Justice Awakening with Eddie Byun

Eddie Byun

Eddie Byun is the Lead Pastor for Onnuri English Ministry (OEM) in Seoul, South Korea and is Professor of Practical Theology at Torch Trinity Graduate University.  He is author of Justice Awakening: How You and Your Church Can Help End Human Trafficking. He is married to  Hyun Lee, and has two children, Emma (who went to be with the Lord) and Enoch Justus.

KW: How were you awakened to the injustice of human trafficking?

EB: I first found out about human trafficking by reading David Batstone’s book Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade–and How We Can Fight It. I still remember the feelings of shock, anger, and sadness finding out about this evil. I was so surprised at how big this issue was globally (with some 27+ million enslaved) and I was also surprised that I had not heard of it before (this was a few years back now). But the moment I found out of this issue, I knew in my heart that my church and I had to get involved in bringing this evil to an end.

KW: What are the circumstances of trafficking and sexual exploitation in Seoul, South Korea where you and your church serve?

EB: Most of the victims are women and girls, although recently more boy victims are starting to show up.  Many are runaways who came from broken homes with abuse being a part of their lives from a young age. And in one of the largest red light districts in Seoul, about 80% of the 400+ females who are forced to work there are orphans. They get up picked up by traffickers through deception or because of debt bondage. Estimates have 350,000 to over 1 million women forced into sex slavery in South Korea.

KW: What is one of the biggest misconceptions people have about this issue?

EB: One major challenge for the Korea is that many people think that these women want to be in the industry, make a lot of money in it, and that they enjoy this lifestyle. But in reality, no girl in any country around the world dreams of becoming a prostitute when they get older. Difficult and dark circumstances have led them to this place and they need the truth of the gospel to speak into their lives.

KW: How has your church been involved in the fight against human trafficking?

EB: There are a number of things that we do as a church to fight against human trafficking. We began a ministry in our church called HOPE Be Restored (which stands for Helping the Oppressed and Prisoners of injustice Escape and Be Restored) which seeks to mobilize our church members to take practical action steps to end human trafficking. One thing we do is pray and find ways to get the church to pray more for these issues. We do prayer walks, create prayer guides, and have seasons of prayer for our church to end slavery.  Another part of ministry seeks to raise awareness through teaching, education, and movie screenings to let the public know about this evil. We also have a networking team that connects people of influence from all walks of life to do their part in this fight, such as police, lawyers, teachers, CEO’s, etc. to utilize their sphere of influence in making an impact where they are. We also serve aftercare centers and provide counseling and mentoring for the victims as well as teach them new job skills to start a new future. There are more things we do that are outlined in more detail in my book Justice Awakening.

KW: What is your hope for you, your church and the larger Body of Christ in the fight against human trafficking?

EB: I think a big mental hurdle for many is thinking that NGO’s, non-profits, or the government are the solution to this problem. In reality, because it is a sin issue, and a spiritual issue, the Church is one that should be leading the charge in bringing about change and solutions.

God’s solution for the problem of human trafficking is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church. It is the gospel that gives true freedom for the core issues that drive this industry. Everyone is enslaved to the sins of lust, greed, or self-hatred and only the gospel of Jesus Christ can set everyone free from the things that bind them.

My hope is that the Church would awaken from its slumber, see these people with the eyes of God, love them with His heart of justice, and pursue it will all that we have. We alone have the true solution to the problems that drive this industry. And I believe one of the reasons why human trafficking has gotten so large and so widespread, is because the Church has been absent in this fight for far too long. This darkness has spread because the light has stayed hidden under a bowl.

It’s time for the Church to rise up and lead this fight, because if we, the Church, are not the preeminent leaders in this fight for justice, then we are letting the world look more like Jesus than we do. It’s time for that to change, beginning today.



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