This book tells the compelling story of Brother J, who became a Christian in North Korea, where such faith is forbidden, in the spring of 1996 through God's Providence. Brother J reminds our readers that God has not forgotten the people of North Korea; His light is shining even in that dark land. North Koreans are coming to Jesus Christ for salvation. Once they become Christians, these underground North Korean brothers and sisters are steadfast and resolute for the Lord. They stand up for the Truth despite persecution and heavy penalties, even death. They work as one to spread the Gospel of salvation in the clandestine society of North Korea.
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The Righteous Outlaw
More Thirsty Than Hungry
By Brother J, Sarah Kay Grzech with Steve Hammond
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Brother J
All rights reserved.
You Will Surely Die
It was March 1996 when I first believed in God. I used to be a cadre at the Local Committee of the Workers' Party in North Korea, but I had been expelled to a rural farming community as a farmhand, guilty of not complying with Juche principal agricultural technique. There were various cadres on the farm—from a comrade commissioner of the farm management committee to a warehouse manager of agricultural equipment. The committee chose me to fulfill the revolutionary task of getting fertilizer for our farmland from the Province Farm Bureau. Even though I had been expelled to the farm, I was selected because I had once been a cadre from the capital. I could not refuse the commissioner's trust in me personally to accomplish the revolutionary task, so I accepted the assignment. The comrade accountant of the committee gave me a sack of barley on a tractor so that Mr. Chung, the tractor driver, and I did not go hungry. Then the committee bade us farewell, instructing me to perform my task well without failure.
When we arrived at the supply office at the Province Farm Bureau, there were swarms of clever cadres from many provinces. They came to the supply office to receive farming fertilizer and equipment in preparation for the spring. Because of the crowded situation in the office, I had to be very cunning to compete with the other players. If I should lose the game, I would not get any fertilizer, and also I would not achieve anything worthy of a sack of barley. I could not afford to lose, indeed. In order to obtain the trophy and defeat so many other players, I ran, panting, to the house of a top official cadre who was in charge of the distribution at the supply office. He was a friend of mine, Mr. Seo; we attended the same elementary school. However, friendship could be easily turned into treachery in North Korea. Even though he had been a friend of mine, nothing could be done without bribery. So I exchanged two scoops of barley from my backpack for a couple of bottles of farm-made alcohol, and I hurriedly brought them to my friend's house.
When I arrived at his place, he was in some sort of meeting. There were two women, a man, and my friend. They gathered around in a circle. When I entered the room, they were tense, looking as if they had been discussing important secrets. Soon, my friend broke the tension and introduced me to these anxious people.
He told his associates, who were still sitting, "Relax, all. As far as I know, this comrade is as black as he can be. Don't be nervous. Let's proceed and finish what we have been doing."
His emphatic false assertion upset me, but I sat quietly observing them. My friend continued with them, burying their faces between their knees, like pheasant hen chicks burying their heads in the bush to avoid the attack of an Asiatic Sparrow Hawk. Their lips were twitched as if they were reciting something.
I thought that their behavior was laughable, though pitiful. Whatever they were doing should not have mattered to me. It should have meant nothing to me if these people buried their faces and uttered an incantation or recited Juche. But I imagined saying to them: Hey, you chumps. What the hell are you doing here confining yourselves in this house? I don't suppose you are offering the official three-year anniversary memorial service to Kim Il-Sung commemorating his death, are you? It's too early for the ceremony. What's up, then? Are you rededicating your loyalty to him now? What's going on here, you crazy bitches? If you are conducting a memorial service to offer your loyalty to Kim, at least you should have prepared a meal before such a ceremony so that my empty stomach can be satisfied, thankful for his death. I am so hungry.
I looked at the people still reciting with their eyes closed. My quick, uncontrollable tongue always caused me problems. I might have been praised as a reticent gentleman if I had shut my mouth and just sat down quietly, letting it pass. However, alas, I could not sit quietly with my mouth closed. Instead, I ended up flapping my lips, "Hey, chumps. Why on earth are you burying your heads like that? You look miserable. Here I am, your guest, but you do not even look at me. What nonsense!"
