SEOUL, South Korea Representing Asia at a special open house in 1991 preceding the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Relief Society was a cherished experience for Sister Chung Sook Kim of Seoul, South Korea. She met the First Presidency and took part in the taping of a portion of a video that was broadcast during the sesquicentennial year of 1992.
It was appropriate she should represent Asia since she was the daughter of Dr. Ho Jik Kim who pioneered the Church in Korea in the early 1950s.
Dr. Kim joined the Church while studying for a doctorate in biology at Cornell University in New York. Upon his return to Korea during the war there, he was the only Korean member among a group of LDS soldiers.
Chung Sook Kim, along with her younger sister, Young Sook Kim, joined their father and brothers Shin Hwan and Tai Hwan, as the nucleus of native Koreans from which the Church has grown today into 17 stakes with a temple in their land. The sisters shared their memories and feelings about the Church and their lives during a Church News interview in their homeland in late July, at the time of the 50th anniversary of the dedication of Korea for the preaching of the gospel. (See Church News, Aug. 6, 2005, p. 3.)
Each Sister Kim has loving memories of a father who was kind and caring in the family, and faithful and devoted in the Church. They said they were happy to be among the first Koreans baptized in their country simply because their father asked them to be baptized. The younger sister was baptized at age 10, along with brother Tai Hwan, in 1952 by American soldier Franklin K. Buchanan.
Sister Chung Sook said that a few months later, when she was 14, her father felt comfortable enough to exercise his priesthood authority to baptize her and brother Shin Hwan on Jan. 3, 1953.
Gaining strength from listening to their father bear his testimony, and study and preach the gospel, the girls soon had testimonies of their own, they said. Sister Chung Sook said their father regularly called upon them to pray and to give 2 1/2 minute talks in Sunday school.
"He always told me to not be afraid of people and not be ashamed; just speak out," She said. "We always obeyed his word."
They attended their meetings faithfully, teaching Primary and Sunday School, doing missionary work and whatever else they were asked to do.
Sister Young Sook, who has remained faithful since her father brought her into the Church, said she is thankful for the opportunity she had to be a pioneer member. "I've tried to serve from the bottom of my heart," she said. "I've always tried to not live the worldly way, but the Lord's way."
Trials have been a part of the lives of the sisters. The Korean War broke out while their father was in the United States and their mother, Pil Kun Park, had to flee south with her four children, protecting and providing for them. Sister Chung Sook said poverty was the way of life for Koreans in those times. Primary burgeoned, she said, as the LDS soldiers gave crayons, candy and other treats to the poverty-stricken children who attended.
Life became better for the family as talented and well-educated Dr. Kim became prominent in education and government, along with anchoring the growing Church. But tragedy struck when he suddenly and unexpectedly died in 1959. But the family survived, in part because of the faith inspired by Dr. Kim.
His wife never joined the Church while he was alive, but brought joy to the children when she was baptized several years later. She died in 1980. Five years later, the Seoul Korea Temple was dedicated and Sister Chung Sook beamed as she spoke of going there to do the temple work for her parents.
Having seen the Church grow in Korea from its infancy to what it is today, the sisters said it is unbelievable. But they expect it to continue to grow and prosper.
"The work cannot fail," Sister Young Sook said. "God continues to do His work through chosen children in Korea."
Grateful for the devoted leadership of her father during early growth of the Church in Korea, Sister Chung Sook said the Church in the country still has excellent leaders.
"They all have a strong testimony that this is the true Church of Jesus Christ and a strong testimony of the living prophet," she said. "And the members have strong testimonies and a strong knowledge of the gospel."
They are grateful for the blessings in their own lives that began with being born to goodly parents and a father who embraced the truth.
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