During her childhood in North Korea, Mi Jin Kang never believed in the existence of God, until one person began to spark her curiosity.
“From school education, I learned that religion is a drug,” Mi Jin told CNA, “However, I heard the story of God from a girl that I met in North Korea before my escape. This was the first step to belief.”
“Before escaping North Korea, the story of God was a curiosity and miraculous,” said Mi Jin who decided to escape North Korea in 2009, at the age of 40.
“When I escaped from North Korea, I prayed with my two hands,” remembered Mi Jin, “When my prayer to God at the moment of escape was answered, I decided to be a child of God.”
“It was especially this prayer to God at the moment of escaping from North Korea that led me to be a believer during the process of settling in South Korea.”
Though she did not share details of her escape, many North Korean defectors are helped to South Korea by a network supported by Chinese Christians.
In South Korea, an order of Korean religious sisters taught Mi Jin and other North Korean defectors about the Catholic faith. Mi Jin learned about Saint Therese the Little Flower from the sisters.
At her baptism, Mi Jin took a new Christian name, as is the custom for Korean Catholics. She became Teresa.
“I wanted to be like Saint Teresa, who lived a faithful life,” Mi Jin said.
When Pope Francis visited South Korea in 2014, Mi Jin was invited by the Korean bishops to see Pope Francis face-to-face, in the front row of the beatification Mass for 124 Korean martyrs. She also attended to Pope’s Mass in Seoul’s historic Myeongdong Cathedral.
“I got to experience the glory of a Mass close to the Pope,” said Mi Jin.
Mi Jin now works as a journalist in South Korea at the Daily NK, helping others to understand what life is like inside the world’s most opaque country.
Mi Jin told CNA that American Catholics can help North Koreans. “I think it is necessary to provide humanitarian assistance for people who are in need in North Korea. I also hope that support for organizations who are broadcasting to reach out to residents in North Korea, such as Daily NK, can help it go smoothly.”
Mi Jin especially encouraged prayer for North Korea. “I hope that Kim Jong Un’s regime in North Korea realizes economic democratization for North Korean's true freedom and life by giving up nuclear weapons.”
She also “hopes to see the unification Korea as the relationship between North and South Korea has developed in a positive way like recently.”
Mi Jin told CNA that she has been watching the Pyeongchang Olympic Games everyday. Her favorite event to watch is skiing.
Hyo Jeong Kim assisted with translation for this story.