Voice of the Martyrs Korea and American NGO Faith Comes By Hearing are partnering together this spring to produce an audio recording of the North Korean dialect Chosun New Testament and Book of Genesis, to be broadcast and distributed to North Koreans wherever they are found.
The Chosun Bible recording will replace the audio recording Voice of the Martyrs Korea and Faith Comes By Hearing completed ten years ago. That recording used North Korean actors to read the Korean Revised Version of the Bible. Voice of the Martyrs Korea Board Chair Hyun Sook Foley says that while the current recording has been a helpful tool for ministry, North Koreans have struggled to understand the contents. “Many of the North Koreans we minister to are in areas where they cannot ask about words or expressions in the Korean Revised Version that they do not understand,” Foley says. “The best way to support their spiritual development is to present them with the best translation of the scripture in their own dialect.”
The translation used in the audio recording is the NK Chosun Bible, which is the Pyongyang version of the Common Translation. It was originally commissioned by the North Korean government, yet biblical linguists agree that the translation contains no political bias and is an accurate translation which is easy to understand. Although North Korea printed 10,000 New Testaments in 1983 and 10,000 Old Testaments in 1984, almost none of these were distributed except to North Korea’s fake showpiece churches in Pyongyang.
“One of the things we’ve discovered in our 17 years of doing North Korean ministry is that North Koreans are the best ministers to their own people,” Chairman Foley says. “The global founder of Voice of the Martyrs, a persecuted Romanian pastor named Richard Wurmbrand, used to say, ‘Persecuted Christians are asking, ‘Give us the tools and we will complete the work of reaching our people.’’ This new Chosun Bible audio recording is a tool that North Korean Christians say will help them complete the work of reaching other North Koreans.”
The voice actors are all North Korean defectors, most of whom are students at Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s Underground Technology and Underground University training schools for discipleship and mission.
Each recording is also reviewed by a North Korean defector, who ensures that future listeners will understand the content. Even this checking process is an act of ministry. “Reviewing this material is very helpful,” one North Korean reviewer remarked. “Today I checked the recording for the gospel of Matthew, and it was good to be reminded of the scene of Jesus’ baptism.”
Chairman Foley predicts that this new recording will be successful based on the performance of the previous South Korean version. “Even though that version was not in the North Korean dialect and was thus challenging for North Koreans to understand in certain parts, it changed the lives of thousands of North Koreans to whom we have ministered,” Chairman Foley says.
According to Foley, many of the North Koreans that have received the South Korean recording of scripture live and work in disparate locations. Some are sex trafficked women, others are workers in factors or ships with horrible conditions, still others are defectors attempting to make their way to South Korea. All, however, have expressed their gratitude for this scripture.
“Thank you for sending us this scripture,” one such North Korean wrote. “It shined brightly into our dismal lives. How could we ever repay you? I feel now that I am finally being treated as a decent human being.”
Although the Chosun Bible audio recording will not be completed until fall, the print version of the NK Chosun Full Study Bible is available exclusively through VOM Korea for a suggested donation of 25,000KRW. A large print version is also available for a suggested donation of 30,000KRW. Interested individuals can call VOM Korea at 02-2065-0703.