North Korean soldier saves LDS prisoner and escape North Korea together
Millar, an American fighter pilot, crashed behind enemy lines in North Korea during the Korean War. When he was ejected, he broke his ankles and was apprehended and interrogated by communist soldiers.
After months of being held captive, Millar was finally able to escape the communist prison. He hobbled and crawled across the North Korean countryside, but his efforts were futile due to the heavy military security. A North Korean soldier eventually recaptured Millar under orders to execute him on sight.
Any other communist soldier would have carried out the order, but this North Korean was hesitant. Kim Jae Pil was a devout Christian forced into the army of a regime determined to annihilate anyone who, like him, was committed to any religion or ideology other than the new Communist government.
Kim decided to protect Millar because his faith outweighed his orders. Ironically, Millar was unsure whether there was a God who would ever hear his prayers, but he admired Kim far more than any of the communists. The two men eventually became friends after learning to communicate. They then managed a miraculous escape to freedom in South Korea. Millar eventually returned to Oregon with his bride and toddler, and his seed of faith grew into an essential part of his life. Kim established a life in South Korea while remaining committed to his Protestant faith.
This is the story that was supposed to be told by Steven Collis, who’s researching archives of books for his book “Praying with the Enemy.” During the week of his book launch, he visited Salt Lake City and appeared on television, talking about the story in his book. When he arrived at the bookstore, the manager said, “There’s a woman here who wants to see you.”
Collis talked to the woman and was told of the story when she received a prompting to leave the TV on. Her husband had left the television on after watching the early-morning news and that’s when Steven’s interview came on the air—hearing the story of the Korean escapee. When the interview ended, she immediately went to the bookstore with her old missionary journal, which she showed to Steven.
Kim Jae Pil, the North Korean soldier, happens to have crossed paths after 30 years of escaping to South Korea. After escaping with Ward Millar, the American soldiers treated Kim well, but the South Korean soldiers thought of him as a spy. Due to this suspicion, they sent him to Geoje Island prisoner of war camp under the United Nations, but it was run by the Koreans since the UN lacked proper control over the camp.
“The camp contained two hostile groups: the Communist sympathizer prisoners and the South Korean guards,” said Steven. Both sides refused to accept him, having the communists accuse him of treason and treachery while South Koreans as a danger to their national security. He was constantly cornered and assaulted—even by the soldiers—refusing to believe that he had saved an American soldier.
He was later released from the camp and received an award and a cash reward from the US military for saving an American soldier. However, the old woman said that he still feels the pain from his experience on Geoje Island and the thought that his parents and sister are still trapped in the North, where he will never saw them again.
After time had passed, Kim met the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was intrigued by the doctrine of temple marriage and that he could see his family again.
“He would later say that at that moment, the Spirit washed over his soul in a way he had never felt before,” Steven wrote. “He knew that what he had just learned was a profound truth.”
When Sister Cindy Forbes Whipperman met Kim in Korea, he was already a faithful Church member serving in the Bishopric.