FORT BRAGG, North Carolina — South Korean native Juman Kim is a U.S. Army chaplain who lived in Vietnam and Cambodia as a teenager.
Kim lived in South Korea until age 15, but his cosmopolitan background is the result of his father’s supplements trading company in the other Asian countries. Kim moved to the U.S. to attend Washington State University and became a U.S. citizen seven years later.
“Growing up in four different countries helped me to understand the world better,” says Kim, a U.S. Missions battalion chaplain with the 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Kim, 32, says he came from a “culturally Christian” family. He only began to seek the Lord after his father’s business collapsed and he suddenly could no longer pay his tuition.
“That’s when over and over God showed me that He listens and cares for His children,” recalls Kim. “I was moved by His faithful love and decided to follow Him.”
Although he felt a strong desire to do something meaningful for the Lord after graduation, the exact call didn’t manifest at first. Kim became youth pastor at the Yoido Church in Tacoma. It is a branch of Yoido Full Gospel Church, an Assemblies of God congregation that is the world’s largest. He also served on staff at Full Gospel Holy Light Church in Tacoma and received a Master in Divinity from Faith International University and Seminary in Tacoma.
Even though he had no military background and knew nothing about chaplaincy, Kim says God eventually revealed his calling: ministering to soldiers.
“I didn’t know what deployment would look like, but I listen to God day by day,” Kim says. “I tell soldiers about Jesus; it’s very different from church ministry. Army chaplaincy is a special niche God made me to fill.”
Kim believes being an ethnic minority is advantageous in the U.S. Army. He says having a multicultural background has helped him adapt well, both in terms of location and those with whom he works.
“It helps me to empathize with soldiers who are struggling to adapt to new situations or environments,” Kim says. “Often unable to explain what they are going through, I am able to advocate for them by helping them to verbalize their struggle to themselves and to others. My experiences help me to bring peace in times of transition.”
Kim became an active duty chaplain in 2017. He received a promotion to captain at Kandahar Air Base in the mountains of Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the continuing effort against the global war on terror.
Kim met his future wife, Marisa, while in high school in Cambodia. They married during college in the U.S. and now have two daughters, Leilani, 9, and Yveline, 7. Marisa has a Missouri-born father and Taiwanese mother.
Mark S. Miller, a major assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division as 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team chaplain, has supervised Kim.
“Juman is a quick learner and immediately began to work within his strengths,” says Miller, who has been deployed eight times for a total 43 months, including Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. “He has a natural ability to take care of soldiers and their families, a true pastor’s heart.”
Miller, 52, says Kim fully embraced the challenge of learning how to be an Army officer and regularly visited with him for advice and guidance.
“He often felt that he came to see me too much, but that was not the case,” Miller says. “I valued the opportunity to mentor him and recommend that all newly accessioned chaplains take advantage of talking with and learning from the experienced chaplains they work with.”
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Top Photo: Kim Juman
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