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August 9th, 2010
08:34 AM ET

South Korean pastor is also a trained killer

Kim Shin Jo is a protestant minister - the gentle leader of his church. But the 69-year-old is best known by history as a trained killer.

Three decades ago, he and 30 others slipped from North Korea into Seoul to kill the South Korean president.

He was the face of evil and terror for a generation of Koreans - a North Korean commando fighter who came into Seoul to assassinate the South Korean president at the time, Park Jung Hee.

Kim recalls the chilling announcement he made to reporters more than 30 years ago:

"I came from North Korea to kill president Park Chung Hee. I came to cut the throat of Park Chung Hee," Kim said.

"We were taught that America had turned South Korea into a colony," he said, "and our mission was to remove the puppet government."

In January, 1968, 31 North Korean commandos managed to slip across the border, through the woods, and make it within a few hundred meters of the president's residence. But a South Korean police officer confronted them. A gunfight ensued.

In the end, more than 30 South Koreans were killed. All of the North Korean commandos were killed, except one who managed to make it back into North Korea and Kim Shin Jo, who was captured.

Kim underwent months of interrogation while captive behind bars. A South Korean army general befriended him - and broke through his hardened training.

"I tried to kill the president. I was the enemy," Kim said. "But the South Korean people showed me sympathy and forgiveness. I was touched and moved."

The government eventually released Kim, finding he never fired a shot from his gun and didn't hurt anyone during the assassination attempt.

Kim later worked for the South Korean military, became a citizen, married and had a family. Then he became a minister.

He is now the country's symbol of redemption.

Today, tensions on the divided peninsula are the highest in a decade - with few answers for workable, long-term solutions. But Kim is living proof that even the hardest of hearts in this conflict can change.

Kim reflected on footage of himself held captive in 1968.

"On that day, Kim Shin Jo died," Kim said. "I was reborn. I got my second life. And I'm thankful for that."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • South Korea • Violence

soundoff (107 Responses)
  1. Victor

    I believe NORTH KOREA IS BEST KOREA !!!!!

    August 12, 2010 at 12:09 am |
  2. Thomas

    "But Kim is living proof that even the hardest of hearts in this conflict can change"

    Nothing wrong with this comment, but how often does this actually occur? Bear in mind it took quite a long time to 'convert' this one person (a communist by the way), so imagine how long it would take to do the same to over 20 million people...

    Another proof that the unification process is never going to be easy

    August 10, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  3. asd

    I remember Kim Shin Jo cause I am a Korean myself. He and about 30 other North Korean commandos tried to kill Park Jung Hee, who was at that time the South Korean president. Kim Shin Jo was the only commando who survived and I was quite surprised that he wasn't executed. Anyway, I think that Kim Shin Jo is just trying to polish his image a little before he dies.

    August 10, 2010 at 4:23 am |
  4. Blessed

    What a great story. Salvation in Christ is real. I used to be very sickly and takes medication on regular basis, before I had an encounter with the King of kings in march 2009. From that time now, I've never fallen ill nor placed on any medications. To you reading this post, open your mind to Christ and enjoy life freely.

    August 10, 2010 at 4:12 am |
    • Harry

      your medication is supposed to stop you from hallucinating.
      maybe you should take it.

      August 10, 2010 at 5:06 am |
  5. 99.9% Cynic

    I live in a former Communist country. Immediately after the fall of Communism here, it was amazing to see the number of former Communists and secret police agents / cooperatives who **immediately** started to wear crosses around their necks and, in some cases even, to attend church.

    In most cases , their actions were a ploy to deter any punishment that might come their way.

    August 10, 2010 at 4:01 am |
    • David Johnson

      @99.9% Cynic

      Thank you for sharing that. You gave me the chuckles! Cheers!

      August 11, 2010 at 11:30 am |
  6. Someone`

    FINALLY! a positive story!

    August 10, 2010 at 3:52 am |
  7. bruce

    now what i want to know is...was this guy already a christian in north korea? or did he convert to it after becoming a south korean citizen? just for the record, yes, christianity is a thriving and practiced religion in north korea.

