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True Life Story of a Fearless Witness in North Korea

The true story of an American businessman imprisoned in China for rescuing North Korean Refugees

By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries, May 2013

HUNTINGTON, NY (ANS) – In the first five decades of his life, Seung-Wan (Steven) Kim was a businessman who pursued financial prosperity, while largely ignoring his family and his commitment to God.

Steven Kim

In 1975, drawn by visions of success, Steven flew from South Korea to New York with just a few dollars in his pocket. There, he started working as a produce clerk, eventually opening his own store, and he ultimately earned millions of dollars from later enterprises in real estate and furniture.

His life had all the trappings of the American Dream.

But then, the financial crash of 1987, and control of Hong Kong being handed over to the Chinese, led Steven into a new business market—mainland China—to establish a manufacturing network. There, he found not only business opportunities but also a strong Christian faith, which he had neglected for years in favor of pursuing wealth and success.

In China, he joined an underground Korean church, where he met North Korean refugees who had escaped famine, mass execution, and political and religious persecution, only to be preyed upon by human traffickers and hunted by secret police along their long and harrowing flight to freedom.

Moved by their stories, especially those of the many women and children who had been sexually abused and sold into forced marriages or prostitution, and compelled by compassion and faith, Steven set up a safe house and established an “underground railroad” through China into Vietnam, with the ultimate destination of South Korea.

Book cover

In 2003, at the age of fifty-four, Steven was arrested, held without trial for nine months, and then sentenced to five years of hard labor in a laogai—a Chinese labor camp. As prisoners were being executed to “harvest” their pancreases and corneas for use by Chinese businessmen and government officials in need of transplants, Steven risked solitary confinement, beatings, and torture by not only practicing his faith but also by leading a secret prison ministry.

He had Bibles smuggled in, conducted secret church services and baptisms, and saw the conversions of prisoners and guards alike, to the Christian faith.

Despite the efforts of human-rights activists, embassy officials, and American politicians, including former Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and U.S. Representative Ed Royce of California, Steven remained in captivity until his release in 2007.

Since then, Steven Kim, who lives in Huntington, NY, has remained a relentless human-rights activist and preacher of the gospel. He formed 318 Partners Mission Foundation (www.318Partners.org) to rescue North Korean refugees—specifically, women and orphans—from sex traffickers in China. More recently, Steven has joined efforts with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) in taking the gospel into North Korea and planting underground churches there.

Kim’s story is now dramatically told in a recently-released book, “The Fearless Passage of Steven Kim,” by Carl Herzig, and is both thrilling, heartbreaking, and victorious. His life reminds us that God can use anyone in any circumstances to achieve great things for His kingdom!

Note: Carl Herzig, PhD, has authored and/or edited numerous works of fiction and non-fiction, is a fellow of the National Writing Project and a reviewer for several literary and creative journals, and has directed two university curriculum and assessment programs. He leads student service-learning trips to India and has served as an Iowa Humanities Scholar and evaluator for the Hearst Foundation U.S. Senate Youth Program, the Iowa Humanities Board, and the Illinois Council for the Humanities. He is currently professor of English at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, where he teaches courses in sacred poetry, contemporary fiction, and creative and expository writing.


Dan Wooding, 72, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 49 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and he hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on the KWVE Radio Network in Southern California and which is also carried throughout the United States and around the world. Besides this, Wooding is a host for His Channel Live, which is carried via the Internet to some 192 countries. Dan recently received two top media awards — the “Passion for the Persecuted” award from Open Doors US, and as one of the top “Newsmakers of 2011” from Plain Truth magazine. He is the author of some 45 books, the latest of which is “Caped Crusader: Rick Wakeman in the 1970s.” To order a copy, go to: Caped Crusader – Amazon

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

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