KIM IL SUNG
With the Century
THE ANTI-JAPANESE REVOLUTION
A historical lesson of the arduous revolutionary struggle against the Japanese imperialists is that the destiny of the country can only be shaped by the united efforts of the whole nation.
Kim Il Sung
Spring 1936 was an unusual season for us. We had planned to do a lot of things that spring. The creation of a new division, formation of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland, preparations for the building of the Paektusan Base ... as well as the outbreak of important events at Maanshan and other places in the Fusong area, led to the surfacing of many new tasks we had not anticipated.
To deal with these pressing tasks, we needed time to concentrate on them.
Developments in the area around us in those
days, however, did not give us breathing space. Two forces, which had been
operating in Fusong area, were interfering with us and placing obstacles in our
way. One was Commander Wang’s
“punitive” force of the puppet
Wang’s title “Commander” carried the connotation that he was the king of the “punitive” forces.
Since the days of his service in the army
of warlord Zhang Zuo-lin, Wang had been an expert in “mopping up bandits”. He
had operated for some time against the Japanese in the self-defence army
organized by Tang Ju-wu after the September 18 incident1.
Consequently we had maintained fairly good terms with him during our expedition
He had never returned empty-handed from his “punitive” operations. He had always destroyed his enemy, cut off the heads or ears of victims and submitted them to his masters. The Japanese used to praise him highly and give him bonuses. He had been especially enthusiastic about the pursuit of Wan Shun’s unit, and harassed him in every possible way. Soldiers of the Chinese anti-Japanese nationalist forces operating in Fusong area, trembled even at the glimpse of Wang’s shadow. These soldiers called him “Ri To Son of Fusong”.
Ri To Son, in neighbouring
This man. Commander Wang, became our major enemy, a major obstacle in our way, that spring.
Wan Shun of the national salvation army also hindered our activities nearly as much as Commander Wang. When we came to Fusong, we intended to make his unit our major ally. However, his men treated us as their enemy. On the way back from the procurement of clothing supplies for the Children’s Corps members at Maanshan, Kim San Ho had been robbed of supplies by mountain rebels. My men had become so indignant, that they had retaliated too severely against the mountain rebels, who had turned into bandits, although they should have refrained from punishing them. This caused us a bit of trouble and constituted an unexpected headache.
“The ‘Koryo Red Army’ is too innocent to forgive anyone, who touches poor people’s property. They think nothing of our hardships. They are a different tribe and cannot understand us.” This rumour spread among the mountain rebels. They even tried to provoke or harm individual soldiers of my unit, whenever they met them. This was the attitude of Wan Shun’s unit we need to form a common front with. It was a big headache.
We found ourselves in an analogous situation to the one we had been in, when we had founded the guerrilla army in Jiandao (April 25, 1932). However, our circumstances differed from those in our incipient days in that we were now much stronger, and our military authority had been recognized by the public, so that we were feared by both Commander Wang, who belonged to the enemy camp and Commander Wan Shun, who should have been our ally.
What could be done to remove the obstacles they had set and win a period of quiet time? After much thought I decided to try and maintain peace with Commander Wang, refrain from attacking him, and adopt other measures to form a common front with Commander Wan Shun.
I wrote to Commander Wang in the following
vein: ... We are not strangers to each other. You know me well, and I know you
well. So let me state frankly: The Japanese are our major enemy. We do not plan
to fight the
The first paragraph of my letter was
followed by the terms we proposed, i.e., that he cease “punitive” operations
against the mountain rebels allow free access to the walled town and villages
and staying there for the political operatives of the People’s Revolutionary
Army, stop repressing patriots who supported and assisted the People’s
Revolutionary Army, and release imprisoned patriots at once. I said I would
guarantee that no disturbance of “public peace” would occur as far as possible
A few days later I received a reply from him, where he said mat he fully agreed to our proposal and would accept all the terms we had advanced.
Thus a secret peace agreement was reached between both sides. The agreement was implemented faithfully for some time, and no conflicts arose.
Commander Wang refrained from “mopping up” the mountain rebels, connived at ensuring free access for our operatives or liaison men to the walled towns and concentration villages under his control, and mitigated the repression and arrest of Korean patriots.
We ceased attacking units under his command and refrained from disturbing peace in the garrison area.
When sending out my men to obtain weapons,
after burning the bundles of “Minsaengdan” files(April, 1936), I ordered them
to fight and capture weapons in the area outside the walled town of
Wang was not stupid; he was too clever and
sensitive. He was well aware of our activities in Jiandao and northern
I learned that, after receiving the information of our appearance in Fusong, he had warned his men, saying: “Avoid engagement with the ‘Koryo Red Army’. If you are careless enough to provoke them, you won’t save your skins. Don’t attack them at random, as they are a small force. The best thing to do is avoid offending them. Don’t provoke a fight you have no chance of winning.” Whenever he saw my men in khaki. Commander Wang used to sneak away, pretending not to have seen them. Whenever he saw mountain rebels in dark uniform, he always attacked them. The unit under my personal command was not a large force, compared to Wan Shun’s unit, which was more than a thousand strong. Wan Shun’s mountain rebels rather than my unit suffered casualties from attacks by Commander Wang.
The protective clause I had included in the peace terms for the security of Wan Shun’s unit was intended to preserve and strengthen the anti-Japanese forces.
In the latter half of the 1930s, the activities of the Chinese anti-Japanese nationalist units were on the wane.
The units of Wang De-lin, Tang Ju-wu, Li Du, Su Bing-wen and others, which were the main force of the national salvation army, had already retreated to China proper via Shanhaiguan or via the Soviet Union. The stalwart anti-Japanese forces, such as Wang Dian-yang and Dian Chen units, had been destroyed by the enemy in repeated bloody battles to save the country from fighting to the last man.
The units commanded by Ding Chao, Wang Yu-zhen and some other units had surrendered to the enemy.
More and more soldiers of the many small
units, commanded by Wan Shun and their sister units, operating on the border of
The rest of the national salvation army dispersed into small groups, offering passive resistance in deep mountains. Some of them became bandits.
In these circumstances, some communists began to slight the united front with the anti-Japanese units and even regard it as unnecessary. If this state of affairs had continued, our allied front against the Japanese would have lacked consistency.
After the peace agreement with Commander Wang, we began approaching Wan Shun to seek a common front with his unit.
My unit included an elderly man from a unit of mountain rebels.
I sent him to Wan Shun with my letter,
which ran as follows: ... Your name is widely known to our revolutionary army.
We planned to meet you on our arrival in Fusong and discuss with you measures
for the joint struggle against the puppet
Our political commissar interrogated the mountain rebels, who had been wounded while robbing the revolutionary army of its supplies. The interrogation proved that these rebels had defected from your unit a few months ago and degenerated into bandits.
Nevertheless, rumour has it that my men harmed your men on active duty. This is the sinister work of the enemy, which disapproves of friendly relations between us.
I eagerly hope that both armies will dispel all misunderstanding and distrust, discard ill feelings and enmity, and become comrades-in-arms and brothers and fight on a common front against the Japanese.
Wan Shun ignored our proposal; he did not reply. His silence obviously meant that he felt he could manage without us. The developments in Fusong area had encouraged him to take such an attitude. Commander Wang had, in accordance with the peace agreement, relaxed his attack on Wan Shun’s unit and all other anti-Japanese forces. Wang pretended to continue his “punitive” operations, but in fact refrained from hostile action. Wan Shun’s small units of mountain rebels were now able to get along without any backing. This situation encouraged their sporadic obstructive moves. However, they gradually ceased to harm us as we provided warnings on more than one occasion.
Although we failed to achieve a common front, we gained stability. Neither Wang’s unit nor Wan Shun’s unit disturbed us any longer. We were now able to concentrate on our own affairs.
While at Manjiang and Daying, we held peace
negotiations with the local military and police forces of the puppet
We arrived at Manjiang towards the end of April 1936.
Approximately 30 policemen were stationed there. It would have been easy to destroy such a small force. But we did not resort to armed action; we sent our representative and held negotiations with the police force.
We said: We will not touch you; will you allow us to stay in the village? Surely you can leave us alone, as if you had not seen us, and answer, if you were accused by your superiors, that you could not resist, because the guerrilla army was too strong.
The police force readily complied with our request. They were even grateful that the guerrillas had come to negotiate rather than attack them.
Ri Tong Hak placed a machine-gun near a house, not far from the defence corps and posted the machine-gunners in civilian clothes to stand guard round the clock.
Meanwhile, at Manjiang I prepared most of the documents to be submitted to the meeting at Tongjiang, related to the foundation of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland. As there was no danger of attack from the enemy, I was able to continue my work smoothly and quickly.
We were generous and lenient towards the enemy, which was reluctant to fight us. This was our policy towards the enemy, a policy we kept as an iron rule ever since we started the armed struggle against the Japanese. This code of military action was maintained by the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army throughout the whole anti-Japanese armed struggle.
We did not take up arms to kill others, but rather to save ourselves. The rescue of our motherland and fellow countrymen: this was the aim and mission of our struggle. Our weapons were only used when it proved necessary to punish the enemy, who were stifling our nation and harming our people’s lives and property during their occupation of our country.
The sword of justice in the hands of our army provided benevolent protection to those who deserved to be kept alive, whereas it meted out determined and merciless punishment to those who did not deserve to live, who were wicked and resistant.
Commander Wang, who remained quiet during the spring, resumed for some reason his “punitive” operations against the Chinese anti-Japanese units at the beginning of the summer. He had probably been pressured by the Japanese garrison force and military police stationed in the Fusong county town. The cut heads of soldiers of Chinese anti-Japanese units began to be hung again on telegraph posts in the streets of Fusong, and soldiers of many units under Wan Shun’s command began to desert again. The revived expression of the real nature of mountain rebels as selfish, short-sighted and lukewarm towards the idea of anti-Japanese national salvation, irritated us, as we were working hard to rally anti-Japanese forces. If we had failed to check Wang’s “punitive” operations. Wan Shun’s unit would have been unable to avoid collapsing.
I wrote to Commander Wang for a second time. I said: ... We have received unpleasant information to the effect that the police force under your command have resumed “punitive” operations against the mountain rebels. If this is true, then you have broken our agreement.
I advise you to give the matter prudent thought, lest you stain your honour because of the broken promise.
Bear in mind that our generosity will not apply to an enemy, who is obstinately provocative and resistant....
I received no reply from Commander Wang to the letter of warning though one week passed. The “punitive” attacks on Wan Shun’s unit continued. He seemed to be saying: I will not be intimidated by your warnings. I am not a coward. I am ready to accept your challenge.
Reinforcements of hundreds of “punitive”
troops from Kwantung Army came to vantage points in
Early in July I warned Wang again for the last time.
Four or five days after the last letter, I
received the news that Wang’s unit had surprised a camp of Wan Shun’s troops
near Dajian-chang instead of replying to my letter. At that time we were in a
forest in the border area between Fusong and
Wang’s action angered me and my comrades-in-arms. It was impossible to expect a commander of the puppet Manchukuo police force, which was under the control of its Japanese masters, to keep his promise with the communists faithfully to the last minute.
However, we did not deny that they were
also Chinese and that they had reasons of their own. Trust in that reason
underlay our psychological warfare on the puppet
Most of the middle and low-ranking officers
of the hostile force we had shown our trust in remained loyal to their promise.
Such officers included the regimental commander of the puppet
But Wang, an old acquaintance of mine, discarded his promise, as he would do with a pair of worn-out shoes. A man without faith in his cause will end in perfidy. I believe that Wang was not confident about the victory of the Korean and Chinese peoples over the Japanese.
We could not forgive Wang for his treachery. We were enraged at his shooting, in reply to our patience and goodwill.
I summoned Kim San Ho and told him to select approximately 30 elite soldiers and then join the 10th regiment in an action to punish Commander Wang.
Meanwhile we secretly moved the main force to Zuizishan near Xinancha.
Xinancha, although not a large concentration village, was an important base of the enemy’s “punitive” operations. Here a police substation and force of the Self-Defence Corps were also located.
During the battle of Xinancha we planned to teach Commander Wang a lesson for breaking the agreement and contain the enemy militarily. We also aimed to capture the weapons needed for our new division.
The new division had been involved in major battles near the River Toudao-Songhua and at Laoling. If the battle of Lading had been successful, we could have obtained a lot of weapons. The battle had been planned down to the last detail, but an accident occurred, and our plan failed. An enemy scout had happened to sneak in the area of our ambush to relieve himself. Finding the ambush, he had got carried away and opened fire. My man did the same in bewilderment. We killed or wounded dozens of enemy troops and captured some weapons, but the battle was not fought as neatly as we had planned.
We would make up at Xinancha for the failure to destroy all the enemy at Laoling.
At that time we had a Chinese man in our
unit who, disgruntled with the chief of the police substation for his wrong
doings, had deserted the police force of puppet
The attack on Xinancha would be launched during daylight. Between noon and one o’clock in the afternoon, the policemen were supposed to have their lunch and clean their rifles. By attacking the village when the rifles of the policemen were disassembled for cleaning, we would be able to overwhelm the enemy without facing strong resistance.
The guerrillas, disguised in peasant straw hats and clothes and carrying farm implements with them, approached the mud wall and quickly passed through the gate, and then broke into the police barracks like a thunderbolt. The policemen and substation chief were taken prisoner without much resistance. The Self-Defence Corps members were also all captured. When the battle was over, we improvised an open-air stage in front of the police substation building and provided a theatrical performance, before setting fire to the police building and withdrawing towards Xigang.
We gave the captured policemen political education and travelling money and told them to return to their hometowns. One of the prisoners asked quietly how we guerrillas had broken through the gate. My man said in jest that we had flown in. The captive said that even the devil would be dumbfounded at our methods. He wondered what the guards were doing.
The raid on the police substation caused Wang a strong psychological shock which we had intended. Wang had to conduct “punitive” operations more aggressively in order to save face.
Kim San Ho disguised the selected 30 men in mountain rebel uniform, and then appeared with them near Fusong county town, in a bid to lure Wang. Kim San Ho himself was, of course, wearing the uniform of mountain rebel platoon leader. We knew well that black was the best decoy for Wang.
Kim San Ho’s small unit appeared in a
village near the county town at night, dragged out articles from the peasants’
houses in imitation of the behaviour of mountain rebels, and then proceeded to
On receiving the reports of the appearance of “mountain rebels” in the village and their subsequent disappearance, Wang hurried his unit in fury towards Huangnihezi early next morning.
“Don’t worry,” he said confidently to the villagers. “Prepare a good lunch and wait for me. I’ll be back after destroying the bandits. I’ll arrive with their heads cut off by that time. Lawless bandits!” Wang took his unit to pursue the decoy and began climbing the hill, following the traces of its passage.
Half way along the slope of the hill the soldiers of the 10th regiment lay in ambush. By dawn Kim San Ho’s small unit had joined the regiment.
Dummies had been set up by our men there to deceive Wang. The men hiding between the dummies opened fire first.
Wang and his men dashed fiercely at the dark dummies in the forest, Calling on to surrender. The tenacious resistance of the “mountain rebels” who refused to surrender, run away or fall down, added fuel to Wang’s anger. Wang shot with a pistol in each of his hands, but was killed by our men.
We did not know what lessons Wang learned at the last moment of his life. It would be fortunate if he realized, albeit belatedly, what lay in store for him for betraying cause of justice. Even if he had realized, it would have been too late.
At the news of the death of Commander Wang, commanders of the Chinese anti-Japanese units came to see Kim San Ho from many places and asked him to sell Wang’s head to them. They said they would hang Wang’s head high on the gate of the wall of Fusong so that the whole world could see it and thereby take vengeance upon him for his brutal beheading of many officers and men of the anti-Japanese units, and hanging of their heads on telegraph posts.
I told Kim San Ho to make sure that Wang’s
body was brought to the police in
Later we heard that Commander Wang’s funeral ceremony was held in a grand manner. The funeral also helped spread news of our army. The news spread widely among the enemy soldiers, who said that they would gain nothing but death by fighting our revolutionary army.
The battle of Xinancha and the battle of Huangnihezi, where Wang was punished, are described in detail in the novel. History, by Han Sol Ya.
After eliminating Wang, we planned to
overwhelm the Japanese troops and thereby keep
During repeated battles of this kind, Fusong area came under our sway.
During the summer we spent some time at Daying. We pitched a tent by the hot spring, and did various work—setting up subordinate organizations of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland, arranging a printing shop, tailor’s shop, weapons repair shop, hospital and building other secret camps in the forests of Fusong and Linjiang.
An enemy post was located beyond a small hill from our camp. On our arrival at Daying, we notified the enemy in writing that we were staying at the hot spring for some time and that they should therefore refrain from appearing before us or running off anywhere, but should stay where they were, sending the supplies we needed, adding that if they did so, we would guarantee them security.
Although they were within hailing distance, the enemy dared not provoke us or run away. They obeyed our demand for supplies. When we demanded canvas shoes, they brought canvas shoes; when we demanded Hour, they brought flour by carts.
Around this time Wan Shun sent a messenger to us with greetings and congratulations on the destruction of Commander Wang. Later, the old man himself came to the hot spring to pay us a visit. He came of his own accord, although he had not even replied to our proposal to form a common front, a proposal we had made by letter and by sending a messenger. The old man’s visit came as a surprise. Previously, we had paid visits to Commander Yu and Wu Yi-cheng to form a common front. After removing Commander Wang, famous Wan Shun came to visit us in person.
I found at a glance that Wan Shun was much older than fifty. His eyes were dim, probably because of the poisonous effect of opium.
At our meeting, he said: “All the soldiers of my anti-Japanese unit regard you. Commander Kim, as the greatest benefactor, who has done away with Wang. I have come to thank you. Commander Kim, and tell you that I wish to seal brotherhood with you. Please forget the displeasure caused by my foolish conduct of dotage in the past, and formjia-jiali with me, keeping a generous understanding of me, as I have come a long way to see you.” Wan Shun’s request embarrassed me for a while. When I proposed the same terms I had offered Commanders Yu and Wu Yi-cheng, when realizing the common front, I said I would consider the matter of jiajiali, if he accepted these terms. According to these terms, his anti-Japanese unit should establish friendly relations with us and remain a friendly force, should on no account surrender to the Japanese imperialists or rob the people of their property, protect our operatives and liaison men and exchange information regularly with us.
To my surprise. Wan Shun agreed to all these conditions with pleasure. As I explained each of the terms, he nodded, exclaiming, “Excellent opinion!” or “Excellent interpretation!” Consequently we formed a common front within a few hours and the two armies became friendly.
Since then Wan Shun never betrayed the agreement. Our
campaign to strike Commander Wang and win over Wan Shun marked a significant
step in the struggle of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army after the
Nanhutou meeting2. The event was significant, as we demonstrated the might of
the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, by displaying military supremacy over
the enemy, and as our tireless efforts in the Fusong area laid solid stepping
stones used to advance to
Wan Shun pinned great hopes on jiajiali or sworn brotherhood. He made this proposal in order to establish good-neighbourly relations with the People’s Revolutionary Army and thereby maintain military supremacy over the enemy. Wu Yi-cheng, too, had once proposed the establishment of jiajiali with us. It was a common trend among Chinese anti-Japanese nationalist units to enter into alliances with the People’s Revolutionary Army by jiajiali and keep the communists bound in the alliance.
But establishing jiajiali or sworn brotherhood did not imply the automatic formation of a common front against the Japanese or its development into a durable alliance.
Solid comradeship can only develop through
battle, and its real worth can only be proved by repeated trials. In the new
situation governing our advance to
The battle of Fusong county town in August 1936 was typical, with special significance in establishing a solid common front with anti-Japanese units.
“Now that we have established a common front, what about attacking a big walled town?” I suggested.
“Let’s go ahead,” he agreed without giving second thoughts to the matter. “With your unit. Commander Kim, I can attack any enemy, can’t I? I now feel as if I command the whole world. Let’s attack a big walled town.” The mountain rebel commander’s answer was surprisingly confident, for he had the habit of turning tail even without attempting to fight, when encountering the Japanese. He might have been bragging in the excitement caused by the effect of opiate smoking.
Wan Shun constantly puffed opiate even in our presence. This expressed his special confidence in us. Usually Chinese opium addicts never smoked opiate in the presence of strangers. Wan Shun’s unceremonious attitude was a good sign. He had never smoked opiate, before commanding the anti-Japanese unit. When still young he had been an excellent fighter. He had distinguished himself in every battle and had soon taken command of a large unit.
Once his unit was threatened by total destruction, surrounded by the Japanese. Breaking through the encirclement, it suffered heavy casualties. Wan Shun himself narrowly escaped. This crisis made him a pessimist. The Japanese, who used to fall upon his unit, yelling like wolves hunting in packs, were too strong an enemy for the indisciplined, poorly-equipped soldiers of the anti-Japanese unit. To make matters worse, Commander Wang had been pursing them and sapping their strength.
Wan Shun had withdrawn into a deep mountain, entrenched his unit in a mud wall and only maintained the existence of his unit by robbing the people of their property, instead of fighting the enemy.
Living at the expense of the people, he had become more and more of bandit. The old “bandit commander”, who had retired into a mountain, had taken to opiate smoking in grief and anger.
Many of his men, tired of such a life in
the rebel army, had discarded their guns and returned to their hometowns. Some
of them had become bandits, while some of them under a white flag had gone to
the barracks of the puppet
Wan Shun’s unit was on the brink of total collapse.
They could only be saved from ruin, via an alliance, which would inspire them with confidence in victory through practical joint operations against the enemy. Consequently I proposed an attack on a big walled town, after success in alignment with Wan Shun’s unit. Things went smoothly, as he gladly agreed to my proposal.
“All my officers and men are filled with admiration at the way you, Commander Kim, destroyed Commander Wang. The attack on a town, in cooperation with your unit, will be very welcome to them. Please plan the operation immediately,” Wan Shun said.
He was very envious of our success in the battles of Lading, Xinan-cha, Xigang, Daying and other places. He found our tactics in these battles very mysterious.
He said that famous Chinese generals in the ancient warring age defeated their enemies by resourceful strategy, and that the Japanese fought bravely. He asked me what tactics I used to achieve victory in every battle.
I replied with a smile that the art of war was important, but that the soldiers’ mental state was even more vital.
He said he could see with one glance that my men were all courageous and strong. He heaved a deep sigh, complaining that his men were all so stupid that he could hardly trust them.
“Don’t worry. Commander,” I said. “If we jointly fight the Japanese successfully, they will also become courageous without any shadow of a doubt. Please, choose the town we should attack.” Wan Shun waved his hand, asking me to select the target.
We exchanged views about the objective of
the attack, but did not reach agreement that day. He seemed to want to attack
Fusong county town, but did not insist upon it. That was fortunate for me.
Fusong was an ordinary county town, which
could be found in many parts of
Most of the hundreds of houses in the town were straw-thatched houses or cottages. There were brick buildings, tile-roofed houses and square wooden houses, but there were so few of them that they could be counted on fingers.
These poverty-stricken thatched houses and cottages were nevertheless as dear to me as part of myself, and Xiaonanmen and the River Songhua I had frequented remained dear to my memory wherever I went and were as dear to me as the memory of the scenery of my home village.
This was the town where I had received my father’s will, which served as my compass throughout my life. Ten years had already passed since I, bearing his will in mind, had plodded behind his coffin to the graveyard at Yangdicun. One saying has it that rivers and mountains change over ten years. I wondered if the scenery surrounding the graveyard had changed.
Containment of the enemy in Fusong was
extremely significant from various angles in the implementation of our
strategic plan to advance to
After Wan Shun’s departure, we began a wide range of reconnaissance work in real earnest to determine a suitable objective of attack while at the same time guiding subordinate organizations of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland.
While we were busy making preparations for the joint operation with Wan Shun’s unit, Li Hong-bin, the commander of the first detachment of Wu Yi-cheng’s unit, came to me with his detachment without prior notice. His face was puffy from sweat and his clothes were blotched with crusts of salt and dust, after a long forced march in the sweltering mid-summer heat.
His detachment was the strongest of Wu Yi-cheng’s unit. He himself was Wu Yi-cheng’s right hand. Able and loyal to his commander, he was held in great affection by him. He was on joking terms with us.
We had met Wu Yi-cheng’s unit for a short
time at Qinggouzi in northern
“Commander Wu has sent me to you, Commander
Kim.” The detachment commander enthusiastically conveyed Wu’s best regards for
me, despite the fatigue of the long march. “The old man told me to fight in
cooperation with your unit, as he knew it would be marching southward towards
“Certainly. Our unit makes gunshots almost every day. We soon plan to attack a large town in cooperation with Wan Shun’s unit. If you don’t mind, I would like your detachment to take part in this operation. What do you say?”
“Why should I mind such a good offer, when Commander Wu sent me over here for cooperation? The old man said that he would also come to join us immediately after dealing with some unsettled affairs.”
His arrival at the time of our successful alliance with Wan Shun’s unit was a double blessing.
I was thrilled to the heart. Had he come thousands of miles really to help the People’s Revolutionary Army? When we met at Qinggouzi, Wu Yi-cheng had been extremely depressed, because Zhou Bao-zhong had not recognized him as forward commander of the anti-Japanese forces, an event which troubled him.
At that time Wu Yi-cheng had not talked a lot about cooperation with us.
The very fact that the man, who had been
speaking of grievances against Zhou Bao-zhong, sent Li Hong-bin to us, saying
that he would fight on the united front with Kim Il Sung’s Communist Party till
the last moment of his life, reflected his invariable support and trust in us.
He hesitated for some time after Wang De-lin’s retreat to
Fortunately, Wan Shun was visiting us at that time; consequently Li Hong-bin joined in the discussion of the joint operation even without taking time off to untie his shoestrings.
We discussed the objective of our attack again.
I suggested Mengjiang as the target of our attack. I had stayed at Mengjiang for about a month, recruiting reinforcements and rehabilitating an underground organization, in summer 1932 on my return from my visit to Ryang Se Bong’s unit at Tonghua. We were familiar with the place and had a foothold there. Consequently I was convinced that I could achieve our objective without difficulty if we fought there.
Wan Shun was not keen on the town, insisting that it was too far away. He insisted that, even if the attack was successful, we might fall into the enemy’s encirclement on our way back. He had in mind Fusong county town.
“Commander Kim, let’s attack Fusong,” Li Hong-bin echoed with clenched fists in excitement. He had ample reason to speak in favour of Fusong. When leaving Emu, he had sent a company commander of his detachment, Mou Zhen-xing by name, on a reconnaissance mission to learn my whereabouts. However, the company commander had been captured by the gendarmerie in Fusong during his mission. The enemy had pressed him to explain the aim of his entry into the town and the man he planned to meet. He had maintained his silence. The gendarmes had tortured him, pouring boiling water into his mouth. His mouth had been scalded and lips blistered. But the strong-willed company commander had resisted in silence, refusing to stain his honour.
The enemy had dragged out the man to the northern outskirts of the town, along with patriotic peasants in Fusong area, who had been detained on the charge of being “in contact with bandits”, and shot him and the peasants. But he was only wounded, and had pretended to be dead. A kind-hearted man had carried him away and treated him, before sending him back to his unit. This undying company commander had brought to light the atrocities of the Japanese gendarmerie in Fusong.
Li Hong-bin gave me a brief recount of the atrocities witnessed by the company commander.
After the death of Commander Wang, the Japanese army and police blocked the wall gates and issued permits to the inhabitants, who were supposed to pass through the gates, in order to “arrest all people in touch with bandits”. People who went through the gates without a pass or holding an outdated pass were all tortured; any one who resisted was murdered in secret. The brutality of their murder was unprecedented throughout history.
The enemy took the people arrested at the gates, to a hotel near Ximen bridge, locked them up in the hotel, before dragging them at dawn to the brink of the marsh on River Toudao-Songhua and beheaded them. The Japanese soldiers were encouraged to cut off the victims’ heads with their swords and see the gushing blood to train their mettle. It was a fiendish act which even the devil would shudder at.
The beheaded bodies were thrown into the marsh. Naturally in later days the people of Fusong called the marsh the harbour for the murdered. The enemy sought out immediately people, who let out the beheading secret and killed them in the same brutal manner. Their bodies were also thrown into the harbour for the murdered.
The blood in my heart boiled with rage. My mind was gripped with the pang of remorse, as I realized that the thoughts of refraining from upsetting my precious memory of Fusong with a gunshot or clouding it with powder fumes, constituted naive feelings of compassion.
Of the many walled towns around
Takahashi’s crack unit known to have been toughened in battle, was entrenched in the town. It was therefore very important to put Fusong under our military control and thereby occupy the area round Mt. Paektu.
“Destroy the fiendish enemy entrenched in
Fusoiig county town to wreak the people’s vengeance upon him!” and “Save
innocent prisoners, who are being beheaded in the walled town like hell!”
These continual, hot-blooded outcries seemed to stir me up in my imagination.
