Cary-based group broadcasts to Christians in North Korea

kpoe@newsobserver.comApril 14, 2013 

— A Cary-based group is broadcasting messages of God’s love and peace to North Korea’s Christian population as threats of the nation’s nuclear firepower dominate headlines.

Trans World Radio, a Cary-based organization that broadcasts non-denominational Christian programming to more than 160 countries around the world, is increasing its programming in North Korea because its people need peace now more than ever, said Lauren Libby, chief executive officer for Trans World Radio.

“We’re talking to an individual person in a very difficult situation,” Libby said. “How do you come to personal peace when you’re living in a country like that? It’s a biblical standpoint to how a person would respond to persecution, how to respond to extreme pressure … the Bible addresses all of those issues.”

The transmitters to North Korea are based in Guam, because they would be illegal within the country. Trans World Radio, also called TWR, aims to set up partner organizations run by natives of the country they are located in, but that’s not yet a possibility in North Korea, Libby said.

The employees of the transmitters in Guam have been setting up contingency plans as threats of a possible missile strike loom, Libby said.

“Nobody really knows what’s going to happen, frankly,” Libby said. “We’re concerned, but we’re not uptight about it.”

TWR can’t track how many listeners it has in North Korea, but it does occasionally receive messages from listeners there, Libby said.

Fewer than 1 percent of the North Korean population is Christian, according to Hwansoo Kim, a professor of religion and Asian and Middle Eastern studies at Duke University.

“Among all other religions, Christianity is considered the most dangerous to the North Korean ideology because Christianity is associated with Western imperialism,” Kim said. “Christians are singled out as the worst thing, over any other crime, and that’s the kind of rhetoric among the North Korean regime.”

But Libby said Jesus spoke of God’s love amid oppression, and North Korean Christians can learn from that.

“Most believers who are Christians in the country have to practice in private, or they get together in homes and they do it in an almost clandestine nature,” Libby said. “We have known of people who would meet in homes and listen to radio programs. It’s a resource not only to individuals but groups of Christians who get together in a very difficult circumstance.”

Scholars think there are many underground Christian leaders in North Korea, Kim said. Though it must be done secretly, Christian faith can be an advantage not just ideologically but socioeconomically, Kim said. Pastors in South Korea have been known to send food and money to Christians in North Korea to help them eventually flee the country.

“But (church meetings) are really dangerous,” Kim said. “Once they get caught, that’s the end to your life.”

Poe: 919-836-4918

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