How North Korea Went From “Jerusalem Of The East” To Hell On Earth
North Korea is the most atheistic place on earth. Christianity is completely forbidden there. There is no right to religious liberty recognized in law there.
So you might be surprised to hear that its capital city, Pyong Yang, was once known as the “Jerusalem of the East” because it was the center of missionary activity in East Asia.
What went wrong?
What went wrong is whether we’re talking about an individual, a village, or a nation, the gospel changes things. Now, of course Christians understand that the Gospel changes things for the better, but what is less well known is that the Gospel also changes things for the worse. And which kind of change occurs is dependent directly on what the response to the Gospel is.
Many Koreans were told the Gospel story and decided that they want to serve Jesus as their master. But Kim il-Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the regime, heard those stories and instead of deciding that he wanted to be a disciple of Jesus instead decided that he wanted to be Jesus himself. Sung re-wrote his own biography in ways that paralleled the Jesus stories. At his birth, the Sung nativity myth proclaims, the mountains shook. At a key moment in Sung’s life, a dove descended from Heaven.
The Gospel has power, a power which can save, or a power which when plugged into improperly can burn out the old institutions of society like so many obsolete circuit breakers.
Something similar happened in the Taipang Rebellion, during the mid 1800s, in which a failed young man from a peasant village heard the Gospel accounts and concluded that he was Jesus’ younger brother and launched, on that basis, the bloodiest war in modern Chinese history and one of the bloodiest wars in human history. The stories of the Gospels deeply resonate with human nature, so much that they have incredible power even to those who reject and co-opt their fundamental message.
The South went the other direction. It embraced the Christian world view and with it the institutions of the free society. My friend, the late Alan Meltzer, put the South Korean miracle in the center of his famous seminar at Carnegie Mellon University because of its near miraculous transformation in human standards of living. It went from a medieval standard of living to great prosperity basically from 1980 to now.
That’s why we show an image of the Korean peninsula at night in our resources page at Vident Financial.
The difference between the North Koreans and the South Koreans is not race. This is a nation cleaved in half during the live time of many still alive. It’s not language; it’s not weather. It’s ideas. Some lead to life, some to death.
One could look at the two nations on either side of the Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. The Jews and Arabs are cousin Semites, descended from the two sons of Abraham. There is no invisible barrier giving them different weather. The languages are actually surprisingly similar.
What’s the difference? Culture.
Haiti and Dominican Republic, two halves of one island, but with completely different standards of living.
Here’s an interview with Rob West and Steve Moore of the MoneyWise radio show, in which we talk about the Korea story, and even give some helpful (I hope) hints about how to invest in an environment like the current uncertainty on the Korean peninsula.
Jerry Bowyer is a Forbes contributor, contributing editor of AffluentInvestor.com, and Senior Fellow in Business Economics at The Center for Cultural Leadership.
Jerry has compiled an impressive record as a leading thinker in finance and economics. He worked as an auditor and a tax consultant with Arthur Anderson, as Vice President of the Beechwood Company which is the family office associated with Federated Investors, and has consulted in various privatization efforts for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He founded the influential economic think tank, the Allegheny Institute, and has lectured extensively at universities, businesses and civic groups.
Jerry has been a member of three investment committees, among which is Benchmark Financial, Pittsburgh’s largest financial services firm. Jerry had been a regular commentator on Fox Business News and Fox News. He was formerly a CNBC Contributor, has guest-hosted “The Kudlow Report”, and has written for CNBC.com, National Review Online, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as many other publications. He is the author of The Bush Boom and more recently The Free Market Capitalist’s Survival Guide, published by HarperCollins. Jerry is the President of Bowyer Research.
Jerry consulted extensively with the Bush White House on matters pertaining to the recent economic crisis. He has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, The International Herald Tribune and various local newspapers. He has been a contributing editor of National Review Online, The New York Sun and Townhall Magazine. Jerry has hosted daily radio and TV programs and was one of the founding members of WQED’s On-Q Friday Roundtable. He has guest-hosted the Bill Bennett radio program as well as radio programs in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Jerry is the former host of WorldView, a nationally syndicated Sunday-morning political talk show created on the model of Meet The Press. On WorldView, Jerry interviewed distinguished guests including the Vice President, Treasury Secretary, HUD Secretary, former Secretary of Sate Condoleezza Rice, former Presidential Advisor Carl Rove, former Attorney General Edwin Meese and publisher Steve Forbes.
Jerry has taught social ethics at Ottawa Theological Hall, public policy at Saint Vincent’s College, and guest lectured at Carnegie Mellon’s graduate Heinz School of Public Policy. In 1997 Jerry gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Robert Morris University. He was the youngest speaker in the history of the school, and the school received more requests for transcripts of Jerry’s speech than at any other time in its 120-year history.
Jerry lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Susan, and the youngest three of their seven children.