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Joshua Kim was one of the few citizens that North Korean leaders trusted to travel outside the brutal reach of Kim Jong Il, the nation's communist dictator. He worked for a government agency, selling lumber in order to buy food and consumer electronics goods.

During a 1998 trip, Kim saw the comparative affluence of everyday Russians. His bosses told him and North Korea's 22 million citizens that their nation was at the pinnacle of international economic development. But Kim's own eyes told him they were lying. So did his heart. After an encounter with Korean Christians in Vladivostok, Kim committed himself to Christian faith. Knowing North Korea's virulent opposition to Christianity, Kim knew he could never return home.

Joshua's future wife, Rebecca, was an officer in the massive North Korean army, well fed and housed. Physically attractive and single, she found herself the object of unwanted attention from other officers. The official corruption and other problems sickened her, so she fled to China. She narrowly escaped detention in the "Pit of Darkness," a shadowy coal-mining slave-labor camp where guards beat prisoners and sometimes force them to undergo medical experiments. According to Minbok Lee, another high-level refugee, Christians in the camp suffer the worst, and guards may treat Christians as sexual slaves or assign them to extreme labor. Lee described this North Korean camp as the "Auschwitz of the 21st century."

Both Joshua and Rebecca (not their real names) eventually ended up in Seoul, where they met, fell in love, and finally married. They later traveled to the United States with aid from South Korean and American Christian missionaries. Now living in Southern California, the Kims keep a low profile because ...

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April 2003

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