South Korean Dream Is On Track
2 Corinthians 4:8-12English Standard Version (ESV)
8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
The story of the deportation of the British Journalist Rupert Wingfield-Hayes from North Korea caused me to think about the struggle that many of our fellow Christians who live in North Korea face on a daily basis. Like the Apostle Paul and his companions they too are afflicted in every way.
A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting South Korea and meeting up with Christians who long to see their families who live in the North. Many of them have never seen brothers or sisters for over 60 years. With tears in their eyes they asked that we would continue to pray along with them for their brothers and sisters who are persecuted in North Korea simply because they are Christians.
I remember clearly our visit to the Demilitarised Zone, (DMZ). There were a number of points at which the tour guide bus stopped to allow pictures to be taken. I wanted to see for myself what was going on at the border. It's strange to be told: “be careful the war is not ended; there is simply an armistice.” It is even more surreal to be in a tour coach visiting a war zone. When you move out, to look around, at some points on the way you’re told not to walk off the beaten track because there are still many unexplored landmines.
In 1978 a tunnel was discovered just 52 km away from Seoul. It was 1635 metres in length and 2 metres wide. With a tunnel this size, it was estimated that 30,000 fully armed North Korean soldiers could have got through in just over an hour. At that time it was a deliberate policy of North Korea to invade the South. We were able to look at one of the tunnels and we even got the opportunity to walk down it for about 350 metres where it stopped.
The barbed wire on the other side marks the border; if you look carefully, as you peer through into the dark, you can see North Koreans staring back at you. Needless to say the barricade was built to keep us from moving too close.
When you speak with Koreans you very soon discover that there is a longing for the reunification of their country while others feel it’s a pipe dream and a costly one! In reality there is a belief and expectation that it will happen.
As a symbol of hope for the future, the South Koreans built a railway station just outside the DMZ. I remember thinking how inspiring an idea it was to build a train station. It's an investment in the future; believing that one day people from the North will pass through freely into the South. It reminded me of people who plant trees knowing they might never see the tree grow to maturity, but they plant these trees for the next generation. All of us have a duty to invest in the future - even if we may never be the beneficiaries. For the Christian communities in South Korea it’s a statement of faith, “death may be at work in the present but life, the life of faith, is at work now for the future!"