I must attack Fusong first. In that town, which fills me with tears, guiltless
people are murdered at the mercy of the sword of Japanese samurais every day.
Why should I go to Mengjiang, knowing that such a tragedy is taking place
within a hailing distance? If I attack Fusong, I shall thereby gain revenge
upon the people’s enemy, strengthen the united front with the Chinese
anti-Japanese units, and occupy
I thought that an attack on the town of
Therefore I decided to attack Fusong and
open up a decisive phase in occupying the northwestern area of
After agreeing upon the target of attack, we sent out scouts to reconnoitre the town again.
Studying the reconnaissance report, I had
the premonition that we had to fight against heavy odds. The town’s defences
were far stronger than we had predicted. Like all other walled towns in
The only thing in our favour was that a
company of the puppet
We held a briefing, which specified the combat mission of each unit. My unit would occupy the battery on the eastern hill and then destroy the enemy in the town by attacking in the direction of Dananmen and Xiaonanmen. The Chinese anti-Japanese units would attack in the direction of Dongmen and Beimen. We also planned the People’s Revolutionary Army’s small-unit attacks on Songshuzhen and Wanlianghe (Wanliangxiang) the day before the main attack, in order to divert the attention of the enemy, which was intent on defending the town.
I could add that our battle preparations were satisfactory. We were confident that the battle would end in our victory.
Contrary to our expectations, however, we faced serious difficulties at the outset. This difficulty was caused by the anti-Japanese units, which failed to keep the time of assembly or acted arbitrarily.
From excessive enthusiasm, Li Hong-bin’s detachment advanced directly to Dongmen, instead of coming to the designated spot of the assembly area at Jianchanggou, while Wan Shun’s unit did not arrive at the appointed hour of assembly. All this irritated me almost beyond endurance. I sent out my orderly to discover what had happened to them and waited for more than an hour, but Wan Shun’s men failed to show up at Jianchanggou.
The date and hour of the attack was not an arbitrary decision. The attack had been timed after a full discussion with Wan Shun and all the other anti-Japanese unit commanders about good and bad omens.
The commanders of the anti-Japanese units had been restrained in timing by superstitious considerations. The detachment commander was preoccupied with numbers representing the date and hour of attack.
He insisted that, according to the theory of Yin and Yang, an even number stood for Yin and odd number for Yang and that therefore, to be lucky, important events should be so timed for odd numbers such as 1, 3, 5,7 and so on to make up the date and hour of attack.
We had not taken the theory of Yin and Yang into consideration, when we decided to attack the town at 1 hour on the 17th, which coincided with the 1st of the 7th month by the lunar calendar to Li Hong-bin’s satisfaction.
Wan Shun, who had arrived at Jianchanggou earlier with some of his unit, was greatly embarrassed and in the end, made all his men face the eastern sky and chant something like a spell with hands clasped. He must have been wishing for divine help. The other unit commanders reproached the old man for his unit’s treachery. Wan Shun was sweating heavily.
I felt pity for the old commander, who was at a loss about what to do, attracting the critical eyes of his colleagues. Strange to say, I wished I could speak in his defence rather than call him to account. Nobody was more enthusiastic about the arrangement of the joint operation than him. Nobody had offered more creative opinions than he had. He had reiterated to his men the importance of keeping the time of operations and observing operational discipline. This provided strong support and encouragement to us, as we attached such great importance to a common front with the anti-Japanese units.
The awkward discrepancy, which obliged me to feel sympathetic With him, lay between his unstinted efforts to effect an alliance with the People’s Revolutionary Army and his practical inefficiency, which obstructed the development of the operation.
Nevertheless, I was in no position to sympathize with or pity anybody. As time passed, my heart contracted, for I was in command of the whole operation. I had fought hundreds of battles, but had never been so irritated and embarrassed as I was.
I regretted that I had not given stronger emphasis at the briefing to me need to keep time. I had laid special emphasis on refraining from harming people’s lives and property and damaging our relations with the people. I had not wished to see the recurrence in Fusong of the misconduct, committed by the men of the anti-Japanese units in the battle of Dongning county town and would not tolerate it.
I had not been particularly concerned about the potential delay in the arrival of Wan Shun’s unit. The neglected matter caused me the greater shock.
The shocking accident which might reverse the tide of the battle, drove us into a critical situation, which placed us between two alternatives—adopt flexible measures or abandon the battle itself. It was impossible to discard the operation, which had been prepared with such great effort. Any cancellation of the attempted attack would dampen the morale of the soldiers of the anti-Japanese units and the People’s Revolutionary Army, a morale which had soared in anticipation of the joint operation.
Lack of opiate for Wan Shun’s officers and men had caused their delayed move. Many of them were opium addicts. Without smoking opium, they could not march at the required speed.
To make the joint operation succeed, we had to send opium to Wan Shun’s unit, which was on the march.
If we had not taken such emergency measures, the unit would have spent the whole day on their way.
After the battle of Emu county town, Wang Run-cheng had told me that the anti-Japanese units had acquitted themselves comparatively well in the joint operation, thanks to opium. At that time I had accepted his words as a mere joke. Learning that the delay of Wan Shun’s unit was caused by a lack of opium, I understood that Wang had told me the truth.
Wan Shun’s unit arrived much later than the fixed time. The regimental commander of the main force was the last person to arrive, gasping for breath, and report to his commander of the arrival.
Wan Shun drew his Mauser from his holster and threatened to shoot the regimental commander.
I had never felt the harm of opiate more keenly than at that moment, This painful experience led us to enforce later on awful regulations on shooting opium addicts in the guerrilla army.
Allegedly opium heralded the downfall of
the Qing dynasty, which was several hundred years old. Qing fought two Opium
Lin Ze-xu and other progressives of Qing
roused the people to resist opium smuggling, against the British aggressors.
The resistance was fierce, but Qing had to yield Hong Kong, a part of its
After all, we can truly say that opium
All the assembled units marched at gasping
speed, but in vain. The members of the Anti-Japanese Association from the
company of the puppet
Frankly speaking, at the time I thought we should give up fighting. In that situation it might be wiser to put off the battle to a later date.
However, our hatred for the enemy was too
strong, and our expectations from that battle in our plan to occupy
If our 1,800-strong force retreated even
without attempting to attack, what would become of us? The public would despise
us as a rabble. The great cause of the common front against the Japanese would
fizzle out. The gunshots we planned to sound on
I called upon the commanding officers of the People’s Revolutionary Army to stand in the van in difficult situations and lead the battle, which had been prepared with such great efforts, to victory at the risk of their lives.
The battle began after all that complexity.
On my attack order, the men of the People’s Revolutionary Army seized the battery on the eastern hill in one go and charged in the direction of Xiaonanmen. The soldiers of the anti-Japanese units also advanced towards Beimen and Dongmen. A hand-to-hand fight occurred in the street in front of Xiaonanmen. An enemy machine-gun spat fire at our men, who were closing in at the gate. At my command post near Xiaonanmen, I was almost deafened by the cracking of a machine-gun.
The units of the People’s Revolutionary Army broke through the gate into the town with fire support from their machine-gun company.
The breakthrough was made by the self-sacrificing efforts of my men. I received a report that Wan Shun’s unit, which had been attacking Beimen, was retreating, frightened off by the roar of enemy gunfire. I ordered company commander Ri Tong Hak to take his company to Beimen at once to help Wan Shim’s unit.
A little later, Li Hong-bin’s men, who had been attacking Dongmen, began retreating, frustrated by the enemy’s counterattack, so that the enemy force, which had come out of Dongmen, was swarming towards Xiaonanmen.
To make matters worse, the report that Jon Kwang’s small unit had returned without raiding Wanlianghe distressed me. The River Toudao-Songhua had been flooded, and therefore it was impossible to cross. The fear of roaring enemy gunfire was not the only reason for the retreat of Wan Shun’s unit from Beimen. They mistook the small unit returning from its raiding mission for an enemy reinforcement and were afraid that they might be attacked from front and behind.
Wan Shun’s disarrayed attacking formation badly affected Li Hong-bin’s unit on his flank, and the latter broke up. Jon Kwang’s belated report of his failure to perform the raiding mission had such a destructive effect on combat as a whole.
The confused battle situation had not calmed down, when the day was already breaking. The situation was becoming more and more unfavourable as the minutes passed. Li Hong-bin came running to me.
“General,” he said, “it seems hopeless. If we waste any more time, we will be totally destroyed.”
He implied an immediate general retreat.
“Ah, it’s all over for me!” he cried, looking up helplessly at the grey of the morning sky.
I gripped him by the shoulder and shouted at him, “Detachment commander, don’t be discouraged too much. We must brace up in a situation like this and turn the misfortune into a blessing. Do you recall the saying that woe lurks in good luck, and blessing lurks in misfortune?”
I did not say this because I had any bright idea to turn the misfortune into a blessing. I was merely reaffirming my decision to take the battle initiative by employing luring tactics as the anti-Japanese units had begun retreating.
Luring the enemy out of a walled town into a valley in an unfavourable situation to encircle it and thereby destroy it constituted a tactical principle of guerrilla warfare. I had this alternative in mind when planning the battle. However, this kind of tactics could only be effective when applied at night.
We were poised between two choices: withdraw from the engagement before daylight or launch a frontal charge, unafraid of death.
Even after deciding to employ luring tactics, I hesitated about ordering a retreat for fear of possible casualties, when a miracle happened. A thick fog suddenly covered the town and the surrounding area and made it impossible to see an inch ahead.
I ordered all the unit commanders to gather the scattered soldiers and withdraw onto the eastern hill and the ridge of Xiaomalugou.
The enemy pursued in haste our retreating forces.
When we started climbing the eastern hill, I heard a gunshot from the col under the hill. I halted with apprehension, for I remembered I had left seven or eight women soldiers in the col to let them prepare the morning meal after the battle. The enemy believed our main force had retreated to that hill and seemed to be attempting to forestall us, by occupying the col and then striking my C.P. and the main force from both sides.
The rifle crackings at the col grew louder. Evidently the women soldiers were exchanging heavy fire with a large enemy force.
I sent out my orderly to ascertain what was happening at the col. The orderly returned with the answer that Comrades Kim Hwak Sil and Kim Jong Suk were determined to hold out at any cost to ensure the security of Headquarters. I should say that my C.P. was saved by the heroic efforts of the women soldiers, who checked the enemy at the col that day. If they had failed to contain the enemy, we would have been unable to climb the hill to forestall the enemy. The women and fourth company of the 7th regiment defended the eastern hill, braving death.
While fierce fighting took place for the col, the main force of the 7th regiment occupied the heights, south of the eastern hill and lay waiting in ambush in a long line. The anti-Japanese units also secured the opposite ridge with the valley in between. Only then did the company, which had been covering the retreat of the main force, withdraw through the foggy valley, luring the enemy. The company also reached the shoulder of the hill and lay in ambush.
Takahashi’s unit which had been notorious for beheading fell into a trap, which provided no escape. The outcome of the battle was now as good as decided.
The crackings of fire engagement between our soldiers on the hill and the enemy down in the valley reverberated for some time. Takahashi’s men bravely attacked in waves as Wan Shun had said, but each of the attacking waves was repulsed, causing many deaths. Realizing that their charges had no effect, the enemy ceased fire and lay flat at the foot of the hill awaiting the arrival of reinforcements.
I ordered a counterattack.
At the melodious bugle signal, my men dashed at the enemy, mowing them down. Kim Myong Ju, a squad leader of the 7th regiment, who was nicknamed “Yanji Prison”, led the men in hand-to-hand combat.
Kim Myong Ju had been arrested in the May 30 revolt and imprisoned in Yanji prison. He had tried to escape with other members of the underground organization in the prison on six occasions in five years. He had killed the chief warder with an ax and succeeded in the last attempt. He earned this nickname from his comrades-in-arms in honour of the success.
He had another nickname: Chilsongja, which meant a pistol loaded with seven cartridges at a time. He had distinguished himself in seven big battles before he was wounded. His comrades coined the nickname to remember the events. He was a lion of our unit, who did not fear death.
Ryo Yong Jun, a company commander of the 8th regiment, who had given Kim Myong Ju self-sacrificing assistance in the struggle to escape from Yanji prison, fought no less courageously than Chilsongja. They became bosom friends in the struggle.
Kim Hwak Sil, nicknamed “Woman General” of the guerrilla army, shot her machine-gun with both eyes wide open all the time. When asked why she did not close one eye, she answered that she wanted to look squarely at the ugly faces of the Japanese. She mowed down the screaming enemy with her machine-gun. She also joined in the bayonet charge that day.
The battle of Fusong also produced an anecdote about Kim Jong Suk who, with a Mauser in each of her hands, killed more than a dozen enemy soldiers by firing shots as if shooting a machine-gun.
Wan Shun’s regimental commander, who had been threatened with a Mauser because of opium, stood on a rock, commanding his unit in the rain of enemy fire. All the anti-Japanese units fully displayed their real strength that day.
Takahashi’s “crack unit” was totally destroyed in the valley. The tragic event was reported to the Kwantung Army headquarters on the morning of the same day. As I learned later from reading the Tong-A Ilbo and Joson Ilbo, enemy bombers with full loads of ammunition took off from the airfield in Xinjing on a mission to support the troops in Fusong, and enemy reinforcements left Tonghua, Huanren and Sipingjie in great haste. The garrison force in Junggangjin was also sent to Fusong on an emergency mission.
Takahashi had probably sent a very exaggerated report to Kwantung Army headquarters, just as battalion commander Wen at Luozigou had done. Otherwise, why would they have sent such large reinforcements to Fusong and make such a great commotion? Enemy forces also surged from Linjiang, Changbai, Mengjiang and other neighbouring counties towards Fusong to rescue Takahashi. But even these frantic efforts made at great speed were unable to rescue Takahashi from the trap. When some of these reinforcements arrived at Fusong on the afternoon of August 17th, the outcome of the battle had already been decided.
As we withdrew deep into the forest after the search of the battlefield, the enemy bombers from Xinjing blindly dropped bombs over the gun emplacement on the eastern hill, which had been destroyed at our hands, and over the people’s houses around the town.
“Commander Kim, weren’t these aircraft caught by your hypnotism?” Wan Shun said, looking up gloatingly at the madly diving bombers.
That single comment was enough to convince me that the aim of the battle had been achieved to my satisfaction.
In front of Wan Shun all the hundreds of his men, with full loads of booty on their backs, marched triumphantly, led by the regimental commander. Who would believe that these light-gaited, bright-faced men had once failed to keep the assembly hour and had thrown the operation into chaos for lack of opium? Sounds of laughter rose continually from their marching column.
“If we continue fighting in this manner, these men may give up smoking opiate,” I said to Wan Shun confidently, pointing at the men. “Won’t you forgive the regimental commander, please?”
At these words. Wan Shun’s eyes became moist.
“Thank you. Commander Kim. That was what I should have asked you. Your advice has forgiven us all, I believe. Now I think my men can do their bit. I will remain loyal to the united front with you, Commander Kim, like Wu Yi-cheng until the last moment of my life.”
The battle of Fusong county town, as in Dongning county town and Luozigou was doubtlessly a momentous event, which paved the way to transforming the ideology of the officers and men of the anti-Japanese units. They realized the taste of a united front in this battle. Practice will always give people more tangible and stronger belief than a theory. The validity of our idea and theory of a united front with the anti-Japanese units was proved again in the battle of Fusong county town.
This battle taught us many serious tactical lessons. I had fought many battles, but had never experienced such a changeable situation. A battle situation usually changes with the movement of the enemy. However, in the battle of Fusong an abnormal situation occurred because of our own carelessness, and resulted in temporary confusion.
When an unexpected change occurs in a battle and an obstacle results, owing to the change, the commander must cope with the situation by adopting flexible measures with an iron will, audacity and sober judgement and break through the difficulty with composure. I think this is an inevitable requirement for the battle against the enemy, to safeguard state interests and in the efforts to harness nature and transform society. To meet the changing situation skilfully and make a prompt decision in accordance with the occasion are the major qualities, which all commanding officers must possess.
I consider the results of the battle of Fusong county town to be very satisfactory. To be frank, we attached greater importance to the political impact of the victory than to the military and technical significance.
It was politically significant because we
strengthened the common front with the anti-Japanese units and brought the
northwestern area of
Considerable studies have been devoted to the literature and arts created during the revolution against the Japanese. Most of the original pieces have been discovered and work on adapting them to modern aesthetic tastes has on the whole been finished. The literature and arts, which were created in the flames of war against the Japanese, now constitute our Party’s tradition of literature and arts. These treasures hold a special place in the history of our literature and arts.
I do not plan to deal with the theory of anti-Japanese revolutionary literature and arts as professionals do. I merely want to talk about the performance of our unit at Manjiang in order to help people understand the whole picture of literature and arts during the anti-Japanese revolution.
I was fully aware that creating a complete piece of art required no less difficult and complex mental efforts than an attack on a walled town. But we spared no time and efforts on artistic activities and did not hesitate to do anything, if it helped these activities.
If our guerrilla army had contained a writer or artist, it would have been unnecessary for me to rack my own brains for literary creation and production. Unfortunately, however, none of our unit had been a professional writer or artist.
Naturally, some men of literature, encouraged by the battle results of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army and our high reputation, attempted to join the army.
If they had succeeded in joining the army, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army could have had a staff of historians to keep records of its activities, as well as a staff of talented editors, writers and artists to publish army publications and produce works of art for effective propaganda and agitation.
However, there was not even a trained historian. Consequently historical records were kept by non-professionals. Ri Tong Baek and Rim Chun Chu did most of this work. They tried to compile as much material as possible, but most of them were lost or buried by overlapping events of history.
Our scholars set about studying the history of the anti-Japanese revolution after liberation, virtually without any written materials. Most historical materials were compiled on the basis of reminiscences by veterans of the anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle. Reference was made to available enemy documents, but some of them were distorted, exaggerated or understated. This caused no small difficulty in the compilation of a systematic and authentic description of the history. To make matters worse, the counterrevolutionary factionalists, who occupied important posts of the propaganda sector, hindered this work or were indifferent so that a full-scale collection of historical materials about the anti-Japanese revolution only started towards the end of the 1950s.
These particular circumstances should be considered responsible for minor discrepancies in the dates and places of events in different books dealing with the history of the anti-Japanese revolution.
The veterans of the anti-Japanese revolution fought to make history, rather than leave their names in history. When we fought in the mountains, we broke through all difficulties, without caring if we were remembered or not by coming generations. If we had taken up arms to leave our names in history, we would have been unable to achieve a great historical success, now known as the history of the anti-Japanese revolution by the present generation.
As we had to fight guerrilla warfare, moving constantly from place to place to counter the encircling and pursuing enemy, we were in no position to keep safely even a single sheet of secret papers. We used to destroy even a slip of information from the enemy-held area for the sake of security, as soon as we read it Documents and photographs considered to be of historical value were packed and sent to the Comintern.
In 1939, for instance, we sent several knapsacks of documents to the Comintern. However, they did not reach the addressee. Much of the information lost at that time appeared in police documents of the Japanese imperialists and publications. This is no doubt why the messengers were killed by the enemy on their way. If we ever brought anything with us when we returned home in triumph, it was not a historical record or a document about the organizations, but rather a pocketbook, which contained revolutionary songs or a memo of our comrades’ names and other personal data.
The absence of materials was the greatest difficulty for our scholars in their studies of the history of the anti-Japanese revolution.
Lackeys of imperialism, hack writers and scholars on the bourgeois pay-roll, ignorant of the special circumstances and complexities of our revolution, try in every possible way, by garbling some figures and facts from a few sheets of papers, to belittle the history of the anti-Japanese revolution, a history made at the cost of the lives and blood by the sons and daughters of Korea, who were unfailingly loyal to their motherland and the revolutionary cause.
It is not surprising or novel that people who reject our ideas and social system hurl all sorts of abuse to belittle the revolutionary history of our Party. History cannot be tarred with a brush, burnt up or slashed away with a sword. Whatever they say, our history will remain as it is.
I think it was immediately after the meeting at Donggang that we conceived the idea of The Sea of Blood and began working on the script. Our motive for creating this drama came, I should say, mainly from the Song of “Punitive “ Operation in Jiandao.
I learnt the song in my childhood from my
father. My father used to tell me and my friends about the “punitive” actions
in Jiandao. When I went to eastern
Whenever I saw a sea of blood I was reminded of the Song of “Punitive” Operation in Jiandao, and whenever I remembered the song, I was enraged at the sufferings of our nation.
To my surprise, however, the overwhelming majority of the Koreans living in Jiandao continued their courageous resistance, armed with rifles and clubs, rather than yielding to their tragic fate. This all-out resistance even involved the women, who had been bound by three bonds and five moral rules and three principles of obedience preached by Confucianism, and their children, who used to grumble over their food on their mothers’ laps. I was deeply moved by them.
The women’s ability to leave the bounds of their homes and plunge into a movement for a social change represented a revolution. I felt boundless respect and affection for the heroes and heroines of the revolution. As I provided support to them and sympathized with them, the images of a woman and her children, who followed in the footsteps of their fallen revolutionary husband and father formed and developed in my mind.
I sincerely wanted to produce a work dealing with the principal character of such a woman.
During our stay in Fusong for many days, we staged artistic performances at many places to educate the people. After each battle we gave a performance there and then or, if the situation did not permit it, made a speech to stir up the people before the unit’s withdrawal. The audience warmly applauded the simple sketches performed by the men of the revolutionary army. Once my comrades sang the Song of “Punitive” Operation in Jiandao at an entertainment after the battle. All the audience, men and women, young and old, cursed the Japanese imperialists and resolved in tears to fight the Japanese. Seeing how all people were moved to tears by the song at the entertainment, something I had not expected, I could not repress an impulse to stage a real dramatic performance to enlighten the people more zealously. But the pressure of time did not permit my dream to come true.
When the meeting at Donggang was over, however, Ri Tong Baek unexpectedly kindled my dormant desire. He obtained a newly published literary magazine at a village and showed it to me. The magazine carried a story dealing with the wife of a champion of a social movement serving a prison term, a woman who was married to another man, leaving her child in the care of others after the imprisonment of her former husband.
I asked Ri Tong Baek how he liked the story.
“It makes me sad,” he answered with a sad smile on his lips. “To think that life can be like that. But can I help it?”
“Then, do you mean to say that the story is true?”
“It contains some of the truth, I am sorry to say, but the wife of my old acquaintance, a champion of a social movement, fell in love with a loafer and deserted her husband and child.”
“How can we say that such a rare accident
represents the truth? Most of the women I have seen in
“What if one overlooks this true character
of theirs and profanes the wife of a revolutionary, just as Ri Kwang Su did?
One may become the target of a barrage of women’s washing clubs, just as Ri
Kwang Su was showered with beer bottles in the streets of Seoul, when he
published a ‘theory of national reform’. Our mothers’ or sisters’ washing clubs
are not only used when they seize weapons from the enemy. This is the truth.
What do you think,
Ri Tong Baek cast a significant glance at me, abruptly changed his attitude and agreed, saying, “You are right. That is the truth.”
I knew that the basic aim of literature was to describe the truth. Only when it represents the truth can literature lead the reader to a beautiful and noble world. The genuine mission of art and literature is to reflect the truth and guide the popular masses to a beautiful and noble world.
That day we talked for a long time about fine women fighters, women workers, whom we knew and could put forward as exemplary in terms of morality and chastity.
“General, could you produce a drama dealing with the fate of a woman revolutionary?” he asked me abruptly at the close of the talk.
“How did the idea of dramatic production come to you? Aren’t you looking back upon the dramatic activities, you conducted at a school in Jiandao where you taught?”
“I thought we should teach a lesson to the people, who write a cheap novel like this,” he said, fingering the magazine.
“The idea of describing a woman revolutionary is good,” I agreed. “But you need a subject matter for the drama, don’t you? Tell me if you have one in mind.”
“It is about the genuine woman of
I was surprised by his words. The subject was similar to what I had been seeking in Jiandao, when designing a play about a woman.
“Since you have the subject, why don’t you write it yourself?” I said.
“I am a critic, not a creative man,” he remarked in surprise. “You will write it. General. If you do, I will direct its staging.”
I did not provide a definite reply. However, the image of a simple woman I had conceived, a woman who recovers from her grief over the loss of her husband and child in a sea of blood to take up the path of struggle, had grown clearer and clearer in my mind, since I received Ri’s request. The fascinating image of the heroine excited me. I began writing. By the time my unit had arrived at Manjiang, just over half my work on the script had been done.
Dramatic creation was not a totally new
experience to me. We had performed plays in Fusong and particularly in
Why did we undertake the task of dramatic
creation and make such painstaking efforts on the difficult march down to
We were greatly encouraged by the extremely attractive power and effectiveness of dramatic art to inspire the masses with a revolutionary consciousness. In those days hardly any artistic genre could grip the hearts of the masses as strongly as a drama did. Until silent motion picture became talkies, and the latter was popularized throughout the world, no form of art was drama’s equal in educative influence.
I had been one of the many drama fans of my
classmates in my
Drama is a popular art suited to the masses. Anyone in the audience can comment, “Good!” “Bad!” or “Acceptable!” on the spot.
The 1920s and 1930s were a period of
dramatic efflorescence, a dramatic heyday. By the time I had entered
Progressive writers and artists devoted
their energies to the dramatic movement of the proletariat. They formed drama
troupes and gave performances for workers and peasants, by travelling from
place to place, Such troupes frequented
Hwang Chol, Sim Yong and their colleagues, renowned in the dramatic circle of our country after liberation, had committed themselves to the dramatic movement since the 1920s and 1930s.
In those days drama was fashionable. Even a rural school, with an enrollment of about 50 pupils, would advertise dramatic performances of its own production. Stimulated by the trend of the times, we were also involved in the dramatic movement in the initial period of our revolutionary activities.
Writing the script of The Sea of Blood was a process of collective wisdom. My comrades gave me valuable advice on the composition of the play and also single details and a few words of dialogue.
After the joint meeting at Donggang with
commanding officers of the anti-Japanese units to review the victorious battle
of Fusong county town, I moved to Manjiang west of
Manjiang is a village on a wide plateau
immediately below Mt Paektu. It is located on the southern tip of
In 1936 Manjiang was a small sprawling village of about 80 houses. This slash-and-bumers’ village was one of the few Korean settlements in the Fusong area, such as Nandianzi, Yangdicun, Wanlihe, Tunzi-dong, etc. Unlike Antu, not many Koreans lived in Fusong.
Manjiang was an out-of-the-way mountain village far from the county town. Sparsely populated and unfrequented by travellers, the place seemed secluded from the other part of the human world. When there were some travellers, they were peddlers selling combs, dye or salt. Even social figures in Fusong seldom visited Manjiang. I suppose the area controller Choe Jin Yong had been to the place a few times, and Yon Pyong Jun, his successor, five or six times,
Incidentally I would like to say a few words about Yon Pyong Jun. He was a unit commander in Hong Pom Do’s Independence Army. After the Independence Army moved to Maritime Province, he came to Fusong for some unknown reason and assumed the office of area controller, a local administrative officer of the Jongui-bu, and worked for some 1-ne, enjoying a high reputation among the people.
He subsequently retired from the office and
practised acupuncture at Dapuchaihe, a village located on a highland between
Antu and Dunhua. Once tim San Ho, who had been to the village, spoke very
highly of his medical skills and advised me to be treated by him. I went to the
doctor and he felt my pulse, before adding that I was clearly exhausted. He
asked if I could obtain an antler or wild insam(ginseng). He said that
he would write a prescription for me, if I could get them. I took medicine
according to his prescription and managed to recover. One year, long after my
return to the homeland after liberation, an official suffer from infirmity.
Recollecting the prescription I advised the official to apply the remedy. A
few months later, he told me that the remedy was surprisingly effective. I
reminded him that the prescription was not my own, but one obtained from a
doctor. Yon Pyong Jun, in
The doctor was familiar with Manjiang for some reason I didn’t know Minjiang was noted for potatoes, a special product of the place. Some of the potatoes were as large as a baby’s pillow like those produced from Naitoushan. The River Manjiang teemed with yolmugo (Braciyniystax lenox).
Villagers of Manjiang used containers and tableware, made by gouging out wood or warping birch bark. Even their spoons and jars for keeping bean paste and kimchi were made of wood.
When our marching column arrived at the spot, where two birch trees stood at the outskirts to the village, as if they were a natural gate, the village head Ho Rak Yo and other villagers, who had somehow known that we were coming, were waiting for us, with wooden jars and wooden vessels, filled with cool home-made alcoholic drinks. The village head said that news of the battle of Fusong county town had been brought by a peasant, who had been to the town to buy salt, and that since then he had begun to watch the enemy’s movement. On the occasions when he had seen Japanese aircraft flying over Manjiang, he had believed that the revolutionary army was coming to his village.
“I am afraid you will be punished for welcoming us openly like this,” I said to the village head, after gulping down a wooden cup of undistilled home-made liquor.