    August 10, 2010 at 3:06 am |
  8. salako daniel

    This story attests to the fact that at least there is a God. Whatever the atheists believes, one thing I always advocate is why don't you live your life in such a way that, at the very end of it, you wouldn't have lost out in eternity, if eventually it exists. Some of the things contained in the Bible as do's and don'ts are meant to checkmate our excesses as humans. It wouldn't hurt God in anyway if you indulge yourself in this, rather it will benefit you if you obey. Meanwhile, have you really considered it that if you live by them, you are likely going to emerge a better person than otherwise. Now, if you become a better person here on earth haven lived by good, moral and universally acceptable standards, and at the end (when you die), you still become a part of eternity where there is only bliss and peace, is it not a welcome advantage? And if eventually there is no eternity, as some would believe, you still would not have lost out or have any cause to regret because you lived well! Mind you, if you refuse to believe, AND EVENTUALLY WHAT THE BIBLE PROMISED IT TRUE, there is no other alternative than in hell because there is no repentance after death. And my God does not want you there – He only prepared it for the devil and his gang. I pray you understand my concept the way it is. Finally, I hope Pastor Kin Shin Jo will spread the gospel of reconciliation among the Koreans so they can come back together again!!

    August 10, 2010 at 2:46 am |
  9. Dave

    Amazing! A positive report of a misguided life which has experienced a positive change becomes a stimulus for an outpouring of personal bias, hatred and name calling. Whether we believe in God, Gods, devils or none of the latter is not the issue in this article. Sit back, take a deep breath, give your head a shake, and try to find something good in this report. As for me, I read all of the postings, most of which failing to address the real point of the Kim Shin Jo story, and I arrived at this conclusion: If I were to meet Kim Shin Jo in a dark alley in North or South Korea, I'd rather share the experience as he is rather than as he was. So, Rejoice my friends!

    August 9, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
  10. Smith in Oregon

    So many of America's and World leaders past and present have murdered one or hundreds of individuals during their lifespan. The Bush Family has so many skeletons in their closets, even their skeletons are seeking organ transplants! Nonetheless, I remain hopeful that there is some kind of hope for these utterly depraved individuals. Although as a human being I often find myself wishing such utterly disgusting and corrupt individuals were entirely and permanently removed from all creation.

    I believe that only the Creator can erase anyone or anything from all of Creation, and I leave it to the Creator to do that or abstain for reasons known only by the Creator.

    August 9, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  11. A thought

    There are many beilefs about many different gods. Some have even been forgotten. In many cases only the belief in "their" god is the only way to something more after death. For some there is nothing after death. The short of it is simple – each person has to determine what they believe and why.

    In any view point there is more than one side – for each argument their is a counter argument – and even sometimes both people can be right or both can be wrong.

    As I see it, people have a set of morals they live by or try to live by – sometimes not living up to their own standards. Does this mean they are wrong in beliving, not at all – it only means they need to try harder to live to their standards, we will all fail sometime in our life.

    Religion is a group of standards to live by, based on beliefs and teachings that are highly valued or sacred. Where each gets their standards to live by goes back having a belief and understanding why they believe what they do. Even those who do not believe in a god do have a set of standards they follow.

    The core of the question is do you believe in a god and have you followed that god in the way required? We all have a choice – what do you believe and why. You better make sure you get it right because in most cases the gods of the world today do not allow do overs.

    As for me I believe in Christ – does that make me a better person than the next – NO. Does it mean that I will never do wrong again and be perfect in all ways – NO. It means that I put my faith in Him, no matter if life is good or bad, my faith remains in Him.

    I choose to believe that their is something more than my time on earth and I have faith that Christ will get me there. If I am wrong then I will either cease to exist or have to answer to someone I do not believe in.

    It is not miy job in life to tell someone who they should believe in – I have not been asked to do that – I have been asked to tell others what I believe and why. It is up to each person to determine what they believe – the choice has always been yours.

    So if the world says I am wrong then so be it – my belief is not determined by the world, it is my choice. I can respect your choice, I only ask for you to respect mine.

    August 9, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
    • PeterM

      I will acknowledge that you have free-will of a sort and allow you to worship as you like within reason as far as I am concerned.
      If you choose to call this respect, go ahead, but I think you should be absolutely sure of what you are choosing.
      Otherwise I personally couldn't really respect that, since I put a greater value upon discernment.

