited Seoul in April and is proposing further sanctions) as a 'wicked black monkey', a 'cross-breed' and Park's 'pimp'. To protest what it calls 'US and South Korean hostility', Pyongyang has threatened to conduct another nuclear test. On Monday 12 May South Korean Ministry of Defence spokesman Kim Min-seo struck back saying, 'North Korea isn't a real country is it? ... It exists solely to prop up a single person,' adding that it would be best if it 'vanished as soon as possible'. On Tuesday 13 May the North's powerful National Defence Commission described President Park and South Korean military officials as 'the root of evil' and vowed to wipe them out entirely with merciless force. Hopes of peace are fading fast.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT -
* the Almighty God will intervene in North Korea to transform the situation radically for the benefit of the Church and for the sake of North Korea's repressed and suffering millions. (See Jonah 4:10,11)
'When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.' (Matthew 9:36 ESV)
* God will give wisdom to fools and patience to hot heads, repentance to persecutors and grace to victims, so that the Church might be spared further calamity and delivered from her adversity to be the light and salt (Matthew 5:13-16) North Korea so desperately needs.
* the Holy Spirit will revisit Pyongyang in mercy and grace, to open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf and set the captives free. (See Psalm 146, Luke 4:14-21 and Isaiah 35:3-7)
[The Great Korean Revival of 1907, which transformed the Korean peninsula, began in Pyongyang, which subsequently came to be known as 'The Jerusalem of the East'.]
'The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein ... Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.' (from Psalm 24)
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
HOPES FOR PEACE FADE IN KOREA
Koreans - especially North Koreans - desperately need peace, as distinct from a frozen conflict that breeds paranoia-inspired gross human rights abuses and routinely threatens war. In the North, whenever the regime of Kim Jong-un feels threatened, it intensifies repression and magnifies propaganda. Recently, North Korean security forces have been conducting surprise night raids on homes in Pyongyang, arresting and then exiling anyone suspected of viewing, sharing or copying banned materials, particularly South Korean films and magazines. At least 100 people have been 'disappeared' in the last two months, triggering widespread panic. Meanwhile, tensions between North Korea and the US-South Korea alliance are also soaring; the belligerent, threatening rhetoric coming out of both states is frightening. Pray for the Church in North Korea. Pray for Korea's peace and transformation.
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This RLPB was written by Elizabeth Kendal, an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. Elizabeth is Adjunct Research Fellow in the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths at the Melbourne School of Theology. She is Director of Advocacy for Christian Faith & Freedom based in Canberra, Australia.
RLPBs are issued as a ministry of the Evangelical Alliance in Australia.
Elizabeth Kendal is the author of 'Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today'
(Deror Books, Dec. 2012) http://turnbackthebattle.com/thebook.html
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