As soon as I spit out the words, a woman came forward. I now dearly love her as a sister in the Lord, but at the time she reminded me of a vicious squirrel doll from a Japanese movie, with sharply protruding cheeks. Looking straight into my eyes, she shouted, "Woe to the cursed soul. It is a disaster. Anger smote the poor soul. Oh, please forgive this soul tethered by the devil, Lord. He spits derogatory words before You. Save his sinful lips from viciousness. Amen."
When she associated me with the devil, she greatly upset me. In North Korea, the most vile, contemptuous curse words were "son of a bitch like Judas Iscariot" or "sons of devils." Once anyone uttered such blatant and lurid profanity toward me, likening me to a pariah like Judas Iscariot or a son of a devil, there was no telling where my fist might fly. A person spewing such crap might even be killed as a result. However, I could not punch a lady for what she had said. Moreover, I was older than her. I roiled inside, wanting to spit out more wicked words. It was torment to put up with her insolence and barely refraining from punching her. I was really upset to no end but also a bit frightened by their continuous whispers and murmuring recitations.
Are these people playacting a film of the Family of Choi Hak-Shin? I wondered. Whenever they muttered, I heard some frightening words. These people must be playacting. I hear them saying amen, though. Perhaps they could be Jesus people. Aren't Christians the worst enemies of the people? They believe in God! They are against the revolutionary society, paralyzing it with absurd superstitions and trying to break it down. Indeed, they could undermine the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and bring total destruction to the republic! How long ago had it been since our supreme leader Kim Il-Sung had died? Only a couple of years ago! The enemies of society maneuver viciously. Oh, I see. My bastard friend may pretend he is a true communist, but it's only lip service. How could he masquerade under the name of the Workers' Party and murmur such words? He must be the sectarian infiltrator into the Province Farm Bureau, here for antirevolutionary attack! Nevertheless, what's this got to do with me? Whether they boil stones for eggs or cook sandstone for rice, it is none of my business!
However, as I said before, my own wicked lips were my mortal enemies. They wouldn't keep me quiet, even if I was dragged by iron chains to a concentration camp to be silenced! Oh, how I wished my lips were zipped and I could patiently watch their actions! Why did my lips move again in such a situation? I acted as soon as I thought: This is the moment for my lips; let me attack that squirrel-cheeked woman.
"Hey, bastards! Are you still giving thanks to the Father General, so touched by his gracious favor shown to you, even if he has been dead for two years now? Here I am. You don't have to welcome me, but at least you should not shove your heads up your asses, like baby hen pheasants, you chumps!" I barked at them.
However, the angry woman who resembled a squirrel doll matched my temper! Once again, she looked directly into my eyes. Burning with anger, she shot right back at me sarcastically and made me feel like a total #49.
"Hey, filthy mouth! I recognize your mouth only because I see the horizontal line on your slab leather face. If it was drawn on a ground, I would possibly see it as a devil's mouth. Even if you have such a mouth, talk like a human. How can a human's mouth smell filthy like a sewer hole every time it opens? Ugh! The mouth is as vulgar as it can be. Even if we live in an age of moral degradation, your mouth goes too far! For heaven's sake, I can see why people belonging to the devil are dirty."
At her chattering, my blood boiled. If there was anything that injured my pride the most in my entire life, it was to compare me to devil. She surely made me seem like a #49. How could she say that my mouth was a filthy, smelly sewer hole! Even if it were true, such words from that woman shamed me! Enraged, I was instantly overcome by evil.
"You bitch! Where did you learn communist morality? With your asshole? What your mouth just uttered was worse than calling me a Judas Iscariot. Truly, you brought me misfortune today."
However, the woman did not stop chattering even though in an inaudible voice. Hell, if she had been a man, I would have kicked her in the groin and then the sides without abandon. I would have delivered spin-kicks to the upper, middle, and lower body, all without mercy. Alas, I did not dare kick her chest. How could I, as a man, draw a world map on her cute face? I did not dare kick her in the breasts, which resembled two lamps hanging from her chest, probably the result of malnutrition. In such a condition, how could I dare kick her lower body? I was gentle hearted. How then could I knock her spirit down with only words? I had to think really hard to mobilize all kinds of vicious words to impact this squirrel-cheeked woman so seriously that her tears would drip from her eyes like a river. But there was no devil in the world that could wrestle and beat Jesus's followers with words.
