Every year, thousands of North Koreans flee to China in a dangerous bid for freedom.
Some of them come to faith in Christ. Incredibly, some decide to go back to North Korea to spread the gospel
Refugee Tae escaped North Korea twice. The first time, Chinese authorities sent him back. He was imprisoned and his wife was forced to divorce him.
"I lost my identity as a citizen of North Korea, I was considered to have rejected my country and my parents after I left North Korea," he said. "I was not considered a human and was called by a number in prison."
But it was there in prison that Tae came to faith in Christ. That was a worse offense: worshipping Christ over worshipping the state, the government and the Kim family.
Tae escaped again and made his way to South Korea. Fourteen years later, he wants to go back. He has enrolled in Seoul's Underground University, a ministry of Seoul USA and the Voice of the Martyrs Canada.
"It's important to do missionary work and send food and do humanitarian acts in North Korea, but it's also important to prepare North Korean defectors to be able to be trained and equipped in the Gospel to go back there," Tae said. "It's also important to pray for our families in North Korea."
Peck, another North Korea refugee, is a fellow student at Underground University. She was a city politician in North Korea near the Chinese border where she witnessed a time of massive starvation.
"There was trouble with the food, up to 80 people were dying every day in the city," Peck said. "There was no freedom. When Kim Il Sung died, people began to have thoughts that this dictatorship would not work."
Peck decided to escape and made her way to South Korea where she started going to church. At first just to receive material help like food. But after five years of hearing sermons and reading the Bible, she came to faith in Jesus Christ.
"I know the truth about God, and I want to explain it to others in North Korea," Peck explained. "I have been through the systems and I know it will be difficult for them as it was for me to know Christ because of the brainwashing by the authorities. But I can share because I have been through it."
A wall blocks what is known as "the freedom bridge" between the two countries. People leave messages for those they care about on the other side of the wall. They hope that someday all Koreans will be united.
On the north side of the border, another refugee, Jung, (pronounce "Jong") began to wonder why his government tried so hard to control and oppress Christianity. He witnessed the public execution of three Christians who smuggled bibles into the country.
"There was one woman and two men. The men were about 22 or 23 years old," Jung said.
Watching the executions increased his spiritual hunger.
"The public executions actually made me want to know more about Christ and the Bible," he said. "I thought there must be something behind it because the authorities are killing people who have the Bible and know God."
After four years in South Korea, Jung wants to return and evangelize his own people.
Through the classes and "Tortured for Christ," I learned that the Christian life is not easy, there is suffering and hard times, there are martyrs for Christ," he said. "I've learned how to live as a Christian and how to die as a Christian."
Matt DuBois, assistant dean at the Underground University helps train North Korean exiles.
"It's very exciting to see what God has raised up with these students," DuBois said. "They understand that sharing the Gospel and Christ and accepting Christ into your life doesn't make things better in North Korea, but worse; you are persecuted for being a Christian."
The one-year curriculum at Underground University includes the biblical theology of persecution and discipleship. Their training is practical as well. Students take a three-day wilderness hike to learn team building, conflict resolution, and leadership skills.
TAE: "I learned about teamwork, and that I wasn't here by myself. I have team members," Tae said. "Throughout the training, I thought about Jesus Christ and how we are the Body of Christ, we have to function together."
"If we don't work together, we would be handicapped and wouldn't be one body," he continued. "This training helped me to cooperate with others."
After their year of studies at the university, these students expect to head back north, not knowing whether they will return or not.
But they say they are willing to sacrifice their lives to help bring spiritual freedom to their countrymen who may never have a chance to escape the hermit kingdom.