“Don’t worry. Since the revolutionary army was over here in spring, the policemen in Manjiang even grovel before us. Moreover, on hearing of Commander Wang’s death and the defeat of the Japanese in county town, they tremble with fear.”
“Soldiers of the revolutionary army, will you dance this time, too?” A peasant asked in a loud voice from the bridge over River Manjiang at that moment.
During an art performance at Manjiang in
the spring, several guerrillas from the Hunchun unit had mounted the stage and
danced a Russian dance. The guerrillas from Hunchun, a town in the area
“Yes, yes, not only a dance, but a far more splendid show,” Ri Tong Baek replied. He meant a dramatic performance.
My Headquarters was billeted on the village head. His house had been closely associated with my father. When saved by Kong Yong from the hands of mounted bandits ten years earlier, my father had stayed first in that house, and had then been escorted to Fusong by Kong Yong and the village head.
In this house I resumed my work on the
script of The
To help me out, Ri Tong Baek collected various kinds of newspapers, magazines and pamphlets, which had been published in the homeland.
These publications provided me with detailed information on political events, social and economic situations and developments in the literary and art circles in the homeland.
The general trend of progressive literature and art movement in its form and content in those days was patriotic in the sense that it tried to protect what was national from the Japanese imperialist policy of obliterating national culture, and develop them.
The progressive literature of our country during Japanese imperialist rule played a leading role in instilling patriotic spirit and the idea of independence in the people, and indicating the direction of the development of drama, cinema, music, fine arts, dance and all other forms of art, as well as their contents.
The literature movement of progressive
writers, known as literature of a new trend, gave birth to the KAPF (Korea
Artista Proleta Federacio) in 1925. Since the birth of the KAPF, the
progressive literature of
Some writers produced excellent works,
which served the people as their mental pabulum and guide, even if they were
forced to eke out their livelihood by selling red-bean porridge in
The voice of KAPF writers was always shadowed by the Japanese army and police, as well as their detectives, who were bent on thought repression. The louder their voices grew, the more repressive the enemy became. Two round-ups put a tragic end to the existence of the KAPF in 1935, which marked the tenth anniversary of its foundation.
Even when faced by two alternatives—to
accept “national literature” or converted literature forced upon them by the
Japanese imperialists or break their pens and give up writing—most of KAPF writers
preserved their conscience as progressive men of letters. Ri Ki Yong went to
The Japanese imperialists managed to disband the KAPF, but failed to break the unflagging spirit of resistance of Korean literature and its lifeblood, which germinated and thrived on the soil of patriotism.
As KAPF writers were dragged into prison or fled into mountains, the intellectuals in the ranks of the anti-Japanese revolution, writers in the northern border area and Korean writers in exile in the Red area of China proper and the socialist Soviet Union created a new militant revolutionary literature, which made an active contribution to the Korean communist movement and the cause of national liberation.
These writers held in high repute the
anti-Japanese revolutionaries, who were fighting ceaseless bloody battles on
the rugged Paektu mountains and in the wilderness of
Kang Kyong Ae, a woman novelist, who gained renown later for her authorship of the Human Question, wrote a novel. Salt, in Longjing. In this work she described the Jiandao people assisting the revolutionary army.
The poets, Ri Chan and Kim Ram In, carried
on their creative activities in the border area: and their efforts attracted
our attention. When we were in west
In November of the year when we founded the
Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland at Donggang, Kim Ram In, who
was working in Junggangjin on the opposite riverside of Linjiang, founded Development
of Poetry, a literary coterie magazine, whose front cover was inscribed
with a red flag. He composed and published many revolutionary poems, which
praised the anti-Japanese armed struggle and advocated
Some writers, encouraged by the battle
results of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, attempted to join the army.
Novelist Kim Sa Ryang, determined to join the army, travelled about the
It is not surprising that
We owe our ability to quickly develop a new culture, which catered to the tastes of the Korean people in a short period after liberation, to those writers who, although not directly in the armed ranks, wielded their pens in the spirit of armed soldiers, and thereby made an active contribution to the enlightenment of the nation.
Patriotic artists and progressive figures
in our country also pioneered the domain of film art, despite all hardships,
determined to serve the people through film production, resolved not to lag
The 1920s and 1930s witnessed a determined struggle in the field of literature and art to preserve the national spirit and develop national products, in defiance of the murky stream of Japanese ways and fashion.
During this period Choe Sung Hui succeeded in her attempts to modernize the Korean dance. She conducted a close study of the folk dance, Buddhist dance, sorceress dance, court dance, kisaeng dance and so on, and selected gracious dance movements of strong national mood. In this way she helped lay the foundations for the development of modern Korean dance.
Previously, our national dance had failed to reach the level of stage presentation. Music pieces, vocal, instrumental and narrative works, but not dances, had enjoyed their place on stage. The refinement of dance movements by Choe Sung Hui and resultant choreographic productions, which catered to modern tastes, altered the situation. Dances claimed a legitimate place in stage presentation, along with their sister arts.
Choe Sung Hui’s dances were warmly
acclaimed at home and also in
During our advance on west Jiandao, the
news of a shocking event, referred to as obliteration of the flag of the Rising
Sun, reached the foot-hills of
The incident was triggered off, when Tong-A Ilbo erased the Japanese national flag from the breast of Son Ki Jong, when carrying an article and photograph of the marathon first prize winner in the Summer Olympic Games in Berlin in August 1936.
The infuriated government-general authorities outlawed the newspaper and arrested the persons involved in the incident. On hearing the news, we gave a public lecture about Son Ki Jong’s success in the Olympic Games and the incident of the Japanese flag obliteration. All the men of our unit, who heard the lecture, expressed warm support and solidarity with the newspaper’s editorial staff, which had adopted a patriotic stand and taken courageous action.
When I finished the script of The Sea of Blood, I showed it to old man “Tobacco Pipe”. He read it through and said that it was acceptable, and then went out, waving the manuscript.
Some episodic reminiscences about the dramatic performances at Manjiang and similar accounts of people on an expedition to the place have already been published. Some inaccuracies were revealed due to memory lapses while other facts were totally forgotten. It is especially regrettable that nothing has been mentioned about Ri Tong Back’s efforts.
The old man, who had volunteered to act as
stage director, first encountered difficulties in casting. Nobody wanted to
play the part of the “commander of the punitive force”. After repeated
discussions, the part was imposed on the open-hearted company commander Ri Tong
Hak. The role of Ul
The old man also had a lot of trouble
directing. He worried most of all about directing the boy, who was to play Ul
Instead, the director was annoyed by the adults’ poor acting. Nearly all the actors and actresses looked awkward, as they did not know how to pose on stage.
Once on stage, even Kim Hye Sun, who was very sensible and responsive, became stiff about her eyes and spoke strangely. In one scene where she was meant to weep, she simply shut her mouth. The director did everything he could to make her cry by coaxing her, encouraging her, even flying off the handle, but all in vain.
No one knew why she acted so crudely despite all the training by the director. Born into a poor family she had enjoyed no access to schooling. She had learned to write and sing by hearing and watching others beyond the school fences.
I reminded her of her experiences in the homeland and Jiandao and told her that the play was about the lives of people like her. I said, “Just imagine that Ul Nam, who was shot by the Japanese, is your brother. The brother, who was calling you ‘sister, sister’ a short while ago, is now lying dead. Why shouldn’t his sister moan over his tragic death?”
Her acting suddenly improved.
I gave Ri Tong Hak a good dressing down, as he had declared to the director that he would rather go and take a few “punitive force commanders” prisoner than foul his mouth by imitating such scoundrels. I instructed him that skilful acting was his combat mission, and insisted that he had no right to complain about the part again.
The villagers were surprised to see that we guerrillas, who had arrived with nothing other than rifles and knapsacks on our shoulders, had improvised a stage to give a dramatic performance, which provided them with a new experience.
As their life experience unfolded on stage,
the audience was drawn. with bated breath, into the world of drama and finally
wept with Kap Sun and cried with the mother. An old man forgot that he was
watching a play and jumped onto the stage, striking the forehead of Ri Tong Hak
with his long smoking pipe, who was playing the part of the Japanese “punitive
force commander”, who had shot dead Ul
The villagers, who saw the premiere of The Sea of Blood, could not sleep all night. The simple people of a mountain village sat up by their oil lamps, talking about their impressions of the play. Loud voices and the laughter of many people from some houses could be heard.
I took a long walk in night dew up and down the village. The murmur, laughter and breathing of the village, which was rejoicing over the experience of the show, kept me from going to bed.
I marvelled at the great effect of art. From today’s point of view, the play at Manjiang was too simple to be worthy of the name. To my surprise, however, the audience cried, laughed, tore at their breasts, clapped and stamped their feet.
Walking along the lane of Manjiang, I wondered what the people would be doing now if we had not given the performance. As the village head said, they would have lulled themselves to sleep or would have been dreaming in darkness, after putting out their lights since early evening. However, their lights were still burning. We brought light to the village so to speak. Could we create such great excitement in their minds, if we brought them a hundred sacks of rice?
The play we performed at Manjiang enlightened the ignorant mountain people, young and old, educated them to become active participants in the anti-Japanese revolution and its supporters. Many young villagers mounted the stage and volunteered to join the army. Manjiang became a large source of our recruits, as well as a reliable supply base.
The strong impression left by the play on the villagers can be judged by the mere fact that they recalled the event by naming the venue of the performance and the characters, vividly relating the details of the story and even some dialogues to the members of an expedition to the old revolutionary battlefield, who were visiting the village more than 20 years after the event.
The ideas and emotions of the revolutionary
army flowed, like the stream of Manjiang, into the brains, hearts and lungs of
the people through the performance of The
I can say, in short, that the art of the period of the anti-Japanese revolution acted as a light, which dispelled darkness as well as drum beats, rousing people to fight. We called our art activity a “drum gun”; the name is justifiable from any angle.
I believe that modern arts have exactly the same mission. The basic mission of today’s arts is to accord people true thoughts, true morality and the true culture needed for their independent, worthwhile lives.
Our men were talented. I should say, in the final analysis, that art is ennobling, but is on no account a mysterious undertaking. The people not only enjoy art, they also create it in the true sense of the word.
The performance of The Sea of Blood made a great contribution, by giving the guerrillas better ideological, cultural and emotional training.
Recollecting art activity at Manjiang in
detail, I said to the writers, who were on a visit to my home immediately after
liberation, “When we fought in the mountain, we were very sorry we had no
professional writers and artists by our side. We ourselves had to compose
music, write scripts, and direct plays. But now you are the masters. I hope you
will produce good works and encourage the people, who have turned out to build
Through the literature and arts of the period of the anti-Japanese revolution we realized that an excellent poem, play or story could stir up thousands of hearts and that a revolutionary song could pierce the enemy’s heart which was beyond the reach of a bayonet.
I can say that awakening the people to revolutionary awareness is a process, where you win their sympathy for revolutionary ideas and move them. The literature and arts are one of the most effective means of moving them.
I once said to Odaka Yoshiko (Li Xiang-lan), a renowned Japanese vocalist and ex-member of the House of Councillors, that there were songs and dances in life. There should be life where there are people, and there should be arts where there is life. How can a world without art be called a human world, and how can life without art be called human life?
Consequently I always tell people that they should love literature and arts, and that all the nation should know how to enjoy them and create them.
We have built a world-famous kingdom of art, where everyone dances and sings. This constituted the earnest desire and dream we cherished when we performed The Sea of Blood on an improvised stage in the light of burning pine-knots and kerosene lamps at Manjiang.
We have now built theatres, cinemas and
houses of culture capable of accommodating thousands of people in all parts of
the country. You can find an art university in each province. I hope that our
younger generation will sing all the songs their previous generation could not
sing and that they will continue to create arts, fragrant with the spirit of
We now call the play Phibada in our mother tongue; the original name was Hyolhae. Apparently some of the audience and people who took part in the performance continued to stage the play in different places under the title “Hyolhaega” or “Hyolhaejichang”. During this time, the plot and names of the characters underwent a slight change, and in some places episodes were replaced by others, which were more familiar to the local people.
The performance of The Sea of Blood was followed by the staging of The Fate of a Self-Defence Corps Man, where guerrillas other than those who had taken part in The Sea of Blood vied with one another to participate.
After liberation our writers and artists discovered all the works, which had been performed at Manjiang.
Comrade Kim Jong Il defined the works we created during the anti-Japanese revolution as parent works, as the genesis of our revolutionary drama and revolutionary opera and provided energetic guidance to their adaptation into films, novels, operas and dramas. During this time, revolutionary films, revolutionary novels, the Sea-of-Blood-style revolutionary operas and Songhwangdang-styie dramas were evolved on the basis of the originals, and an anti-Japanese guerrilla mode of art activity was established.
The premiere of the film version of The Sea of Blood reminded me of the kerosene lamps, which hung on the improvised stage and the audience laughing and crying in excitement, sitting on straw mats at Manjiang.
I wish I could see again the unforgettable faces of the
people, who warmly acclaimed our success in the performance. During a lapse of
more than half a century, the people who were old then must have passed away,
but some other people my age and younger individuals may still live at
Manjiang. The boy who played Ul
Koreans once called Ri Kwan Rin, the only woman soldier of the Independence Army, a “red flower in luxuriant green”. But the thriving ranks of the revolutionary force, with the anti-Japanese guerrilla army at its core, included hundreds and even thousands of beautiful red flowers of our nation.
The mothers and daughters of this land, enthused with intense love for their country, dedicated their youth, homes and lives to the sacred war to drive out the Japanese invaders from this land, without yielding to adversity on the path of revolution, despite untold physical stress and mental strain, overtaxing even the strength of the male sex.
Whenever I remember the laudable women fighters, I recollect a women’s company, which was formed in spring 1936, around the time when the main division of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army was organized.
The formation of the separate women’s
company, as well as the division, on our way to
The birth of the women’s company signified that Korean women, locked up in feudal fetters in back parlours for ages, now stood on the first line of revolutionary battle.
When we talk about female social position nowadays, we say figuratively that women are “one wheel of the revolution”. However, many people rejected this idea during the revolution against the Japanese. It is no exaggeration to say that scarcely anyone believed that women could engage in manual combat a long time shoulder to shoulder with men.
To be quite frank, at first I also considered a female presence on the field as unnatural. The thought of their tender physical constitutions, which in my prejudiced opinion, would be unable to withstand all the hardships of guerrilla warfare, stood uppermost in my mind.
Of course, we were aware that in history
some women had amazed the world by the battle exploits they had performed, when
destroying aggressors or had given rise to fascinating anecdotes. The exploits
of Kye Wol Hyang, a renowned
The readers of Imjinrok4
will be able to imagine how fierce the battle of Haengju mountain fort was,
and the gallant role played by Korean women in that battle. As General Kwon
Ryul fought with his back to the wall on the mountain fort in
Sol Juk Hwa was also renowned for her accomplishments, dressed in male clothing, when she destroyed the marauders from Kitan during me Koryo dynasty.
There were historical accounts of the distinguished military services rendered by such individual heroines, but hardly any instance of a hand-to-hand combat fought by a purely women’s unit.
However, in the guerrilla war we were fighting, women would not only play an auxiliary role as nurses, sewing-unit members or cooks. They would also be combatants. Once they joined the army, they would have to obey the implacable logic of war. The rigours of war would not make any exception for women. The battle situation would require them to do the same as men, to make at times a forced march, fully equipped and heavily loaded, for several days on end, fight, prone on frozen ground, under heavy artillery fire or plunge into a bayonet charge. They would have to be sent to an enemy-held area for political work or the acquisition of food, or would have to build earthwork in the severe cold. There was no knowing how long they would have to fight, for a few years or decades, eating and sleeping rough in severe winter cold.
Could women endure all these hardships? Would it be right to bring them to such a battlefield, where the threat of death would loom over them at all times? This was a question I felt unable to decide.
Many women comrades, who had been working
for the revolution since our days in
In those days I thought: It would be unacceptable for women to participate in the armed struggle, which was for men. A woman’s place was elsewhere. It would be alright to bring them from their back parlours and let them work for the revolution, but how could I allow them to fight under arms?
As guerrilla units began to be formed in many places, after full preparations were made, women grew more vocal about participation in the armed struggle. Many women comrades, who had been working in underground organizations, came to the guerrilla army without permission and refused to leave for all the advice given by their comrades.
These circumstances obliged us to raise the issue of women’s armed service for earnest debate.
Some married men flatly rejected the very idea of recruiting them. They said: “According to our ancestral customs, women have their place at home, and men outside the home. Admittedly, Ri Kwan Rin was once a soldier of the Independence Army, who swaggered about, wearing a pistol. But she was one out of a thousand. How can ordinary women trek rugged mountains and endure the hardships of guerrilla warfare, which can even be difficult for a man to withstand? It would be foolhardy to take women on the battlefield.” Some comrades even argued against the need to debate the matter.
By contrast, Cha Kwang Su and some other comrades brushed aside these arguments. Cha said, “Surely you accept that a matriarchal system existed for a long time in history, and that according to this system men lived under women’s protection?
“If a child is caught in a fire, the mother is the first to rush in to rescue her child. What is more, when the country is bleeding, why should women remain onlookers? We should be aware that our sisters themselves want to join the army and that the times call for them to fight in the army.”
The discussion was repeated over and over again, but no decision was reached. We decided to organize the guerrilla army with young men first and then observe further developments, before discussing the matter again.
The deferred argument on women’s
participation in the army was resolved, when the news of the women’s struggle
to capture enemy weapons in Jiandao reached us. Two peerlessly daring women in
Kim Su Bok, an eighteen-year-old girl, who had realized the importance of weapons with the help of her organization, racked her brains on how to obtain a weapon. She went with a friend with a laundry basket on her head to the site of a single-log bridge over a stream. Heavy rain had washed off the bridge a few days before. Only piers remained. The two girls pretended to be washing, waiting for a good chance all day. Towards sunset a Japanese policeman appeared and ordered them to carry him on their backs across the stream. Kim Su Bok walked into the stream with the man on her back, and her friend followed, pretending to help. When they reached mid-stream, she hurled the man into the water, as he was complaining of his feet being wet, and then clubbed him to a pulp. The two girls thus avenged the murder of their parents and joined the anti-Japanese guerrilla army in summer 1933. For this venture Kim Su Bok was nicknamed “washing club”.
Pak Su Hwan also captured a weapon from the enemy by knocking him out with a washing club. She later became the sewing-unit leader of our army’s main force. In one instance a group of women lured policemen to drink wine and seized many weapons.
No certificate provided better proof of the
mental ability and strong will of our women than the weapons they captured. In
the northern border of
What did the radical advance of these women and their profound change signify? What impelled these women to take up heroic armed resistance, who used to tend their kitchen gardens, lamenting over their lot in feudal fetters, which had bound them hundreds of years? This was the terrible plight suffered by the Korean women, where there was no way out other than manual combat.
The women had no other heritage than the chain of bondage and grievances. This was the worst crime committed by Korean feudal society; it had kept all women in the bondage of male supremacy, a state of inhumane existence. Women had been considered no better than house servants, who were destined to produce offspring, cook and serve food, weed crop fields and weave cloth, until their fingers were worn out. Even young widows were compelled to remain widows all their lives. Women were sold off to pay debts.
The Japanese imperialists, who occupied
The anti-Japanese revolution acted as a tempest, which would sweep off all these misfortunes and irrationalities, a historic event to lead the women of this country along a revolutionary path. The Korean women began to write their new history on the ground with their blood rather than a pen.
As the number of women soldiers increased, we thought that we should take better care of them. Although under arms, women were women. Even under the difficult circumstances of guerrilla warfare, we had to make sure that they lived like women.
After the appearance of women soldiers in the guerrilla army, we always took special care of them, as we would look after our own sisters. We equipped them with the best rifles, provided them with the snuggest shelters we could afford, and gave them the best choice of booty.
During this time, I felt a need to upgrade their special treatment and form a separate unit for women soldiers in order to establish a single organization for their daily routine and military action. I believed that a separate women’s company would inspire them with greater revolutionary pride and enthusiasm, encourage them to display their self-consciousness and combat power to the maximum, and relieve them from life’s discomforts. They burned with a unanimous desire to take up arms and take revenge on the enemy by killing at least a few of them, as this enemy had murdered their parents and brothers. At the sewing unit, at the hospital and cooking unit I heard them voice this earnest desire unanimously.
When we were forming a new division in Fusong I came to a firm decision to organize a separate women’s company directly under Headquarters.
The hundred plus “Minsaengdan” suspects, who became the backbone of the new division, included Jang Chol Gu, Kim Hwak Sil and many other women soldiers.
On learning that the files of the “Minsaengdan” suspects had been burnt and that all suspects had been absolved, the other suspects hiding in different places came to us. They included many women, such as Ri Kye Sun, Kim Son, Jong Man Gum, etc. Many others came to us individually, like Pak Rok Kum, who brought her beddings on her head. Many women came in groups, together with small units, which had been operating independently at Dajianchang and Wudaoyangcha and were admitted to the new division.
When we went to the secret camp at Mihunzhen, Kim Chol Ho and Ho Song Suk, members of the sewing unit there, entreated me to transfer them to a combat unit. However much I tried to dissuade them, they would not listen to me. The whole of the sewing unit insisted on following us to fight. I asked them who would make clothes for the soldiers if they were all gone; they replied that there was any number of infirm women who could take their place. As I was to discover, there were so many women comrades at Mihunzhen, that they were more than enough for the work of the sewing unit, hospital and cooking unit. The surplus women had to be assigned to a combat company or more effective measures had to be taken.
I thought of forming a separate women’s company on an experimental basis. But a company needed more than the surplus women at Mihunzhen. I confided in Choe Hyon that if the women continued to insist on fighting on the first line, he should try and form a women’s platoon.
One day I hinted to Pak Rok Kum, “What about forming a purely women’s combat company?”
She welcomed the idea with cheers.
But Kim San Ho and Ri Tong Hak inclined their heads dubiously.
“Can women fight alone?” Kim San Ho remarked. “It seems impossible for them to fight successfully alone hordes of ferocious Japanese, although things might be different, if the company and its platoons were commanded by men....”
“If they are commanded by men, how can they be called a women’s company or a women’s platoon? If they are women’s units, they must fight under female command,” I said in disagreement.
“I wonder if it is possible.”
“Did you become commanding officers by going to a military academy or military university?”
Kim San Ho was speechless; he still seemed dubious. Ri Tong Hak also shook his head, exclaiming, “A women’s company! A women’s company!...”
Kim Ju Hyon was astonished at our mention of the women’s company. He said that the women’s company would ruin a battle, and asked what would become of the reputation of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army.
Around April 1936, when we were busy in Manjiang preparing for the formation of a women’s company, a composite unit of men and women came to us. Although a composite unit, it contained only four or five men, with the remainder made up of women, including Kim Chol Ho, Ho Song Suk, Choe Jang Suk and Hwang Sun Hui.
I asked Kim Chol Ho why she had come, abandoning Comrade Choe Hyon, who was ill. She said that Choe Hyon had sent her to me. Choe Hyon, who had recovered by then, had formed a small unit of women by selecting healthy women, as they tenaciously asked him to send them to a combat unit. He had told them to come to me and added that on arrival they would find out why they were being sent. Obviously, he wanted to be relieved of any annoyance caused by the insistent women and leave even their fate at my disposal.
The leader of Kim Chol He’s small unit was a young boy surnamed Jo. Feeling it strange to see a young recruit like a newly-hatched chicken leading the small unit, I asked why. Ho Song Suk complained, “Comrade Choe Hyon takes no account of soldiers in skirts. He only wants us to provide kitchen duty, rather than make one of us leader.”
The assistant leader of the small unit was also a young recruit named Thae Pyong Ryol.
The role of the real leader was played by Choe Jang Suk, a tall woman of sturdy build. As well as her rifle and knapsack, she carried a cauldron, containing a sackful of grain, kitchen utensils, axe and saw on her back; the load was larger than the individual. Ho Song Suk also carried a load, which was not much smaller than Choe’s. Truth to tell, I had never seen during my guerrilla activity any of my men or women carrying a load larger than theirs. I helped Choe Jang Suk unload and found it too heavy for me to hold.
“You are a titan!” I exclaimed.
“She swallowed a hundred dumplings for dinner,” Thae Pyong Ryol said with a grin. “She gulped down sixty and then forty again, after being relieved from her guard duty. She digested them all, and nothing was wrong with her stomach. She really is a female titan!” We all burst into boisterous laughter.
Choe Jang Suk said, glaring at the boy, that he was telling a sheer lie.
“No, it isn’t a lie. How can you carry such a tremendous load if you don’t eat a hundred dumplings at a meal?” More laughter burst out as I supported the boy.
That day I tactfully arranged a strength contest for men and women.
I called a soldier first, who was known to be as strong as a bear, and told him to try lifting the knapsack which Ho Song Suk had brought. His young bones were said to have grown hard, as he worked with a hoe, and he had gained renown as a first-rate wrestling champion in the area of Wangqing. He was also known as a glutton, who had eaten at one meal thirty-five glutinous-rice cakes by dipping them in cold water.
He stood up easily with the load on his back. I slung two taotongs on his shoulders and asked him how long he could walk with all the load on his back without taking a rest He replied that he could go about four kilometres without a break.
Then, I told him to try Choe Jang Suk’s load. With the load on his back he stood up with great difficulty. I slung the two taotongs on his shoulders again and asked how long he could march. He answered that he could go about two kilometers.
When I asked Choe Jang Suk how much distance she had covered with the load, she was too shy to answer. Kim Chol Ho answered that Choe had marched all the way from Dapuchaihe without a rest after the battle there. Everyone became wide-eyed. It was nearly 25 miles from Dapuchaihe.
Choe Jang Suk was the winner m the contest. I told Ho Song Suk to provide an account of the experience of the women’s small unit in the battle of Dapuchaihe.
She was a robust woman of darkish complexion. She was kind-hearted and taciturn. But she was upright and never failed to say what she ought to say.
The women’s small unit, with Choe Jang Suk as the “vanguard leader”, had run out of food supplies on its way to us. After suffering many hardships, they met a Chinese anti-Japanese unit in a mountain and jointly raided with them a concentration village near Dapuchaihe. In that battle the women fought as courageously as men.
The Chinese soldiers were armed with modern
rifles, but when they were counterattacked by the
The woman who stood watch that day fought self-sacrificingly. Although bleeding from a wound on her side, she stubbornly contained the enemy. One enemy soldier after another fell from her shots. Some of the enemy began to retreat dragging dead bodies away. The women charged at the fleeing enemy shouting war cries. The commander of the Chinese shouted at his men, “You sons of a bitch! You’re running away, while the Korean women fight courageously even with taotongs.” The men of the anti-Japanese unit now joined in pursuit. The battle ended in our victory.
Hearing the battle story, we were all moved deeply by the courage, audacity and fortitude of the women soldiers.
The birth of the women’s company was formally announced in a forest near Manjiang in April 1936. We kept the company under the direct control of the headquarters, forming its platoons and squads. Pak Rok Kum was appointed company commander.
The women’s company was the first of its kind in the development of the armed forces in our country.
The birth of the company broke the convention of male supremacy, a social evil, which had been considered incurable for thousands of years, and put women’s mental and social positions on a par with those of men.
Ever since ancient times male supremacy had been practised in the military field more strictly than in politics. Certainly, the women’s franchise had been almost totally neglected in the political field. In many instances, the women’s influence, which had worked invisibly like a magical power on the opposite sex, affected politics and politicians and resulted even in the rise and fall of states.
Nevertheless, the fair sex, which was said to be more powerful at times than an emperor or army commander, was powerless in the military field. Military affairs were the monopoly of the male sex. By realizing women’s equality in the military field, we emancipated women, albeit in the limited scope of our revolutionary army.
The emergence of the women’s company was also significant in that it emphasized the national scale and popular character of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army.
The existence of a women’s company in the revolutionary army and its combat efficiency, which was no inferior to male units, soon became known to the whole nation and amazed the world as a whole.
In the latter half of the 1930s, a newspaper in the homeland carried a report entitled, “More Than a Dozen Women Soldiers in Kim Il Sung’s Unit”. The brief title had a tremendous effect on the minds of our people.
The fact that women were engaging in manual combat against the Japanese as courageously as men inspired all Korean women and other people with great strength. The news encouraged a large number of people at home and abroad to volunteer to fight for the People’s Revolutionary Army.
After the formation of the women’s company, we helped it carefully stand on its own feet and toughened it through battle. At every opportunity available, we told the women soldiers moving stories to enhance their political enthusiasm and awareness.
I recall how at Xiaotanghe we told them the story of Kim Stankevich.
