What You Need to Know About the Holocaust in North Korea
The Holocaust. Just the mention of that word conjures up images of the horrific crimes perpetrated at the hands of the Nazi regime. As a high school student, I visited the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., and I was horrified and outraged. The pictures of the experiments conducted on human beings haunt me to this day. The sight of thousands of children’s shoes, a tragic reminder of the young lives extinguished in gas chambers, enrage me.
A question always lingers in my mind when I think about the Holocaust: Why were Hitler and Nazi Germany allowed to proceed unchallenged for so long? Why didn’t anyone stop it sooner? A few years ago, while listening to a radio theater presentation of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Freedom, I realized something. Bonhoeffer was the German pastor and theologian who stood against the Nazi regime and was ultimately executed by hanging in the Flossenbürg concentration camp in 1945 just two weeks before US soldiers liberated the camp.
In 1939 Bonhoeffer came to America, and during his brief stay, it became apparent that many American people had no clue what was happening in Germany at the time. In our day and age with global information is just a click away, it almost seems unfathomable. But, the truth is, many people just didn’t realize what was happening in Germany.
Centuries and decades ago, societies were isolated and often unaware of difficulties faced by people around the world. Today, however, the world has changed. Technology has brought the world to us. When a 5.9 earthquake ravaged Virginia back in August of 2011, New Yorkers and people in Washington, D.C., received tweets about it 30 seconds before they felt it. Twitter reported that 40,000 earthquake-related tweets were sent within a minute of its occurrence! A couple of years ago, my Facebook and Twitter feeds were dominated by two things: stories of the atrocities perpetuated by ISIS in the Middle East and videos of people taking part in the ALS ice bucket challenge. As reports surfaced of the beheadings of children taking place in Mosul at the hands of ISIS, Christians were driven to prayer for people losing their life at the hand this terrorist group. With the ice bucket challenge, people around the world were becoming more informed and raising money to help fight ALS, a disease that affects thousands of people each year.
We are seeing the power of social media at work. Christians should be concerned about the world—the poor, the hungry, the stranger, the prisoner, the sick (Matt 25:31-46)—God cares for them and so should we. Social media helps us weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15). We can learn about the plight of those in distress and learn how we can help (James 1:27).
Over the last few years, I have become more aware of what the people of North Korea are facing.
It could be that I have just been oblivious, but I have been shocked to learn that a modern-day Holocaust is occurring in North Korea. And, I have wondered why I haven’t heard more about it.
I have had an increasing burden for the people there as I have tried to become more informed about what exactly is happening. My hope is that those of you reading this blog will also want to learn more and will begin to pray for the people of North Korea. The website for LiNK (Liberty in North Korea) states that the 24 million people of North Korea face one of the most repressive political regimes in history where public executions and political prison camps are common place. In preface to the book The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag, Kang Chol-Hwan, a young man who spent ten years in one of the prison camps, pleads with his readers:
“As Hitler slaughtered millions of Jews, the world did not want to believe it was happening. No one wished to imagine that the smoke and ashes blown to the village by the wind, day in and day out, actually came from the burning of human bodies within the concentration camps. Only after the genocide of six million Jews came to its grisly end did mankind eventually confront this gruesome tragedy. Now the term ‘concentration camp’ has become inextricably linked to Hitler’s holocaust. But how on earth could I ever explain that the same—and in fact far worse—things are being repeated in this twenty-first century in North Korea, a relic of a failed experiment in human history called communism? In my home country, 200,000 political prisoners are being ruthlessly massacred in concentration camps and countless people are routinely rounded up and sent off to them every day. As it was with Hitler’s Nazi Party, Pyongyang’s Korean Workers Party provides no explanation whatsoever to the silent lambs on their way to the slaughterhouse. Are we to stand back and allow history to repeat itself?” (pp. xi-xii).
It could be you are already aware of what the North Korean people are experiencing, but if not, can I encourage you to learn more about what is happening in North Korea? And, pray for them and spread the word so others can pray! Pray for Christians to have strength and boldness as they are a light in a very dark place. Pray for North Korean leaders, too, that they will come to Christ. Here are some suggested resources to help you learn more:
- Read The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot
- Read Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden
- Watch the 7-minute, powerful testimony of a young North Korean Christian teenager: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agG4vY2YpUQ#t=54
- Check out the website for LiNK (Liberty in North Korea): www.libertyinnorthkorea.org