Throughout his journey, Graham was accompanied by FOX News reporter Greta Van Susteren, who blogged daily on gretawire.com and, after her return to the United States, reported nightly “On the Record.”
“You can’t just decide to go to the DPRK and go,” Van Susteren wrote on her blog. “The government must agree to it. It is not easy to get in there…and especially if you are the media. We were lucky to be able to go with Reverend Franklin Graham.”
Van Susteren talked with Graham about his strong family ties in the DPRK: “My mother was born in China. Her father was a surgeon in a missionary hospital and spent 25 years in China. My mother came here to high school in Pyongyang. And I remember as a young boy my mother sharing her experiences living here in this city.
“For me to be able to come back and to work here where my mother went to school is personal to me,” Graham added.
This was Graham’s second visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). “My first visit in 2000 was one of the most memorable trips of my life, and ever since then I have been looking forward to the opportunity to return here again,” Graham said upon arriving at the airport in Pyongyang.
Living His Faith
Not only did Graham give the media access to humanitarian projects and meetings with government leaders, he openly shared his faith in Jesus Christ on camera and behind the pulpit.
“Rev. Graham is an extraordinary man,” wrote Van Susteren. “He lives his faith every hour of every day. In no way is he ‘part time’ in helping people. You would not believe how much humanitarian work he does around the world.”
He and his father Billy Graham are the only two Americans who have preached at Bongsu, the largest of two Protestant churches in the capital city of Pyongyang.
Graham shared with Van Susteren a story about his father’s experience in 1992. “It is a little bit of a mystery, but President Kim Il Sung for some reason liked my father, and gave my father a big bear hug when he met him, and called him family.”
Van Susteren asked about the government’s resistance to preaching. “It is not allowed outside of churches,” Graham explained. “We will be preaching Sunday morning in one of their local churches. But as far as taking a stadium like we would in the United States or in other countries, no, that is not possible here. Many of the communist countries, or former communist countries, only allow you to preach on church property, and they will not allow you to preach outside of church property.”
Graham, in his role at Samaritan’s Purse, has earned the support of the government to bring relief supplies into the DPRK. “There has not been any hindrance from the government whatsoever,” said Graham.
Taking the FOX crew with him, Graham visited the People’s Provincial Hospital in Sariwon, an hour west of Pyongyang. Van Susteren marveled as she walked through dark hallways and saw an operating room that lacked air conditioning. But thanks to Samaritan’s Purse, medical technicians are preparing to install a generator and new electrical system.
Graham also met with staff who operate dental vans donated by the BGEA. The first dental clinic was constructed in the United States in 1995 and shipped to DPRK by way of China.
In 1997, BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse partnered in sending a 747 cargo jet with $8 million in medical supplies and aid to assist the people of the DPRK following one of the worst floods in the nation’s history. The airlift was the first direct flight from the United States to the area since the Korean War.
Ambassador for the King
“In spite of the political differences that divide our two countries, we need to do all we can to care for the people of the DPRK,” Graham said at a press conference before the 1997 airlift. “We are praying for the people and we pledge to do all we can in the Name of Jesus Christ to extend a hand of friendship and practical assistance to them during this time of suffering.”
During a welcoming dinner on July 31, Graham was introduced by Rev. Kang Yong Sop, chairman of the central committee of the Korean Christian Federation. Also welcoming him Thursday were Ri Jong Ro, director of international affairs for the Korean Christian Federation; and Jong Tae Yang, vice director of foreign ministry.
Graham said to the audience: “I do not come to you as a politician or diplomat. I come to you instead as a minister of the Gospel and an ambassador for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.”