Kim Hyon-hui is back in the news. You probably don’t know that name. It was forgotten long ago by most. But Kim gained notoriety 30 years ago, when South Korea hosted the Olympics in Seoul. She was a North Korean spy, and she placed a bomb on a 707 headed for Seoul, killing 115 people.
With the 23rd Winter Olympics set to begin this weekend in Pyeongchang County, South Korea, Kim’s story has resurfaced. And, it is an amazing story. She was recruited at 18 years old; she learned to perfect Mandarin and Japanese; she was given weapons and martial arts training; and she was taught to blend into other cultures.
Nevertheless, Kim’s 1st mission, the 707 bombing, would be her last. She was captured while fleeing, and unsuccessfully tried to take a cyanide pill. She was imprisoned, but eventually pardoned. At 56 years old now, she lives a fairly quiet life, working for the South Korean government in witness protection. She has raised 2 kids, and she is still hunted by the North Koreans.
Of course, when she was captured, Kim expected to be tortured in interrogation. But her captors chose a different path. A simple ride around town eventually changed Kim’s ideology. She had been lied to her whole life. She was told that South Koreans lived in squalor; they were terribly unhappy; and they would love to live in North Korea.
Driving through South Korea exposed those lies. People had smiles, enjoyed life, and were free to go where they wanted. When confronted with the truth, Kim, to her credit, changed her false belief system.
Consider this, friend: if someone had been taught that Christians were hateful, vengeful, sexist, racists, bigots, etc…would a “ride” through most churches help change minds? You see, reality immediately exposed the lies Kim had learned. Christian life should prove the love of Christ to any who are “riding through” our midst (Acts 2:44-47).
Kim still experiences a deep pain and shame for what she did. She wrote about her experiences and donated book proceeds to the families of her victims. She hugs and weeps with the families. She has been pardoned, but she still desires forgiveness.
Unfortunately, even though she has been to church, true forgiveness still eludes her. In an interview recently, she wondered, “Can my sins be pardoned?” Sadly though, she answered, “They probably won’t be.”
Kim hasn’t experienced the great joy of salvation. Paul told Timothy that he received mercy to prove that all people can be saved no matter their past (1 Timothy 1:15-17). John assures that our forgiveness can be known (1 John 5:13). If our faith remains, we expect the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
It didn’t take torture to change Kim’s mind about her past sins; just being exposed to the truth did the trick. I hope that one day she learns the great joy of salvation – the confidence that comes through believing, repenting, confessing Jesus, and being baptized into the forgiveness of sins. I’ll probably never get to share that with her, but I’d love to tell you the same, and guess what? I just did.