By Mark Ellis –
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, North Korea’s government shut down their borders in late January, banned foreign tourists, and stopped flights in and out of the country.
Hundreds involved in cross-border trade were stranded in China, according to a report by Cornerstone Ministries.
In July, one North Korean reportedly slipped back into North Korea by swimming across the Imjin River. President Kim Jong Un warned that if the border was breached again, the officials held responsible would be executed.
The following month, another man secretly crossed the Tumen River into North Korea, but was later discovered. “Kim Jong Un became enraged at the border control failure,” reports Brother Isaac, with Cornerstone.
President Kim then ordered the execution of the military commander in charge of that section of the border, along with the provincial political officer, a social security officer, a business associate of the man who breached the border, and three others.
“The executions were carried out in public,” Brother Isaac reports. “It is said that the executions were so horrific that the people could not bear to look. Some witnesses admitted they wet their pants. When the heavy-caliber weapons firing had ended, the bodies of the condemned men were no more than bloody fragments.”
At the beginning of Kim’s reign, he attempted to project a benevolent image, but that has changed. “In the last two years we are seeing exclusively an angry Kim Jong Un,” according to Brother Isaac.
“He has become just as his father was. He yells at everyone around him, and capriciously demotes and kills people…he is revealing his real self, a wantonly cruel dictator.”
Dire economic conditions
The country’s lockdown has had a severe impact on the economy. “More than 80% of the wares in over 800 authorized markets are from China,” according to Cornerstone. “Some of these were forced to close due to lack of inventory.”
Because of the shortages, prices rose as much as ten-fold. Two pounds of rice costs an entire month’s salary for the average teacher in North Korea. “That teacher can only buy one kilogram (2.2 pounds) if rice, which will only last five meals. How can a family of four survive?”
The official exchange rate is 900 won to the dollar. “However, our missionary in the field reported unofficially that one dollar is exchanged in the black market for 9,200 won. That means a high school teacher earns a half dollar a month.”
Hunger for Bibles
Until the border shutdowns, Bibles and food have been smuggled into North Korea from China. Missionaries gave Bibles to North Koreans who illegally crossed the border into China looking for food.
“Many North Koreans would spend a night learning the basics of the faith and return home with Bibles in their backpacks. There are many underground believers still reading the Bible knowing there will be severe consequences if it is discovered.”
When one of Cornerstone’s missionaries handed a Bible to one grateful North Korean woman, “her eyes shone the way a diamond shines when hit by light.”
“As each receives a Bible we notice hands are shaking because it is so precious and because of knowing the consequence of possessing a Bible.”
To learn more about Cornerstone’s ministry in North Korea, go here