When we first began our North Korean ministry, we sought advice from the North Korean experts—North Koreans, themselves. “What is the most effective way to support the North Korean church?” We asked. “Radio broadcasts,” they said. “And balloon launches.”
Ever since then, we have been working together with North Koreans to create a discipleship training radio broadcast for North Koreans. These broadcasts include readings of VOMK’s NK Full Study Bible and episodes of Faith Comes By Hearing’s dramatized Korean New Testament as well as sermons and teachings from persecuted Christians.
Imagine for a moment that you are a North Korean.
Listening to a foreign radio broadcast—especially a Christian one!—is illegal. You know that others have been sent to concentration camps for listening to some broadcasts and that some of them probably died while imprisoned.
You also know, however, that these Christian broadcasts share a light and a truth that is scarce in your country. A thirst for the truth drives you to take risks: late in the evening, you pull the covers over your head, pop in an earbud, and tune in to TVOM radio.
Most North Koreans listen to the radio at the same time you do, so TVOM broadcasts a Short-wave and Medium-wave (AM) signal during this time. Both of these one-hour long signals are broadcast each day.
And if you miss the Short-wave and Medium-wave broadcast, TVOM radio has you covered—our satellite radio signal is broadcast 24-7.
Satellite radio broadcasts are filled with scripture readings, sermons, and hymns sung by North Koreans. Sometimes there are even interviews with North Korean defectors and persecuted Christians around the world.
TVOM is different from the usual North Korean radio stations—and not only because of the content. Unlike North Korean radio stations which broadcast the same information (songs, news, and updates about the Kim family) through different broadcasters, TVOM broadcasts a variety of new information each day. Staff work hard to stagger the programs so that individuals who listen at different times will—eventually—be able to hear all of the content.
TVOM staff want to ensure that whenever—and however—a North Korean attempts to tune in to our broadcast, they are able to hear the voice which they were yearning to hear—the voice of the one true God.
As of 2018, VOMK does 3 types of daily broadcasts:
(1) One of the strongest shortwave radio signals into North Korea
(2) An AM radio broadcast
(3) A Satellite Radio Broadcast
Unlike many radio broadcasts, TVOM radio isn’t just a radio for North Koreans, it’s a radio made by North Koreans. Here is one example of how TVOM is shaped by North Korean hands:
“When we first began doing mini-dramas, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” the South Korean announcer admitted. Every season, this announcer writes and directs a mini-drama directly from a passage of scripture. So far, she has written a mini-drama of the Easter story and on the Sacrifice of Isaac. These mini-dramas are performed solely by our NK Underground University students and are included in our radio broadcast.
At first, the students were a little awkward. Not many of them had the opportunity to obtain a decent education in North Korea—much less attend acting classes. However, what they did have was zeal and passion. After a few rounds of practice, the South Korean announcer was astonished when she saw how great they had become.
“Most North Korean people are very talented,” the South Korean announcer explained. “The problem is that in North Korea, they don’t have a way to use this talent.”
In God’s kingdom, however, the North Koreans have many opportunities to try out these talents.
What does this all have to do with the North Korean underground church?
As our South Korean announcer says, “Drama impacts everyone deeply.”
When we ask North Korean defectors what their favorite form of radio broadcast is they usually answer “drama.” By producing these mini-dramas, we are providing the church in North Korea with Christian resources (the scripture) in a way that they can both enjoy and engage on a deeper level. These mini-dramas are also a way for non-Christians in North Korea to become acquainted with the scripture: In all likelihood, they will come for the mini-drama and stay for the scripture!
Furthermore, the students who perform these scriptures are also training to do North Korean ministry. These students are occasionally called to travel into various countries in Asia where North Koreans can be found. If these students doubt themselves, then how can they raise up Christian leaders? By investing in these students, we are investing in further North Korean ministry—not just a mini-drama or a radio show.
What's new in 2017?
We've recently been updating the way in which we broadcast into NK. We learned that TV news broadcasting in NK has more of the sound of our old style broadcast but radio broadcasting in NK is using warmer personal voices these days. Our broadcast is pioneering the use of a combined NK/SK announcing corps, with NKs and SKs interacting about the Bible and the Christian faith in friendly voices. It's very revolutionary and we think it will attract a wider range of listeners.
Listen to one of our Old Broadcasts.
Listen to one of our New Broadcasts.
We are also excited to be broadcasting between program segments the new NK hymns that were recorded as part of last year’s Hymnal Project. These songs were recorded in the traditional NK style and sung by former members of art performance teams in North Korea. We expect that their traditional voices will touch North Koreans’ hearts through the North Korean classical style hymns.
Listen to Amazing Grace in North Korean!
Listen to As The Deer in North Korean!
Listen to God Is So Good in North Korean!
What do we broadcast into North Korea?
Our radio broadcasts are produced by our North Korean Underground University students. In the broadcasts the students share Scripture—both in its pure form and in the North Korean-style dramas which hold such interest for our audience. They read from books on Christian persecution to help underground believers there understand why they face the challenges they do and how to bear up under them.
There are also discipleship training segments, songs (often rewritten versions of North Korean “hymns” originally designed to praise Kim Il Sung), and—for the first time this year—“live” segments where our announcers reflect on their own experiences and explain what are often the very new and foreign words and concepts of Scripture.
How many North Koreans listen to the broadcast?
There are an estimated 2 million North Koreans who tune into their illegal radios each evening.
Does the North Korean government try to block our broadcasts?
Our broadcast is the regular target of ultimately unsuccessful blocking attempts of the North Korean government. The blocking attempts are the best indicators we have of how threatening the NK regime considers our broadcast to be. One of the ways that we overcome the blocking is through our active team of engineers who do whatever it takes on a nightly basis to enable the broadcast to be heard.
It is likely that our broadcast is threatening to NK not only because it is Christian but also because it is voiced by North Koreans. Many broadcasts use South Korean voices. Not only does this make the broadcast harder for North Koreans to understand, but the regime likely considers South Korean voices of evangelism to be less threatening than North Korean voices of evangelism.
Do you have any testimonies of North Koreans listening to the radio?
JKS, a North Korean defector, shared her experience of listening to the radio while she was in North Korea, she came to South Korea in 2006. She said that she listened to the radio for 3 months with her friends just before she left the North. She said that it was quite easy to receive the gospel radio programs and other radio programs from South Korea because she lived in a border area. Here is the story of JKS' experience of listening to the radio in North Korea:
One night, we closed the door and listened to the radio under the blanket. At the moment that I listened to the radio from South Korea, it was not only amazing but also tears pricked my eyes because of our nation's state of division.From that point on, I kept listening to radio broadcasts from South Korea with my father. We realized that Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un and their followers are untruthful. I sometimes got furious with them.Later, after I arrived in South Korea, when I talked with my home folks, there were some people who also listened to South Korean radio broadcasts in North Korea. They said that they covered themselves with blankets and agreed that the best time for listening to the radio was from 10 pm to 2:30 am.