North Korea Training Video Reveals Unknown Martyr

Newly discovered North Korea propaganda footage sheds light on how the Communist regime trains state security agents on how to identify and silence Christians.

If not for a North Korean government training video, the testimony of Cha Deoksun’s life would never have been known. Produced to train state security agents how to identify and silence those who promote religion inside North Korea, the film denigrates anyone who practices religion. “This video illustrates very clearly why it is so important for Christians everywhere to pray for North Korea and Christians there," Todd Nettleton, host of VOM Radio and an author of the history of Christianity in North Korea, said. According to the film, Deoksun received Christ in China and returned to North Korea to share her faith. Cha lost her faith in the government during the Great Famine in the 1990s when she illegally crossed the border into China and found God at Seotap Church and then became a  believer who was inspired to return to North Korea and form an underground church. Cha Deoksun Martyr

Incredibly, the propaganda film gives many details about the life of this courageous Christian. It states that during North Korea’s “Great Famine” in the mid-1990s, when an estimated 2.5 million people died, Deoksun was a strong revolutionary whose faith in the government had wavered. After visiting a woman in the northwest to ask for help, she illegally crossed the border into China in search of her uncle. But instead of finding her uncle, who had died, Deoksun found the Seotap Church, where she heard the gospel for the first time. The video says she became a “fanatical believer” who was inspired to return to North Korea and form an underground network of Christians inside the country.

When she returned to North Korea, Deoksun apparently turned herself in to authorities for crossing the border illegally. The video says that authorities were “lenient” and released her, but instead of praising the government, she praised the Lord. Because of her poverty, the government did not restrict her movement within the country; she could travel freely between North Korean towns to earn money for herself. As she traveled, she shared the gospel and gave money to the poor and those suffering. In addition, she discovered the descendants of several prominent Christians who gathered every Sunday to worship, pray, sing hymns, and study God’s Word.

Though she was faithful, compassionate, and generous, the video describes her as a “spy seeking to recruit other spies” — a description of evangelists commonly used in North Korean propaganda. Eventually, according to the video, “a good and awakened North Korean citizen” reported her to authorities.

The UN Secretary-General had reported to the UN General Assembly in July 2020 that the country “continues to severely restrict the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom of association and peaceful assembly.” Multiple sources indicate the situation had not changed since the 2014 Report of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the DPRK was published. The COI found an almost complete denial by the government of the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. In many instances, the COI determined that there were human rights violations committed by the government that constituted crimes against humanity.

Volker Türk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the 15‑member Council last August that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s policies indicate increasing repression of the rights to freedoms of expression, movement, the persistence of widespread forced labor practices and a worsening situation for economic rights. Thousands of enforced disappearances have been perpetrated by the State over the past 70 years, including of Koreans from both north and south of the demilitarized zone, according to his report.  For all the victims of violations and crimes, accountability is essential.  However, in the absence of meaningful action, he encouraged action from Member States or international fora, including the International Criminal Court. 

It is unclear how Deoksun died, but it is possible that she was executed. Deoksun served the Lord without recognition, just as many North Korean Christians do today despite their government’s fierce attempts to eradicate Christianity.

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