Tuesday, March 13, 2018

North Korea: Reasons for Hope

by Elizabeth Kendal

The best possible outcome for North Korea -- reform without bloodshed -- will require smart policy from all stakeholders.

See: Belligerence v Smart Policy’ E. Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, Feb 2014.

Consequently, as tensions escalated on the Korean Peninsula through 2017, the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) repeatedly called for prayer that God would: (1) sustain North Korea’s long-suffering and severely persecuted church, and (2) intervene in the Korean crisis creatively and according to his wisdom, to bring peace to the peninsula, liberty to the Church and glory to God’s name.

See: RLPB 403, North Korea: Uncertainly looms over long-suffering Church (19 Apr 2017)

and RLPB 423, North Korea: Talks the Only Option (13 Sep 2017).

The most recent Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) on North Korea -- RLPB 446 North Korea: A Step in the Right Direction (14 March 2017) – deals with the 8 March announcement that President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

As noted in that RLPB, “Understandably, observers are cautious; some are deeply skeptical, others are derisive. Many are yawning, saying, ‘We have been here before.’ In reality, however, the strategic situation today is entirely different and the persons involved are entirely new and are beginning, rather than ending, their terms. We have a new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un (35), who, apart from being shrewd and ruthless, is Swiss-educated and a big fan of American basketball and popular culture [meaning he is probably more interested in survival than in ideology]. We have a new and totally unconventional US president in Donald Trump (inaugurated in January 2017). We also have a new South Korean president, the hugely popular Moon Jae-in (65) – elected in May – for whom d├ętente with the North is a priority essentially because it is personal. Moon’s parents fled the North as refugees during the Korean War. He has stated that when peace comes, the first thing he will do is take his 90-yr old mother to visit her home town of Hungnam.”

RLPB 446 also notes that while President Moon’s South Korea is clearly eager to re-engage with the North, so too is Russia, whose Far East shares a border with North Korea. Russia would like to connect the Trans-Korean railway to the Trans-Siberian railway. Not only would this be huge for north-east Asian trade, it would also serve as competition to China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI).

Most critically, there is the tantalizing prospect that through these initiatives North Korea could be “drawn out of Communist China’s sphere of influence and into that of predominantly Christian South Korea, Russia and the US”, to the benefit of the Church in North Korea.

Below are a few non-subscription, freely available articles that I would recommended to anyone searching for reasons to share my optimism and hope.

Of course, quite apart from anything any strategic analyst might say, I am acutely aware that millions of faithful believers having been praying for North Korea for some seven decades. Add to this is the vast multitude of Korean martyrs who continue to cry “How long, O Lord?” I have absolutely no doubt that these prayers are being heard and that God – who “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (from Eph 3:20-21) – can be trusted.

Recommended Reading

History in the making: US president to meet North Korean leader
By Andrew Salmon, Asia Times Online, 9 March 2018.

The Modest Diplomatic Promise of North Korea's Charm Offensive
International Crisis Group, 11 March 2018

Moon Jae-in: Who is South Korea's new president? 
BBC, 9 May 2017

South Korea's President May Be Just the Man to Solve the North Korea Crisis
S.Nathan Park, The Atlantic, 18 July 2017

Russia-North Korea Economic Ties: Is There More Than Meets the Eye?
By Artyom Lukin and Liudmila Zakharova,
Foreign Policy Research Institute, 6 Oct 2017
in particular Chapter 5, “Can Russia Play a Role in Resolving the Korean Crisis?”

Nuclear Weapons And Russian-North Korean Relations
Artyom Lukin, Foreign Policy Research Institute, 29 November 2017

Russia and Crisis Management on the Korean Peninsula
Rensselaer Lee and William Severe,
Foreign Policy Research Institute, 29 November 2017

ALSO, for subscribers to Stratfor Worldview:
Cheeseburgers in the Workers' Paradise
By Rodger Baker, VP of Strategic Analysis, Stratfor, 13 March 2018


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).