North Korea, a third of former President Bush’s “Axis of Evil”, rattles its sabers again, causing difficult diplomacy for the USA and danger for its neighbors. President Trump is planning to meet with Kim Jong Un in May. We will see if he can persuade this dictator to abandon his nuclear blackmail.

Past history does not bode well for this visit, but there are positive signs like the unified hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul. However, many fans resented the less experienced players from North Korea, who dragged down the team’s already low performance.

In November, 2017, President Trump put North Korea back on its list of state-sponsors of terrorism. Four countries are on this list:


Country Designation Date
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) November 20, 2017
Iran January 19, 1984
Sudan August 12, 1993
Syria December 29, 1979

The nuclear blackmail puts our South Korean friends and other countries in the neighborhood in danger.

Escape from North Korea

In its 2013 book issue, WORLD Magazine named former Wall Street Journal editor Melanie Kirkpatrick’s Escape from North Korea: the Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad Book of the Year .

Editors called it “a well-written, untold story, meticulous reporting, journalism at its best,” telling the story of North Korea in a compelling way for those unfamiliar with its history.

Escape from North Korea describes “what we can pray will be the last great battle in this century-long war against totalitarianism.”

With coworkers and friends who live in South Korea and who immigrated to the USA, I have an ache for Korea and its beautiful peninsula, which has been divided for sixty-five years. More than 60,000 South Korean families have relatives in North Korea. The linked article describes their pain.

With a more brutal government than the former East Germany’s communists, the malnourished North Korean people live in isolation from the rest of the world.

Korea’s Berlin Wall

I thought Germany’s Berlin Wall would always endure, that nothing could be changed about the world politics that created it.

An earlier blog post described my 1981 visit to East Berlin and the American Pictures shown in Copenhagen advocating an American communist revolution.

As a visitor I experienced firsthand the drab grayness of communism. However, East Germany in 1981 by most accounts was prosperous compared to the poverty and oppression in North Korea. Still, East Germans were only allowed to travel within the Soviet bloc, and could not visit the West, much less emigrate.

Korea has similar hardworking people to Germany, their families divided by a proxy war fought on their soil two generations ago.

Imagine There’s no Heaven…

What a nice sentiment this popular song by John Lennon has – it’s really a dream of heaven on earth, where all fighting is over, “imagine no religion, too,” people living for today in peace, etc.

North Korea comes as close as any country on earth to being a country without religion. How has it played out?

North Korea in the Dark

A sharp contrast to the south, the northern half of the Korean peninsula is dark at night with the exception of a few lights in Pyongyang.

Information of every kind is suppressed in this country; people learn only what the government wants them to know. There are no Google maps of this country. North Koreans learned of Lennon’s 1980 death in 2011, and their government organized mourning for him.

Nothing except the official state religion of atheism is tolerated. Christians and other religious minorities are brutally beaten and imprisoned, yet they continue to persevere. In fact, the entire country might as well be a prison camp.

A Michigan Analogy for Korea

Imagine if Michigan’s largest city was Saginaw, with over 10 million people (Seoul, South Korea). Suppose the Zilwaukee bridge didn’t exist, and Michigan was partitioned halfway between M-20 and M-46. Mount Pleasant, Midland and Bay City belong to the utopian socialist paradise.

Too bad if your relatives live there; you can’t visit them. Of course, it’s far worse if you live there.

The “Saginaw” metro area is home to 25 million people, over half of “South Michigan’s” population.

Tourism, or Lack Thereof

Forget about going to Sleeping Bear Dunes or even the tip of the Thumb on vacation. Skiing and snowmobiling in Northern Michigan are only memories. There is a demilitarized zone that is as impenetrable as any high security prison.

North Michiganders had no need to build the Mighty Mac Bridge in 1957 – they’re told they’re already in heaven, and there isn’t enough economic activity to justify it anyway. There’s barely enough car traffic to keep one daily ferry going, subsidized by the People’s Government of North Michigan.

Mackinac Island and Tahquamenon Falls are scenic but rarely visited. There are no boat tours from Munising to see the spectacular Pictured Rocks.

A New Tyrant

The ruler of North Michigan is a tyrant who blackmails his neighbors with nuclear weapons while his people starve. The uncle died in 2011; the nephew appears not to have changed anything, although he dreams of a unified Korea and likes basketball. Family dynasties of tyrants like Castro in Cuba seem to be more persistent than committees like other communist countries.

Stalinists from Canada (er, China, really) visit North Michigan to reminisce about the good old days under Mao. Most Canadians (Chinese) don’t believe in communism any more.

