North Korea sent this assassin to kill the South's president. He's now a megachurch pastor.


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SEOUL, South Korea — Dawn was breaking over snow-covered Sambong Mountain a half century ago as the four Woo brothers set out to cut wood.

In a clearing they found 31 men dressed in South Korean army uniforms. Assuming it was a patrol, they shouted a greeting.

The soldiers were hollow-cheeked and drenched in sweat despite the sub-zero temperatures and the bitter wind in Paju, just 10 miles from South Korea’s border with the North.

Most had removed their boots and wrapped their hands and feet in blankets to stave off frostbite. The leader introduced himself as “Captain Kim,” with his sophisticated Seoul accent putting the siblings at ease.

That was when one of the brothers noticed something strange: One soldier’s rank insignia was upside down. It made him suspicious: For months there had been broadcasts in the South warning citizens to be on the lookout for infiltrators.

“Gentlemen, are you from the North?” the eldest brother asked Kim.

“Yes, comrades. We are here to liberate you and bring communism to South Korea,” Kim told the woodcutters.

The “soldiers” were actually North Korean commandos who had trained for two years for this mission: assassinate South Korean President Park Chung-hee, a former general who had risen to power through a military coup seven years earlier. They had been sent by Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founder and the grandfather of its current leader, Kim Jong Un.

The commandos had spent the final months of their training practicing the assault on a mock-up of Park’s Blue House presidential residence that had been built inside North Korea.

“I was in charge of the assault element, which would secure the first floor, allowing the rest of the team to proceed upstairs and kill Park,” one commando, Lt. Kim Shin-jo, said in an interview with NBC News on the 50th anniversary of the day in 1968 that he crossed the Demilitarized Zone into South Korea.




Image: Kim Shin-jo

Kim Shin-jo