Many North Koreans flee to neighboring China, where some find help from Chinese Christians.
Kim Seung-min escaped from the clutches of North Korea in the mid 90s. He shares his story to bring attention to the plight of people living in the Hermit Kingdom with anyone who will listen, including world leaders.
Kim escaped the country after becoming disillusioned by the horrible conditions and massive starvation.
"Every day I heard the news of executions from more than 20 political concentration camps all over North Korea and news of 3 million people who starved or froze to death," he said.
Kim has faced brutal beatings, including having his fingers broken. This was a result of fleeing North Korea and abandoning the military where he has risen to the rank of captain.
Kim had fled to China and there met some Christians, but it was only when he was being sent back to North Korea after Chinese authorities caught him that he put his trust in Jesus Christ.
"When I was sent from China back to North Korea there was a bridge, as I crossed the bridge I knew I was going to die. I knew this was my time of destiny," he said. "I wanted to sign a praise song, but I couldn't remember any praise songs to the Lord, so I promised myself that if I lived and escaped again I would learn praise songs and memorize them."
When Kim served in the North Korean military he wrote poems about the greatness Kim Il Sung, one of which was required memorization for North Korean soldiers. Now he is writing songs praising the God of Heaven. After being sentenced to death in Onsung, North Korea Kim was sent by train to Pyongyang by some of the men he used to serve with.
"On the thir day I felt the presence of the soldiers who were guarding me behind me, I could tell one of them was hesitating at the door by the restroom. It was a mess because it hadn't been cleaned in three days," he recalled. "When the soldier hesitated I knew this was my only chance to escape. Without thinking I jumped off the moving train by leaping through the window. My body aged one thousand years at that moment."
He made his way back into China and reconnected with the Christians he met there before. Kim spent the next two-and-a-half years working in a charcoal factory, growing in relationship with Jesus and copying the entire Bible before going to South Korea in 1999.
Kim has been active in trying to reach North Koreans with the message of God's love through a daily half hour shortwave radio broadcast that focuses on Christian persecution.
"North Korea is an empire of evil. The world has nothing to do with them," he said at a conference. "They don't have a principle of law, they shoot missiles, they sell drugs and make counterfeit dollars. The only way is to melt the North Korean hearts with love and the Gospel."
Kim also heads up the recently launched Underground University in Seoul, South Korea in partnership with the Voice of the Martyrs Korea and the Voice of the Martyrs Canada.
"Underground University is a 12 month training program that helps North Koreans return to North Korea or reach their North Korean brothers and sisters with the Gospel. To be able to discern how God is calling them to do that, and then to be able to train them in that discernment.North Koreans have the best ideas of how to reach their own country," explained Eric Foley, executive director of The Voice of the Martyrs Korea. "Underground university doesn't train them in a particular methodology of evangelism or discipleship, really it goes more fundamental than that it's about helping them to discern to what God is calling them to do, and the things that they come up with are really amazing, much more effective than anything we could come up with in the west."
Other projects VOM Canada has been involved with in North Korea include launching Gospel balloons that drop Gospel tracks over the county, and smuggling food and supplies into the isolated nation.
*Original broadcast April 5, 2009.