      August 10, 2010 at 12:37 am |
    • Snop

      @ A thought, you very much correct and your post actually do make sense, i too believe in Christ and him only

      August 10, 2010 at 6:43 am |
  12. Erky

    South Korea IS a colony. In 30 years it has gone from 0% to 40% evangelical Christian. I'm amazed at how quickly an entire nation can be brainwashed. Did they not have a religion and culture before the Americans arrived? The Japanese never succumbed to the same crap, since they are a proud nation.

    August 9, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  13. V Saxena

    What a great story about redemption and rebirth!

    August 9, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
  14. Reality

    Kim Shin Jo saw the light once in his life now it is time to see the light by coming to grips with the flaws of Christianity!!!

    August 9, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  15. Kevin

    @ Michael Morris.

    You saw that in the comedy film: "The men who stare at goats". It isn't true, when you're being shot at...I'd THINK that your survival instinct and adrenaline would take over.

    August 9, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
  16. Travis

    I would like to believe this story as it is told, but common sense doesn't allow me to do so. The two halves of the Korean Peninsula are implacable enemies, regardless of their shared history and heritage. If a soldier from one side tried to kill the leader of the other side and was captured in the process, there would be no mercy or forgiveness. If an al-Qaeda assassin was captured at the gates of the White House, do you seriously believe that he would eventually be granted amnesty, released, and not only allowed to live out the rest of his life in peace, but as a symbol of unity and compassion? C'mon, people, even the guy who tried to kill Pope John Paul II (who was only released in January of this year) was deported after serving his time. Coincidentally enough, he too converted to Christianity.
    I'm not saying that this story is a complete fabrication because I'm sure there are elements of truth in it. But isn't it more plausible to believe that the South Koreans break and brainwash their captives just as the North Koreans do? Isn't it more realistic that they would take this "defector" and parade him around for the purposes of propaganda? Call me cynical, but I don't like suspending my disbelief even for the most heartwarming of stories.

    August 9, 2010 at 3:36 pm |
  17. Carlton

    This is how good GOD is!!! Many people don't really understand know the grace of GOD!!! GOD wants all of us to be EX-whatevers and recieve His SON!!! Amen!!!

    August 9, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Carlton

      How good is God!.... Please enlighten us on this mythical super-friend...

      Should we go into all of the atrocities by said God as well....?

      August 9, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
    • f23a

      Agreed Carlton. In the Book of Acts, Saul of Tarsus had a similar conversion after YEARS of persecuting and sanctioning the murder of Christians. After receiving Christ, he (of course) became known as the Apostle Paul AND was one of the biggest champions for Christ!!!

      August 9, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
    • peace2all

      @f23a

      And.... as for the billions of atrocities commited by those that had already accepted Christ..... warriors for jesus..?

      August 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
    • mackie21

      Right you are Carlton!! This was a wonderful story of forgiveness. It is really sad that people feel the need to make derogetory comments on an article they knew they wouldn't agree with by the title alone. Peace2u, you are correct that lots of attrocities have been done under the guise of Christianity. How else would the wolf steal the lamb unless he dressed as one? Bad people will always do bad things. The Holy Bible and it's plan for healthy living should never be associated with thier deeds.

      August 9, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
    • Adirian

      Billions ha you athiests killed more people under communisim than all the religious wars combined!!!

      August 9, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Adirian

      Wow...billions killed in 'religious wars' by christians....... Now that is very 'christian and christ-like.'

      And good try at an argument by the way.....

      August 9, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Adirian

      Google: Deaths over history: religious vs. nonreligous

      You will find that the religious wars claimed more lives. Also lets not forget that nasty flood that killed everyone on earth.

      August 11, 2010 at 11:24 am |
  18. PAUL

    maybe he was a south korean spy that defleckted and the south koreans new they were comeing,

    August 9, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
    • donavon

      your spelling is ridiculous.

      August 11, 2010 at 9:44 am |
  19. Tommy

    Quite the story, nice to hear it but becoming a "Preacher"..now that takes the cake.....flip of the coin and life changes..amazing (I dont buy it but amazing)

    August 9, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
  20. DANK

    North Koreans are brain washed to worship "the great leader" its more like a cult rather than a government. All i wanna see are these two diveded countries to be one again. Its lame how one country was supported by the red countries and the other by the US and thats why they are split now.

    August 9, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.