Where Does VOM Korea's North Korean Bible Translation Come From?
Perhaps God has put North Korea on your heart but you are confused about the best way to help. Here are some questions we frequently receive at VOM Korea, along with our most heartfelt and deeply researched guidance in response.
The North Korean and South Korean languages are over 40% divergent, making it difficult for a North Korean defector to read a South Korean Bible. This is one of the reasons why VOM Korea produced a North Korean Full Bible and a brand new North Korean/South Korean Parallel Bible.
VOM Korea's goal wasn’t to produce something on its own, nor did it want to do a paraphrase or adaptation of an existing work. Instead, the goal was to use the most linguistically and theologically well-regarded translation of the Bible in the North Korean dialect.
Surprisingly, this was a work commissioned by the North Korean government through their Chosun Christian Association. The Chosun Christian Association runs the NK state church and also helps to create the outside appearance of freedom of religion in NK. They produced the Common Translation (Pyongyang Version), which was based on the Common Translation Bible published by the Korean Bible Society in 1977. The Korean Bible Society focused on making a translation for the un-churched and refrained from using “church” language which would have been found in the Protestant and Catholic Churches at the time. The North Koreans printed 10,000 New Testaments in 1983 and 10,000 Old Testaments in 1984.
The 2nd edition of the North Korean Bible was published in 1990 with both the Old and New Testaments contained in one volume. This was printed by the Pyongyang General Printing Factory with the help of the United Bible Society in China. Instead of making a separate Bible translation, they decided to make small corrections and changes to the existing translation. One of the goals of this 2nd edition seemed to be a focus on preserving the original common translation.
When VOM Korea produced the two North Korean Bibles, the only change that was made was to replace the North Korean “Hanulnim” (God of the heavens) with the Protestant “Hananim” (one true God).
Do you have other questions about how to provide real help to North Korean people? Write us and we’ll be happy to reply!