Christians in North Korea face beatings, torture, arbitrary shooting and execution. It is difficult, though, to comprehend the true nature of the terror of the victims, the extent of the persecution, and the bravery of their struggle.
A new film, “The Apostle: He Was Anointed by God,” presents a fictionalized account based on stories culled by South Korean director Kim Jin-moo.
The plot revolves around Chul-ho who wants to lead villagers across the river to China and from there to South Korea. He, his family and friends, face varying degrees of terrorism by North Korean soldiers, some of them glad to accept bribes, others promising to get tough against dissidents in their midst.
The film introduces, on a highly personal level, the types of conflicts among all these people that we can only imagine – the aging father who just wants to pay off the authorities whenever expedient, the pregnant woman who hides away but also gets killed, the Christian who praises Kim Jong-il in a sermon in one of those phony authorized churches in Pyongyang, the young soldier who himself is a Christian and attends underground services while in uniform.
One of the more interesting studies in “The Apostle” is that of the North Korean squad leader who warns Christians of the troubles they face under a new, ambitious officer and then obeys the officer when expedient, as when villagers are shot and killed as they try to flee across the snow into China. The differences among North Koreans are essential to the credibility of the film since they portray characters who suffer not only from ideological fanaticism but also from opportunism and the need to survive under a brutal regime that will kill anyone who shows any sign of insubordination.
For those who worry about the fate of unknown tens of thousands of secret Christians in North Korea, this is a powerful film with a believable story. Chul-ho dies as a martyr to his faith. Peter Jung, founder of Justice for North Korea, presenting the film, complete with English subtitles, said his organization will show it on March 17 in Geneva during debate at the UN Council for Human rights on the report on human rights in North Korea by a commission authorized by the council.
A book by Jung and activist Kim Hi-tae, “The Persecuted Catacomb Christians of North Korea,” is quoted in the report. Copies of the book, in both English and Korean, were handed out after the screening of the film. It provides an astonishing glimpse into the history of Christianity in Korea, the suffering that Christians have endured historically and the brutality that exists today in North Korea.