Kim Stankevich was born and grew up in
She graduated from a normal college and
taught at a primary school. As more and more Korean compatriots and exiles came
After the Tsar was overthrown, she joined
the Bolshevik Party and left her husband and children at home, becoming a
professional revolutionary, in order to protect the gains of the October
Revolution. While in charge of external affairs at the Far-Eastern Department
of the Bolshevik Party in
Her remarkable activity was admired by all
Koreans in the
When the Far-Eastern Department of the
Bolshevik Party withdrew from
At the last moment of her life she shouted at the enemy, “I am not afraid of death. You, rascals, your days are numbered. You resemble a pack of dogs in a mourning house and will never overthrow communism. Your goal is a pipedream.”
She died at the age of thirty-four.
As well as Kim Stankevich, Sol Juk Hwa, Kye Wol Hyang, Ryu Kwan Sun, Ri Kwan Rin and other heroines became close spiritual friends of our women soldiers.
Immediately after its appearance, the women’s company attracted public attention. Wherever they went, the women soldiers were loved and respected by the people. Whenever women soldiers wearing caps with five-pointed star emblems and carbines on their shoulders appeared at a distance, people used to shout, running around the whole village, “Women soldiers are coming!”
The women soldiers won exceptional love from the people, because they behaved themselves properly in all situations, sincerely helping and respecting the people and displaying noble and beautiful moral characters. Whenever in billets, we could see women soldiers sweeping the yards of the houses, they were staying in, fetching water, washing up the dinner things or weeding kitchen gardens to help the mistresses.
The women soldiers danced and sang songs for the people, made speeches before them and taught them how to read and write. The women’s company was the pride and rare flower of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army.
To tell the truth, the company in its incipient days was not properly equipped. Most of its weapons were taotongs. Some of the women did not even have such weapons. We intended to arm them with light and attractive carbines and fought a few battles, but had no chance of capturing carbines.
Meanwhile, we received information that the
garrison troops of the puppet
A downpour was looming. The enemy stopped working and even the sentry was off his guard. At the signal shot given by the company commander Pak Rok Kum, the women, lying in ambush near the construction site, rushed at the enemy like angry tigers and pointed their gun muzzles at the enemy’s breasts, shouting, “Hands up!” “Hands up!” here and there. An enemy soldier picked up a rifle from the rack and attempted to resist. Jang Jong Suk swiftly knocked him out with her rifle butt. The battle ended within ten minutes. Several enemy soldiers were killed, with the rest taken prisoner. Dozens of small arms were captured in battle. To my regret, there was no carbine among the booty. A prisoner said that the carbines had been carried by the soldiers out on mounted patrol. The prisoners were surprised to know that they had been raided and captured by women guerrillas.
The women’s company distinguished itself in many subsequent battles. The battles at Daying and Donggang proved its excellent combat efficiency.
These women soldiers gave an unforgettable
performance of their exploits in every battle they fought. At the battle of
Daying, Jang Jong Suk, sparing her ammunition, knocked out an enemy sentry with
her fist to open the way to a charge. In the battle of Donggang, Kim Hwak Sil
and two other women delivered one shot each in the dim moonlight and cut off
the telephone line of the enemy. The event became legendary, Historians say that
the police department of
Whenever I recall the anti-Japanese revolutionary martyrs, who dedicated their bloom of youth to the country, I see in my mind’s eye the women’s company and its peerless heroines.
Pak Rok Kum, the first commander of the women’s company, was good at commanding her company. Many of her comrades-in-arms characterized her by a single word “heroine”.
People will be surprised to know that she wore a pair of rubber-soled canvas shoes which were as large as a size 41 today. There were many pairs of canvas shoes among the booty, but such large sizes were rare. So Pak Rok Kum had to wear straw sandals most of time.
While in Wangqing, Pak Rok Kum had worked as the head of the Women’s Association of the district. As such she was a woman social worker. She was so poor that she did not have her own beddings, when she married and wore rags at her wedding. Her husband’s family was no less wretched. Consequently they had not prepared beddings for the newly wed. The wife and husband joined the army at the same time and were assigned to the 1st Company in Wangqing.
One day the political instructor of the 1st Company came to me and said that Pak Rok Kum had just given birth to a baby. Upset, he said that there was not a piece of cloth to make a quilt for the baby at her father’s home, where she had had the baby. I hurried to her place and found no quilt worth mentioning. Her father, bereft of his wife, was too hard pressed to take proper care of his married daughter. He said that the war had played havoc with his home ceaselessly and he had forgotten what a quilt looked like. The baby was wrapped in rags.
I immediately sent out a small unit to obtain materials for their beddings. The sewing unit made comfortable beddings and baby’s clothing with the materials all through the night and sent them to her.
She and her husband dressed the baby properly now and covered it with a quilt, but they wrapped their own quilt carefully and kept it on a box, without even thinking of using it Even in the piercing cold they did not touch the quilt.
When her husband Kang Jung Ryong was appointed leader of a platoon of the 7th Company and left for the Independent Regiment in Antu, she remained with the Wangqing unit and stayed there all the time. On hearing that her husband’s unit had come under my command, she resolved to come to us. When she left her father’s home, she offered the quilt to her father.
But her father declined, saying that the quilt had been prepared for her and her husband by Commander Kim.
The bundle of quilt, which she carried on her head, became her nickname. Her comrades-in-arms addressed her by the nickname, Ibulbot-tari (quilt bundle).
She looked blunt, but was a considerate and kind-hearted woman. She was sociable and suited to underground work.
So we sent her to carry out political work
Pak Rok Kum, like Ri Je Sun, helped release many revolutionaries by stating that she was responsible for the charges laid against them. When her inmates, who were bleeding from torture, lay limp in the prison cell, she sang revolutionary songs to encourage them.
She was moved from Hyesan police station, where she had been in custody, to Hamhung prison, where she was dumped into a cell, as the inmate of a TB patient, to die of consumption. The patient, a woman sumamed Kim, had been involved in the Jongphyong peasant union incident before her arrest. Pak Rok Kum did not care at all about her own health, but nursed the seriously ill woman, as if she were her own sister.
Some time later on, the patient, on the brink of death, was released an bail, but Pak Rok Kum was infected and lay down. The family of the released prisoner came with a silk jacket and cakes to repay her indebtedness, but the prison authorities did not permit them to see Pak Rok Kum. The kind-hearted heroine of the guerrilla army, who had displayed warm love for other people throughout her life, died in prison after much suffering without even receiving the tearful thanks, sent to her by the woman on the verge of death.
Our women soldiers included Ma Kuk Hwa, Ma Tong Hui’s sister. When we were operating in west Jiandao, she joined the guerrilla army at Pinggangde, Shiqidaogou, under the influence of Kim Se Ok, a political operative from my unit. Kim Se Ok was her teacher and lover. They planned to marry after the country’s liberation and worked devotedly for the revolution, postponing everything for the future.
One day she was on kitchen duty. As she was dividing up maize porridge among the comrades, the food ran short when two of them had no shares. She thought she could bring herself to skip a meal, but who else could go without a meal? After some hesitation, she decided to tell Kim Se Ok about her embarrassing situation. She called him from the barracks and explained the circumstances.
“Comrade Se Ok,” she said, “Please understand that you’ll have to go without supper this evening, as the food will not go round to all of us. I am very sorry.”
“Never mind. Then I ought to go hungry, but I would like to say I will eat double shares for every meal when the country is liberated,” he said jokingly, and turned away with a bright smile on his face.
Ma Kuk Hwa could not sleep that night, thinking of her lover, who drank a cup of water for the supper. She never regretted her own hunger.
They both fell in battle without seeing the liberated country. After her death, her women comrades found in her knapsack a sheet of quilt cloth embroidered with a brace of cranes. It had been prepared by Ma Kuk Hwa in the arduous circumstances, looking forward to her marriage.
Is there in the world a dowry more valuable and sadder than that? The woman fighter fell in the wilderness. Her dream remained unrealized in a foreign land. What would be done? Her comrades wrapped her dead body in the quilt cloth.
The women’s company existed only half a year, but performed imperishable exploits which will be remembered by the motherland forever, and emulated by the people through the generations.
The women soldiers, who fought on the bloody battle front of the revolution against their formidable enemy, the Japanese imperialists, are paragons of modern Korean women, as well as heroines who can be held in high esteem as typical of the struggle for the emancipation of humanity. They were the first women to achieve female social and human equality and paved with blood the path to women’s emancipation in our country.
The age of our Workers’ Party has produced innumerable heroines, socially active women and women labour innovators, who have inherited the revolutionary spirit of Paektu and the traditions of struggle, displayed by the women’s company during the anti-Japanese revolution. The spirit of Paektu dominated the thinking and action of An Yong Ae, Jo Ok Hui, Ri Su Dok, Ri Sin Ja, Jong Chun Sil and many other heroines of our times. Millions of our women are still building up an impregnable bulwark of socialism in that spirit on this land.
Today, our People’s Army has many women’s units, which have inherited the anti-Japanese revolutionary traditions. The women’s units of the People’s Army as well as an innumerable number of women members of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and the Young Red Guards are armed to defend the country. In our country where all the people are armed, the ten million women, who account for half the population, are all prepared to fight, arms in hand, to defend every inch of the country in case of emergency.
The women’s company, under the direct command of the Headquarters of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, is the prototype of the ten million armed ranks of women.
Towards the end of August, when the late
crop of potatoes was in full bloom, we left the
We marched southward in silence. All my comrades, ranging from the regimental political commissar Kim San Ho to the boyish orderlies Choe Kum San and Paek Hak Rim, were fully aware of the importance of our advance to Paektu mountain area.
We attached special importance to the mountain as a natural fortress for military action and also as our moral background.
The spiritual effect of this mountain on
Koreans can be illustrated by the inscription, “Monument to the Dragon God of
Heavenly Lake, Guarding Mt. Paektu”, on a rock at the foot of the
Their veneration of
Ever since childhood we loved and venerated
The mountain, which soared higher and higher
in our minds as we grew up, became the symbol of our struggle for national
liberation as well as that of
Our belief that we could only muster all the forces of the nation for resistance and ensure an ultimate victory of the struggle by entrenching ourselves in Mt. Paektu, was derived from our experience of the anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle during the first half of the 1930s as a natural conclusion drawn from the summary of the struggle.
Kim Ju Hyon, who had been to Changbai as
the leader of an advance party three months before, guided us on our way. His
advance party had reconnoitred the enemy situation, the ground in the
We followed the River Manjiang deep into
the valley, until we entered the dense forest of the
During our march across the pass we marked the 26th anniversary of the day of national disgrace.
Our southward march through the rugged terrain almost coincided with the arrival in Seoul of General Minami of the Japanese army, appointed the seventh Governor-General of Korea. On the eve of the battle of Fusong county town, we learned through a newspaper of his appointment as successor to Ugaki and estimated that he would arrive
The coincidence between his appearance in
The Japanese imperialists, who adopted the robbers’ way of thinking, called the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army a “horde of bandits”, “mounted bandits” or “communist bandits”.
In the world of robbers everything turns topsy-turvy.
The uninvited guest, Minami, strode into
After climbing the
The first village we visited was Deshuigou. My unit included a recruit from Dadeshui, who had worked for many years among the young people of an underground organization in Changbai, which had once been guided by Ri Je U and my uncle Hyong Gwon. The name of the recruit was Kang Hyon Min. He had joined the revolutionary army, when we were operating in Fusong area. He frequented Fusong, dealing in opiate and cattle. During this time he met our operatives and on their recommendation met me and joined the guerrilla army.
Kang Hyon Min and Kim Ju Hyon’s advance party provided detailed information about the political climate among the inhabitants of Deshuigou.
The villagers were more revolutionary-minded than any other peasants in Changbai. This place maintained the tradition of anti-Japanese patriotic struggle, developed by independence fighters after the March First Popular Uprising(1919), as well as a reliable force of the masses, which had been trained through the struggle.
Deshuigou was the home base of the Independence Army led by Kang Jin Gon. The Independence Army founded a four-year primary school course in that village and enlightened the younger people and peasants as well.
In his days at Badaogou my father had also been to the village on many occasions.
When the Independence Army movement was on
the decline, owing to the dissolution of the army, Ri Je U and his armed group
brought the programme of the Down-with-Imperialism
After Ri Je U’s arrest, my uncle Hyong Gwon, together with Choe Hyo Il and Pak Cha Sok, had established their base in Deshuigou and roused the masses in the village and surrounding area to revolutionary awareness and organized them. Thanks to their efforts, a subordinate organization of the Paeksan Youth League was formed in Changbai.
The league established a politico-military training centre and produced many political operatives and reserves for the guerrilla army.
Even after the departure of the armed group of the Korean Revolutionary Army for the homeland and imprisonment of many of the league’s cadres, its members continued their underground struggle.
We pinned our hopes on the force of the masses, which had been educated and given revolutionary training by many patriots and communists.
When my unit arrived in the village, Kim Ju Hyon guided me to the house of an old man, Ryom In Hwan, whom he had marked off as reliable, while performing the mission of the advance party.
The country doctor’s house itself was steeped in poverty. A renowned acupuncturist, he was apparently called on by the people of Deshuigou, as well as Changbai, Linjiang, and even by the people on the far side of the River Amnok, who came to take him by sleigh or cart. It was impossible for him, however, to cover the cost of drugs, so that his wife had to beg with her empty gourd hidden in the folds of her skirt. The family experienced much the same strained circumstances, as we did at Badaogou and at Fusong, where my father practised medicine.
The old man took my pulse and said that I was weak both mentally and physically owing to overwork and poor nourishment. He offered me a root of wild insam. Jang Chol Gu and Paek Hak Rim had told me that they had been given a few roots of wild insam to improve my health by old man Ho Rak Yo at our departure from Manjiang.
“Rumour has it that hundreds of Japanese
The news of the battle of Fusong county town seemed to have already reached the village.
When I said this was true, the old man
slapped his knee, exclaiming, “Bravo!
The old man was subsequently dragged to the Erdaogang police station and murdered for the kindness he had accorded us in providing us with a night’s shelter and a meal of potato and barley. The thought of his tragic death still boils my blood. As I was passing by the village in command of a small unit one day, I took time off my schedule and paid a visit to his grave, poured a cup of wine and bowed to him.
The next day we left for Dadeshui in the morning dew. Sitting on the shoulder of a mountain which commanded a view of the village at a close distance, we ate a few potatoes each for our morning meal. I instructed the company commander, Ri Tong Hak, to prepare a flagstaff and fly our flag at the head of our column and sound the bugle, when we climbed down to the village. I wanted to show the depressed people the gallant-looking Korean People’s Revolutionary Army.
The villagers of Dadeshui greeted us with immeasurable delight and surprise. They said that ever since their settlement in the place they had never seen in broad daylight hundreds of Korean soldiers, equipped with modern rifles and even machine-guns, marching and blowing a resounding bugle, with a flag flying at the head.
I set up an impromptu stage to give the villagers a dramatic performance, as we had done at Manjiang. But the performance we planned to give after lunch was aborted. When we were about to take lunch, the enemy surprised us. A battle was held in a yellow-ripening barley field between the opposing forces.
I still remember I was afraid of damaging the ripe crop.
The enemy was closing in upon us, along the furrows of the barley field. I waited until the enemy had almost cleared the field, and then gave my signal for firing.
My men fought triumphantly. The enemy
suffered dozens of casualties and retreated towards Erdaogang. This was the
first engagement we had with the enemy in Changbai. The gunshot at Dadeshui
announced the arrival of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army on
The village became animated and festive. Even the people from neighbouring villages came to congratulate us upon our victory. The people prepared potato cakes and starch noodles and welcomed us, and we danced and sang songs in return. I made a stirring speech.
The audience responded positively to the speech.
An old man with a slanting moustache said:
“General, please say loudly on
Later on I learned die old man was from Xiaodeshui and nicknamed “Old Hunchback”.
The Hunchback was an old acquaintance of ‘Tobacco Pipe”. When old man “Tobacco Pipe” was in charge of the South Hamgyong Provincial Bureau of Communications of the War Fund-Raising Association, the Hunchback was a company commander of the same organization.
Tobacco Pipe proudly introduced to me his old
comrade-in-arms, whom he met in excitement after an interval of more than a
decade. Hunchback’s real name was Kim Tuk Hyon, alias Kim Se Hyon during the
years of his service in the
However, more than ten years of devoted efforts ended in a longer prison term for himself than any fellow members of the association. The convicts were forced to work on handlooms for fourteen to fifteen hours every day. Whenever he tried to straighten up his back a little he was lashed and flogged on the back mercilessly. Seven or eight years of slavery made him an incurable hunchback.
The Hunchback looked like an invalid but
his patriotic spirit and fighting will were as strong as ever. Not
surprisingly, he was the first to join Ri Je U’s armed group. He said he had
been waiting impatiently for our advance to
After a brief art show and my speech, I ordered the unit to withdraw. The villagers begged us to stay at least one night, asking why on earth we should go away, when they had only just grown attached to us. I explained that if we stayed the village would suffer, as the enemy would bring his reinforcements and fall upon us any minute. The Hunchback guided us on our way.
I gave the old man a pamphlet, which contained a mimeographed copy of the Ten-Point Programme of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland and its Inaugural Declaration. He was the first man to receive the pamphlet from me since our advance to the area on River Amnok. Soon subordinate organizations of the association appeared in Deshuigou area.
The old man became a member of the Shiliudaogou branch of the association. This branch constituted the hard core of the many grassroots organizations in that area. If we had introduced a title such as a model branch as Chongryon, the Shiliudaogou branch would have been the first to be awarded the title. Old man Kim Tuk Hyon raised several dogs. These ferocious, clever dogs, with a keen sense of smell, kept enemy agents and policemen off his house.
These animals were clever at identifying different people. They did not bark at our men, even if these men were strangers to them. Kim Ju Hyon, Kim Hwak Sil, Kim Jong Suk and other members of our small units, who were working separately in that area, as well as our messengers sent there, were greatly indebted to the old man.
Kim Jong Suk once worked on a separate
mission to Zhonggangqu,
They nursed her with all their hearts,
serving her gruel, green-bean pancakes and stewed chicken, which they had been
keeping for breeding. In the years after liberation Jong Suk reiterated this
experience, saying that without their nursing she would have been unable to
return alive to the secret camp on
Old man Hunchback paid many visits to our secret camp. He used to carry aid goods on his deformed back to the camp and grab chances of seeing me without the knowledge of others.
In the battle of Banjiegou he served as our
guide. He represented the peasants at the May Day celebrations held in the
Early in 19421 heard the sad news of his death from illness.
I recollected him occasionally in my days
One day in November 1947, on hearing that
uniforms for the children of the
On her visit to the school later, Kim Jong Suk met the boy separately and gave him a fountain-pen, which had been her favourite since her days in the guerrilla army, encouraging him to be a good schoolboy.
One day in August 1949, Kim Pyong Sun, wearing an officer’s uniform with. the shoulderstraps of platoon leader, appeared before Kim Jong Suk and me. He had been appointed leader of the guard platoon for Headquarters. It was, indeed, a strange convergence of events.
From that day on he never left our side. He
shared with me the sorrow of losing Jong Suk, accompanied me to the front
headquarters at Suanbo,
Whenever I felt his father’s image hovering
around me, I recollected the words of the old man in the
We camped overnight on this tableland and
the next day I moved my unit into the
We withdrew from the forest by stealth and
climbed up the high ground along the
The enemy forces fought each other for three to four hours, so long that onlookers even felt tedious. In the end, the enemy from the direction of Erdaogang was pressed too hard to hold on and sounded the bugle for retreat. On hearing the bugle sound, the enemy from Shiwudaogou realized that they were fighting among themselves and ceased fire.
Where did the hundreds of guerrillas vanish? Surely this was a mystery, which even the devil wondered at.
The enemy seemed to have found an answer to the mystery; they called it the occult art of transformation. In my opinion, since the battle of Xiaodeshui, rumour had it in the border area that we were rising into the sky and dipping into the ground or appearing from where and disappearing into where. God only knows.
The enemy was so short of stretchers that
they tore the doors off every house in the
The gunshots raised by the People’s Revolutionary Army at Dadeshui and Xiaodeshui evoked a great response from the people in Changbai and the homeland across the river.
When we said some words of sympathy for the battle-ravaged potato fields, a peasant of Xinchangdong said:
“Although our potato fields have been devastated, we find it more pleasant to see the Japanese being destroyed than have a rich potato crop.”
Many young people from Deshuigou and the neighbouring villages volunteered to join the army. Their enlistment marked the beginning of a widespread movement for armed service, which contributed to a rapid expansion of the revolutionary army in the Changbai area.
The enemy was terribly alarmed by the
advance of the People’s Revolutionary Army and its formidable strength. It
became a trend among policemen in Changbai to apply to resign in groups and
shirk their official duties. The enemy’s ruling machinery was thrown into
great confusion. The passage in and out of the concentration
In Changbai we conducted organizational and political work to educate and organize the masses, in addition to military actions. Our political operatives formed subordinate organizations of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland in Deshuigou, Diyanxi and in neighbouring villages.
Organizations also began to be formed in the homeland.
The organizations, established in various places surrounding Ml. Paektu, became reliable political footholds for the new base to be established.
The battle of Xiaodeshui was followed by
many actions in Shiwu-daogou-Donggang, Shisandaogou-Longchuanli,
The objective we had set ourselves in
taking a roundabout route was achieved. It was now time to entrench ourselves
The Sobaeksu valley, reconnoitred by Kim Ju
Hyon, Ri Tong Hak, Kim Un Sin and others, was the first site of the secret camp
Our arrival in Sobaeksu valley was a
jubilant homecoming after many years of absence. In the historical context of
the anti-Japanese revolution, it implied the shifting of our operation centre
from eastern Manchuria to
A man’s homecoming is a matter of joy for his neighbours as well. But there was no neighbour of ours in the valley lying in the depths of Paektu mountains, from which even “A bird flew away unable to endure the loneliness of the forest,” as one poet put it. We were greeted by the sighing forest and murmuring stream. The people in the homeland were still not aware of our arrival in Sobaeksu valley.
Twenty-five miles south of the place, there were the homeland people who would welcome us warmly, but there were also uninvited guests from the island country, who were aiming their guns at us. If this obstacle had not existed we would have gone to our beloved people and met them in excitement. Fighting the enemy was the only way to meet our compatriots. To fight the enemy, we advanced to Paektu mountain area and began to establish our base in the Sobaeksu valley.
The comrades with me in the valley at that time never imagined that the place would be a famous historical site, which would attract visitors from the rest of the world.
Without leaving any trace of our movement, we walked up along the water edges of the stream, which was flowing with floating leaves.
Travellers to this place nowadays will never imagine that it was part of a primeval forest half a century ago. The quiet and serenity of the old days have given way to the well-surfaced road, where tourist buses and visitors pass without cease, to the houses for the travellers and travellers’ village, as well furnished as fashionable hotels, and to the endless flow of pedestrians and their songs ringing out in all seasons. But in those days we could hardly find a footprint of wild beast in that primeval forest. We were attracted by the exquisite scenery of the valley, which preserved its beauty at the time of genesis and its terrain features, which provided us with a natural fortress.
There was a slight difference between the two; Sobaeksu valley was a little more spacious, deeper and beautiful. The farther we climbed, the greater we found the difference. The valley, located in one of the great folds of thousands of peaks and ridges of the majestic Paektu Mountain Range, was profound against its mammoth background.
Before dark we pitched tents by the stream
and at the foot of a peak on the opposite side of the
The alpine area had a longer winter and experienced much more snowfall than elsewhere. The snow in the area did not melt easily. In late June and early July one could see the snow of the previous winter, and in late September and early October one could find new snow on mountain tops. The accumulated snow was often deeper than a man’s stature and made it necessary to dig a tunnel to open a passage through. Snow shoes were needed to travel outside the secret camp. Without them one might sink into the snow and suffer an accident.
The rigorous climate of the alpine region, which was frequently threatened with gales and heavy snowfalls, made distinctions between different seasons and brought us different seasonal benefits.
had eaten saussurea for the first time during the battle of Laoheis-han and
found it delicious. Boiled rice wrapped in saussurea tasted better than in
lettuce. I had tasted cacalia at Ri Hun’s house in Shijiudao-gou,
As we settled down in the secret camp on
Char, caught from the Sobaeksu, was also served occasionally. In those days there were not many of them in the stream, but nowadays a lot of them have been bred.
On the day after our arrival I inspected
together with other commanding officers, the site of the secret camp, and the
sites for barracks chosen by the advance party. I convened an officers’ meeting
and reviewed our expedition from Nanhutou to
There were considerable differences in
content and form between the guerrilla zone, established in eastern
The people in the base in the first half of the decade lived in line with the policy of the people’s revolutionary government; the people affiliated with underground organizations in the latter half were under enemy rule in appearance, but in effect acted on our instructions and lines.
Great efforts had to be devoted to the defence of the guerrilla zones in the first half, whereas there was no need to do so in the latter half.
This enabled us to launch guerrilla activity over a wider area. In other words, the change in the form of the guerrilla base meant we could assume an offensive. Therefore, the wider the guerrilla base was expanded, the broader the area of our activity.
We intended to expand the guerrilla base, centring on the secret camp on Mt. Paektu, to the wide area of Changbai, and then deep into the homeland along Paekmu, Kaema Plateaus and Rangrim Mountains, and then spread the flames of armed struggle from the northern region to the middle and southern regions of Korea, while at the same time expanding and developing the Party organizations, as well as the united front movement and pushing ahead with preparations for nationwide resistance.
As the creation of the network of secret camps and laying of the network of underground organizations were burning issues, which our destiny and the victory of the anti-Japanese revolution depended on, we had to direct our attention to the solution of these issues before all else. In the first place, we assigned each unit the task of building secret camps. Kim Ju Hyon was instructed to provide for food and clothing. The two aspects of construction and operation of the secret camps were, in plain terms, our problems of food, clothing and housing.
The recruitment of able assistants for the establishment of the underground network and combat actions to encourage the people to turn out in the sacred cause of national liberation were also important tasks. These tasks were given to Ri Tong Hak’s company.
commanding officers immediately began to carry out their assignments to build
the Paektusan Base. Kim Ju Hyon, Ri Tong Hak and his company left us. Many
other comrades were also sent away on individual missions to different places.
Accompanied by the guards and some members of the 7th Regiment, I made for Heixiazigou,
where we would meet the main body we had parted with at the
At that time I saw
At that time I talked a lot with the old man. I asked him why he was living in the deep mountain. He said he had been a lowlander, but on seeing the waning stars, had moved to the ancestral mountain.
“If I died a shameful death of an enslaved
nation, it would make no difference where I should die. But I wanted to live
and die at the foot of
Following endlessly his narrowed eyes,
which were gazing at
“Well, how do you like
“Wonderful. Hard as it is to live by growing potatoes and hunting roe, I feel hale and hearty, because I don’t have to see the Japanese.”
My talk with the old man reaffirmed my
Like the old man Ma in the highlands of Luozigou, he had many books. When we were leaving for Heixiazigou, after taking a bath at the Datuo Hot Spring, he gave me several story books. Later we built a recuperation centre at the hot spring for the wounded and infirm.
One day after our arrival at Heixiazigou, the 2nd Regiment, which had been operating in Jiaohe, came to us. Kwon Yong Byok, O Jung Hup, Kang Wi Ryong and some others came with the 2nd Regiment and shared their innermost feelings with me.
They had endured many hardships on their
way. Without wearing proper clothes and half-starving in the winter cold on
their way to
the orders of Headquarters, Kang Wi Ryong, who had returned from Jiaohe, and
Pak Yong Sun, built secret camps in Heixiazigou, Hengshan,
By the time I returned to Sobaeksu valley, after staying some time at Heixiazigou, log houses were built in many sites of the secret camp. The barracks for Headquarters, subordinate units, a printing shop, garment shop, guard house, and checkpoints, had sprung up in the forest.
The doorhandles of the log houses in the secret camp were made of roe-hoofs.
The trifle roe-hoof handle was engraved on my memory, as if a landmark of a historical period. Since the appearance of the roe-hoof handles on the doors of our “living quarters” on Mt. Paektu and the establishment of our home base in the Sobaeksu valley, in other words, the secret camp on Mt. Paektu served as the strategic base of the Korean revolution, as the base for its central leadership.
The secret camp on
Many secret bases soon fanned out from this
very secret camp to different places in the northern and middle regions of
From the secret camps, Kwon Yong Byok, Kim
Ju Hyon, Kim Phyong, Kim Jong Suk, Pak Rok Kum, Ma Tong Hui, Ji Thae Hwan and
many other political operatives, carried the seeds of the revolution to every
nook and comer of the homeland. From there, Ri Je Sun, Pak Tal, Pak In Jin and
many other representatives of the people, who had come to see us in
Satellite secret camps in
The Korean side included the Sajabong Secret Camp, Komsan Secret Camp, Sonosan Secret Camp, Kanbaeksan Secret Camp, Mudubong Secret Camp, Soyonjibong Secret Camp and others. The west Jiandao area on the Chinese side included the Heixiajigou Secret Camp, Diyangxi Secret Camp, Erdaogang Secret Camp, Hengshan Secret Camp, Limingshui Secret Camp, Fuhoushui Secret Camp, Qingfeng Secret Camp, and other secret camps in Fusong. We made use of all these secret camps whenever necessary.
