Youngae Ma, who defected from North Korea in 2000, said a meal in the church that she found in China was a life-changing experience. In North Korea, Christianity is considered the equivalent to espionage, she said.
“That’s when I first saw the Bible, and I felt affection from this church community that I’ve never felt before,” she said. “It’s such an abundance I wouldn’t have even imagined existed.”
Ma now leads NK Refugee Mission, working to rescue North Korean defectors that have been detained in various parts of China and Southeast Asia during their journey to escape North Korea. Currently, Ma’s mission is to rescue two women from China, whose identities she declined to reveal.
“I’m more than willing to be sacrificed while protesting for North Korea’s human rights. … They call me a tick, or a mite when I protest outside the North Korean office,” Ma said, recalling her experiences encountering Pyongyang officials outside North Korea’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York City. She said she would receive phone calls from a blocked or unknown number. She would pick up, she said, and there would be silence for more than three seconds. She knew what was coming next.
“I have a hunch that it’s from the North Korean diplomats, because I can hear a heavy accent. They threatened to chop my head off with an ax, take out all my teeth with a wrench, and endlessly shout in foul [North] Korean language to tell me they’re going to take my life someday,” she said.
She said that the most recent call she had received to stop her activities as a missionary was in early May.