A true story of the gospel at work in the midst of the horror of North Korea.
‘Esther’ was so desperate to escape from brutal North Korea that she agreed to be sex-trafficked into neighbouring China. Then she tricked ten of her friends into being sold to traffickers too. Yet today all these lives have been remarkably transformed by the power of the gospel. ‘Esther’ (not her real name) was desperate to make money to feed her parents and family. Eventually she reluctantly chose to be trafficked from North Korea to marry a Chinese husband.
Yet her plan backfired when the broker who fixed the deal reneged on his promise – giving her and her family nothing. Still desperate, she offered to deceive all of her friends inside North Korea into being trafficked as well. She was responsible for ten of them being sold into forced marriage.
‘That was the first time I was personally involved in trafficking women,’ she told one of our partners working in China. ‘I knew it was not the right way to live and I felt guilty, but I needed to earn money and send it back home. I felt the only way I could survive was to step on the heads of others, so I began working with the broker.’
Later, however, Esther was caught by the Chinese authorities and sent back to North Korea, where she was imprisoned. When the police informed her father, he managed to find the money to pay a bribe to have her released. But when he learned what she had done – even though it was to save her family – he was so ashamed that he told her, ‘From now on, I have no daughter.’
Esther was crushed. She had lost her own dignity, sold her friends to traffickers and now her family had rejected her. She decided to escape again to China and then head on to South Korea in order to make money there and have a better life.
But as her flight began, she came across one of the discipleship bases run by a Release International partner. There she heard about the Lord and was given a Bible.
‘I will never forget the day I received the Bible from them. I was so happy. I kept reading it and writing down the words in my notebook,’ she said. ‘As time went by, I began to understand more about Jesus and what He has done for me. I started to repent of my sin, especially the trafficking work I had done.’
Esther felt in her heart that God had set her free – and from that point on her life was completely changed. Soon the Holy Spirit powerfully convicted her to go to all of the friends she had tricked, and to share the gospel with them.
‘I searched and found five of the North Korean women I had sold. I wanted to ask for their forgiveness and to share the gospel with them, but I was sure they wouldn’t forgive me,’ she said.
‘To my surprise, no one hated me or had bitterness or anger toward me. They could see that something inside me had changed. They willingly accepted my request for forgiveness and came with me to learn more about the true freedom that I had found. It was a miracle.’
Over time she found the rest of her friends who had been trafficked. All ten became believers, and all ten led their husbands to Christ. These Chinese men had originally bought their wives from traffickers. But now, through the gospel, the homes of all ten families have become locations for house churches that are reaching out to others.
Remarkably, Esther today oversees a number of such locations in China. Despite the constant threat of forced repatriation to North Korea, she bravely takes the gospel into rural villages to minister to North Korean women who, like her, are victims of trafficking.
Release International is an international organisation for monitoring and reporting persecution of Christians around the world and helping the victims of that persecution. They supplied this story for Solas.