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Pastor Rescues 1,000 North Koreans

by | Sun, Oct 29 2023

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A new documentary provides a shocking look at life inside North Korea. Beyond Utopia follows a courageous pastor who has dedicated his life to helping North Koreans find freedom. Pastor Seungem Kim claims to have rescued more than 1,000 defectors in the past ten years.

He leads the Caleb Mission Church in South Korea. After their son was killed by North Koreans, his wife vowed that the couple would devote themselves to saving defectors. Quoting John 12.24 the pastor sees their son in Christian terms. A grain of wheat, by dying, brings forth much fruit.

In the film, a defector to South Korea describes the horrors befalling an impoverished and cowed people. From him and other sources, the audience learns of “banishments”, prison camps, and starvation. “When I was young,” he says, “we prayed to our Father and Leader Kim Il-Sung before breakfast every morning. We had never heard of a book called the Bible, and, if anyone was caught with one, they’d receive the worst punishment imaginable.”

The Guardian writes: “Beyond Utopia is a nail-bitingly tense account of the network of safe houses and “underground railroads” used by North Korean defectors to get to freedom. There is real escape footage here. Despite the well-attested ideological iron grip exerted in North Korea, there are in fact traffickers and brokers both there and in China who for a price are prepared to get people out.”

“Half of this film is taken up by the heart-rending study of a North Korean family being spirited over the border into China by Pastor Kim’s organisation, where they are met by his associates, who help them to look like South Korean tourists and then conduct them through Vietnam and Laos in conditions of extreme danger (both are communist countries that could send them back to North Korea) and finally to freedom in Thailand,” The Guardian review explains.

“It is almost unbearably sad and funny when the elderly North Korean grandma, who can’t rid herself of her lifelong reverence for the Pyongyang leadership, first sees a flat-screen plasma TV and assumes it’s a blackboard for teaching.”

CBN News reports the second half of the film features a brave mother who made it out of North Korea while her son was caught in China and sent back to be punished, perhaps for life. After much prayer, she resisted a suspicious offer to pay a bribe to help him escape and agreed to continue telling her story, despite the threat that posed to her son’s safety.

New laws and security measures have sent the cost of rescue attempts soaring to around A$30,000 per person.