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'Free my brother,' ex-North Korean pleads

Son Jong Hoon and his brother, Son Jong Nam, who has been condemned to execution in North Korea for being a Christian (Voice of the Martyrs photo)

An international campaign is being launched by the Voice of the Martyrs to generate worldwide pressure on North Korean officials who have ordered a man executed for being a Christian.

Son Jong Hoon told a news conference in Washington, D.C., that his life’s goal now is to save his brother, Son Jong Nam, a former North Korean Army officer turned underground evangelist.

“I pray to God for my brother’s safety,” he said, describing the horrors of the basement jail cell where Son Jong Nam has been held, beaten and tortured since his most recent arrest.

“I plead to the kind and compassionate citizens of the United States and around the world to join me in my cause,” Son Jong Hoon said in remarks prepared for the news conference. “I appeal to you. Just think how sad and desperate you would be if your own brother or sister, son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother were in jail awaiting death.”

The Voice of the Martyrs, an international organization that assists persecuted Christians around the world, is asking people in the United States and other nations to write letters and send e-mails to North Korean, United Nations and U.S. State Department officials, and send the prisoner a note through a program set up on its website that allows individualized letters.

VOM was joined in the effort by U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a noted support of human rights for North Korean refugees. He has sent letters signed by a team of senators to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon asking for help in securing the release of the prisioner.

“We are asking for prayers for Mr. Son, but also that people of the world take action on his behalf,” said Todd Nettleton, director of media development for the Voice of the Martyrs.

“Jesus said ministering to a prisoner was like ministering to Himself. Every letter and e-mail can make a difference,” Nettleton said.

It was years ago when Son defected to China after an episode in which the nation’s secret police attacked his pregnant wife. There he met a South Korean missionary and became a Christian, eventually reporting a call from God to be an evangelist in North Korea.

But he was arrested by Chinese police and returned to North Korea, where he was imprisoned and tortured for three years. On parole in 2004, he was expelled from Pyongyang but his health deteriorated and he returned to China.

His most recent arrest came in January 2006, but officials said no information has been available about him since February of this year.

VOM said it has been launching helium-filled balloons, printed with either the Gospel of Mark or the text of a tract called “How to Know God” into North Korea for years. Nettleton said workers also have been smuggling in copies of an audio drama called “He Lived Among Us” and have sent copies of The New Testament in Korean to northern China through a VOM program called Bibles Unbound.

Son John Hoon had escaped to South Korea during a time when his older brother was in prison. His life in North Korea and his defection left him with extremely poor health, and he devotes his life fulltime now to seeking freedom for his brother.

Nettleton said the goal first is to obtain freedom for the minister. “And second, we hope that that will lead to other Christians being freed from similar circumstances in North Korea and around the world,” he said.

Voice of the Martyrs
is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.

It was launched by Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who began smuggling Bibles into eastern Europe and Asia in the 1940s. Shortly later Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.

He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.

The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, “Tortured for Christ,” was released.

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