Editor’s note: This story was edited after posting to correct an error.
By Bob Allen
After the weekend release of a missionary imprisoned two years for allegedly planning a “religious coup d’etat” in North Korea, a Southern Baptist Convention leader said that according to “a Christian worldview” the nation’s totalitarian regime should fall.
In a podcast briefing Nov. 10, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., described North Korea’s view that American detainee Kenneth Bae’s work with a Christian evangelical organization posed a threat as more than just the delusion of a “paranoid state.”
“The North Korean regime is indeed paranoid, but when it comes to its opposition to Christianity, we might say the North Korean government is at least on this one issue thinking rather clearly,” Mohler said. “Because there is no worldview more directly at odds with the worldview of that paranoid state than the worldview of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
On Saturday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the release of both Bae, a Korean-American from Lynnwood, Wash., and fellow prisoner Matthew Todd Miller from Bakersfield, Calif. That came after James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, traveled to Pyongyang as an envoy of President Obama on a secret mission seeking their release.
The U.S. government facilitated their return to the United States on a government jet that landed late Saturday night at an Air Force base in Washington State. President Obama called it “a wonderful day for them and their families” and praised Clapper for “doing a great job on what was obviously a challenging mission.”
Miller, 25, was sentenced Sept. 14 to six years of forced labor for planning “hostile acts” of espionage under guise of seeking political asylum after reportedly tearing up his tourist visa.
Bae, 46, served two years of a 15-year sentence stemming from his arrest in November 2012 while leading a tour through his China-based business allegedly used as a front company to bring missionaries into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
A spokesman for North Korea’s Supreme Court released a statement in 2013 alleging that between 2006 and October 2012 Bae “set up plot-breeding bases in different places of China for the purpose of toppling” the government.
The official said Bae committed “hostile acts” including preaching sermons critical of the North Korean government at churches in the U.S. and South Korea. He also allegedly planned to bring in at least 250 students trained as missionaries on tourist visas in a project called “Operation Jericho,” named after the story in the Book of Joshua about Israelite spies who infiltrated the ancient city of Jericho prior to its conquest.
After his sentencing, Bae’s sister said on CNN that her brother “is not a spy” and never had any evil intentions toward North Korea or any other country. Upon his release, Bae’s family thanked the government of North Korea for allowing him to return home.
“We believe that God is with people who endure hardship, and that he never leaves them,” Bae’s sister Terri Chung said in a statement Nov. 8. “It is with great joy and with thankfulness to God to see Kenneth released. Our family could not have been sustained without the knowledge that Kenneth was in God’s care, when it seemed we were helpless to do anything.”
Over the weekend Bae’s sister told media that her brother “still has a tremendous heart for North Korea” and “bears no ill will” toward the country that locked him up.
Mohler said Bae “was not planning a religious coup d’état in the political sense, but any Christian looking at the nation of North Korea has to hope that there will be a toppling of that regime, not only for the good, the flourishing and the freedom of the people there, but also for the freedom of preaching the gospel,” Mohler said.