In The Lost History of Christianity, Philip Jenkins makes an important, and humbling, observation: Just because Jesus' church will survive through all time does not mean it will thrive in all places, or at all times. Take, for instance, the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, known during the 1940s as the "Jerusalem of the East."
In Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad (Encounter), Hudson Institute senior fellow Melanie Kirkpatrick labors to set the once-holy city's record straight. Banding together dozens of personal accounts of survivors who have fled North Korea, she tells a story of bravery, luck, disappointment, and death; of Christian activists and money-hungry brokers united behind a simple Mosaic invocation: Let my people go.
Until the mid-1990s, there wasn't much to be gained by rushing the 880-mile border with China. With borders sealed and news of the outside world scarce, few ordinary North Koreans escaped. But when a crippling famine struck and a sudden Chinese prosperity beckoned, the trickle of refugees swelled to nearly half a million, its path smoothed by a relaxation of restrictive internal policies. Freedom, religious or otherwise, never entered their political vocabulary. Most fled simply out of hunger.
Since the Korean War, fewer than 25,000 refugees have reached safety in South Korea. Yet North Korea receives less international attention than other failed states (notwithstanding accounts like this year's Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West). It does not have the status of an "Asian Darfur." Nor is the degradation of its people widely understood, even among South ...