On Christmas Eve, South Korea-based Free North Korea Radio (FNKR) will broadcast a Christmas message into the North, and run it every day for seven days. North Korean defector Christians in South Korea believe that the Christmas message can break the religious “stranglehold” of the Kim Jong Un regime. The story can blast through the propaganda that Kim Jong Un is God, and encourage North Koreans to question the oppressive regime.
“Kim Il-Sung saw the power of the [Christian] faith and decided to use its constructs for his own purposes,” Suzanne Scholte, chairwoman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC) — the American partner of FNKR — told PJ Media. “He set himself up as a god, perverting the Holy Trinity with Jim Jong-Il as the Christ figure and the Juche ideology of self-reliance as the Holy Spirit.”
Scholte had corresponded with Hwang Jang-yop, the highest-ranking North Korean defector responsible for crafting Juche ideology. According to the NKFC chairwoman, Hwang “came to believe that it was only the Gospel message that could break the stranglehold of the Kim regime over this thinking.”
Here are a few concrete ways the message of Christmas can free the minds of North Koreans, according to Scholte.
1. The star of Bethlehem.
The star of Bethlehem forms a central part of the Christmas story as told in the Gospel of Matthew. According to the tale, magi from the East saw a star heralding Jesus’ birth and came to worship Him, identifying Him as King of the Jews.
North Korean propaganda also speaks of a star heralding the birth of their kings, Peter Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, explained in Newsmax. In Korean mythology, Kwangmyongsong (“the Bright Star”) heralded the birth of the demigod and great conqueror Dangun on Mt. Paektu. Dangun defeated China’s Shang Dynasty and founded the Korean civilization in 2333 B.C.
The Kim regime not only emphasizes this miraculous star, but directly connects it to the ruling family. According to North Korean state media, Kim Jong Un, his father Kim Jong-il, and his grandfather Kim il-sung were all born on Mt. Paektu, and under Kwangmyongsong, the conqueror’s star.
This is blatantly false. Kim il-sung is known to have been born in Mangyongdae near Pyongyang, North Korea — more than 400 miles away from Mt. Paektu. Kim Jong-il is known to have been born in Vyatskoye, Russia — a 17-hour flight from Mt. Paektu. Records differ on the birth of Kim Jong Un, but suggest he was born in Pyongyang, again 400 miles from Mt. Paektu.
Perhaps hearing the story of Jesus’ birth under the star of Bethlehem will encourage North Koreans to question the propaganda about the Kims’ births, Scholte suggested.
2. Sacrificial love.
From her discussions with North Korean defectors, Scholte learned that the victims of the Kim regime have no understanding of sacrificial love for people. “The movie ‘Titanic’ (1997) was revolutionary for them, because it showed someone sacrificing themselves for another,” the NKFC chairwoman told PJ Media.
“They’re only taught to sacrifice for the dictator. The whole concept that there’s a God who would sacrifice His own Son to save us, it’s just a powerful message.”
The Kim regime worked hard to eradicate this message. “During his consolidation of power, Kim il-sung tried to eradicate the Christian faith through executing pastors and priests and sending Christians to political prison camps,” Scholte explained. In 1962, the dictator proclaimed, “We have executed all Protestant and Catholic Church cadre members and all other vicious religious elements have been sent to concentration camps.”
The message of the gospel was so subversive, the North Korean regime did everything to wipe it out, but FNKR is spreading it over the airwaves.
3. Changing the words.
Scholte said that North Koreans are “basically brainwashed from childhood” to worship the Kim regime. “They think that he’s a god.”
“There’s no songs except songs glorifying the Kims. There’s no literature except literature glorifying the Kims. The whole educational system is based on glorifying the Kims and hating the Americans,” she said. She mentioned a second grade math textbook that teaches addition by asking, “If you throw a grenade and kill two American GIs, and your friend’s grenade kills 4 American GIs, how many Americans will you have killed?”
The propaganda attributes incredible feats to the Kims, with textbooks teaching that Kim Jong Un learned how to drive when he was three years old.
A key part of Free North Korea Radio and the special Christmas broadcast involves changing the lyrics to propaganda songs. Rather than worshiping the Kims, the new songs will worship Jesus Christ instead.
