While living in North Korea, Ahn was an elite soldier in the North Korean military. One evening, in an attempt to save a portrait of the North Korean communist founder, Kim Il-Sung, from a fire, Ahn suffered severe burns resulting in the need to have over 40 surgical procedures.
Ahn was supposed to be awarded a certificate for his bravery but instead received a phone call one day from an officer asking for a bribe to receive it.
Ahn felt deeply betrayed by the regime he had served faithfully and, as a result, began to question the ideology he had held all his life. Eventually, he decided to defect – a decision that, to his great surprise, his father approved. Ahn spent six months planning and preparing to leave, including obtaining poison so that, if arrested, he could kill himself.
Then, in February 2014, he and his sister began the perilous journey out of North Korea. They spent a year in China before Ahn managed to make his way to South Korea. Sadly, his sister was arrested in China before she could follow him and repatriated to North Korea where she was imprisoned. She was released in 2020 but by then her health was in such a poor condition that, a year later, at 39 years old, she died.
After Ahn arrived in South Korea, he quickly fell into depression. However, he met members of a church and through them began attending services. “I can remember when I met the Lord; one Friday night at a prayer meeting. I began to cry tears that I had held in for so long. God touched the scars that were in my heart. I began to reinterpret my life in the light of the gospel. I began to dream new dreams in the Lord and to start a new life in the Lord. I had been rejected by the North Korean government and I had lived such a meaningless life, but the Lord gave me new dreams and new hopes.”
Ahn, who is now married with a young son, has enrolled at a Bible college and is hopeful that one day the door will open for reunification in the Korean peninsula. “Then I will go to preach the gospel in my hometown,” he said.
Meanwhile, he wants Christians in the West to remember that God loves the people of North Korea, though they are led by a brutal dictator. “You can forget about all of my story if you want,” he said, “but don’t forget the people in North Korea. Pray for these souls whom God loves.”
Front-line workers serving North Korean defectors in South Korea have seen an increase in the number of North Koreans expressing interest in joining their basic Christian discipleship classes. These classes use a mobile format to reach students in various parts of the country. The front-line workers request prayer that they would be wise in selecting and enrolling students who are committed to the ministry and who have the support of their local church pastor.