North Korea Mission: The Special Calling of the Korean Church

Demilitarized Zone

Demilitarized Zone

by Jeff Ritchie

From the first day of our trip until now, one week later, we have been hearing the Korean Church talk about North Korea, and specifically the peaceful reunification of the peninsula, as a mission calling of the Korean Church to which they are inviting the prayers and efforts of the global church. It is the subject of prayer every time the church meets for worship. Each of the churches we have visited has mentioned their commitment to mission in North Korea, both as something they are doing now and as a task that they will engage in more fully when reunification comes. In this blog I want to highlight two our our site visits

Josh Hanson and Choon Lim

Josh Hanson and Choon Lim

The P&R Cafe of the Korea Mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)

The Rev. Choon Lim is a PC(USA) mission co-worker serving as its Regional Liaison for East Asia. Choon tends to the mission relationships of the PC(USA) with China, Taiwan, Japan, and the two Koreas, but his passion is for North Korea, and this is why.

A native of North Korea, Choon is one of the millions of Koreans who was separated from other family members during the Korean War. His mother took him and his brother south during the war while his father stayed behind. Choon only learned years later that his father survived the war and that he had another family. For Choon, then, the peaceful reunification of Korea and humanitarian missions to the North are a calling for the whole Church and part of his personal spiritual journey.

In his work Choon goes to North Korea 2-3 times a year. He told us that he was planning to go to the North next week. It is a time of increasing tensions politically, yet Choon affirms that it is necessary for the Church to continue face-to-face meetings with the tiny Church in North Korea to keep relationships and lay the groundwork for the future work of God in North Korea. In the meantime he also leverages resources from outside Korea to support various educational, social and mercy ministries in the North. On a recent trip to the North he also learned of the possibility of Presbyterians supporting a theological raining program of the church in North Korea, which is known as the Korean Christian Federation.

Seeing the visible emotion in Choon as he shared about his calling to mission in North Korea, one of our trip participants said, "As far as I am concerned, he is a hero." God bless you, Choon.

Pastor Chong of Kwangsung Church

Pastor Chong of Kwangsung Church

The New Settlers Ministry of the Kwangsung Presbyterian Church

The Kwangsung ("Holy Light") Presbyterian Church is located in Ilsan, a northwest suburb of Seoul. Led for 20 years by its founding pastor, the Rev. Jun Sung Jin, this remarkable church serves the people of Ilsan in a variety of ways. One group that they have an extensive and intensive outreach among is the North Korean refugee community in South Korea. Some 28,000 people have fled North Korea and, through a circuitous route, have arrived in South Korea to start a new life. The Kwangsung Church does not call these people “refugees.” They call them “new settlers.” 

Kwangsung Church employs some of these new settlers in a grocery store that sells organic foods. They have a special after-school program for the children of new settlers from the North called Kwangsung Dream School. Recently they held a retreat for “new settlers” and “old settlers” (long-time residents of South Korea).

This work is difficult. The Senior Pastor, Rev. Jung, shared that although the new settlers speak the same language and eat the same food as South Koreans, the 70 years of separation have created a new culture that requires much adaptation on the part of both new and old settlers. But this church is committed to be a church for the people of North Korea, both those who still live in the North and those who have come south, and so they engage in this mission wholeheartedly.

We were impressed. We hope that some of the seminarians we met on the first day of our visit will engage in similar ministries upon their graduation. We also were challenged as a group to greater prayer for the Korean peninsula and for such ministries as we have witnessed on our trip.

Jeff Ritchie
Associate Director for Mission