The secret camps in
The secret camp in the Sobaeksu valley was
the heart of the network of the secret camp on
This camp was home to Headquarters and departments directly under it, and the guards and some key units, and passage in and out of it was strictly controlled for maximum security and secrecy. When subordinate units or individuals, not in constant contact with us, came to Headquarters, we met them at Secret Camp No. 2 (the Sajabong Secret Camp), not at the secret camp in Sobaeksu valley. At Secret Camp No. 2, units or individual persons on a visit to Head-quarters were met, provided with rest or sent away and sometimes given short courses or training. Secret Camp No. 2 was the reception centre for visitors to Headquarters. There the visitors waited for instructions, had interviews, slept or received short courses or training. In those days, it was a rule for messengers coming to Headquarters to make their way from the direction of Limingshui and follow the stream of the Sobaeksu from the entrance to the valley, to avoid leaving any trace of passage to Headquarters. The locations of secret camps were not known to everybody. If they had been known, they would not have been secret.
The details of Paektusan Secret Camp and other secret camps in the surrounding area were known to only several people, like Kim Ju Hyon, Kim Hae San, Kim Un Sin and Ma Tong Hui, who performed all liaison missions, and to a small number of commanding officers.
Fortunately these secret camps and their “inhabitants” were able to keep their existence secret, until the anti-Japanese revolution emerged victorious.
Not many of the people, who shared weal and
woe with me on
I, too, failed to make the
Paektusan Secret Camp known earlier to the younger generation. The many
responsibilities on my shoulders, responsibilities to build the Party, State
and Army, burdens of war and postwar reconstruction, did not permit me in my
younger days to take time to pay a visit to my home base in
On a number of occasions I told Pak Yong Sun and others to discover during their lives the site of the Paektusan Secret Camp for the younger generation, but even the formerly nimble carpenter and his company failed to find it, although he discovered the sites of the secret camps at Heixiazigou, Diyangxi and Hengshan, which he himself had built, and the camping sites on Chongbong, Pegae Hill and Mupho. But I did not blame them. They had never been to the secret camp in Sobaeksu valley.
After all, I myself identified the site of
the Paektusan Secret Camp, only in my late years. I found some leisure only
then and went to the
With the progress of history the symbolic
The “lava” of the revolution to liberate
the country, which erupted from the extinct volcano on
When communists emerged on the
international political scene, the proletariat of all countries raised the
slogan, “Down with landlords and capitalists!” Shouting this slogan, the
working masses of
Even the left-wingers of the Korean Revolutionary Party, the political party under Kukmin-bu, declared their objective of overthrowing landlords and capitalists and raised a whirlwind in their desire to knock them down.
We do not hide our idea of opposing landlords and capitalists or conceal our objective of fighting against them. Opposing exploiters who live on others’ sweat and blood; this is our life-long principle. I was and still am opposed to exploiters. I think that I will continue to hate those, who live in clover squandering the wealth, which has been produced at the expense of the sweat and blood of hundreds of millions of working masses, while these people suffer from starvation.
Progressive people throughout the world affirm the idea of humanism, which advocates an equitable distribution of material wealth and social equality. We oppose political dictatorship and economic monopoly by a minority of the propertied class and their spokesmen, as well as moral corruption, and regard it as our noble duty to put an end to all these evils.
In practice, of course, the potential overthrow of the exploiting class and issue of dealing with individuals of this class or propertied individuals must strictly be distinguished from each other. Consequently, during the anti-Japanese revolution, we struggled against the Japanese imperialists and wicked rich men, who were lackeys of the enemy.
In the past, however, some communists only emphasized the class struggle, so that they committed a Leftist error in dealing with landlords and national capitalists, who were patriotic and opposed to imperialism. Their pursuit of a stereotyped policy of indiscriminate liquidation, expropriation and persecution of propertied people in political, economic and social aspects disregarding reality, led to a misunderstanding of communism in a number of countries.
This brought grist to the anti-communist propaganda mill of those, who opposed communism.
In our Republic there is no landlord or capitalist.
Class education is now provided on a high level and in great depth;
therefore all officials can combine the class line and mass line. It can be said that the prejudice that all rich are bad, the narrow-minded view that the people of landlord and capitalist origin should be ruled with the same stick, regardless of their service records and merits, has now disappeared.
The people nowadays rejoice at the news that somebody, who was gloomy owing to his chequered family connections, has been admitted to the Party or promoted to the right post and is living optimistically. They regard it as their own happiness. This is a valuable result of the all-embracing politics, practised by the Workers’ Party of Korea.
We have been pursuing all-embracing
politics for half a century. Since the years of the anti-Japanese revolution,
the true communists of
I believe that an account of our experience with the landowner, Kim Jong Bu, will promote an understanding of our specific view on landlords and capitalists and the historical roots of our all-embracing politics.
We first met Kim Jong Bu late in August 1936. A small unit, which had been to Diyangxi on a fund-raising mission, brought deep in the night several persons, who were said to be pro-Japanese landlords, including an old man apparently on the wrong side of seventy. At that time we worked among the masses at a lumbermen’s settlement of Majiazi near Erdaogang.
I was surprised to find Kim Jong Bu’s name in the list of the detained, as he had been classified as a “pro-Japanese landlord”. Some of us reminisced that Ri Tong Hak was in charge of the small unit at the time. However, as far as I recall, it was Kim Ju Hyon who took Kim Jong Bu with him.
I summoned Kim Ju Hyon and asked him sternly, “What brought you to decide to knock down Kim Jong Bu?”
“That old man owns as many as 150 hectares of land. I have never heard of a man, who owns so much land as he does.”
“Who made the law to knock down a man, owning 150 hectares of land?”
“Comrade Commander, don’t ask me about the law, please. According to a saying, a rich man beggars three villages. A man as rich as that landlord will ruin more than ten villages.”
I asked Kim Ju Hyon for his next piece of evidence. He gave me a lengthy explanation that Kim Jong Bu was on intimate terms with an councillor of a branch of the Japanese consulate, that the councillor had brought a Japanese capitalist, named Ito, from Yongchon or somewhere round North Kyongsang Province and let him give a loan of 6,000 yen to Kim Jong Bu to help him open a lumber yard, that the landlord had bought a truck and performed a large transaction with the backing of Japanese imperialists.
“Any other evidence?”
“Yes, a lot. As head of the forest
conservation association and that of the rural union, he is said to frequent
the office of
When I asked if Kim Jong Bu had any good qualities, Kim Ju Hyon was somewhat embarrassed. He seemed to have given no thought to hearing the public opinion of his merits or had never imagined that I would be interested in such things.
“Good qualities? How can one expect good qualities from such a pro-Japanese element?”
The small unit leader’s report was completely negative. His thoroughly prejudiced report made me heartsick. Not yet completely free from the past tendency of asserting the class struggle and class spirit, and lacking a full grasp of Kim Jong Bu, he captured the landlord and even his son, labelling him a “pro-Japanese landlord” and “reactionary”, the man we had considered possible to enlist in the work of the united front, when we were coming to Changbai. His act contravened our policy of the united front, the Inaugural Declaration and the Ten-Point Programme of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland.
He even used the telephone at Kim Jong Bu’s
home as proof of his pro-Japanese elements. He contended that his telephone
must have been required for spying, rather than as a means of luxury, and that
he could only talk on the telephone to the consulate, police or the office of
Nevertheless, wouldn’t it be preposterous to see a telephone at a man’s home as a sign of pro-Japanese tendency and as a means of benefiting the enemy? If every one of us were to judge people in such a way, our united front policy would come across grave difficulties in practice, which was not a problem relating to Kim Jong Bu alone.
Before rebuking the small unit, I criticized myself in my mind for failing to teach my subordinates properly. When dealing with Zhang Wei-hua in Fusong, some of us were apprehensive from their prejudice. It was not until many sleigh loads of aid goods and a large sum of money had been sent to us by Zhang Wei-hua, that they admitted that there were good people among the propertied class.
But when they saw in Changbai a landlord possessing 150 hectares, they became suspicious of him.
How could people who admitted Zhang Wei-hua as our ally, fail to realize that Kim Jong Bu was a man to be embraced in the united front? This meant that there had been a shortcoming in our education about the united front policy.
The masses of strata, we were talking about, included people in all walks of life, people with different backgrounds and living conditions. There could be no panacea for dealing with all these people. But some principle should serve as a reference in all cases.
What principle served as our standard for judging people in those days? Whether a man was pro-Japanese or anti-Japanese or loved his country or not. We maintained that a person who loved his country, his nation and his fellow man and hated the Japanese imperialists could be our ally, and that a person who was pro-Japanese for his own pleasure and comfort, caring nothing about his country, nation and compatriots, should be the target of our struggle.
We saw Kim Jong Bu in this light and defined him as a man we could work together with for the united front. We planned to write to him on our arrival in Changbai, asking for his cooperation or invite him to the secret camp for an interview.
“I think your judgement of Kim Jong Bu is ready-made and unscientific. You must not see people in such a superficial way. The man you judge as a pro-Japanese landlord is, in fact, a patriotic landlord. I know his past well. You say that Kim Jong Bu is such and such and Corporal Kim is such and such, judging them from the comments you have heard from one person or two in Diyangxi. You have only seen them superficially and have not looked into their minds. If Kim Jong Bu were such a bad man, why should the people of Diyangxi have erected a monument in his honour in their village? Do you know that there is a monument in Diyangxi?”
The small unit members replied in the negative.
I told them that if they had known Kim Jong Bu’s past, they would not have looked down upon him as a pro-Japanese landlord, and that I could guarantee there and then that he was a man to be welcomed, rather than knocked down, that he was a patriotic landlord, rather than a reactionary landlord.
“Comrade Commander, we have wronged him, without knowing your intention clearly,” Kim Ju Hyon said, full of remorse. “I will apologize to him on behalf of the small unit and return him to Diyangxi.”
I did not agree with him.
“Don’t return him, I wanted to see him. Since things have come to this pass, take him to the secret camp. I think I should take time off and talk to him. T will apologize to him on your behalf.”
That day 1 explained to the small unit all the reasons why I felt we should cooperate with him for the united front. Consequently the past of the landlord was known to the whole unit within that day.
I guess Kim Jong Bu was bom in the early
1860s. When we were in Changbai, he was already in his seventies. His hometown
When the Independence Army fought in high spirits in Changbai, Kim Jong Bu was the head of the Southern Department of the War Fund-Raising Association. He provided the Independence Army with clothing, food and other supplies at the expense of his own family property. When the army was strong, he produced potato starch in Diyangxi and cleaned rice at a water mill for the association.
The independence fighters, operating in Jilin, Fusong, Linjiang, Badaogou, Huadian and other places used to stay at Kim Jong Bu’s house, when they came to Changbai, and also had meetings there. Judging from this fact alone, I thought I should treat him prudently.
Kim Jong Bu also made a considerable contribution to the education of the younger generation. Under his sponsorship a village school for conventional education was established in Diyangxi around 1920. As seeking to give the children of his tenants better education, he transformed the village school into a four-year course modern primary school, and then innovated it into a six-year course private school, with an enrollment of more than 150 pupils. He made sure that children from neighbouring villages were admitted to his school. The expenses for the management of the Jongsan Private School and the payment for its teachers were provided by the rents received from his tenants. The school provided national education to inculcate in the pupils the idea of independence and sovereignty, as well as love for the country and nation.
His tenants paid their rents on a voluntary basis. Rent was decided by the tenants themselves, say, one sack or ten sacks, according to the crop situation, as Kim Jong Bu as their landlord had not fixed the amounts of rents, according to the sizes and qualities of the rented land. There was not even a contract between the landlord and his tenants, a contract for the sharecropping of the annual harvest.
Ri Chi Ho, an anti-Japanese revolutionary fighter, who had once been Kim Jong Bu’s tenant in Diyangxi, said, “I have never heard of a landlord, who was as good-natured and magnanimous as Kim Jong Bu. We tilled his land, not even knowing how much rent we should pay. We borrowed food from him occasionally, but never returned it with interest. But he did not take issue; he left it up to us. Not surprisingly, the villagers put up a monument in his honour in front of his house. He had many hectares in the upland of Diyangxi, but all his land was worth no more than 15 hectares of fertile lowland fields.”
The people of Diyangxi unanimously praised Kim Jong Bu, calling him, “Our uncle”, “Our head of department”, “Our school founder”. This was unusual.
The landlords in neighbouring villages feared of his benevolence. They were afraid that their tenants might be envious of their counterparts in Diyangxi.
They said to Kim Jong Bu, “Isn’t it too much to be as generous as you are, allowing your tenants to pay their rents as much as they please, without making contracts with you? If you continue like this, your property will be depleted in less than three or four years.”
However, Kim Jong Bu did not listen to the people, who occasionally advised him to refrain from benevolence. He said, “Should my family of three starve, because no contract has been signed for the rents? When my tenants eat their fill, I will also eat my fill; when they are hungry, I also have to go hungry. With this principle in mind, we can share each other’s kind hearts. That’s all there is.”
As Kim Jong Bu was such a benevolent man,
The landlords, taken by the small unit,
included a man called Corporal Kim. He was also a patriotic landlord. He was
addressed by the title, because he had served as a noncommissioned officer in
the modernized army of old
Corporal Kim volunteered military service in his teens. Once he served in the first modernized army of our country, an army called “Pyolgigun”. He ardently sympathized with the reformist party, when it made a coup in the year of Kapsin8.
He was simple and upright like a country woodcutter, but possessed a strong political conviction. During the Kabo reform (a bourgeois reform in 1894), he performed his duty in the Royal Guard Regiment and was then transferred to a garrison force. After the loss of national sovereignty, he joined the Righteous Volunteers Army. Following the decline of this army, he was lost in the pursuit of livelihood.
He was loyal to his military duty during
the existence of the modernized army in the closing years of old
Corporal Kim owned ten hectares of land and many draught cattle, but was a progressive-minded, enterprising patriot.
In those days many people stood aghast at the motion of Kim Jong Bu or Corporal Kim as a man to be enlisted in the united front. They felt we were preaching “class collaboration”.
Only half a century ago, when Marxist or Leninist propositions were accepted as the only guide to action in the world of communists, some people disputed our effort to join hands with this or that landowner as a departure from Marxism. They trembled at our scheme to make some capitalists our ally, saying that it was heretic of Leninism. Such a tendency resulted from a dogmatic approach to Marxism-Leninism, an approach which, divorced from the specific character of our country and the actual revolutionary situation, regarded Marxism-Leninism as absolute.
The statistics of the class differentiation and change in land ownership in the Korean rural community before liberation indicate that, when the number of large Japanese landowners increased, large Korean landowners quickly decreased or were reduced to middle or small owners.
The Japanese imperialists laid the groundwork for Government-General, by preserving feudal land ownership. During this process some indigenous landowners amassed land and money with the backing of the Government-General and invested in industry and commerce to create large landed estates or become comprador capitalists. However, the overwhelming majority of the native landowners were reduced to middle or small holders.
Naturally some of these middle or small landowners adopted a patriotic stand, albeit moderate, against the Japanese imperialist occupation and their colonial rule, which had degraded them.
In fact, some Korean landowners and capitalists provided active support to the anti-Japanese revolution; some of them handed over the ownership of their land and factories to the state, as soon as the country was liberated, and became ordinary working people, devoted to the construction of a new country. These conscientious men of property, who placed their motherland and national prosperity above their own wealth, had no political reason to oppose the communist policy or any emotional or psychological basis to obstruct their revolutionary movement.
Admittedly, in my childhood I also thought that landlords and capitalists were all parasites.
My connection with Zhang Wei-hua occasioned me to criticize and deny theoretically the view that the propertied class in general should be overthrown. My acquaintance with Chen Han-zhang also helped me confirm my view of the rich.
What would happen, if we were to strike such rich patriots or give a wide berth to them? That would mean rejecting the people, who support the revolution and result in the loss of propertied patriots and even the major share of the masses. The masses would oppose such a cold-hearted revolution. Only the enemy would gloat over such developments. A slight error or deviation in the class struggle would mean playing into the hands of the enemy’s stratagem and benefit them.
I found myself in an embarrassing situation, as I had to apologize to Kim Jong Bu and his company as the Commander of the guerrilla army.
On my orders, the unit leader brought them to my room.
I sincerely apologized to them for my men’s insolent actions of walking them off at night for no justifiable reason.
Kim Jong Bu said nothing in reply; he merely cast a hostile and apprehensive glance at me. The other people looked the same. Apparently they were anxious about what lay in store for them. I wished to talk more amiably, but we could not share each other’s feelings. In such a cold atmosphere it was hardly possible to continue our conversation.
“I don’t know which army you are, but if you are the Independence Army, tell me how much you need for your military funds, and if you are bandits tell me the size of the ransom you want.” Kim Jong Bu’s prickly words broke the icy silence.
His words added to the tension in the room. Apparently Kim Jong Bu and his company thought that we were the Independence Army or bandits.
Bandits and the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units often used hostage tactics, and Kim Jong Bu himself had been taken hostage a few times and greatly suffered.
The company of landlords watched me with bated breath. They seemed to fear that I would claim a preposterous ransom.
At that moment, the unit leader appeared before me with ten packets of cigarettes. He explained that he did not pay for the cigarettes, as the shopkeeper in Diyangxi would not accept the price, however hard he tried to pay.
I asked the landlords what kind of a man the shopkeeper was.
“He is a kind-hearted man, named Kim Se Il,” Kim Man Du replied for his company. “He is a cripple, and his wife does mill work for hire, in order to eke out a living. They were so pitiful, that I gave them some money telling them to try and open a general shop. So they are keeping a small shop.”
Hearing this, I rebuked the unit leader. “I suppose you haven’t behaved properly towards the poor man. Did you really not pay him, because he declined to accept?”
This conversation melted away the icy atmosphere in an instant, to my surprise.
The landlords exchanged significant glances with one another, apparently shocked by something. They even whispered among themselves. They seemed to be saying that I was too hard on my subordinate. This provided a good chance to resume the talk.
“I am awfully sorry to have made you, old men, walk in the dreary night. We make this kind of mistake, although not often, while travelling around places, which are not familiar to us. I believe that you are magnanimous enough to forgive my comrades for their possible rudeness.”
When I apologized again in this manner, they seemed to feel relieved.
“Well, which army is this? You don’t look like bandits or the erstwhile Independence Army in appearance....” Kim Jong Bu watched me closely with curiosity.
“We are the Korean People’s Revolutionary
Army, fighting for
“The People’s Revolutionary Army! Do you mean General Kim Il Sung’s army, which routed the Japanese in Fusong?”
“Is General Kim Il Sung still in Fusong?”
“Forgive me for not greeting you, sir. I am Kim Il Sung.”
Kim Jong Bu stared dubiously at me, and then mumbled bitterly.
“Don’t look down upon me, because I am over seventy. Can it be that General Kim Il Sung, who is said to use the art of compressing space, is so young? He is not an ordinary man. Rumour has it that he even has double lines of teeth.”
At that moment, Kim Ju Hyon interrupted our conversation and explained that the man in front of him was Commander Kim H Sung.
Only now Kim Jong Bu identified me. He apologized for failing to recognize me sooner.
“For that matter, a young General is better than an old General,” he said to Corporal Kim.
Corporal Kim replied that a healthy and sturdy young General was more reliable, because the fight to regain the country would not be over in a year or two.
We talked on in an amicable atmosphere. The landlords asked me many questions. Kim Man Du embarrassed me by asking me if I could divine what would happen in three days, as the rumour had it.
Although a silly question, I felt awkward as I answered.
“It is a mere rumour that I can foresee events three days ahead. We are good at estimating the situation, not because I can foretell the future, but because the People’s Revolutionary Army maintains close touch with the people and thereby obtains timely and valuable information. I believe the people are as wise as Zhu-ge Liang. Without the people’s support and assistance we cannot make one step forward.”
“General, as you extol the people to the skies, I feel awkward. I feel we should help you in your great cause, so please tell us what we should do for you.”
“To tell you the truth, we wished to see
you when we are out in Changbai to discuss the matter with you. For several
years now we have been fighting, arms in hand, to destroy the Japanese
imperialist aggressors in the wilderness of
Apparently, the landlords were greatly encouraged by my words.
“Whoever loves his country and his compatriots is duty bound to support the revolution and has the right to do so. Sir, you have reclaimed hundreds of thousands of phyong of slash-and-bum fields in the upland of Diyangxi in order to contribute money and rice to the independence movement, haven’t you? Consequently your tenants and the independence fighters have agreed to erect a monument in your honour.”
“Excuse me, but how do you know the past of such an insignificant man. General?”
“I heard your name from my late father and also from 0 Tong Jin, Jang Chol Ho, and Kang Jin Gon and kept it in my memory.”
“What was your father’s name?”
“Kirn Hyong Jik, sir. When he was in Badaogou and Fusong, he talked a lot about you.”
“Oh, my!....” Kim Jong Bu gazed at me, eyes blinking. “Not to know that you. General, are Kim Hyong Jik’s son!... While living in the country, this old man has become ignorant of developments in the world. Anyhow I was on intimate terms with your father.... I can’t find an apt word to express all my excitement at seeing you in command of your army to the land, which was trodden by your late father.”
“I am also very glad to meet a patriot like you. While ignorant of you, my comrades have taken you here. So I explained to them that you are a patriotic landlord, rather than a pro-Japanese or reactionary landlord. Although we have been unable to erect a monument in your honour as the people of Diyangxi did, we will not commit such a foolish mistake, as to take a patriot for a pro-Japanese landlord. You should be proud of the devoted service you have rendered to the independence movement.”
Kim Jong Bu, with tears in his eyes, thanked me. “Since you say that I am a patriotic landlord, I would have nothing to regret, even if I died now.”
Kim Man Du also expressed his gratitude to me with a low bow. Other landlords glanced at the father and son with a mixed feeling of envy and apprehension.
Sensing their feeling, Kim Jong Bu went on, “To tell you the truth, General, they are not reactionary landlords. I swear on my honour. General. If you trust me, please don’t consider them as traitors.”
“Why should I not trust them, if you supply references? If you do so in person, I won’t see them in a bad light.”
On hearing this, the landlords bowed in thanks.
Our first interview ended there. My impression of the talk remains vivid in my memory. If it had been an interrogation of pro-Japanese elements or an indignation meeting to accuse them of crimes, I would have been unable to recollect so light-heartedly, as I do the conversation I had with influential persons from Diyangxi, until midnight in a drizzling night at the lumbermen’s hostel in Majiazi where I met Kim Jong Bu and his company.
At that time I did not ask if they had exploited their tenants or about the level of support they provided to the Japanese imperialists in the pursuit of their colonial policy or the wrong they had done to their fatherland and people. Instead, I took it for granted that those landlords, were not pro-Japanese and immediately displayed my confidence in them. This confidence helped them change that night their views of communists.
The day’s talk, however, was merely our mutual introduction and the beginning of our relationship. The principal matters I wanted to discuss with them still remained for the future. I aimed to lead the landlords of Diyangxi ideologically, in (he spirit of the “Inaugural Declaration of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland”, to encourage them to provide the maximum material support for the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army and, through them, transform the influential persons in Changbai, who were merely looking on the revolution or obstructing it, into sympathizers, supporters and cooperators for the revolution. I had to hold many more talks with them.
But I intended to return Kim Jong Bu and his son to Diyangxi immediately.
The next day when I told him to return home, Kim Jong Bu said in surprise, “General, I thought about many things last night. This time I met you by providence. I have tried to work for the country and the nation in various ways, but all without much success. I am now old and weak, but I realize that good conduct alone is not enough to save the nation. As I was so anxious to find a way to contribute to national liberation in my late years, I had the good luck to meet you. General.
“If I stay here, my son, when he is back home to Diyangxi, can send aid goods over here on the grounds of saving me. My son will say to the authorities that he has to send goods to the guerrilla army in order to bring his father back home. If he tells them not to be nervous about his dispatch of food, clothes and footwear to the mountain, they will connive at it.”
I was deeply moved by his words. The cry of his conscience touched my heart.
But it was too much. So I said, “I fully understand what you mean. Your noble suggestion inspires me with great strength. But this is not the suitable place for you, as we have no decent accommodation or food. The weather will grow much colder, and the Japanese imperialists will be more violent in their attempts to ‘mop us up’. So you must return home.”
But the old man persistently refused. He begged me not to deprive him of his best opportunity to help the independence of the country, although he might not be able to fight as a soldier. I allowed him to stay in the secret camp for some time and let his son return home.
We arranged special quarters in the secret camp for the people from Diyangxi and looked after them as best as we could.
In the depths of mountain, with no ready source of supplies, we ourselves had to eat gruel now and then, but provided them with rice meals from our emergency rations. My men smoked leaf tobacco, but we supplied cigarettes to them. Kim Jong Bu spent his birthday and New Year’s Day in 1937 in the secret camp.
I remember that his birthday fell on one day of the twelfth month by the lunar calendar. He did not want to return home even then; he insisted that he would not go home before the aid goods from his son at Diyangxi arrived.
I felt that I was doing wrong to the old man and his family. Could there be anything more heartless than keeping an old man in his seventies in the mountain on his birthday?
I ordered my men working behind the enemy lines to bring rice, meat, and liquor and visited his quarters on his birthday in the company of my orderly, who carried the supplies on his back. Although not nectar and ambrosia, the birthday meal we prepared for the old man was almost unprecedented in the history of the People’s Revolutionary Army. Even for the wedding ceremonies for our comrades-in-arms, we never laid on such a sumptuous table. In those days a bowl of rice and soup for each were all we could afford on such occasions.
Kim Jong Bu became wide-eyed at the sight of his birthday dinner table.
“What does this feast mean, when New Year’s Day is still far off?” he asked.
“Today is your birthday, sir. I congratulate you on behalf of the People’s Revolutionary Army.”
I filled a cup of wine to the brim and offered it to him, saying, “Mr. Kim, I am sorry to have kept you in the mountain in this winter cold on your birthday. Please accept this humble birthday dinner as a token of our best wishes.”
Tears trickled down from Kim Jong Bu’s eyes, as he said, holding me cup in his hand:
“I am so sorry to see you guerrillas endure all these hardships eating maize porridge, in order to win back the lost country, that I can hardly eat three hot meals every day. To give a birthday party in honour of an old man like me in the depths of mountain! General, I will never forget your kindness even in my grave.”
“I wish you a long life until the country wins independence.”
“It doesn’t matter whether I live long or not. But I wish you good health. General, so that you can save the nation from sufferings.”
That day I talked a lot with Kim Jong Bu.
A severe cold set in and there was heavy snowfall in the mountain. So I dissuaded him from going home. Afraid of a possible accident on his way home in the deep snow, I made sure that he stayed in the secret camp through the winter.
He frankly told me about his impressions of the four months he spent in the secret camp. It was a summary of his impressions of the People’s Revolutionary Army as well as a brief statement of his views on the Korean communists whom he had observed for a long time.
“To be candid, I did not look upon the communists with a gracious eye. But, General, your communism is quite different. You discriminate between pro-Japanese and anti-Japanese landlords and attack only pro-Japanese. Who could dislike such communism? The Japanese call the guerrillas ‘communist bandits’, but that is a nonsense.... I have thought many things, eating the food of guerrillas over the past months. Of course, I have made a fresh resolve. I don’t think I can live many more years, but I will dedicate my remaining years to the worthwhile cause. I am determined to back up the People’s Revolutionary Army, even if I die. Believe me, I am your man, alive or dead.”
During his stay in the secret camp, he became our active supporter.
The landlords we had brought to the secret camp to educate and obtain material aid, included some, who were treated with scorn by the peasants. But Kim Jong Bu stood surety for them and held them under his control. He gave them good influence, so that they all took the patriotic path against the Japanese.
Kim Jong Bu offered more than 3,000 yuan in support of the People’s Revolutionary Army and supplied it with food, cloth and various other goods. We made wadded coats and uniforms for all my unit with the cloth he had supplied.
On his return to Diyangxi, his son supported the guerrillas in a big way, true to the resolve he had made before us. On his arrival in his village, he raised a large sum of money by selling ten heads of cattle from the ones he had received from the authorities. In those days the county authorities loaned him dozens of heads of cattle to reclaim wasteland, allegedly to provide secure livelihood to the peasants of Diyangxi. Afterwards, he again loaned twenty heads of good cattle from the county authorities and on his way back home handed them over to us. He even sent his sewing machine to the guerrillas as aid goods.
Since the advance of the People’s Revolutionary Army to Mt. Paek-tu area, the enemy tightened up control of the people in Changbai and stepped up their repression. Kim Jong Bu and his family were blacklisted.
One day Kim Man Du was summoned to Changbai police station for interrogation.
