From Robert H. Slover, President of the Seoul Korea Temple 1985-88: In the history of the Church in Korea, the earliest meetings have been considered to be those held in the early 1950 s during the Korean conflict as Servicemen s Group meetings. There is now evidence that there was a Servicemen s Group organized and meeting in Seoul in 1946 and 1947 during the occupation phase by the U.S. military forces following the liberation of Korea from the Japanese control during World War II. There is also some indication that at least one Korean man was baptized at that time.
In March of 1987, Brother and Sister Merlynn and Dee Anderson from East Carbon, Utah visited the Seoul Korea Temple. Brother Anderson informed me at that time that he served as the second counselor in a Servicemen s Group in Seoul the latter part of 1946 and early 1947, and that they met weekly in a hotel in Seoul. Since then Brother Anderson has sent me documents and pictures which tell in part the story of what must now be considered the first organized LDS Church group in Korea. From the information furnished by Brother Anderson that story of forty years ago can be told.
With the division of the nation of Korea at the end of World War II, U.S. Forces were established in the south of Korea and the Russian Forces in the North of Korea for the purpose of expelling the Japanese forces, Japanese government officials, and Japanese civilians from the country. This resulted in the U.S. military units being stationed in what is now South Korea to accomplish this purpose and for the purpose of helping re-establish a Korean government and assisting in the rebuilding efforts. One such unit was the 1092nd Engineers Utilities Detachment. Two LDS Servicemen served in this detachment, Lt. Col. James R. Barker, then from Logan, Utah, and Corporal Merlynn O. Anderson, now from East Carbon, Utah. With two other LDS Servicemen, the latter part of 1946 (probably September or October), an LDS Servicemen s Group was organized with Lt. Col. James R. Barker as the Group Leader, Richard H. Harris as First Counselor, Merlynn O. Anderson as Second Counselor and Verle Q. Hale as Clerk and Secretary.
The group was meeting during the 1946 Christmas season and took occasion to send their greetings to family and friends in the form of a Christmas letter which gives some information about the group. Quoted in part the letter reads:
Greetings from Korea,
As Group Leaders of the few Mormon boys here in Seoul, Korea, we send our very best wishes for this Christmas and holiday season.
Your loved ones in Uncle Sam s Army, stationed in Korea are doing their duty by living the Gospel, under adverse conditions, as they have been taught in their homes and in the Church. Regularly twice each week they meet, partake of the Spirit of God, enjoy each others company, renew their covenants with the Lord and study the Gospel. Their conduct individually' and collectively has its influence for good upon those with whom they associate. Fraternally yours,
James R. Barker, Group Leader
Richard H. Harris, First Counselor
Merlynn O. Anderson, Second Counselor
Verle Q. Hale, Secretary
Brother Anderson, when questioned regarding the size of the group, said it varied from week to week between ten and twenty brothers. He remembers they met in a hotel in Seoul. A picture of Lt. Col. Barker, taken at that time, near a pagoda with the hotel in the background, is undoubtedly the pagoda which was between the old Chosen Hotel and the old Bando Hotel. The Bando Hotel is in the photograph and this is undoubtedly the hotel where the group met. The former Bando Hotel is now the site of the present day Lotte Hotel, and the old Chosen has been replaced witn the present day Westin Chosen Hotel. The pagoda still stands between the two hotels.