Hannah’s story of faithfulness

North Korea’s meetings with world leaders in recent days signal possible winds of change for the people of the country. In the midst of these developments, the situation for Christians still remains grim, as one woman’s story shows how harshly families are treated when they refuse to follow rules set out by the authoritarian regime.

Hannah Cho* was born just before the Korean War broke out in 1950. She remembered the air raid sirens and holding on to her father’s back as they climbed into the mountains to survive another night of bombing.

After the war, with public religion discouraged, her local church was turned into a school. Her Christian mother continued to pray at home but Hannah and her father kept watch for neighbours who might inform the authorities about her faith.

“If anyone came close, we’d cough and she’d stop praying,” Hannah said. She wanted to understand her mother’s faith but she spoke so fast when she prayed that it was difficult to understand: “All we could make out was: ‘Hananim! Hananim! – Lord! Lord! Help.’”

Hannah’s mother did not share about her Christian faith with her family as she did not want to jeopardize their very existence. People were known to be executed or put into prison camps if they were discovered to revere and worship anyone other than the authoritative regime.

Hannah went on to marry when she was 23. An economic crash at the time led a life of much hardship and challenges and in due time, she and her family moved on to China in search of a better life.

Finding a new life in Christ

Hannah exclaimed that it was in China that she and her family came to know the Lord. “My husband’s relative brought us to church, and this is where we first heard the entire Gospel. All of us accepted Jesus Christ that day.” They were discovered by Chinese secret agents, arrested and finally sent back to North Korea where they were imprisoned and tortured. “They’d beat us so harshly. When there was no interrogation, we had to kneel in our cells from 5 AM to 12 PM and not speak.”

Hannah’s entire family was then put in solitary confinement due to their Christian faith. During their imprisonment, they were so severely tortured that when they were released and reunited, they barely recognized one another. Immediately, they began planning to escape to China again.

Separated again

Hannah and her daughter were the first to leave; her husband and son were supposed to meet them a month later. But a month became three years without Hannah hearing from her husband. “I found out [my husband] died shortly after we left. He was never able to overcome the pain and illnesses from prison. My son… is still in North Korea. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in many years. I hope to find him one day”

This is the stark reality for many North Korean Christians. But thanks to friends like you, so many “Hannah’s” in North Korea are receiving the hope, strength and courage they need to stand strong in the faith. That’s because friends like you are helping provide them with critical support such as food aid, clothes and medicines. So as the needs of our brothers and sisters in places like North Korea continue to increase, please be in prayer with us, that we would be able to stand in the gap for them. The strength of their faith to hold on to Jesus despite all odds speaks of an enduring faith.

In the recent month we have seen an unforeseen meeting of the leadership of North and South Korea come together. In April 2018, Kim Jong-Un and President Moon signed a declaration that committed the two countries to denuclearisation and talks to bring a formal end to the 72-year-old conflict. May the winds of change bring tremendous change for Christians held behind bars, those in prison camps and those who cannot worship the Lord openly. ‘Hananim! Hananim! – Lord! Lord! Help.’ Was the cry of Hannah’s mother, and continues to be Hannah’s cry as she longs to see her son again and prays for complete religious freedom for her nation.