“According to information we have obtained, you maintain contacts with Kim Il Sung’s army, sending a large amount of supplies there. Tell us frankly what kinds of goods and how much you have sent.”
Kim Man Du flatly denied and made a plausible excuse.
“You speak as if I maintain secret communication with Kim Il Sung’s army; this is a misunderstanding. Such communication does not and cannot exist Do you think that a communist army uses a large landowner like me as its agent? You know full well that my father is detained in a secret camp of the communist army. What does it matter if a son sent them some goods to save his father? I am anxious to save my father even if it costs all my family property. If you were in my place, wouldn’t you do so?”
The police authorities accepted his excuse as reasonable and. questioned him no more, releasing him.
Kim Jong Bu and his son sold a large portion of his land and work animals in order to support the revolutionary army in this manner.
Kim Jong Bu reclaimed wasteland in order to supply food and funds to the Independence Army and became a landowner. He spent all the remainder of his property and money on the support of the People’s Revolutionary Army. It is not as simple as it sounds for a landowner or capitalist to give up the idea of amassing wealth, which is vital to them, and offer up the source of wealth to the country.
This is the depth of Kim Jong Bu’s patriotism and the height of the service he rendered to the anti-Japanese revolution. During the whole period of the anti-Japanese revolution I seldom saw a landlord who supported us in such a big way and with such ardent patriotic loyalty as Kim Jong Bu did.
Some of Kim Jong Bu’s feelings and experiences in the secret camp were carried in Samcholli, a magazine, in later days in the form of interview with me.
Part of the interview is given below.
“...Kim Il Sung is well-known in the border area, and everyone who reads a newspaper will remember.
“The man, addressed as commander-in-chief, conducts raiding actions in command of ... Manchurian and Korean subordinates, directs his bases in the mountain in stubborn resistance to the army, rallies his comrades in secret, dreaming one thing or another! Who is this man?
“Old man Kim Jong Bu had an interview with this enigmatic man.
“A man of slender build, with a roaring
voice, and a manner of speech, which suggests that he is from
“ ‘Old man, how do you find this cold weather?’ he greeted me cordially, and then ....
“ ‘... Which of us young men would dislike a warm place and a comfortable life? Although we have to skip two or three meals of barley porridge, we endure all these hardships for such and such. I am also a man, who sheds tears, blood and has a soul. But we move about in this manner in the cold winter.’
“He spoke in a calm voice and was good-mannered, unlike a ringleader of bandits, which was beyond my imagination.
“He consoled old man Kim in various ways, saying that in the rigours of winter and deep snow it would be impossible to walk another step and that he need not worry, for he would go back home next spring, and then ordered his men to take special care of him....”
This article was written by Ryang Il Chon, Pak In Jin’s disciple in Hyesan. Kim Jong Bu seems to have spoken his mind comparatively frankly and daringly to the mass media, which was under the surveillance and control of the Japanese authorities. Surprisingly the magazine Samcholli carried this kind of article at a time when there was a strict news blackout about the movements of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army.
Kim Jong Bu moved to Wangqing-Hamatang, as I had advised him to, and is said to have died there, without seeing the liberation of the country.
I met Kim Jong Bu in my twenties and now am past eighty, or about ten years older than Kim Jong Bu was at that time. On the wrong side of eighty I can feel more tangibly how much he suffered in the secret camp of the guerrillas, as if it were my own suffering. I tried my best to take care of him, but I may not have been meticulous enough. I still regret that I was unable to take better care of him and provide him with sumptuous food.
I have been unable to move his grave, and have not erected a monument in his honour.
In its early days in
The gallant act of conscience and patriotism displayed by a propertied man, the owner of a large estate, like Kim Jong Bu, made a tangible contribution to the preparation for nationwide anti-Japanese resistance, and provided powerful support to our cause. In the 1930s, when armed resistance was the main trend of the anti-Japanese national liberation struggle, unlike in the 1920s, landowners or capitalists, who wished to give us material, financial or moral support, had to risk their own lives. However, Kim Jong Bu did so.
Consequently we regard him as a patriot and still remember him even after several decades.
In half our country there are still landlords and capitalists. Apparently some of them are billionaires. There will be reactionaries and no small number of patriots.
What will be the attitude of the Korean communists towards landlords and capitalists in a reunified confederal state? The story of patriotic landlord Kim Jong Bu suffices to answer this question.
Ever since the several counties north of
Some people used to refer to it as the Changbai Base. However, I feel this is wrong, as one gains the false impression that the Paektusan Base covers only the area of west Jiandao including Changbai, whereas in actual fact the base was not limited to the Changbai area; it was very big, covering several counties in west Jiandao on the upper reaches of the Songhua and north of the Amnok and a vast area of homeland, around Mt. Paektu.
The latter half of the 1930s marked a
heyday for the KPRA’s military and political activities. This period should be
embossed with gold letters. After building dozens of secret camps near
I often said that west Jiandao was a good place. Although the scenery is beautiful, I meant that its inhabitants are good. No matter how beautiful, a place cannot be considered good, if its inhabitants are ill-disposed. On the contrary, a barren land, where trees do not thrive, is called a good place when its inhabitants are kind-hearted.
In those days many Koreans lived in west Jiandao. Poor Korean immigrants grew potatoes in slash-and-bum patches, in insufficient quantities for their wretched existence. They built villages on barren plateaus and valleys in west Jiandao, calling them Phungsandok, Kap-sandok, Kiljudok and Myongchondok after their native villages in the homeland, and toiled away in a laborious life, recounting the tale of Tangun9, the Founder of Korea, and The Tale of Ondal10 under the pine-knot light.
Most landlords were Chinese. Although there were Korean landlords in some places, they were few and far between. Owing to the size of land they owned, they were petty landlords, acting no better than rich farmers.
Most Koreans living in west Jiandao had
drifted there from their motherland to seek livelihood or were patriots, who
had embarked on the road of the anti-Japanese independence movement to remove
the disgrace of a ruined nation, after
We met in all the villages of slash-and-bum
peasants in west Jiandao we visited, people who had devoted themselves to the
movement of the Independence Army in the bygone days, as well as people who had
assisted the army. As I already mentioned in preceding chapters, Kang Jin Gon,
a veteran of the Independence Army, had also lived in
In west Jiandao quite a few people, who had failed in attempts to launch peasant union movements in various places in the homeland, brought their families there to settle. They opened night schools at almost every village in Changbai and worked to enlighten the masses. Most renowned revolutionaries in Changbai area, including Ri Je Sun, Choe Kyong Hwa, Jong Tong Chol, Kang Ton and Kim Se Ok, taught at night schools. Many private schools for Korean children were established in the area by exiles and patriotic, public-minded people, who had emigrated from the homeland.
These private schools devoted considerable time to patriotic education. Mass enlightenment through night schools, as well as the school education of children and youth, produced many Korean patriots in west Jiandao.
The strong national spirit of the people in this area and their bitter hatred for the Japanese emanated naturally from their miserable living conditions, as well as from the consistent enlightenment movement, conducted by patriotic thinkers and their precursors. They had such intensified national and anti-Japanese feelings that our operatives could easily recruit hardcore elements and use them to organize many people.
By the early 1930s we had already sent
operatives of the Korean Revolutionary Army to west Jiandao and blown “
This was the prime factor, which enabled us to rapidly transform west Jiandao area into a revolutionary area, without experiencing any hitches.
We learned another valuable lesson during our activities in west Jiandao; qualified operatives could organize the masses and transform them into revolutionaries very quickly, by instilling revolutionary ideas, relying on favourable mass foundations.
We also discovered that the rule of
After some months in Fusong, I discovered that only a small number of people in the government office of the county could conduct land surveying and registration properly. This led to such a pass, that the officials deplored the fact that many people were tilling unclaimed land without obtaining a permission.
Police operations in Fusong area were crippled by the ties of kinship and hometown links. Moreover, many of the policemen had been hunters in former days. As they had been picked out on the merit of their marksmanship, the policemen were all ignorant and unable to control me people properly. This led to ineffective administration.
I discovered the situation was very similar in Changbai. These factors facilitated the awakening of the masses to revolutionary consciousness and their organization.
In west Jiandao no people persecuted the Korean communists, stigmatizing them as “Minsaengdan” members, no one censured Koreans for fighting to liberate their country under the banner of the Korean revolution or put brakes on their efforts. In other words, nobody held us contemptuous for living in a foreign country and discriminated against us. This was another favourable factor, enabling us to conduct free political and military activities in the areas along the Amnok and deep in the homeland round Mt. Paektu, unaffected by any restraint and restriction, acting in accordance with our own conviction and determination to bring about an upsurge in the anti-Japanese revolution.
We did not feel any restraint in forming
our own party organizations; we could launch the drive to form independent
party organizations in a big way, in accordance with our plan for both west
In a word, no particular people in that area put a spoke in our wheel. We could attack walled towns, formed party organizations and advanced into the homeland in large units, as we deemed necessary.
By contrast, things were different during
our struggle in the guerrilla bases in north Jiandao. In those days, our short
visits to the people in the homeland across the Tuman had been criticized as a
practice of nationalism. When we had proposed the creation of a people’s revolutionary
government, the East Manchuria Special District Party Committee and the
Another favourable factor enabled us to
expedite the rapid transformation of the people in west Jiandao into
revolutionaries and encouraged them to render active support to our
independent line of struggle; the people did not worship
However, north Jiandao, bordering the far
eastern region of
All the people in north Jiandao, men and women, young and old, could sing a few Russian songs. They danced Russian dances skilfully. The dance of sitting and standing while slapping his leg with one hand as well as dances, which are staged today at the April Spring Friendship Art Festivals, were staged in the guerrilla zones.
In such places as Hunchun and Wangqing we frequently came across self-styled communists, clad in the rubashka (shirts—Tr.) worn by Russians, who shouted for victory in the world revolution and the proletarian dictatorship.
While living in Russian dress, using words borrowed from Russian, singing Russian songs and dancing Russian dances, and feeling sympathy with Russia, the first socialist country in the world, worship of Russia and a belief that it was the best country in the world and that her people were the best in the world, wormed its way into the minds of the people in north Jiandao before they even realized.
They also worshipped
However, the people in west Jiandao never
pronounced Chinese or Russian.
They used the untainted dialects of the Hamgyong and
After advancing to the
The movement of the main force of the KPRA
to west Jiandao constituted a momentous event, ushering in a great new era,
termed by our historians and people as the heyday of the anti-Japanese
revolution. It was a historic event, casting a beam of light on a ruined
motherland in a pitch-dark night. The sons and daughters of
In retrospect, we had prepared for the
If we had taken a direct route from Huadian
to west Jiandao, after organizing the DIU, we would have reached
When the guerrilla army had been organized
in Antu, I could not repress an urge to lead the unit to
Paektu was not a mountain we could climb, whenever we wanted to. Our inability to climb as we pleased was the true meaning of Paektu; the more restrained we were from going there, the more we felt that its ascent represented the true bewitching power of Paektu.
During the establishment of the guerrilla zones and their defence, a steel-strong army, with each man the match for a hundred, had been prepared. The indomitable, steel-strong soldiers had been brought up via hundreds of engagements with the enemy. During the dynamic advance along the lines, set forth at the meetings held at Kalun, Mingyuegou, Dahuangwai, Yaoyinggou, Nanhutou and Donggang, the Korean revolution had accumulated sufficient strength to launch into Paektu. We advanced to west Jiandao, drawing on this strength.
In retrospect, the history of our
anti-Japanese revolution involved the transmission of a banner to our fellow
countrymen, who had been scattered with a shame of national ruin and arming
them to lead them to
The meetings in the forests of Nanhutou and Donggang marked a decisive turning-point in that process. After those two meetings Paektu was the main theme of our topic: The motherland is calling us; Mt. Paektu is awaiting us; let us climb the mountain as soon as possible, to expedite preparations for the founding of the party and expand on a mass scale the network of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland and thereby vanquish the Japanese imperialist aggressors through do-or-die all-people resistance!
We should ring the bell of national resurrection on Paektu, the ancestral mountain, to inspire the whole Korean nation with love for their country and dedication to national salvation; we should instil courage in people, who had lost faith and been dispirited, so that they rise up; we should stand in the vanguard and launch the advance into the homeland, by checking the separation of the nation and rallying them—this was the will and faith we had when advancing to Paektu.
We did not believe that
By basing ourselves on Paektu, we aimed to
draw together the people in the homeland, patriots in west Jiandao and
communists in north Jiandao and ensure our unified leadership to the
revolutionary movement in the homeland, the independence movement in west
Jiandao and the communist movement in north Jiandao. On this mountain we could
also establish, with the homeland as a stepping-stone, relations with
Aware of the many lessons gained from
building and defending guerrilla zones in eastern Manchuria, we did not try to
transform west Jiandao into a full-scale guerrilla zone as we did in north
Jiandao; we turned it into a semi-guerrilla zone, which was the enemy’s ground
by day and our ground by night, as I previously mentioned. Almost all the posts
of ten-household head, district head and sub-county chief were all occupied by
people under our influence. They pretended to work for the Japanese army and
Ri Je Sun, Ri Ju Ik, Ri Hun, Choe Pyong Rak, Jong Tong Chol, Ri Yong Sul, and Ryom In Hwan constituted the typical embodiment of the situation in semi-guerrilla zones.
Previously the leaders of party
organizations in eastern
This painful experience led us to turn the whole area of west Jiandao into a semi-guerrilla zone and put all the masses there under our influence, without defining them as either “Red” or “White”.
Many Self-Defence Corps men guarding the concentration villages came under our influence.
On one occasion we went to the
After the guerrilla unit had withdrawn, the operative went to the Japanese police and said that the guerrillas had raided the village and plundered grain, but had failed to occupy the fortress and that the Self-Defence Corps could survive owing to the fortress. In this way, he managed to deceive the enemy.
As the people in west Jiandao were friendly
towards the guerrillas and disloyal to the Japanese army, police and
West Jiandao was the main theatre of our
activities, developed by the KPRA on its own initiative and controlled for 3-4
years from the day we advanced to the
As a whole, the centres of the KPRA’s
actions during the anti-Japanese revolution were first, north Jiandao, second,
west Jiandao and third, the area of
As we had experienced during our activities
After developing the area into a semi-guerrilla zone, we conducted brisk, military activities. Armed units of 20 or so men attacked the enemy almost everyday, moving freely in the west Jiandao area. We frequently dispatched small units to the homeland.
We dispersed our forces and operated in small armed units instead of a large unit to refrain from imposing any burden on the people, who were leading tough lives on scanty meals of potato and oats. It was extremely hard to obtain food for a unit of 200 guerrillas, to say nothing of a larger unit of more than 500-600.
The enemy finished building concentration
villages in eastern and southern
Under the direct influence of the anti-Japanese armed struggle, the people’s spirit to fight the Japanese rose and our revolutionary advance was stepped up in west Jiandao.
During an interview with elderly people in the area, I discovered that the people in Changbai had heard a great deal about us since 1932-1933.
In the early 1936 Ri Je Sun and Ri Ju Ik
met Kwon Yong Byok and Kim Jong Phil, political workers from the guerrilla
army, who had gone to west Jiandao disguised as opium traffickers and acquired
information about the KPRA’s activities from them. On learning that the restructuring
of the guerrilla army was under way, they realized that the main force of the
KPRA might advance to the Changbai area. The news soon spread throughout
I was told that Ri Yong Sul, who had been a
ten-household headman in Tianshangshui, had been spreading propaganda about us
among his friends since 1932. He had said that General Kim Il Sung was engaged
in guerrilla activities in north Jiandao and would lead his unit to
Encouraged by news of the activities of the KPRA, the young people in the Changbai area had for a long time tried hard to join our guerrilla army. Kang Hyon Min, who had been working with the youth in Dadeshui, had told his friends, “I can no longer wait for General Kim with arms folded. I am going to his unit to join up; please take good care of my family when I am gone.” Then, he came to the direction of Fusong and joined our guerrilla army.
After our advance to Changbai, the whole west Jiandao was afire with passion to join the guerrilla army. After meeting us, many young people called on Headquarters and asked to join the army. We only admitted some of them, as we had to leave a great number of young people in the enemy-ruled area to intensify underground activities.
However, after the concentration villages had been built, we recruited all the volunteers. If they had been left in the earthen walls, the young people would have to be drafted for forced labour, organized by the enemy, doing nothing for the revolution.
Since the first gun report at Dadeshui after our advance to Changbai, the anti-Japanese spirit of the people in west Jiandao soared.
Witnessing the ignominious defeat of the
Japanese army in Dadeshui and Xiaodeshi, the old men at Shiliudaogou could not
hide their rapture, saying, “Every devil from the old days, who molested the
people, has gone ruined, and the Japanese swines are no exception.” The young
people released a shout of joy, saying, “Hurrah! We thought
Following the brisk armed struggle of the KPRA in west Jiandao, the people on both sides of the Amnok produced legend after legend about us. Spreading the news of the might of the guerrilla army, some of the elderly people believing in Chondoism said that Commander Kim Il Sung was employing the “art of shortening distance” to defeat the Japanese imperialists, appearing in the east and west. They even concocted such stories that, whenever a policeman made a phone call, the guerrillas appeared, when they fired a shot, his ear was cut and, when he tried to take flight, they fired another shot and his legs would break.
Such stories produced by the people in west Jiandao spread deep into the homeland across the Amnok. When one person shouted, “The revolutionary army raided Banjiegou last night!” on the Changbai bank of the Amnok, the people in Samsu across the river could hear it all.
When operating in west Jiandao, we received considerable assistance from the people. The many written recollections kept in the archives of our Party patently indicate how passionately the people in west Jiandao supported the People’s Revolutionary Army.
They backed the revolutionary army with all sincerity. They regarded sincere assistance to the army as a token of their conscience. They labelled any rejection of the revolutionary army to pursue one’s own interest and luxury as little-minded.
After our establishment in west Jiandao, the Japanese imperialists made desperate efforts to cut off the relations between the revolutionary army and the people and prevent support of the people from reaching the revolutionary army. They even kept watchful eyes on Koreans, who shook hands in greeting, claiming that they were tainted by communism.
In west Jiandao the commoners had to obtain permission from the village head to pay a visit to the neighbouring village. They had to keep a spoon for each family member. The enemy carried out searches at all hours and took away all surplus spoons, claiming that even one surplus. spoon would help the revolutionary army.
The enemy issued a proclamation, announcing a 50 yuan reward for anyone, who beheaded a revolutionary army soldier and a greater reward for anyone, who captured a soldier alive. Several documents proved that a larger sum of money had been offered for my head. Sometimes they would force people to scatter leaflets, inciting us to surrender, and send poisoned salt to the revolutionary army as “aid goods”.
These were all tricks to disconnect the blood-sealed ties between the revolutionary army and the people. The people of west Jiandao were not taken in by this trickery. The more frenzied efforts the enemy made, the more they strengthened their relations with the KPRA and the more rapidly they offered support en masse. When the enemy organized a night guard corps in every village to check the activities of the guerrilla army, the corps men would help the underground operatives and guerrillas infiltrate the concentration village by standing guard for them, while pretending to be on patrol.
The enemy burned mercilessly any village, which revealed the slightest sign of support for the guerrillas, and killed all others, young or old, involved in the supporting scheme. Diyangxi, Dadeshui and Xin-changdong were totally burned in this whirlwind. A teacher in Dadeshui was shot to death for sending a fountain-pen to the guerrillas. The west Jiandao people did not yield, however; they assisted the guerrillas as one at the cost of their blood.
The enemy constantly sustained heavy casualties from the military offensive of the KPRA, but acted in front of the people as if it were winning victory after victory. When we had an engagement with the enemy in Xiaodeshui, the people thought that the revolutionary army had lost the battle, as the enemy had displayed its troops after the battle, blowing bugles, as if it had won the battle. They soon realized the truth, after seeing dozens of dead bodies of Japanese soldiers scattered on the battlefield.
When carrying off the dead bodies of its soldiers, the enemy said that it was carrying the corpses of communist soldiers.
After our withdrawal following the attack on Shierdaogou, the rumour about our guerrilla army spread widely in Shierdaogou and its vicinity. The enemy felt awkward: So it hung the head of a Japanese army officer on the entrance of the north gate, which the revolutionary army had just stormed through before withdrawing; it propagandized that the men had killed a leader of the communist army. It was soon revealed as a fake, when the officer’s wife later saw the head on a pole in front of the gate and wailed, saying, “Oh, my! How could this happen to you?”
Such a tragi-comedy was staged regularly. A similar farce was staged in Fusong and Linjiang.
To win the reward from their Japanese bosses, the Jingan army soldiers one year hung the head of an unidentified man and a Mauser rifle inscribed “Kim Il Sung” respectively in the downtowns of Fusong and Linjiang and. spread the false rumour that our unit had been vanquished. However, when my primary schoolmates and friends in Fusong and Linjiang went to the site and revealed that the Jingan army’s propaganda was false, this dirty deceptive farce also collapsed. Indeed it had the opposite effect, giving the impression that the KPRA and its commander were sturdy and offering continued resistance.
The enemy could not deflate the anti-Japanese spirit of the people of west Jiandao or suppress their sympathy and support for the People’s Revolutionary Army. Support for the guerrillas was not stamped out;
the more intensified the suppression, the more support increased.
I will describe the support-the-guerrillas movement, conducted by the west Jiandao people in subsequent sections and will therefore introduce a few bits about information and the people here.
Whenever we passed through a village in west Jiandao, the villagers would come out with dark toffee made from potato and place it in the pockets of the soldiers.
After the establishment of concentration villages, they sincerely helped the guerrilla army. Given that the Japanese imperialists confined all the people in those villages and exercised strict control over grain, inquiring into the size of the field and crops harvested, they assisted us by employing clever methods. They would only clear away creepers during the season for harvesting potatoes; they did not dig potatoes, so that the guerrillas could lift them and take them away to eat. They kept the unshucked corn in reserves built in the forests and informed the guerrillas to take it away. If corn is stored unshucked, it does not rot. They did not harvest the beans and informed the revolutionary army, so that they could bring them away. One year we spent the winter on boiled ground bean.
The chief of the police department of
This is impressive evidence, which indicates the strength of the ties between the revolutionary army and the people and provides vivid material, revealing how daringly the latter championed and supported the former.
Maintenance of peace in west Jiandao was
causing such problems that the enemy cried in distress that both communism and
the three principles for the people had become a beacon-light, illuminating the
road ahead for the people, saying, “To win the masses from the communist
bandits and the anti-Manchukuo, anti-Japanese bandits and defeat these bandits,
we must set up an objective more dazzling than their political objective,
indicate a clear-cut road to that objective and run a more popular government.
In other words, we must advance the ideal of building
The words “communist bandits” constitute a
derogatory term for the People’s Revolutionary Army, and “anti-Manchukuo,
anti-Japanese bandits”, for all armed forces opposed to the puppet
The enemy resorted to every possible means to vanquish the People’s Revolutionary Army and disconnect ties between the revolutionary army and people, but to no avail.
After their village had been totally burned, owing to “punitive” operations of the Japanese imperialists, the peasants in Diyangxi felt a tremendous difficulty for lack of draught animals. They had to till the land and carry timber from the mountain for pay before long, but had no single draught ox. After discussions, they decided to solve the problem through negotiations with the county administration, and sent a Ri as a delegate for the negotiations and some young people as his escorts. Apparently, he was the most sociable and eloquent person in the village.
As he arrived at the county office, Ri complained in this way: The people in our village have never maintained secret contacts with the communist army; however, the Japanese army turned the village into a heap of ashes in a night, without waiting for clear evidence; where on earth can you find such an unfair incident?; what the hell was the county administration doing?; you mentioned that you would create “a village of good citizens” at every opportunity, but you did not check the advance of the “punitive” forces, even though you saw them coming;
the construction of “a village of good citizens” has now fizzled out, as we have no ox to till the land with, and can’t take meals, as we can’t farm.
That complaint touched the heartstrings of the county officials so greatly that they lent about 20 oxen to the peasants in Diyangxi.
As the negotiations proceeded as he had intended, Ri changed his mind. He was overcome by thoughts that the guerrillas were going through hardships on the mountains, without eating a piece of meat. He thought: We should send these oxen to the revolutionary army for their meals, even though this means that we cannot plough the land and carry timber for pay with them. He transmitted his thought via the underground organization in the county. He noted that, as he and his friends were returning to their village with the oxen, we could “raid” them from an ambush and take the oxen to our secret camp.
On receiving this information from an
underground organization, we dispatched an ambush party to a key position on
the road between the county town and Diyangxi. The party played the drama very
skilfully. At that time the county administration provided Ri with armed
escorts from the puppet
After disarming the escorts, the guerrillas
intentionally bound Ri and other young people from Diyangxi within their sight
and took them all to the secret camp, threatening that they would shoot them to
death, as they were vicious traitors, fawning upon
This is only one piece of episode, which shows the relationship between the army and the people in our days in west Jiandao.
The movement to assist the KPRA materially and morally, initiated since the first day of our advance to the Changbai area, not only involved the basic class of workers and peasants; it also attracted the strata, some communists stained with dogmatism, considered as objects of our struggle and regarded with hostility.
There was a big Chinese landowner, named
Cao De-yi, in Shijiudao-gou,
When the People’s Revolutionary Army
defeated the Japanese and puppet
Ri Hun, a district head, placed that landlord under our influence. The way in which he won over Cao was dramatic.
After the establishment of secret camps in
the area around Mt. Paek-tu, I ordered the logistical personnel to make
preparations for the New Year’s Day of 1937.1 attached great importance to that
day, as this was the first New Year’s Day for us on
The basin of the Amnok at Shijiudaogou was the only area, where rice was cultivated. Even though rice was cultivated, every grain of rice was carried off to the stores of the landlords.
The message that Cao De-yi had a great store of food grain, meat and sugar for the feast on New Year’s Day was delivered to Kim Ju Hyon from Ji Thae Hwan, a political operative. On receiving the message, Kim Ju Hyon, in collaboration with Ri Je Sun, wrote a notice there and then addressed Cao in the name of the People’s Revolutionary Army, which read: We believe that you have not abandoned your national conscience as a Chinaman; consequently, on the principle of protecting the properties of all people, except that of the pro-Japanese lackeys, we have not damaged your property; you should repay our just measure in deeds; you should help the revolutionary army, by living up to our expectations; please reply immediately, explaining when and how you will assist us.
On receiving this note, Cao broke with the world and, bed-bound, was plunged into mental agony. He was too afraid of the Japanese to help the People’s Revolutionary Army as required by the note; he was too afraid of possible punishment by the revolutionary army to ignore the note. Even though his concubines played coquetry by his bed, he did not respond; he only heaved sighs. His concubines made a great fuss of the fact that a misfortune had befallen. Around this time Ri Hun, as directed by Ri Je Sun, came to the county town to sound out the landlord Cao’s thoughts. In the town he came across one of Cao’s concubines, who told him that Cao had not been taking meals and sleeping for several days and asked him to console him while having lunch with him. Believing that everything was going as planned, Ri Hun visited the landlord’s house with an air of reluctance.
Cao welcomed Ri Hun warmly, as if he were his saviour. After drinking some cups of wine, he showed Ri the note from the revolutionary army and asked, “What should I do, my dear younger brother?”
Ri Hun gave a cursory look at the note and, gripping his hands, said: Don’t worry too much; they will not kill you; I was once captured by them a few months ago and taken to their camp, but they differed from the bandits; the revolutionary army, which does not harm the people’s lives at random, will be deeply impressed, if you offer them a treat and they will protect you.
Cao replied that he did not stint his property, but hesitated out of fear of the Japanese, afraid that his act might be divulged. He went on that he would do whatever Ri would suggest.
Ri said, “If you do not feel so sorry for your property, why don’t you send it to them? What’s all this worry? Please behave yourself in front of the revolutionary army; otherwise I will not remain district head in Shijiudaogou and the peasants there will not live in peace.”
Hearing him out, Cao requested that he take care of sending materials to the revolutionary army, making sure that he avoided causing trouble.
On learning that Cao had decided to send supplies to us, I soon dispatched about 20 soldiers to Shijiudaogou. They returned safely to the secret camp with 600 mal of rice, several pigs and a considerable amount of sugar on scores of ox-sleighs. Cao subsequently sent us considerable supplies on several occasions.
Members of the Japanese police force and taskmasters at construction sites participated in the grand movement to support the guerrillas, a movement which whetted the ardour of revolution in west Jiandao.
A policeman at a sub-station in Samsu County, who had reviewed seriously his own life under the influence of the might of the KPRA and resolved to follow the road of resurrection, killed the head of his substation and his deputy, took their weapons to us and joined the guerrillas. Some of the taskmasters at the construction sites of the logging railway and felling stations would, when our unit went there, open the doors of warehouses as if under pressure and willingly give us supplies. A taskmaster at the felling station in Ershidaogou propagated in public the song Lamentation of a Pro-Japanese Soldier, which incited war-weariness and draft-dodging among the workers and peasants, who were working in the station and among the mountain rebels nearby.