As a Korean proverb says, there is a running fellow ahead of a walking fellow, and a flying fellow ahead of a running fellow. Then there is a shooting fellow who targets the flying fellow. No matter how good you think you are, there is always someone better. Even if I was ahead of her using the foulest language, I could not beat this sister who spoke only the right words. My brain was filling with questions about what kind of woman this soul could be. Even if I used the most vicious words, she would not even move her eyebrows. Rather, she would respond to my malicious words with her squirrel-like attitude. She was as alert with two sparkling eyes, as a squirrel intensely observing its surroundings with its mouth full of food.
"Ugh, what a dirty mouth of this demon possessed! His mouth stinks, full of rot. Oh, dear, dear, tut, tut, tut." She talked to herself and tutted her tongue audibly.
She injured my pride once again by connecting me to the "demon." I lost my temper and shot right back at her as if my eardrum broke. This is what I said mustering all the insulting words I could come up with:
"Woman, you are like a big mouthed catfish with swollen cheeks and eyes, whose whole life has been stuck to a salty pebble stone. You are an unlucky devil bringing misfortune. Your mouth is full of dog shit. Every time you open your mouth, you spew crap. I should shake it off of me. What a lousy day! Oh, what a day—not my day."
Even as I abused her with such words, she simply sat down and acted as if she heard nothing. She continued what she had been doing and spoke to those around her without revealing any anger or bitterness. Still, even though she was silent, it felt like she was telling me, "You, demon-spirited fool. See if I would even flicker my eyelids at you."
I would have been less bitter if she had retorted or attacked me with clenched fists. But she made no counterattack. For a while, she said nothing, but then she injected a few passing words after an interval, making my stomach churn. At those few words, I felt like screaming, bursting into fiery action. I wanted to bite her animated squirrel-like cheeks.
However, because my adversary was a woman, I had to put up with her, even though I could hardly stand it. There is a saying in North Korea that a daughter-in-law expresses her anger against her mother-in-law by putting a harness to a dog's abdomen even if the dog has nothing to do with the matter. As such, I poured my reckless temper tantrums onto my innocent friend instead.
"You bastard! Though your fucking friend is here, you did not welcome me. Moreover, you were repeating some sort of Buddhist invocation and burying your head between your legs. Fuck you! The bandwagon of people-centered socialism changed you completely into a moral defective! To hell with that crap! How stupid and pathetic our General was! He appealed to dupes to become victors in the Arduous March during the famine, driving all of us toward death. How can a man who stays in a closet and murmurs 'Amen' all day be a revolutionary fighter on the frontlines who liberates this country from famine and hunger? All the poor homeless orphans on the street will laugh at you."
What the Lord has said is indeed true. He said that whatever one carries in his heart will eventually spill out through his mouth into spoken words. At the time, I was full of anger after being expelled to the farm by Kim Jong-Il's followers, and I let my inner thoughts go berserk and explode. My anger exploded freely at them, exposing my true self. Inside, I was an anti-revolutionist who opposed the regime, just like my friend and his guests.
When I began to spew criticism of Kim Jong-Il, a man from the group came forward. Later on, he became a very close friend. We conspired to steal and distribute food and materials to the poor. We conducted the stealing together in the name of justice and were successful in this endeavor. We were a force to be reckoned with in the land of North Korea at the time.
He said forthrightly then and there, "I can see that you are one of us. Please stop speaking vicious words. Let's believe in God and work together to save people. The people are walking the Arduous March steadfastly toward the goal set by the state, panting and puffing, but they only end up pulling and dragging out so many dead people."
While I was enraged at his impudent appraisal of me, I thought, Oops, I let my lips slip to criticize the betrayer Kim Jong-Il, revealing my true identity!
