Deacon Jang Moon Seok 장문석, who ministered to North Koreans in Changbai, China alongside martyred Pastor Han Chung-Ryeol, spent his 2,000th day in a prison inside of North Korea while co-workers mobilised a global letter writing campaign urging his release.
“Deacon Jang, who is also known by his Chinese name Zhang Wen Shi, is an ethnically Korean Chinese citizen who was kidnapped in November 2014 from China and put in a North Korean prison,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea representative Dr Hyun Sook Foley. “We believe the reason for his kidnapping was to gather information about the North Korean ministry work we were doing with Pastor Han.” Fifteen months after Deacon Jang’s kidnapping and arrest, Pastor Han was lured from his home and stabbed to death in Changbai.
Deacon Jang is currently serving a 15 year prison sentence in North Korea. Dr Foley says that in the time since he was imprisoned more than 2,000 days ago, several other North Koreans have either encountered Deacon Jang in prison or heard a report about him which was then shared with Voice of the Martyrs Korea.
“Though it is illegal to cross into China without permission, North Koreans often visit Chinese border towns to purchase goods to resell in North Korea, seeking medicine or other help, and conducting business,” says Dr Foley. “Near Changbai, North Koreans gather herbs on the North Korean side of the mountain, then take them into Changbai to sell at the market and bring the money back with them to North Korea.”
Dr Foley says that Deacon Jang regularly hosted these North Korean visitors in his home for days and weeks at a time before they returned to North Korea, giving them warm clothing, feeding them and providing things they might need for their return to North Korea. “He saw this as his Christian duty to welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and care for the sick,” says Dr Foley. “As a believer, he also shared about his faith to those who were willing.”
Dr Foley says that a number of these North Koreans accepted the message and became Christians. “Some returned to Deacon Jang’s home repeatedly for more Bible training, and Deacon Jang and Pastor Han also taught them how to share their faith with their loved ones. Their goal was always to see North Koreans return home.”
This month, Voice of the Martyrs Korea, in partnership with its Voice of the Martyrs sister missions in other countries, launched a letter writing campaign to the North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations advocating for Deacon Jang’s release. So far more than 1,000 letters have been sent from 15 countries.
Dr Foley is calling on Christians to participate in the campaign by emailing DPRK Ambassador to the United Nations Kim Song at firstname.lastname@example.org or sending a letter to him addressed in English as follows:
Ambassador Kim Song
DPRK Permanent Mission to the United Nations
820 2nd Ave RM 13b
NEW YORK N.Y. 10017
Dr Foley recommends that the letter be kept short and direct. “When writing letters to North Korea, the less said, the better. What is best is just one sentence in English or Korean that says, ‘We request the return of Chinese citizen Zhang Wen Shei (Deacon Jang Moon Seok 장문석) to China’. Writing anything more will not be helpful to Deacon Jang.”
Dr Foley says that the campaign is a personal mission for her. “Deacon Jang always called me ‘Big Sister’,” she says. “He is a simple man who never did anything political. He just helped North Korean people for many years. That should never be a crime, and Christians should join together to help Deacon Jang and his family.”