I always recall the intellectuals in west Jiandao, who actively supported the guerrillas. Most intellectuals in west Jiandao in those days were teachers. Kang Yong Gu, who taught at Jongsan private school, remains vivid in my memory.
When he first met me, he said that he could not face seeing me, as he was a henchman, who had been executing the educational policy of the Japanese imperialists.
I consoled him, saying, “One must not regard as bad all the people, who execute Japanese educational policy. How can one call it a crime to teach the children of our country, who are growing up in darkness in an alien land? Even though they serve the Japanese imperialism under pressure, they can contribute to the independence struggle, if they have a national conscience.”
He was still strained and looked at me carefully with a sullen face. When I said that he no doubt often found it hard to teach children, he said with a bitter smile that he did not go to the length of troubling himself over Japanese education.
As we withdrew from the village, I told
him, “I would like to make only one request. Do not forget that you are a
Korean. To teach the younger generation to maintain the spirit of
Kang respected my request. Soon after our departure from the village, he joined the ARF and conducted brisk activities. He helped us in real earnest, while engaged in education; he sent us a mimeograph, cloth and provisions whenever we asked and often visited the secret camp carrying supplies in person. He even tapped the telephone wire with a telephone we had sent to him and frequently informed us of the enemy’s movements.
He devoted himself to education, and taught
the younger generation even after returning to the motherland when the country
was liberated. But one day—as far as I remember, it was in the late 1950s—I
received a report that Kang, who was the principal of a higher middle school in
I said, “I can hardly believe that such a deviation has occurred in the school where you work as principal. Have you already forgotten the days in west Jiandao?”
He replied that, although our parents had worked their fingers to the bone in the past under the rule of the Japanese imperialists, it had been his lifelong wish to let our children study in comfort in bright classrooms.
Needless to say, his mind was understandable. But I said sternly: If we are too indulgent with the children, without putting them to work and giving them scoldings, what will become of them in the future? We must toughen them through hardships; they must undergo the experience of carrying goods on their backs or yokes and know how to use hoes; only then will they get to know the value of sweat, respect workers and peasants and build socialism; to build socialism, we must hand down the revolutionary spirit of Paektu and the fighting spirit of the west Jiandao people to the coming generation.
On the unforgettable land where the gunfire
of fierce battles rumbled, the west Jiandao people laid, together with us, the
cornerstone of revolutionary relations between the army and the people,
providing the foundations of a united front, involving the broad masses of
people, including believers in Chondoism, patriotic men of property, young
people, students and intellectuals, and opened a route for establishing
contacts with the people and revolutionaries in the homeland.
When I entered farming villages in west
Jiandao, to be found in each range of Paektu, I would see foaming, meandering
streams and hear the sound of watermills pounding grain with the stream as its
power. What tingling nostalgia the sound of watermills falling on our ears from
afar at moonlit nights stirred in our minds! With our advance to
Ever since autumn 1936, the Changbai people
pounded an immeasurable amount of grain with those watermills to support us.
Nearly all the dozens of watermills, both big and small, installed in Changbai,
were related to the support-the-guerrillas work. The watermills are inscribed
in my memory as a symbol of the all-people, support-the-guerrillas campaign.
Thanks to the active support and encouragement of the Changbai people, we could
wage a protracted anti-Japanese war, with
The people in Deshuigou, Shiliudaogou, were the first in the Changbai area to assist the People’s Revolutionary Army.
We first went to Xinchangdong on our
advance to Changbai. The villages in the
The upper Xinchangdong was a remote village of 40-odd households situated on the confluence of two streams. There was also a watermill.
The villagers hulled buckwheat with the watermill that day and treated the People’s Revolutionary Army to refreshing noodles.
The support-the-guerrillas campaign, started by the Deshuigou people in Shiliudaogou, later affected the whole region of west Jiandao such as Wangjiadong, Yaoshuidong and Diyangxidong.
Large teams frequently came to our secret camps along secret routes in the forests, carrying grain and cloth on their heads and backs.
Jn a fit of consternation, the enemy reinforced its troops in Changbai area and molested the people. It burned down villages, arrested or killed people at random at the slightest unusual sign.
“Anyone supplying the communist bandits
with provisions and articles and making contacts with them will be regarded as
helpers of the bandits and executed on the spot”—this threatening warning was
posted in all parts of
The people living in the border areas
The assistance of the Changbai people to
the People’s Revolutionary Army was a voluntary campaign initiated on the basis
of their vital needs. Helping the revolutionary army was the only way to
Whenever I recall the images of the Changbai people, who were out to assist the army, the upright and simple image of Ri Ul Sol’s father, Ri Pyong Hon, who, as a member of our organization, was working as a village head in Yinghuadong, appears in my mind’s eye. He and his two brothers were standard-bearers of the campaign for supporting the army in Changbai area.
the end of 1936, when we were staying in the secret camp in
I admired the women in Yinghuadong for their assiduous workmanship and sincerity.
“They are excellent, indeed!”
He blushed at my praise.
“The snow is deep in Changbai, General. If you do not care for your feet in winter, the suffering is immeasurable.”
This was my first encounter with him, but I could see in an instant that he was very faithful and modest. He never sang his own praises. Although he led the other people, carrying goods to the secret camp, he did not give the slightest air that he was their leader; he stood behind his colleagues and only looked at me thoughtfully.
While I looked carefully at the socks in my hands, someone unpacking a knapsack of grain exclaimed, “Look here. General! Even the Japanese Emperor may never have seen such barley.”
At that moment I could not believe my eyes. Fine barley as white as snow! Is this barley, not rice? They must have pounded it with great sincerity to make it so clean and tempting!
“You have taken so much trouble, sir. I see such barley for the first time. How did you hull it to make it as white as this?”
“We hulled it four times.”
“Why? Barley can be boiled for eating after hulling only twice. Your sincerity is really beyond imagination.”
“The women in our village are so persistent.”
This time, too, Ri ascribed the meritorious deed to the village women. He said, “It was not men, but women who took the trouble to hull this barley. Grain can be hulled ten times, not four times, if one invests all one’s efforts. It is never a trouble, as it is all for the benefit of the revolutionary army. Unfortunately secret agents make rounds of the village to detect which houses hull grain for what purpose and where they are taking the hulled rice to. The Women’s Association members rack their brains to dodge surveillance. They go to the market in Hyesan and buy cloth for the revolutionary army; then they tie it round their waist or fold it and put it on their babies, just like diapers. For this reason, they carry babies on their backs intentionally when going to markets. The elderly, who are unaware of this fact, rebuke them for going to all this trouble; however, the women always carry their babies, because only then do they have somewhere to hide cloth.”
Ri did not mention a word about the trouble the men took; he only referred to the pains the women took.
His words moved me. I took a handful of barley from the knapsack and smelled it. Then I said to those around me, “Even though the Japanese Emperor is exalted, he is just like a tree without a root, while we are a sprout from a firm root, even though we are not visible. So, how can he ever see such fine grain as we have received?”
We came to know every detail of the support-the-guerrillas campaign, conducted by the people in Yinghuadong through Ri Ul Sol next year, who joined our unit that year. He was not inclined to sing the praise of himself, just like his father. Moreover, he hardly uttered a single word about the pains his father and mother took. However, he told an anecdote, apparently by a slip of the tongue, in which his mother picked wild berries to obtain money for the cloth used to make knapsacks.
In Yinghuadong many households suffered from a dearth of food grain; one of them was Ri Ul Sol’s. Although they had scanty meals of grass gruel, his family tried not to lag behind the others in supporting the revolutionary army. So they picked wild berries in summer and wild grapes and rocambole in autumn to sell them at the market in Hyesan. Whenever the mother returned with wild fruits and assorted them, his younger brothers would sit round her with watery mouths. Even though she read their minds well, she did not readily give them even a single wild berry, for she considered this to mean less sincerity to the revolutionary army.
On returning from the secret camp, Ri Pyong Hon boasted to his children that he had seen me. Ri Ul Sol replied that he would go to the guerrillas right away and fight under my wings, but his father stopped him.
Ri Pyong Hon rejected his suggestion there and then, saying, “The soldiers under the wings of the General are all stalwart and good at shooting. How can you venture to become a soldier of the revolutionary army, when you only know the hoe in the field and hemp trousers? Train yourself a little more before you go.”
He made his son join a branch of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland for training. Next summer he sent his son and nephew to the guerrilla army. Sending beloved children to the army constituted the highest expression of the spirit of support for the army.
Ri Pyong Hon invariably supported the revolutionary army, even after sending his son to the guerrilla army.
I met him again at Tianshangshui in late spring 1937. The dyestuffs brought at that time greatly helped in the dyeing of flowers and flags to festoon the joint celebration of the guerrillas and people to commemorate the victory in the battle of Pochonbo.
The support goods sent by the Changbai people were always permeated with moving sincerity.
In those days a slash-and-bum peasant family, with four able-bodied persons, could harvest 20 or 30 tan (a tan equals 40 pecks—Tr.) of potato at most in a year. They had to grind a dozen mal of potato to get one mal of starch. One mal of starch cost 60 fen or so at that time. A mal of starch was not enough to buy a pair of workman’s shoes. So they made toffee or wine and sold them for money. In those days it was difficult to buy goods even if you had money. Therefore the people had to rack their brains and make tireless efforts to purchase every supply sent to the guerrillas.
Even under such adverse conditions the
Every Korean living in
In most cases the village heads organized
the transport of support goods. As most of the village heads in
The people vied with one another to take the goods on days, when the conveying teams left the villages.
Our soldiers dropped in at the houses in
We frequented most often in those days Ryom Po Bae’s house.
Ryom In Hwan told me that Kang Jin Gon was the first to develop Deshuigou. Kang could not live any longer in his native village, crossed the Amnok with some of his family and relatives and built a village in a valley in Shiliudaogou. Ryom Po Bae is the wife of Kang’s cousin. Ryom In Hwan said that Mrs. Ryom and her husband were intensely anti-Japanese and upright, as they had come under the great influence of Kang.
Therefore I went to see them both, when we were staying in Dadeshui. I still vividly recall the face of Mrs. Ryom, who was so shy at that time, as she treated me with boiled oats and barley mixed with potato. She would always dip oats and barley in water in a large vessel, so that she could boil them in an instant, even if we dropped in at her house at midnight. The barley mixed with oats she boiled was well-cooked and aromatic, stimulating our appetite.
Her husband Kang In Hong set the chimney low and covered it with wheat straw to make the smoke issue downward, lest the smoke ascending through the chimney at night should arouse the suspicion of the lackeys. Both of them were tenderhearted.
The people in Deshuigou were literally as poor as church mice, but regarded it as a great honour to serve the revolutionary army.
It was not surprising that the enemy turned
Ryom Po Bae’s family had to move to Zhangmozi, Xinchangdong.
When we went there to see her on hearing the news, we could again hear the sound of a watermill there. I felt it was a good omen, for where a watermill made a sound, I could feel the spirit of Korea, which did not burn in fire or drown in a storm and a struggle; the people took the greatest pleasure to support the army. The sound of the watermill resembled the giant strides of the people, who continued their resistance to the Japanese imperialists, by aiding the army.
I first went with my orderly to the watermill and met Mrs. Ryom there.
On seeing me, she bent her knees and cried bitterly. Her tears contained so great sorrow after leaving Dadeshui.
I consoled her with great difficulty, saying, “Please calm yourself, mother. What can be done? You have to endure it....”
I later learned that her family had set up the mill after moving there. Her house, a small log-cabin, was situated near the mill.
That day she got a hen from a neighbouring village and served us starch noodles in meat stock, with chicken garnish. However, she was sorry that it was such a poor meal.
The starch noodles I ate frequently in the
That night she was very concerned that the sound of the watermill might disturb my sleep. However, this was unnecessary, as that sound only induced sound sleep and deep meditation.
Her family did not set up a new watermill after moving to Zhangmozi for their convenience. It was aimed at supporting the guerrillas.
That remote village was not, however, a place, where one could live in peace. The enemy also stretched out his tentacles to this heart of the mountain. The policemen from Erdaogang pounced upon the village without notice, destroyed the watermill and took all the villagers to the police station. Her family members underwent atrocious tortures for three days and were released as good as dead. They returned on an oxcart. Old man Kang, who had been beaten most, was in a critical state.
On hearing this, I sent them some bear galls, which are effective for welts. Apparently they got out of bed after taking the galls. Even Mr. Kang, who had been most seriously injured, rose from the bed and again devoted himself to supporting the guerrillas. He was good at carpentry; he felled a birch on the mountain and repaired the mill’s long board, which had been broken. His children tried to dissuade him, saying that he should start working after achieving a full recovery. But their words fell on deaf ears. He only said, “What are you talking about? Even the elderly in their 80s are busy making straw sandals and socks to help those on the mountain. I am too strong to have a nap.”
The watermill at Zhangmozi once again started to hull grain for the guerrillas.
On Mr. Kang’s request, we admitted his son Kang Jong Gun to the revolutionary army. We always took good care of him, taking him with us. However, he was killed in action later to our regret.
Kim Se Un, who lived in Pinggangde, Shiqidaogou, also came from a praiseworthy family, which helped the revolutionary army with all its sincerity.
Kim Se Un persuaded his two younger brother and sister and four children and relatives to engage in the revolutionary struggle and rendered active support to their work; he was a faithful revolutionary. Kim Se Ok, the fiance of Ma Kuk Hwa, is his younger brother and Kim Ik Hyon, an anti-Japanese revolutionary veteran, is his youngest son. His eldest son, too, joined the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army and fought bravely. Soon after joining the army, he took part in the battle at Jiansanfeng and later conducted political work in the homeland, before his arrest by the enemy. I learned that he had been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment and served his term in the Sodaemun prison with Kwon Yong Byok and Ri Je Sun, and that he was executed in spring 1945.
The small units and political operatives from the guerrilla army frequented his house, situated in hinterlands in the mountains, not far from a secret camp of the revolutionary army. Usually, revolutionaries calling on the secret camp from the homeland, would put up at his house for a night. His house was an “inn”, where the soldiers of the KPRA and political operatives took up lodgings free of charge. He cultivated the land, leased from a Chinese landlord, and devoted all his harvest to supporting the revolutionaries.
Kwon Yong By ok provided guidance in party
My comrades nicknamed Kim Se Un “Dashifu”, a Chinese word meaning a cook. True to his nickname, he entertained a great number of guests. The cooking pot in his house was five times as big as ordinary pots. They boiled grain in that pot and scooped it with a big scoop to serve the guests. When there were many guests» Kim Se Un would personally go to the kitchen with folded sleeves and helped the women in their work, sweating profusely. He was disabled; he could not walk properly, as the heels wore down, owing to severe frostbite, but carried straw sacks full of grain to the watermill several times a day.
He often joked with his guests in this way, “If it weren’t for my heels, I would have become a quartermaster in the guerrilla army, despite my age.”
As a tenant farmer, he supported the political workers by boiling a potful of grain for them every day, how much grain would be left in that house! He no doubt skipped meals on many occasions.
The sincerity displayed by the Changbai people in their support for the revolution was indeed unique. They enthusiastically aided the revolutionary army, even selling their properties and laying down their lives when circumstances demanded.
In May 1937 a surprising incident happened; the dead bodies of a baby and a woman were discovered on the road to Erdaogang. She was a common rural woman, who had secretly nursed a wounded guerrilla in her house, before her arrest. A military police officer of the Japanese army pounced upon her and the wounded man under medical treatment and escorted them to his headquarters. She was a tough woman; she stealthily hid a dagger in her bosom, when leaving the house and on the road cut the officer’s face with the dagger, then took out the pistol from his waist. Thanks to her efforts, the guerrilla escaped. She kept the watch of the officer with the pistol in her hand for nearly half an hour, until the guerrilla had run out of sight. Regaining his consciousness, the officer pounced upon the woman, snatched the pistol from her and stabbed her and her baby mercilessly to death.
Some time later this incident became known to the public. One night their dead bodies vanished. The military police made a great fuss, as if an awful accident had happened. God only knew it, as their secret agents had kept watch on them round the clock. Apparently a revolutionary organization in Erdaogang or in its vicinity had dealt with them like a flash, when the opportunity had appeared.
To our deep regret, the “dagger woman” did not leave her name behind. Apparently the wounded man, who escaped with her help, failed to return to his unit.
One day I left two of my men under the care of old man Ji Pong Phal, a member of the underground organization in Zhujiadong; one was Kim Ryong Yon, who was suffering from an intestinal disorder, while the other wounded individual was a recruit, whose name escapes my memory. The old man took tender care of them for two months and was then killed during an enemy’s “punitive” operation.
When the enemy attacked his village, he made sure that the soldiers of the revolutionary army took shelter on the mountain; he then stayed on his own in his house aware that if he also escaped leaving his house empty, the enemy would comb the mountain in search of the soldiers of the revolutionary army.
The enemy tortured him to expose the whereabouts of the revolutionary soldiers, but he curtly replied that he did not know. The enemy beat his face ruthlessly with a leather belt. Blood gushed from his face instantly. However, the more they beat him and swore, the firmer his closed mouth became.
They stood him in a grave, saying that they would bury him alive. They threatened at gunpoint that they would give him a cash reward, if he told them where the wounded had taken shelter or else they would bury him.
However he remained silent.
In despair they shot him standing in the grave. Before breathing his last, the old man left this simple request with his fellow village people, “Please help our army wholeheartedly. Only then will a new society emerge.”
His last moment was subsequently called the “Zhujiadong incident”. On hearing a report from Kim Ryong Yon in later days, I came to know of his death.
How could a gentle peasant, who led all his life in a simple and untainted way tilling land, be so calm just before his death in the grave, where he would be buried, and add lustre to his last moment standing firmly like titan?
His last words to the effect that sincere help to our army would expedite the advent of a new world remind all of us forcibly of how important faith is for a man and the great power, a man with faith can generate.
Although the people in
Following the country’s liberation, Mrs. Ryom Po Bae moved to Hyesan with her children. But she did not inform us for more than ten years where she was living.
It was only in 1958, when I was providing
field guidance to
I met her at the railway station. Her hair had turned grey.
“Mother, your son Jong Gun and husband have already passed away... To see you today when your hair has turned grey....”
I was too choked to go on. Beaten at a police station for helping the revolutionary army, her husband Kang In Hong had coughed out blood and died.
She embraced me, tears streaming down her face.
Feeling her rough hands I said with disappointment:
“I frequented your house in the bygone days, mother, as if it were my own. But it is too much. More than ten years have passed since liberation; why didn’t you call on me? Couldn’t you write to me even once?”
“How could you believe that I was not eager
to go to
The passionate people of Changbai, who rushed out of the village entrance in the past without noticing how their shoes fell off as they saw us, returned to the liberated country and led a quiet life without making themselves known to the world.
Soon afterwards I brought Mrs. Ryom to
The Changbai people, who helped us at the cost of their blood in the days of the anti-Japanese revolution, were all people of such calibre.
Kim Se Un, as I mentioned briefly above,
went to the homeland in autumn 1937 and, roaming about Unhung, Pochon, Musan
and Songjin (
He later went over to Tumen and engaged in underground work under the disguise of an oxcart driver, until the day of liberation. Surprisingly, although his feet were disabled, he conducted underground activities travelling about the wide area as freely as able-bodied men. He did not talk about his performance. His activities in the homeland became known to us many years later and drew the attention of historians.
How could Kim Se Un be the only one to be so unassuming!
Most west Jiandao people were in those days members of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland; in today’s terms, they would be called unassuming heroes and meritorious individuals.
The enemy built concentration villages to
cut the ties between the People’s Revolutionary Army and the people and
attempted to remove the links of support for the guerrillas by forts, earthen
walls and barbed wire; however, it failed to shut the minds of the west Jiandao
people, inclined as they were to
The Paektusan Base was located farther away
from the populated areas than the base in eastern
They were heroic people, who set an example for the revolutionary traditions of supporting the army and enriched these traditions. The campaign developed into a pan-national campaign, involving the people of all strata, young and old, men and women, every village and household. Supported by their campaign, we always emerged victorious in hard battles against the enemy.
The campaign to support the army, sweeping the vast area of west Jiandao, convinced me once again of the great power produced by the organized people. Even a village on a plateau or in a valley with only three peasant households, had an organization. If we sent a messenger there with a short notice, the villagers would get out of bed and busied themselves cooking food, saying that the revolutionary army four kilometres away from there would have a meal in their village and that they should make haste to serve them warm food.
We were able to enlist organizations via a
short message to call west Jiandao people to
The passionate people of Changbai, who rushed out of the village entrance in the past without noticing how their shoes fell off as they saw us, returned to the liberated country and led a quiet life without making themselves known to the world.
Soon afterwards I brought Mrs. Ryom to
The Changbai people, who helped us at the cost of their blood in the days of the anti-Japanese revolution, were all people of such calibre.
Kim Se Un, as I mentioned briefly above,
went to the homeland in autumn 1937 and, roaming about Unhung, Pochon, Musan
and Songjin (
He later went over to Tumen and engaged in underground work under the disguise of an oxcart driver, until the day of liberation. Surprisingly, although his feet were disabled, he conducted underground activities travelling about the wide area as freely as able-bodied men. He did not talk about his performance. His activities in the homeland became known to us many years later and drew the attention of historians.
How could Kim Se Un be the only one to be so unassuming!
Most west Jiandao people were in those days members of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland; in today’s terms, they would be called unassuming heroes and meritorious individuals.
The enemy built concentration villages to
cut the ties between the People’s Revolutionary Army and the people and
attempted to remove the links of support for the guerrillas by forts, earthen
walls and barbed wire; however, it failed to shut the minds of the west Jiandao
people, inclined as they were to
The Paektusan Base was located farther away
from the populated areas than the base in eastern
They were heroic people, who set an example for the revolutionary traditions of supporting the army and enriched these traditions. The campaign developed into a pan-national campaign, involving the people of all strata, young and old, men and women, every village and household. Supported by their campaign, we always emerged victorious in hard battles against the enemy.
The campaign to support the army, sweeping the vast area of west Jiandao, convinced me once again of the great power produced by the organized people. Even a village on a plateau or in a valley with only three peasant households, had an organization. If we sent a messenger there with a short notice, the villagers would get out of bed and busied themselves cooking food, saying that the revolutionary army four kilometres away from there would have a meal in their village and that they should make haste to serve them warm food.
We were able to enlist organizations via a
short message to call west Jiandao people to
According to a Korean proverb, beads become a treasure only when threaded in a string. All men and women in west Jiandao were as precious as beads. The organizations of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland turned west Jiandao into our world of influence and made these beads a treasure.
What would have happened to them, if we had not rallied them behind our organizations? Those individual beads would have been broken one by one at the hands of the enemy or eclipsed in the mud. However ardent a man’s patriotism may be, what could he perform on his own?
Consequently I always say that the greatest asset for a revolutionary is organization. The significance of an organization can be said to be imperishable for the revolutionaries and people in all countries, who aspire for independence. The role of an organization does not dwindle with a change of times, nor should the rallying of the popular masses around the organization be neglected, following the victorious advance of the revolution. It is imperative to hold the masses together in an organization, when winning power, and also when building a state after gaining power, and continuing the revolution, after the establishment of a communist society, by drawing on successes gained in building this society. As revolution knows no bounds, the unification of the masses behind an organization has no end. This is the physiology of social development and a law, which all people aspiring to build a developed society should attach great importance to.
We are now exerting ourselves to rally the masses behind the organization, and will continue to do so, even after building a communist society. Furthermore, we will build an eternally prosperous and independent society on this land and make our motherland and system an impregnable fortress, by drawing on the efforts of the organized popular masses.
When the Japanese imperialists, deceiving the world through the so-called “policy of good-neighbourliness between Japan and the Soviet Union” of the early 1940s, clamoured that the Korean communists were “fighting alone” to subdue our struggle, and when Hitlerite Germany talked about the “tragic termination” of communists, as they swept away everything on their way toward Moscow, I gained strength and confidence from the memory of the watermills in Wangqing and Changbai.
In the grim days of the war against the
When frequenting the villages in Changbai, I could clearly detect through the watermills the unqualified love of the people for us, their impregnable support for us and unchanging faith, even in the face of death.
During a temporary retreat, I once walked
with Mr. Ri Kuk Ro along
The traditions of support for the army and the unity of the army and the people established during the anti-Japanese armed struggle became more indestructible and was consolidated even more in the great Fatherland Liberation War. The victory of our young Republic in the fight against the “strongest power” on the globe should be attributed to the fact that we enlisted the entire people and relied on the unity of the army and the people, whereas the enemy imposed mostly pure military force.
These grand traditions are being advanced honourably today under the guidance of our Party.
Today, the campaign of “our village—our post” and “our post—our village”, whereby the people help the soldiers and vice versa, is conducted briskly at every comer of our country.
This campaign has been popularized at a rapid rate in factories, enterprises, agricultural farms, residential quarters and schools across the country, in particular ever since Comrade Kim Jong Il was acclaimed the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army.
Such a relationship between the army and
the people is a source of great pride for
I regard single-hearted unity and unity between the army and the people as the greatest success achieved in the Korean revolution.
My ears still ring with the sound of the
watermills I heard during the great anti-Japanese war. With that sound, the faces
of a great number of Changbai people appear in my mind’s eye. How many of them
died on the gallows and behind bars! How many of them froze to death or laid
down their lives on the snow-capped
I take off my hat to them and my heart swells with gratitude when I remember their boon and virtue.
Soon after arrival in the
The Changbai area around
As soon as we reached west Jiandao I sent off a small unit. I emphasized over and over again to the company commander Ri Tong Hak, “Your main task is to discover talent. Discover reliable assistants, even if it means combing the Changbai area. Attacking the enemy is of secondary importance. Exert your main efforts to discovering talent, and attack the enemy, when the odds are in your favour or else avoid it.”
Ri Tong Hak carried out this task admirably. He returned to the secret camp with Ri Je Sun. Ri Tong Hak looked very frivolous, but was in fact very meticulous. He was a peculiar man. He talked so fast that whoever listened to him for the first time ended up feeling dizzy. He always kept his men moving by his fast speech. Consequently his colleagues nicknamed him Pottaji, apparently after the word Poktakjil (pestering—Tr.).
During a round of Changbai area with his company, he met a young village head, who was guiding the morning exercise of young people and children on the plateau of Ershidaogou. The village head was Ri Je Sun and the village was Xinxingcun. Ri Je Sun was village head and concurrently teacher of the night school. The Xinxingcun people, both old and young, or women, called their village head “our teacher” with special affection.
To test his personality, Ri Tong Hak asked him to provide two or three days’ rations for the company. The village head gathered in an instant provisions in too great quantities for the whole company to carry, and volunteered to bring them to the secret camp in person. His working skill was so admirable and he was so broad-minded that Tong Hak was immediately won over by this strange village head. He wanted to introduce him directly to Headquarters, even though he might be criticized later for rashness. So when he volunteered to carry the provisions, he readily complied with the request.
As complications could have arisen, if the enemy learned that the village head voluntarily led his villagers as they carried provisions, Tong Hak’s men bound him with a rope and pretended to be escorting a dangerous criminal.
Three days later the company carrying food from Xinxingcun arrived at the secret camp. When Tong Hak tried to send all the people back about 10 kilometres from the camp, Je Sun begged him to take him to the camp.
Tong Hak tried to check him out by making a perplexed face intentionally and saying, “It’s difficult. How can we be bold enough to take you into the secret base?”
Je Sun hit upon a bright idea, grabbed him by the arm and suggested:
“What about giving me a test? For example, you can set me a task, which even demands the sacrifice of my life.”
Tong Hak accepted his offer; he instructed him to make five pairs of knee-high Korean socks and five pairs of leggings in three days and come back. He promised that he would take him to the camp if he returned on time with those socks and leggings and that if he failed to appear on time or came empty-handed, he would be rejected.
Je Sun returned to Xinxingcun, saying that it was an easy job and he would pass the test without difficulty. He got his wife and her mother to tear the only quilt his wife had brought with her, when she had married him, and make five pairs of socks and five pairs of leggings in one night before appearing at the meeting place.
Only then Tong Hak embraced Je Sun and introduced himself by saying that his nickname was Pottaji, kindly talking about his birthplace, before adding, “After all, I made you tear your quilt to pieces.”
Je Sun passed the test, so to speak.
On my return after a round of the area
“He is clever and upright; moreover, he seems to be a man of passion, with a high zeal for the revolution. He is so sociable that he made friends with all our men within a few days. He is a man of public character.”
If his opinion was not exaggerated, the general judgement of the Xinxingcun village head was favourable.
Ri Je Sun was as pretty as a woman. His smiling eyes were impressive. He looked very gentle and fragile, but was in fact an iron-willed, intelligent man with steel-strong principles, rock-solid faith and cool head.