“We have used their propaganda songs and changed the words that glorify Kim to glorifying God,” Scholte said. This small subversion may prove quite effective, as the FNKR songs sound just like Kim songs, meaning that if a North Korean listener were caught playing a song and switched it off quickly, the authorities might think they were merely engaging in the state worship.
4. An alternate timeline.
Scholte also told PJ Media that the Juche calendar begins on 1912, marking that as the year 1 for the birth of Kim il-sung. Rather than 2017, the current year in North Korea is Juche 106.
The Christmas story, taking place two thousand years ago, and roughly the time from which the Western (and mostly global) calendar is marked, provides an alternate perspective on time itself.
Kim Ji Young, a reporter with FNKR, illustrated just how warped North Koreans’ perspective on time and ultimate reality is. “We thought when Kim Jong Il died, we were also going to die because ‘our god’ died. We need to tell people in North Korea the truth,” Kim said.
Scholte emphasized that the North Korean regime attempts to keep information from the outside world from penetrating into North Korea. Bibles are banned.
Choi Jeong Un, FNKR broadcasting director, reported that “our informants in Hoeryongand Cheongjin told us over a call that the Christians write down the Bible passages which we air at the end of the mission program, and use them for their prayers.” Outside information, and especially the Bible, is that precious to them.
5. Freedom contrasted with oppression.
Kim Ji Young, the reporter, said, “If we can break down the idolization of Kim Jong Un, it will change the hearts and minds of the people of North Korea. The truth will set them free. They need to know about the true God. Kim Jong Un is exploiting the people. God does not exploit.”
Scholte told PJ Media that the ultimate contrast between Kim Jong-un and Jesus revolves around freedom. “We have a redeemer who forgives us and liberates us, but in their dictatorship they’re enslaved and isolated.”
Earlier this month, North Korean defectors Hyeona Ji and Han Ga Hee testified before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee. They told horrifying stories of abuse, beatings, horrible conditions where they could not heal from their wounds, and lives carelessly taken by the Kim regime. North Korean women who had been trafficked in China, got pregnant, and were repatriated back to North Korea were beaten so they would miscarry — because the babies would have “impure blood.”
“North Korea is one terrifying prison and the Kim regime is carrying out crimes against humanity in North Korea,” Hyeona Ji said.
These conditions drive North Koreans to brave temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius to escape to China. Han Ga Hee testified that every winter, her feet would sting with pain from the frostbite she contracted years ago fleeing for freedom.
In a 2005 email to Suzanne Scholte, Juche ideology founder Hwang Jang-yop described the Kim regime as “living gods of evil.”
There are living gods of evil who in the name of revolution, rob the sanity from innocent people and drag them to a living hell of poverty and starvation. There are also the worst contemporary hypocrites who join in the team of these living demons, and deceive not only their own people but also the people around the world in order to realize their ambitions, under the guise of democracy and peace.
Even at this moment, the evil spirit and the good spirit, God and Satan is building a stronghold against each other and demons are jumping around hysterically in order to take away the souls of the good people of North and South Korea.
This spiritual battle for truth and freedom has been Scholte’s cause since 1996, one year before she got the first North Korean defectors to speak publicly in the United States.
In the battle against Kim — whom Scholte and Pry described as an “antichrist” — “the most powerful tool we have is the defectors. They know the truth, and they are very focused on getting that truth to North Korea and they know how that messaging should be.”
Scholte told PJ Media that FNKR is “outperforming everyone” in reaching North Koreans, because the defectors know how best to speak to the North Korean people. Interestingly, she praised President Donald Trump’s recent speech in South Korea for making it clear that Americans care about the people of North Korea, fighting the Kim regime lie that Americans hate them.
In the midst of Kim Jong Un’s missile launches, the Christmas message cannot come soon enough to the people of North Korea. Perhaps this broadcast can open the door to a revolution against the Kim regime — first in hearts and minds, and then in political might. In the end, God will humble the proud and exalt the humble.
When Jesus spoke in the synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4:16-21, He read a section from Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus concluded, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Would that the same message would come to North Korea.
(The Defense Forum Foundation, the U.S. partner of Free North Korea Radio, is a 501(c)3 foundation that sends all its donations to support the broadcast. Learn more or donate at www.defenseforumfoundation.org.)