400 North Koreans travel to China desperate for food, find Living Bread


By Mark Ellis

North Korean kindergarten children in Pyongyang City, 1997
North Korean kindergarten children in Pyongyang City, 1997

The North Korean famine of the 1990s resulted in the deaths of as many as 800,000 people. The famine’s return in 2013 led some to undertake desperate measures to survive, with many attempts to cross the border into China in a frantic search for food.

Yet in this quest for survival, some have had their souls filled in unexpected ways. Some of the North Koreans understand if they can locate a certain identifiable symbol on a house or building, they will find sustenance.

Government leaders and the military receive priority for food, while others suffer
Government leaders and the military receive priority for food, while others suffer

“North Koreans know when they find the cross, they are able to get food and shelter,” says Peter Kim, with Cornerstone Ministries International.

One church in northeast China has spearheaded a special outreach to North Korean refugees over the last decade. As a result, about 400 North Koreans who travelled to China to get food have heard the gospel through their ministry.

“It is not easy to tell them about Jesus just right after meeting up with them,” the pastor reported to Cornerstone Ministries. “We have to give them time to open up their heart to us first. We try to spend about three days talking and eating with them.”

After a rapport is developed and the refugees’ physical needs are attended, even deeper needs can be met. “After this we feel that they are ready to listen to us; we explain the gospel to them,” he noted.

“Together they are taught how to pray and sing hymns as a group so that they can sing them in their own personal devotions, as it is dangerous for them to carry the bible or hymn books into North Korea. We encourage them to memorize bible verses and hymns, which they are really good at.”

The power of God’s Word does not return void. “Once they open up their heart, they tend to accept the gospel easily,” he said. “About 70% of the North Koreans, who heard the gospel through our work, became born again Christians. Some of them come back to us to learn more about Jesus.”

The face of the pastor was “shining” when he gave his report to Cornerstone.

“God placed Chinese-Koreans in Manchuria and through them, He gets the glory. Many North Koreans have heard the gospel. Souls are being saved. We pray that this kind of missionary works will continue and be more fruitful, that the Word of God fills the land of North Korea.”


  1. This man, Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea, is guilty of the imprisonment and torture of 30,000 of your brothers and sisters in Christ.
    He demands their confession.

    What would you confess to him?
    “A witness saw a young woman who folded her hands in a praying fashion when the SSD [State Security Department] interrogated her. The SSD suspected therefore that she was a Christian. They took her to another room and beat her until she confessed.”

    —Testimony before the United Nations Human Rights Council


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