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North Korean senior espionage officer defects

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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A North Korean man carries his country's national flag at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium where people gathered for a mass dance party to celebrate the

Officials from Seoul, South Korea reported Monday that a senior intelligence officer with the North Korean military has defected. While few details have been released, we know that the defector was a senior colonel with North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau—the agency thought responsible for various cyber warfare attacks and other espionage operations against the South and other foreign countries.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports that the senior colonel is the highest ranking defector from the North to date. As CNN‘s KJ Kwon and Tim Hume describe, all defectors from the North are interviewed by South Korea’s intelligence services in an effort to gather information about life across the border. Officials are especially excited about the colonel, though, as they expect he could also provide them with abundant knowledge on Kim Jong Un’s regime—a particularly useful area of information amid rumors that the North Korean leader’s increasingly brutal tactics have weakened his already fragile network of support.

Given the recent tests of new ballistic missile engine last week as well as reports that the government has successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads that could fit on such missiles, getting firsthand knowledge of the regime’s true capabilities could be incredibly important in planning the South’s approach to their northern neighbor. As allies to the South Korean government, such information could prove helpful in crafting an American response to the North as well. If Kim Jong Un’s inner circle truly is fracturing, being prepared for the possible outcomes could be vital to ensuring stability in the region while protecting the South and its allies against the possible turmoil of an even more destabilized, and now potentially nuclear, North Korea.  

It can be easy at times to think of North Korea, and more particularly its leaders, as the punchline of a bad joke. They seem to exude a combination of willful ignorance and overconfidence that makes it difficult to take them seriously. Yet, while such a description is often well-earned, it would be a mistake to completely discount their potential impact on the nations around them and on the global community as a whole. As a global community, what one nation does often affects others in ways that are not always immediately clear.

Should North Korea ever develop and use a nuclear device on their neighbors to the South, for example, the South’s status as a close ally with the United States and as a member of the UN would immediately involve a host of nations around the world. Moreover, the destabilization of the North would pose another set of risks altogether. Should Kim Jong Un lose power, true democracy and a reunification with the South could be possible. However, a mass sale of arms and/or a state of totalitarianism under a different name could be just as likely. In each case, the situation in Korea would have a direct effect on countries across the globe.

As Christians, we live in a similarly interconnected state with other believers. As Mark Cook recently described, Paul used the “body of Christ” to describe the Church for a reason. Whether we like it or not, our actions invariably affect the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. That truth enables us to honestly and sincerely “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “weep with those who weep,” showing our genuine love and commitment to those Christ also died to save (Romans 12:15). Because Christ has united us under his banner of salvation, we have a share in the successes, failures, joys, and pains of our fellow believers, just as they have a share in ours.

I wonder how often we live with that reality in mind though. Just because it’s what Christ intends for his Church doesn’t mean it’s always what happens. How many of the common accusations against God’s people—hypocritical, divisive, judgmental, etc.—would exist in a community of believers that truly lived as a united body? How much easier would it be to find grace for those struggling with a particular sin or compassion for those who are genuinely hurting if we remembered that their disappointment and their pain was ours as well?

While such a community would still have problems to overcome, the spirit in which those issues were dealt with would be far more akin to the love and forgiveness Christ modeled throughout his ministry. How will you model that spirit in your community today?

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