Darren Slade on Missionizing North Korea
Date: August 31st, 2014

Missionizing North Korea?  Is that even possible?  Darren Slade, a Ph.D. student of Christian theology and apologetics at Liberty University, covers some of the strategies that have been used and might be used when evangelizing one of the world’s most repressive and atheistic regimes.

After letting Darren plug a few of his other projects, we ask him how he ever became interested in the topic of missionizing North Korea.  He shares a rather personal story about hearing of religious persecution in that country and how that led him to connect with the Voice of the Martyrs’ Safe Houses Project.  We then cover some historical ground, reviewing the religious landscape of North Korea, how Christianity came to the Korean peninsula in the 18th and 19th centuries, and then how the Japanese occupation, communist revolution, and Korean War played a role in shaping the region.  We also review the rise of the personality cult surrounding Kim Il-Sung and, to a lesser extent, Kim Jong-Il.  This cult of personality plays a large role in determining missionary strategy, a topic we cover later.

Tony then asks Darren why any Christian would want to put North Korea on the evangelization map.  Given the closed and tightly-closed nature of the society, not to mention the high level of persecution for Christians, one would imagine that this would be one place to avoid.  Darren notes that Christians are not called to avoid difficult populations and also recognizes that even small gains in such a desolate nation represent major achievements.

Our conversation then turns to different missionary strategies.  Darren divides up the efforts into two categories: humanitarian effort and covert evangelization.  The former includes Christian foreign aid groups (e.g., World  Vision) that enter the country to provide food, medicine, and clothing, as well as building and operating things such as soy milk and noodle factories.  Building trust of foreigners is a significant part of this type of missionizing, given that years of propaganda has made the population leery of outsiders, most notably Americans and Japanese.  Tony asks how overt proselytism is in these factories.  We also discuss the bleak socio-economic situation of the vast majority of the population, which presents an interesting tension within the governing regime — while the juche philosophy of self-reliance would tend to downplay the role of foreign aid missions, the government fully realizes that it needs such aid to prevent a catastrophic collapse of their population.

Darren also talks about covert missionizing and here we have a number of creative methods of getting Christian missions in.  Darren’s favorite tactic is “balloon drops,” wherein hydrogen-filled “mini blimps” are floated across the border from South Korea with Gospel tracts, Bibles, radios, and food/medicine.  Low-frequency radio broadcasts are also used.  Later, Darren suggests that writing Bible tracts on pictures of the Great Leaders, or hiding Bibles inside of books that have images of Kim Il-Sung on them might also be a useful strategy.  Darren also offers up some cautionary notes on evangelization, warning that these efforts need to proceed with great patience and that it is important to respect the extant culture of the population.  Building trust is of primary concern, and any efforts to attack the regime or otherwise engage in politics may be counterproductive.

We finish with Darren’s thoughts about the future of North Korea.  While it is a bleak situation, he remains cautiously optimistic about changes that may be occurring.  Recorded: August 25, 2014.


Daren M. Slade on Academia.edu (where you can find links to his writings).

Voice of the Martyrs.


Karrie Koesel on House Churches in China.

Karrie Koesel on Religion & Politics in China.

Kevin Cooney on Religion and the Rule of Law in China.

Kevin Cooney on Christianity in Japan.

Lan Chu on Catholicism in Vietnam.

Roger Finke on Religious Persecution.

Joel Fetzer on Confucianism and Democracy.

Religious Freedom and Political Flourishing: A Panel Discussion.

Religious Freedom and Economic Prosperity: A Panel Discussion.

Ani Sarkissian on Religious Liberty in the Post-Soviet World.

Catherine Wanner on Religion in Russia.

4 Responses to “Darren Slade on Missionizing North Korea”

  1. Kelly Knight says:

    The atonement of Jesus Christ is for all of God’s children, including those in North Korea. Why would we not want to share the Gospel with them?

  2. […] Darren Slade on missionizing North Korea (Research on Religion Podcast, Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion) […]

  3. Jules says:

    I really enjoyed this podcast! Mr. Slade presents relevant, practical information for reaching this unreached people group and my prayer is that God will raise up individuals who will consider these strategies to reach the North Koreans! Thank you for your insights!!!

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