Date: August 20, 2015
Meanwhile, thousands of South Korean Christians have been in training to take the Gospel into North Korea when, and if, it opens up
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
DMZ, KOREAS (ANS –August 20, 2015) -- South Korea has ordered the evacuation of residents from an area of its western border after an exchange of fire with North Korea, reports say.
According to the BBC, North Korea fired a shell at a South Korean military unit on Thursday, prompting the south to retaliate with several artillery rounds, the South's defense ministry said.
“South Korea's National Security Council is due to hold an emergency session,” stated the BBC.
The western sea border has long been a flashpoint between the two Koreas.
North Korea fired a projectile towards Yeoncheon, a town north-west of Seoul, at 15:52 local time (06:52 GMT), the defense ministry said.
Reports suggest the target could have been a loudspeaker broadcasting anti-Pyongyang messages.
The South then fired “dozens of rounds of 155mm shells” towards where they thought the rocket was launched from, the ministry added in a statement.
There were no immediate reports of any injuries or damage on either side.
Still ‘technically’ at war
The two Koreas remain technically at war, because the 1950-1953 war ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
According to the BBC, the two sides have exchanged cross-border fire several times in recent years.
A local official told AP news agency that about 80 residents in Yeoncheon had been evacuated, with other residents in the area also urged to take shelter.
The latest incident comes amid heightened tensions between the North and South.
“Seoul has blamed the North for planting a landmine that injured two South Korea soldiers earlier this month,” stated the BBC.
“Since then, the sides have begun blasting propaganda broadcasts from loudspeakers along the border - restarting a practice both had suspended back in 2004.”
South Korea and the US also began annual joint military exercises on Monday - they describe the drills as defensive, but North Korea calls them a rehearsal for invasion.
“Gospel Messengers’ stand by to ‘invade’ North Korea with the Good News
In the meantime, thousands of South Korean Christians have been in training to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ into North Korea and also plant churches there when the country finally opens up.
I discovered this some time ago while I was on a reporting trip to Seoul, South Korea, when I was taken to a training camp in the hills outside of Seoul where these Christians were undergoing vigorous training on how to live and work in North Korea.
One Christian, who asked not to be named, told me, “We believe that because of world pressure, North Korea will soon have to open up to get much-needed foreign currency and we have many ready and willing to move in there with the Good News of Jesus Christ. They are aware that the country could be open for just a short time, and then it will close tight again, and they will be trapped inside.
“But they are willing to be martyrs for the Gospel because they love the people of North Korea.”
I’ve been to North Korea. It was back in the fall of 1994, and I was part of a small delegation of Christians who were the first group allowed into the secretive country after the funeral of Kim Il-sung, known to his people as “The Great Leader.” We were led by North Korean-born Dr. David Cho (no relation of Paul Yonggi-Cho, the South Korean preacher and former head of what is believed to be the world's largest church, Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul.)
I reported daily from the capital city of Pyongyang for the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC and we were taken all over the country, even to the North Korean side of Panmunjom, the “truce village” that straddles the border between North Korea and South Korea in the middle of the Demilitarized Zone that has split this peninsula since the Korean War ended in 1953.
We felt the tension in the DMZ, which is probably the most fortified border on Earth, with more than a million soldiers facing each other with enough artillery to obliterate each other in a matter of hours. Tension constantly runs high there -- more than 50 Americans, 1,000 South Koreans and countless North Koreans have died in skirmishes along the DMZ in the past years. The area is dotted with land mines and razor wire and concrete tank bunkers and Communist soldiers dug into mountainsides behind cast-iron “blast doors” to protect them against bombs dropped from American B-52s.
We even attended a church service at Pongsu Church in Pyongyang, one of three churches that were allowed to operate in North Korea at the time – two Protestant and one Catholic. These “official” churches are strictly controlled, but there are known to be many illegal house churches operating secretly in the country.
It is also believed that tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps. In fact, North Korea is suspected of detaining more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world.
The communist country is characterized by a complete lack of religious freedom and of many human rights violations. For the twelfth year in a row, Open Doors’ World Watch List ranks North Korea as the worst violator of religious rights in the world. Christianity is observed as one of the greatest threats to the regime’s power. The government will arrest not only the suspected dissident, but also three generations of his family to root out the bad influence.
I ask you all to pray for the people of North Korea and also that the country does indeed open up for the Gospel messengers from the South; that they will bring a Gospel of peace to a people who have seen little of that. It is only then that they will find true happiness!
Residents have been ordered to leave their shops and homes and evacuate to bunkers and shelters
Photo captions: 1) South Korean locks up his shop. 2) North Korean execution. 3) Michael Little of CBN and Dan Wooding, pictured outside the birthplace of Kim Il-sung during the trip to North Korea. 4) Dan Wooding with Dr. David Cho posing by the massive statue of Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He has written some 45 books and is one of the few Christian journalists who has reported from inside North Korea.