If I realized my mistake, I should have been silent; however, my lips wouldn't stop moving in front of my friend Seo when he mentioned God. Didn't I tell you my lips were my own worst enemy? I profaned the name of God, replying, "God? Is God someone's son?" I asked.
At this, the squirrel-cheeked woman who was sitting next to my friend said, "Yes, I've heard of a whitewashed tomb. I guess your appearance deceives how you are inside. You belong to tombs full of the rotten bones of the dead."
I was so mad at the squirrel-cheeked woman for not being quiet, but I swallowed and said nothing aloud. Inwardly, I said: Fucking bitch. Your two cheeks are full of ill-natured words. Every time you speak, you spit out misfortune. Even though a lean year may come for harvesting females, I will never pick up fallen squirrel cheeks like yours even though I may glean only fallen female ears.
It was so hard not to express myself to her. I felt like my throat was about to burst, and I had a huge headache, as if someone was continuously hitting my head like a piano keyboard. No matter how hard I tried, I could not be quiet. Therefore, to suppress my true feelings, I followed the North Korean textbook by defiling God instead.
"Hey. You are singing songs about omnipotence and omnipresence, only in the closet. If so, how can you talk about God to me? Bring your Almighty God to me. I will spin-kick Him in complete 380 degrees all the way to the hell, you scumbags. Fuck you all." In this way I impetuously defiled God, and I would pay the price dearly. In truth, an accident did happen later on the way home, when my physical body was turned around and around repeatedly, spin-kicked through 380 degrees, until I was utterly exhausted to the point of death.
I had to remind myself of the reason I had come to my friend's home: to ask a favor to receive my portion of fertilizer before anyone else the following day in the office. I had to persuade myself three times to put up with them before I left the house.
As I learned later on, they prayed for me as soon as I left the house. They discussed a strategy for dealing with me in the future. The contents of their discussion were that it was hard to find an opponent of the North Korean regime to the extreme like me who would openly criticize Kim Jong-Il; therefore, they could not afford to lose me; and so they should contrive to win me over to their side at all costs.
To achieve that, they needed time. To make the time, they needed to delay giving my commune's portion of the fertilizer. In the meantime, they prayed hard for God's mercy on my soul so that I could believe in God. Once they decided what to do with me, they began the course of action immediately. Unaware of what they had decided, I waited and waited for a message from my friend for me to pick up the fertilizer, and I expected a message within a day or two. Meanwhile, I observed other comrades leaving the compound happily with fertilizer and saying "good-bye" and "see you next year" while I was only wasting my barley and waiting.
Excerpted from The Righteous Outlaw by Brother J, Sarah Kay Grzech with Steve Hammond. Copyright © 2013 Brother J. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Preface: The Choice Is the Lord's.................... iii
1. You Will Surely Die.................... 1
2. Trained by a 380-Degree Spin-Kick.................... 14
3. Now Is the Time to Make a Choice.................... 20
4. This Is My Command.................... 29
5. I Should Die in Order for Other Members to Live.................... 35
6. A Bull's Death Meant My Death.................... 39
7. Prepare to Die While Evangelizing North Korea and Unifying the Two
Koreas through the Gospel!.................... 45
8. Hey, Bastard, Do You Think I Am a Gang Leader?.................... 49
9. Do You Want to Be a David?.................... 52
10. Do Not Steal.................... 55
11. Chul-Kap, You Are Truly a Preacher.................... 59
12. See You Again in Heaven, My Friend.................... 66
13. How Long Do We Live—a Thousand Years or Ten Thousand Years?............ 69
14. You Will Surely Shine, Even after Death.................... 74
15. A Special Correspondent Dispatched by the Lord.................... 78
16. The Old Has Gone; the New Is Here!.................... 82
17. To Live, You Must Accept Jesus as Your Christ.................... 89
18. God Preserves the Seed of Faith.................... 93
19. Jesus Is Christ.................... 101
Epilogue/Translator's Reflection.................... 107
Questionable Cause of Death.................... 111
Authenticity of This Book.................... 117
Summary Notes.................... 119
Gideon Brothers Mission World.................... 131
About the Author.................... 133