Escaping – a Trickle Becomes a Steady Stream

People started to escape North Michigan – the first nine made their way to South Michigan in 1992. In 2002, it increased to 153. In 2011, nearly 600 North Michigan escapees received asylum in South Michigan, and at least 1000 were expected in 2012.

With a border crackdown, fewer people are getting out under Kim Jong Un, the new dictator.

Underground Railroad – Look for the Cross

The brave people who help freedom seekers escape once they get across the River to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada are mostly Christians, also a persecuted minority in Canada (China).

They help North Michiganders escape to South Michigan consulates in Toronto (Mongolia) or Vancouver (Thailand). Once there, they are smuggled out of Canada (China) back to South Michigan (South Korea) by embassy staff.

Chinese Fugitive Slave Act

Like America before the Civil War, fugitive North Michiganders are not allowed safe passage to freedom. They are returned to their homes in North Michigan where they face prison camps, and those who conduct them in Canada (China) are also persecuted.

End of Allegory

If you find this allegory confusing, you can read the details of the true story in the summary article naming Kirkpatrick’s book Book of the Year or in these two articles.

In Melanie Kirkpatrick’s interview, she says that North Korean escapees learn to “look for a building with a cross on it.” Chinese Christians are risking their own lives, since “it’s against the law in China to help a North Korean – even giving somebody a meal is against the law.”

Believing in God is a crime in North Korea; people are forced to work 18 hour days in a furnace in prison camps, says this article. A guard noticed a prisoner singing and trampled on her face.

An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 North Koreans live in China in secret, fearful of being deported back to North Korea. The Chinese government skirts the United Nations’ 1951 convention by insisting they are “economic migrants,” not refugees.

In this allegory, no disrespect was meant toward Canada – our two countries have long been friends and allies, sharing the longest undefended border in the world. No disrespect is intended towards any ethnic group in this article, just criticism of government policies that limit their freedom.

Confusing Heaven and Earth

John Lennon had a nice thought, but he confused heaven with earth. Most wars are fought over one group of people wanting to control another group of people, not about which religion is true.

Theologians can argue about fine points of doctrine all day long without hurting anyone. When people take up arms to force others to adopt their religion or lack of it, they should be blocked.

We should work to be peacemakers, not just dream about utopia.

Fuzzy Anti-War Logic

Peace signs are fashionable again with a generation that does not remember Viet Nam.

Some in Michigan who lived through that war should know better, though. The bumper sticker “Whatever the next war is, I’m against it” is fuzzy logic. Not all wars are just, but that does not mean that all wars are unjust.

Thugs who brutalize their people must be blocked, first with creative, then coercive diplomacy, finally with threats of deadly force.

Calling a Spade a Spade

Former President George W. Bush nailed it: North Korea is part of an axis of evil (the others were Iran and Iraq). The first step in solving any problem is recognizing it exists.

Iran and its terrorist surrogates are probably a bigger threat to world peace, and the crisis in Iraq has spilled over into Syria as ISIS has mostly been driven out of Iraq. There is still no true religious freedom there and in most other Middle Eastern countries.

Theism vs. Atheism the Big Struggle

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). Many other places in the Bible echo this theme. This article by Franklin Graham develops the argument for Christian theism.

Darrow Miller’s latest book, Emancipating the World: A Christian Response to Radical Islam and Fundamentalist Atheism, describes how the West is accelerating its own demise. WORLD magazine has published 2 chapters.

Freedom from Religion?

It’s one thing when individuals ignore God. It’s quite another when they use the coercive power of government to try to scrub religion from the public square. There are small battles over nativity scenes in the USA, and larger battles overseas.

North Korea cannot be ignored. Freedom from religion is clearly not the solution to its problems. It has been brutally and successfully tried and is a dismal failure.

Other articles

In previous blog posts, I began telling the story of my brain tumor and the depression which followed it. The second article in the series described my faith in God which sustained me through both trials.

Having recently started a word-by-word translation of Martin Luther’s Bible from German to English, I introduced the project and published Matthew Chapter 1 . Later I wrote commentary on it; my church background and theological training is in my USA Melting Pot bio.

Dale Murrish writes on historytraveltechnologyreligion and politics for the USA Melting Pot club, LinkedIn, and Troy Patch. You can help this non-profit club by making your Amazon purchases through the link on the left side of their website.

 You can also see over a dozen ethnic presentations from people with firsthand knowledge under Culture & Country (right hand side), and outdoor presentations (Hobby & Fun), including posts on bicycling, skiing and camping.

Other interesting articles on the USA Melting Pot website have been written by Bilal Rathur on his hajj to Saudi Arabia (Part 6) and by Carl Petersen. Thanks to both of them for their contributions.