North Korean refugees who flee their communist homeland in order to avoid oppression and food shortages risk their lives to resettle in the South. The number now living in South Korea is about 24,000.
The Catholic Times tells us the story of Hong Teresa, 55 years old, who arrived in South Korea in 2008. She remembers hearing about the Catholic Church from her mother as a child and being told to be careful not to speak about this to anyone. This remembrance helped her to receive baptism, in 2009, while living in Seoul.
Teresa escaped from North Korea for the first time in 2002 and was returned to the North by the Chinese authorities. She escaped again in 2005. While in China, she saw the name of a Catholic Church written in Korean script. This brought back the words of her mother years earlier.
Her mother told her about the foreign missioners who worked in the North and that her maternal grandfather had worked for the Church but suffered under the Communists because of this connection. Her family had difficulty finding work, she said, because they were considered undesirable elements within the society.
When she was in China and saw the Catholic church, she entered and introduced herself to God as the granddaughter of her grandfather, and started to cry. The person that led her to the church gave her a prayer book which she has used ever since. Three years after leaving the North, she arrived in South Korea.
There are no Catholic priests in the North, about 3000 Catholics, and a mission station. She feels that the reason they have a semblance of religion there is to publicize an 'openness' to religion to the outside world. While in Pyongyang, she never heard about the Church; she did, only when she arrived in the South.