They Are Listening

When Hannah was a child in North Korea, she spent nearly every night huddled next to the radio with her father. It was illegal to listen to the radio, but though forbidden, her father had managed to purchase one so they could tune into South Korea stations.

Her father cautioned the family on listening, so they would wait until midnight before turning it on. When they did listen, they heard very different broadcasts to what their teachers were telling them at school about the  South Korean lifestyle.

Hannah’s father especially enjoyed listening to Christian sermons. As a teenager, Hannah thought the sermons were boring, but her father explained that the sermons helped him figure out the truth about life, why he was born and the meaning of humanity.

As they listened and learned about the world outside, the family began to consider a risky option - leaving their home and country. The original plan was that Hannah would leave first, and after the family made more money, they would employ a broker to get the whole family out. While she couldn’t know it at the time, the day the broker came to sneak her into China was the last time she would see her family.

From China, Hannah traveled to Thailand, where she was placed in a temporary detention centre for North Koreans. Then, after being cleared and released, she eventually made it to South Korea. She was alone in a new country, and she missed her family. One day while passing a church, she decided to go in and introduce herself as a North Korean. “They welcomed me into the church, it was the most difficult time of my life and the church was there for me.” she said.

Hannah began attending regularly and as she listened to the sermons, she remembered those that she and her father had listened to on the radio.”I definitely grew a lot in faith coming to South Korea,” she said. Her family never made it out of North Korea, she did have minimal contact with them, and from that brief correspondence, she heard that her father had died. He was not only her father, but a faithful friend as well.

Hannah made a life for herself in South Korea and continued to grow in her faith, but also longed for meaningful Christian service. When an elder in her church mentioned a radio programme that Voice of the Martyrs produced and broadcast into North Korea, she knew it was the missing piece in her life.

She soon became involved in the radio work, confident that her father would be pleased of the way she was reaching out to her countrymen.

Hannah’s announcements of Christian music, Scripture readings and sermons in the North Korean dialect engage North Korean listeners in a way that a South Korean dialect announcers cannot. After years of separation, North and South Korean dialects differ enough that North Koreans can have trouble understanding South Koreans.

A recent North Korean defector who is not a Christian told Voice of the Martyrs staff he regularly listens to the radio broadcast in North Korea simply because he appreciated the announcer’s soft voice. He even had the programme schedule memorised.

As a former listener, Hannah understands how important these programmes are in reaching North Koreans with the gospel, and she is sure her involvement in radio work is not an accident. “There was a plan for me to be involved with radio too,” she said,”It is definitely not by chance.”

When she finishes recording, Hannah picks up her bag and heads home. She may not see the immediate results of her work, but she knows that all over North Korea, people are listening. 

—Voice of the Martyrs, Feb. 2019