Bom to a poor peasant family, he had undergone many hardships since his childhood. He had been granted no access to education; he had weeded others’ fields for hire with his mother and had since the age of ten worked as a servant for a landlord in a neighbouring village. One evening when he was 11, his mother had come unexpectedly to see him as he was making straw sandals in his room. Although he longed to see her, he did not raise his head, when his mother came in and sat on the mat. When she asked what the matter was, he merely continued making straw sandals without bothering to answer. The pitiable mother left the room without hearing a word from her beloved son. Only then Je Sun stopped his work and followed his mother. He said in tears, “Mother, please don’t come any more. If you come here, the landlord’s family despise you, as if you were here to get something from them.”
Knowing her son’s mind, she hugged him and sank to the road, weeping sorrowfully. She promised that she would not come again, even though she wanted to see him.
He did not receive a regular education, but he acquired a knowledge of secondary education through his own efforts; he was such an earnest worker. After working as a servant until the age of 14, he attended a night school for some years and learned Korean letters from his elder brother; on getting married, he took with him the dictionary of Chinese characters to learn them by himself. Regarding it as a lifelong grudge to have failed to receive a school education, he opened, on moving to Xinxingcun, a night school for the children of slash-and-bum peasants and committed himself to enlightening others.
In his native village he had led an organizational life for some years in the Children’s Association and youth league. After his elder brother’s imprisonment, the Japanese police kept watch on him. Feeling personal danger, owing to the incessant persecution and oppression, he moved in the early 1932 to Kapsan where his wife’s family lived. Around that time such progressive people as Pak Tal had been involved actively in patriotic enlightenment in this area. Ri Je Sun organized with them a secret reading circle in Ophungdong and buckled down to studying a new trend of thought.
The circle members had been fully prepared to lay down their lives without hesitation in the righteous struggle for rescuing the country and the nation, but had been fretful, as they did not know how to fight. They had tried to establish contacts with people in every comer in search of an impeccable path of struggle and a renowned leader. They had met people, who had been affiliated with labour unions and peasant unions and some ideologists roaming about mountains, but they lacked a clear-cut line and tactics of struggle.
Ri Je Sun began following the activities of
the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. Since around 1934, it had been
rumoured in the homeland that this army unit was advancing to Changbai area. He
had given up his original idea of moving to Hunchun and come to Qiangede in
Pochonbo was not far away from Xinxingcun
in a straight line. In Xinxingcun one could see
However, administrative oppression and
poverty shadowed the immigrants. Overburdened by farm rent, compulsory labour
and miscellaneous taxes, the miserable slash-and-bum peasants did not enjoy a
moment of respite to stretch out and gaze up at the sky. The landlords forced
the tenants to offer them bribes on holidays and collect firewood for them. To
make matters worse, the policemen in Karim-ri and Chon-su-ri in
Not a single family in Xinxingcun, which had 60 households, had an ox. How hard they had to toil! They all pulled the ploughs to till the land. One day a young couple was ploughing in spring. They ploughed the field all day without an ox. At first the wife took the handle, while the man drew the plough instead of an ox. Then she drew the plough, but the plough stuck in the land and did not move an inch. The man shouted “Gee up!”, as he had done when ploughing the land with an ox in his native village. Thinking that the man was treating her as a draught animal, the wife threw herself on the field and cried sadly, out of indignation. The man let go of the handle and plumped down beside her, saying lamentably, “Excuse me for the slip of tongue. When will this miserable life come to an end?”
These circumstances in Xinxingcun served as the basis, which facilitated the peasants’ ability to attain national and class consciousness.
Most of the villagers were impoverished
peasants, who had emigrated from North and
In his days in the homeland Kim Pyong Chol had always told his comrades that a route, which would enable them to receive the guidance of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, should be opened, so that the peasant union could achieve success in its struggle and that the struggle in the homeland could not be victorious without guidance from the revolutionary army. It goes without saying that his opinion was supported by many of his comrades. But some of them slighted his opinion, saying that it was impossible to establish contact with the revolutionary army. Determined that he would find guerrillas on his own, he had moved without hesitation to Xinxingcun, where his friends had been active. He was a standard-bearer and fighter, who had realized before any of the other fighters in the homeland, the indivisibility of the armed struggle conducted overseas and political struggle in the homeland and the need for their integration, and had materialized it in a positive way, free of empty talk and had, after establishing a relationship with the revolutionary army, laid down his life, as he carried out our line.
Such Korean patriots as Ri Ju Gwan and Ri
Ju Ik formed in Chang-bai area the Red Peasant Union of Koreans in
I was told that prior to our establishment of the organizations of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland in the Changbai area, the Red peasant union had provided leadership for the mass struggle conducted in Xinxingcun and its vicinity.
In a word, Ri Je Sun could be said to be as white as snow. His career was relatively simple. This provided striking evidence that he had not been tainted by the erroneous views and fighting methods of the self-styled campaigners and factionalists. We treasured the simplicity of his career. An idea or a theory implanted in an unstained brain will not become muddled.
According to Ri Je Sun, quite a few interesting points in the philosophy of life had been learned during the anti-Japanese patriotic struggle. He said that the hardest job for a man was the role of pioneer or leader. In other words, it was the toughest job, as you had to perform two or three tasks, while others were doing one and take two or three steps, while others were taking one.
In fact, his words contained a profound truth, reflecting the painful position of a revolutionary, who treads a thorny path of leading social transformation.
“It must be overtaxing you to farm and perform the duties of a village head, while working for the revolution,” I said.
Ri replied, smiling, “Yes, indeed. But it gives me pleasure. What would be the pleasure of living in these grim days, if we didn’t take the trouble of working for the revolution?”
He said that he found it extremely interesting to work among the masses and that he took the greatest pleasure in gaining comrades. When I asked, which section of the masses was the hardest to win over, he answered that it was the old people. He went on to say that if he had a large playground or public hall, it would not be a great problem to enlighten a village and even transform a sub-county in revolutionary fashion. I expressed my full agreement with his view on the masses and work with the masses.
One interesting experience in his enlightening of the masses involved the running of a “family night school”. Such a night school is run with a family as a unit. He opened such a school in his family and involved all his family members. All the family attended the school every night and Ri Je Sun took to educating his wife and younger brothers. Thanks to that school, every one of his family became literate.
While talking about his work among the masses, I asked him about the other ten-household heads, who had come to the camp with provisions.
He told me that all of them were good people and that the stepson of landlord Chon was problematic. The young man had mistaken the revolutionary army as “bandits” and therefore been uneasy since his first day in the camp, afraid that the guerrillas might kill him, he told me.
I asked him in a casual manner, “Let’s say that the company commander Ri Tong Hak brought him to raise funds. How do you think we should deal with him?”
Ri Je Sun, as if he had been expecting such a question, expressed his innermost thought without hesitation, “I believe that the guerrillas will not harm him. He is a landlord’s stepson in name only, and is actually a pitiable young man, who is no more than a servant. He is not guilty of any particular crime.”
I could not suppress my admiration for his generosity and way of thinking, as he viewed the matter in a magnanimous way, from the standpoint of a united front.
In fact his view on the stepson coincided with our view. Ri Tong Hak educated the young man in various ways and corrected his understanding of us. In the long run, the young man volunteered to join the guerrillas. We admitted him to the revolutionary army, as he had wanted. During the battle of Ershidaogou he acted as a guide. The man Ri Je Sun had shown great confidence in was killed in action in a battle, to our deep regret.
All things considered, Ri Je Sun was a man of distinctive character, who was charming to all about him. He was the very man to transform Changbai area in a revolutionary way. Once taught the necessary knowledge and methods, he could become a skilful underground worker in the future. I decided to entrust him with the task of setting up organizations of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland in Changbai area.
But he was eager to join the guerrillas.
Saying that he had made some preparations to join the army while I had been away for fighting, he begged me to put him through the admission test.
I could not help laughing at the word “admission test”.
“There’s no need. As Pottaji took you here after a test, you are as good as qualified for joining the army. We will admit you any time, if you so wish. But I believe that you will render a greater contribution to our revolution by doing another job.”
“You say another job? What can that be?” He was puzzled.
“Rather than taking part in battle as a rifleman, you can form a big organization and help the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army defeat the Japanese army. What do you think?”
“You mean that I should form an organization?” His curiosity was evident.
“Sure. Organizations of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland in every place on the Amnok, including Xinxingcun.”
I stressed the importance and urgency of organizing the masses from all strata into the anti-Japanese national united front.
An intelligent man, Ri Je Sun said that he was keen to work in the underground organization, but felt he was incompetent and doubted that he was equal to such a difficult job.
“There’s no need to worry. You can leam. There’s no born revolutionary. Anyone can become a revolutionary, if he is determined to engage himself in the revolution, learn gradually in the practical struggle and accumulate experience. We will teach you how.”
We gave him a short course. The subject of the short course was the line, character, strategy and tactics of the Korean revolution; here I gave the lectures. The lectures on the Ten-point Programme, Inaugural Declaration, and Rules of the ARF and the history of the International were given by Ri Tong Baek. As far as I remember, this was the first and last time during the entire anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle that several competent lecturers had taught the one and only student by turns in such a substantial manner.
On leaving the secret camp after the short course, Ri Je Sun said earnestly, “I came here with one mal of grain and now return with several mal of revolutionary pabulum. I will not forget your favour for my life. Now please give me an assignment. If you entrust me with a district, I will form the organization of the ARF in every village of the Koreans in that district.”
We decided to entrust him with Shanggangqu
Before leaving, he asked me to write a letter of credence for him. He said that he would be able to rally a great number of masses around the ARF and further perform his work with considerable ease, if he had a letter of credence sealed by my stamp.
I wrote credentials and sealed my stamp under my signature.
Taking the credentials, Ri Je Sun promised that he would put the area entrusted to him under our influence within half a year. The fact that he was not making empty promises was testified by his results in later days.
That day he said, “I have a request to make. General, but I am afraid to do so. I will be happy in my whole life, if I try on a guerrilla uniform before leaving the camp.”
“That will not be difficult. Please try it on.”
I readily complied with his request. I thought about the sheer earnestness of his wish to join the army, given such a request. He cherished a wish to join the army, while displaying determination to devote his all to independence on the underground front. The desire to wear a military uniform and participate in the great anti-Japanese war could be judged in effect as the highest expression of patriotism when Japan, having occupied Manchuria, was heading madly for a new world war with ambitions of swallowing up the whole of China, as well as all Asia.
I ordered Ri Tong Hak to bring a uniform from the warehouse, so that Je Sun could try it on. Ri Je Sun looked perfect in the uniform. The uniform was brought, after guessing his size; it fitted him well.
“You seem to be born to wear a military uniform. Comrade Je Sun. You look smart in the uniform. As you have tried on the uniform, let’s say you have been admitted to the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. From now on you are a political operative of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. Congratulations on your enlistment!”
I approached him and squeezed his hands. Ri Tong Hak congratulated him most warmly. He lifted on his back the village head, who was beside himself in the uniform, and circled round me.
In this way Ri Je Sun, who had come to our camp carrying provisions, joined our army.
When sending him back to his home, we fought a small battle for his safe return. This task was carried out by a small unit led by Ri Tong Hak.
The operation for his return, which made a
fool of the enemy, was interesting. As we had instructed, he went straight to
the police sub-station in Ershidaogou on his way back from the mountain. There
he grumbled to the police without any preliminaries, “I can’t work as a village
head any longer. You merely know how to make village heads work, but you don’t
know how to protect them. You might have known that I was captured, and yet you
didn’t take any measures to rescue me. I am so scared that I will have to cross
The policemen were at a loss. They implored him to stop saying such things and said that they were never at ease because of him and that they could not do anything, because they had not been aware of his whereabouts. They asked him to calm down and tell them where he had been detained and how he had escaped.
Ri Je Sun said that the guerrillas always took him with his eyes bandaged, and that he only knew of the place he had escaped from at dawn, but not the place he had been detained at. He explained that he had taken flight, while his guard was dozing off during a break.
The police asked how many guerrillas there were and where he had escaped and requested that he guide them to the place.
Our plan worked. The police’s “punitive”
force came to the valley Ri Je Sun indicated, only to end up as a mouse in a
trap. The enemy inevitably trusted him. Making effective use of that trust, he,
along with Kim Pyong Chol, Ri Ju Gwan and Ri Sam Dok, formed that autumn Xinxingcun
chapter of the ARF. This was the first organization formed at the southwestern
He handed over the post of village head to
Ri Sam Dok and, from then on set about expanding the organizational network, in
cooperation with Kwon Yong By ok, concentrating on Shanggangqu area in
Within less than half a year, he had
covered the whole of Shanggangqu with a close network of underground
organizations. The organizations of the ARF were set up in nearly all the
villages surrounding Paektusan Secret Camp. These organizations gained the
support of progressive youth, students, intellectuals and religious men and
struck roots further in the government organs of
The ARF was surrounded by mass organizations, involving people from all strata. The peripheral organizations of the ARF embraced tens of thousands of people. Every chapter of the ARF maintained a paramilitary corps, a powerful force capable of fighting in cooperation with the People’s Revolutionary Army, when necessary.
The ARF organizations in Changbai area
expanded so rapidly, that by early 1937 when we set up the Changbai County
Committee of the ARF and appointed Ri Je Sun its chairman, the whole area of
Almost all the villages in Changbai became “our villages” and nearly all the people there, “our people”. Nearly all the district and village heads in Changbai were “our people”. They ran for the enemy in name only; they worked for us in actual deed.
Sub-county head, Ri Ju Ik, was one of them. When we sent an advance party to Changbai prior to our launching into Paektu area, Ri Ju Ik came under the influence of Kim Ju Hyon and became a special member of the ARF.
He opened a chemist’s shop at Ouledong and practised medicine, while working as sub-county head. Making tactful use of his posts, he provided substantial support for our work.
Ri Je Sun had already kept watchful eyes on the man, since he was arrested for involvement in the struggle against an irrigation association in the homeland. Ri Ju Ik loyally followed the guidance of Ri Je Sun and carried out his instructions and requests wholeheartedly.
In those days, if our political operatives went to the homeland or settled in the villages on the Chinese shore of the Amnok to work in safety, they needed a certificate to cross the river or a resident’s card. Without a resident’s card, they could not settle down in dispatched places or freely cross the Amnok, which was guarded by customs police, without the certificate.
The card and certificate were issued by the police under the endorsement of sub-county heads. The police stations only issued them to people registered on the census records submitted by the sub-county heads.
To ensure the safe and free activities of
our political operatives, Je Sun and Ju Ik decided to make many “bogus
residents” in Ershisidao-gou, the last valley on the way to
Ri Ju Ik registered on the census list the assumed names of our political operatives, active in Changbai area and the homeland; then, he visited the police station carrying with him the census list and fussed, “The rustic poor are all ignorant; they don’t know anything other than their own. As they don’t go outside of that valley round the year, they are not aware of the world situation and even don’t know that they can only continue their existence, when they have a resident’s card. What can we do other than bring them the cards? I might be dog tired but it’s no use complaining. It’s not easy to be a sub-county head.”
The police echoed his words, saying that it was a serious problem, that the people were ignoramuses. They issued many resident’s cards to the sub-county and village heads, in accordance with the census of “bogus residents”. Ri Je Sun always had plenty of spare cards obtained by Ju Ik. Our political operatives got them at any time and based themselves easily in strange places or crossed the border without difficulty.
Following the rapid expansion of the ARF network and the widening of the sphere of their work, we dispatched 30 political operatives at one time to expand the revolutionary movement deep into the homeland, by consolidating the newly-formed organizations, using them as a stepping-stone.
Pak Rok Kum (Pak Yong Hui), the first commander of the women’s company of the guerrilla army, and two boy operatives were dispatched to Xinxingcun. Instructed by Ri Je Sun to perform the necessary formalities for their residence, Ri Ju Ik registered them on the census list under assumed names.
Ri Hun, who was a district head in Diyangxi, Shijiudaogou, joined the ARF under the influence of Ri Je Sun. On returning from the secret camp after seeing me, Je Sun soon went to see Ri Hun; he explained the Ten-point Programme of the ARF and instructed him to influence reliable young people and make preparations for admitting them to organizations, as this was the wish of General Kim.
The first man Ri Hun introduced to Ri Je
Sun on receiving the assignment was An Tok Hun, who had moved to Desancun,
Shijiudaogou, after participating in the peasant union movement in Yonghung
When operating on
“You picked the right man. General. They say that Changbai is wide, but I have yet to see a man as clever and loyal as Je Sun. To see him busy with revolutionary work away from home, oblivious of happy newly-wedded life, I take off my hat to him despite myself. Thanks to him I have become your man.”
When our Headquarters were situated on the
mountain overlooking Diyangxi, Shijiudaogou,
Such patriotic sub-county, district and village heads could be found everywhere in Changbai.
The fact that Changbai became our world and its inhabitants our people constituted a tremendous success, achieved by the Korean communists in carrying out the strategic tasks of building bases in Mt. Paektu.
Thanks to faithful, daring and enthusiastic
revolutionaries like Ri Je Sun, we managed to turn Changbai and the areas
surrounding it completely into our own world in less than half a year, since
basing ourselves on
Ri Je Sun was a true son and faithful
servant of the people, born in the flames of the anti-Japanese revolution and
admirable patriot and communist of
He was an experienced and seasoned revolutionary, fully equipped with the traits and qualifications befitting an underground worker.
like 0 Jung
After moving to Xinxingcun he also involved his wife and her mother in revolutionary work.
Under his meticulous assistance and love, his wife Choe Chae Ryon grew to become chairwoman of Xinxingcun Women’s Association affiliated with the ARF. His influence rapidly awakened her ideological consciousness. She was full of emotional feelings and also had a keen political sense. These merits enabled her to acquire the method of revolution instantly and adhere to revolutionary principles.
Ri Je Sun was very affectionate towards his wife, but was strict with her. Tenderhearted as he was, cracking jokes and humourous remarks in usual days, he would make a clear distinction between public and private matters in underground work and did not let out any of secrets.
Once the wife of a policeman surnamed Ri rushed to Choe Chae Ryon and said, “Oh, my dear! What do you do after taking three meals a day? Do you know what’s happening in the village inn?”
Choe Chae Ryon looked at her doubtfully and said.
“I don’t know. How can I know about anything happening in the inn?”
“Oh, how blind you are! Your man is having a good time with other women there every night and you....”
She stopped here and slipped away.
That night Choe went to the inn. She opened the door and stole a look, only to find that the inn was full of strange women and men as Ri’s wife had said. In the middle she could see her husband and the policeman Ri. But it seemed there was none of the “good times” Ri’s wife had mentioned. She realized that a certain secret meeting was taking place, chaired by her husband, in this spacious inn, which attracted less attention of the police. Apparently the policeman Ri was a member of the secret organization.
“Then why on earth did she say they are having a good time? She probably misunderstood the secret meetings as a ‘good time’ only out of jealousy,” she thought and closed the door of the inn in haste, with a feeling of relief.
But she could not dodge her husband’s sharp eye. He gave her a hard time the whole night. Under the barrage of rebukes she realized keenly that she had made a great blunder on the instigation of another woman, that unfounded mistrust and jealousy would impair the harmony of the family and worse still destroy the family itself, and that trust was the basic foundation for the consolidation of conjugal relationship.
Although he resorted to all sorts of hard words against his wife that night, Ri Je Sun did not say a word about what he and others had been doing in the inn to prove his innocence. He had such a thoroughgoing concept of secrets. We had not established a written code of conduct for the revolutionaries in general and, in particular, for the underground operatives and activists of underground organizations; however, Ri Je Sun had in mind a law he had stipulated and observed on his own.
When fighting in Changbai area, I visited his house on one or two occasions. At one time I ate noodle made of frozen potato and slept there. Whenever I went to his house, he would hang a blind between the room and kitchen, which had not been partitioned, lest his wife should see me. So she did not realize that I was Kim Il Sung, even though she brought a table laden with dishes to me at mealtime.
On learning later through Pak Rok Kum who I was, she protested to her husband in tears.
“You always say that one should trust others and you didn’t tell me he is General Kim Il Sung. What sort of propriety is that?”
“I could not tell the secret to any one. I did this for the sake of his personal security. Though regretful, please be broad in understanding.”
This was just Ri Je Sun’s type of law.
The tough character and thoroughgoing principle he demonstrated exerted a good influence on the development of her personality and the formation of her outlook on the world. On returning after meeting me at the Paektusan Secret Camp, he made this request to her.
“Many guests may visit my house from now on. Please prepare a great deal of potatoes, starch, barley, bean paste and firewood. You will have to take a lot of trouble in the future.”
Choe Chae Ryon took great trouble indeed to attend to the guerrillas and underground operatives. She hulled grain everyday. She hulled so much grain that the mortar of the mill Ri Je Sun had made personally might have been worn down.
While transforming his family in a revolutionary manner, he also made his village into a revolutionary one. With Kwon Yong Byok, he formed a special Party branch in Xinxingcun. Following its formation, a large number of ARF members in Changbai area joined the Party’s ranks. Xinxingcun could be called a leading village in rallying the people to organizations and supporting the guerrillas.
When they were informed of the approach of the guerrillas, the villagers of Xinxingcun baked above all perilla used to press cooking oil. They stringently economized on provisions to prepare provisions for the guerrillas. Potato, the staple product in this village, was unhandy to carry and was of little value in use. So they processed it into starch before sending it to our secret camps.
The women in Xinxingcun did not send us bean paste raw; first of all they processed it. They mixed wheat flour with bean paste, kneaded them into cakes and roasted them; these cakes were very convenient for carrying and use.
The people in Xinxingcun brought us tens of thousands of items of aid goods. They carried these supplies on their backs as far as our secret camps or bivouacs.
The Xinxingcun people were blessed with an excellent leader. Not only Ri Je Sun was a competent man; Kwon Yong By ok, Pak Rok Kum and Hwang Kum Ok gave him effective assistance.
On a visit to the village prior to the battle of Pochonbo, I was deeply moved by the villagers’ warm welcome to the revolutionary army and their powerful unity. As soon as we arrived, they set up four noodle-presses and prepared noodles for hundreds of men in a short time. The speed was really amazing. That day my comrades said that the village was attractive. All of the villagers were really attractive. I later learned that whenever we went to the village, Ri Je Sun would hold an extraordinary meeting beforehand and discuss how to welcome us.
His high organizational ability and flexibility can be illustrated by the following anecdote.
In spring 1937 the Changbai County
Committee of the ARF organized a demonstration to celebrate May Day in
Xinxingcun. To hold a lawful demonstration at broad daylight, attracting public
attention, they needed a justifiable scheme, lest the enemy find fault with
him. On the plea of hunting foxes, Ri Je Sun gathered the youth and children in
every village in the designated place. The demonstrators, holding a red flag,
formed a line and marched, shouting “Long live the independence of
That day the pedestrians on both shores of the Amnok halted and watched with delight the rare demonstration. Thinking that the revolutionary army was making an assault, the policemen and troops in the police station of Karimchon and the border garrison on the Korean side of the river did not dare enquire into the disturbance taking place on the ridge. Only after the demonstration was over and the demonstrators had been identified to be civilians did the enemy cross the river to Changbai and ask why crowds of people had flocked.
The demonstrators answered that they had been hunting foxes.
The police queried, “Why did you fly a red flag when hunting foxes?”
“The foxes are most afraid of red. So we flew a red flag.”
They deceived the police tactfully. Admittedly a red flag was needed for fox-hunting and the demonstration.
It was amazing that a crowd of hundreds of
people shouted for independence flying a red flag in daylight in 1937, when
the suppression of the Japanese imperialists was at its zenith. It was all the
more surprising that the army and police of both
After the attack on
From these two facts, we can see that he was a talented worker and indefatigable thinker with a methodology of his own for the revolution. He was second to none in racking his brains for the revolution and the duty entrusted to him by the times. If he had not continued such brain-racking without interruption, he would not have managed to achieve such a miracle and turn Changbai thoroughly into our world in such a short period of time.
Everybody knows that people who do not meditate, have no creative spirit and that there will be no creation and innovation without creativity. When considered in a strict way, one can claim that meditation made man the dominator of the world and a powerful being, who can do anything as long as he is determined. Man, a social being with consciousness, has transformed nature, society and himself and reigned over the world with dignity through uninterrupted meditation and accumulation of that meditation.
It is because we attach absolute importance to the role of meditation in transforming nature, society and man that our Party appeals to the cadres, Party members and working people to become zealous thinkers.
Ri Je Sun was a creative man, who fully linked meditation and practice. He did not stop meditating even in court and behind bars. His meditation in court was concentrated on how he could end his life as a communist.
The only thing I can do in court is to rescue comrades by pleading guilty for them—this was the determination he made when detained in the Hyesan police station. In fact, he managed to rescue many people by sacrificing himself. When Ri Ju Ik, the sub-county head, was arrested, he told him, “Only General Kim, you and I know our undertakings. The General is on the mountain and I will not utter anything, so there will be no trouble for you, if you stick it out.”
True to his word, Ri Ju Ik was released after a few days of suffering. As Ri Je Sun pleaded guilty of all “crimes”, Kim Pyong Chol, head of the Party organization in Xinxingcun, and Ri Ju Gwan managed to escape a death sentence. His self-sacrifice reflects the ennobling virtue of Ri Je Sun, a communist.
On learning from Kwon Yong Byok in prison that Jang Jung Ryol had betrayed the cause, he grew anxious that his betrayal might bring about the further sacrifice of stalwart comrades. He wanted to inform his comrades of Jang’s betrayal at the earliest possible date, but he did not even have a pencil-butt. At his wit’s end, he bit his lower lip with his teeth and, wetting a fingertip with every drop of blood flowing from his lip, wrote on a piece of cloth, “Jang Jung Ryol betrayed us.” When he was led to the torture chamber, he dropped it in another cell. Consequently, many of his comrades could realize Jang’s true nature and fought more effectively in prison.
I regret that I cannot recount here all the moving anecdotes of his struggle for seven years behind bars.
When Choe Chae Ryon visited him, she found that his face was no longer the handsome, elastic one she had known in the past, when he had been running about to form ARF organizations. His original image was gone and he was all skin and bone. Nevertheless, he was smiling calmly as he saw her through the bars. When parting, he requested her in a happy-go-lucky way to bring a world map instead of food. Choe Chae Ryon spoke later of how she had been perplexed by this uncommon order.
In my opinion, his request for a world map reflected his wish to try to imagine on the map in his own way a new world structure after the Second World War and a new, liberated motherland, which would be bom out of the war and shed bright light all over the world. This is patent proof that he did not abandon himself to despair and despondency, even after being sentenced to death, that he was picturing endlessly in his mind the radiant future of his country and the bright future of the world. He lived in the future, though his body was in the present, and imagined, even at the point of death, a new, happy life to be born in the liberated motherland. Consequently he declared with dignity that “communism is an eternal youth” to the judges, who had advised him to turn coat.
In the early 1945 Choe Chae Ryon took her
youngest daughter to Sodaemun prison in
“That’s your daddy,” her mother said to her, pointing to the man.
The father and his daughter looked at each other with bars between them, but she failed to say, “Daddy!”
How can one expect her to call him “Daddy!” with no hesitation, when she had lived for eight years without seeing her father! She had seen many fathers of her neighbours caressing their children. But she found her father extraordinary, as he was only smiling on the other side of the bars, instead of embracing her.
Only when his hands in cuffs fondled her head, making a clinking noise, did she utter, “Daddy!” Feeling a lump in his throat, Ri Je Sun made the impossible promise that he “would come home soon.” It is not difficult to imagine how painful it must have been for him to make such an infeasible promise to his daughter, who was seeing her daddy for the first time in her life. Needless to say, he could not keep that promise.
On March 10, 1945 the enemy called him into the interrogation room and tried to persuade him to convert his faith, saying that they would repeal his sentence in that case, as it was the day of the Imperial Army of Japan. Nevertheless, Ri Je Sun did not give way to any appeasement and torture.
Ri Je Sun, who had taught at night school and worked as the head of a remote mountain village in Changbai, was an ardent patriot and indefatigable revolutionary fighter, as he laid down the prime of his life to the anti-Japanese revolution.
A man is not born a revolutionary; he grows into a revolutionary and a fighter in life and struggle. It is the truth of the revolution and lesson of history that, although the process of growing into a revolutionary may differ from man to man, every one with a sound ideology and burning patriotism can become a revolutionary if he is under correct leadership. This is the reason why we attach primary importance to the ideological in the three revolutions—ideological, technical and cultural. This ideological revolution is a cradle, which trains people into ardent patriots and iron-willed revolutionary fighters by awakening their consciousness and organizing them, as well as the motive power, which propels the cause of independence of the popular masses and revolutionary struggle.
When he came to our secret camp—it was his third or fourth visit—1 highly praised him for his efforts to build ARF organizations. He only waved his hand with an awkward face.
“Don’t mention it. It owes nothing to my skill