KIM IL SUNG
With the Century
THE ANTI-JAPANESE REVOLUTION
The great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung devoted his whole life solely to the motherland and to his people, and to the revolutionary cause of the working class, bearing the destinies of the country and nation on his shoulders, since he embarked on the revolutionary struggle in his early years.
Kim Jong Il
The meeting at Xiaohaerbaling was a historic conference that adopted a new strategic policy of hastening the ultimate victory of the anti-Japanese revolution and making full preparations to take the initiative to greet the momentous occasion of national liberation.
This conference was the culmination of the unremitting efforts and unquenchable enthusiasm the great leader Comrade
Kim Il Sung had devoted to
overcoming difficulties in the national liberation struggle and the communist
Here, we recollect what the great leader said on many occasions about the preparations for and the proceedings of the conference.
After destroying the “Maeda punitive force” at Hongqihe, we gathered in
In order to consolidate the successes we had achieved on the long march and open up a new phase in the revolutionary struggle, we had to do much more work and tread still further along a thorny path. So I stressed, “The basic factor in our success on the long march lay in our political and ideological superiority and our tactics of guerrilla warfare. This is the core significance of our march of 50,000 miles. The present situation is more threatening than ever. Let us apply a variety of guerrilla tactics and techniques with the utmost efficiency in keeping with the prevailing situation and terrain conditions. We must go deep among the people and step up political work among them. We must be resolved to make a longer march than we have already made for the ultimate triumph of the revolution. Let us keep the revolutionary flag flying with a strong determination and unshakable confidence in the victory of the revolution. In future, too, as in the past, we must take the initiative and strike the enemy hard.”
In the spring of 1940, the “Nozoe Punitive Command” was mounting an even more frantic offensive against the KPRA than ever before, deploying more troops and planning “punitive” operations down to every last detail to destroy the revolutionary army.
Nevertheless, we were determined to take the initiative. We had pressed upon the enemy always with the initiative in our own hands, and we were set on maintaining the initiative no matter what changes took place in the situation.
What did we rely on in our determination to maintain the initiative? Our mental power and tactics. In terms of manpower reserves and weapons and equipment, we were inferior to the enemy, but we were far superior in terms of mental power and tactics. The point in question was which side had the advantage in tactics; and we had it.
Until we moved into the
Although we emphasized
the initiative, our situation was extremely unfavourable. Suspecting that his
forces in eastern
What was to be done to counter the enemy’s attempt at stepped-up “punitive” operations?
The enemy’s initial,
large-scale “punitive” operations, staged in the name of the “special clean-up
campaign for maintaining public peace in the southeastern area”, had been
foiled by our large-unit circling operations. How should the enemy’s more
frenzied and more tenacious new offensive be thwarted? Should we repeat the
large-unit circling operations because these had been effective? Or should we
adopt some other tactics? The flames of war unleashed by
We were faced with the challenge of working out tactical measures to defeat the enemy’s “punitive” operations now under way, and also evolving a new strategic line capable of coping with the rapidly-changing situation.
I got down to working out a tactical scheme for overcoming the difficulty that had been created after the Battle of Hongqihe, and also decided to elaborate a new strategic plan.
At that time the enemy had massed all his forces in mountainous areas. The only way to take the initiative in these circumstances was to disperse our forces and slip away into the foothills.
Because the enemy forces were massed in mountainous areas, leaving walled towns and internment villages to be guarded by police forces and Self-defence Corps units, it would be most advantageous for us to harass the enemy behind his lines and compel him to disperse his “punitive” forces.
On the basis of this tactical calculation, the
main force of the KPRA slipped away from the secret camp at Hualazi in
mid-April 1940, and launched a final campaign to smash the enemy’s “special
clean-up campaign”. We first made simultaneous raids on Dongnancha and
Yangcao-gou, large internment villages by the
The units that had been operating under the command of An Kil and Choe Hyon in the Yanji and Wangqing areas began to harass the enemy in these county centres in response to the movement of the main force.
We fired on several villages, but the enemy showed no tangible reaction.
It was necessary to tempt the enemy with bigger bait to make him disperse his forces. We launched a simultaneous attack on three villages to the east of the Antu County town—Nanerdaogou, Beierdaogou and Xinchengtun.
This time the enemy took
the bait. The units of the Kwantung Army, which had been staying put on the
southern border of Antu and
Our efforts to lure the
enemy forces into the heart of
At that time Kim 11’s
8th Regiment was on a mission to advance into the homeland. I ordered the 8th
Regiment to move slowly to the border area, in dispersed formation, and moved
the 7th Regiment and the Guard Company to the northern part of
Kim Il, in command of a
small unit, infiltrated the homeland. He moved to
The daring combat action
of the small unit of the KPRA and its audacious political work among the people
in the homeland at a time when Governor-General Minami was ordering the border
guards to prevent the intrusion of even a single guerrilla into
In support of the
successful advance into the homeland, we intensified strikes on the
Thus, the new “punitive” operations of the “Nozoe Command” suffered heavily at the outset. His “Punitive Command” had its subordinates —the “area punitive force” and “small-area punitive force”— on the carpet almost every day, and the subordinates were swift to clamour that the blame lay with their neighbouring units. Nozoe was busy constantly issuing new guidelines for the “punitive” operations.
When we were making preparations for new
operations, Han In Hwa came to us from southern
We decided to boost their morale through joint operations with them.
In June the same year we attacked Dongjingping and Shangdadong, only to find that Dongjingping was in a defenceless state. Its defence had been neglected because it had been raided only ten days before, and the enemy thought that we would not attack it again so soon. In the subsequent days, we launched simultaneous attacks on a few other villages.
On the day following
the raid on the lumber mill at Gudonghe, we had a sumptuous feast with the
comrades from southern
When he had drunk a few cups of liquor, Han In Hwa squeezed my hand,
saying, “Commander Kim, I now understand why Wei Zheng-min sent me to you. The
situation in Jiandao is much more threatening than in southern
He had got so strong an impression from our operations that he exclaimed that the 2nd Directional Army was Number One, and that Commander Kim’s army was invincible! He said he was now confident about the future of the struggle, and would go to visit Chen Han-zhang in Emu or in Dunhua and Zhou Bao-zhong in Ningan and then fight in high spirits.
The daring actions of the main force of the KPRA threw the Japanese completely off their balance.
While the enemy was on full alert throughout Jiandao to turn the tide of the unsuccessful “special clean-up campaign” in his favour, an unexpected incident took place in our ranks. Lu Bo-qi, political chief of the directional army, who had been receiving medical treatment in a secret camp near Damalugou, was captured by the enemy and forced to spill all the secrets of our unit.
We decided to cope with the difficulty caused by his capture and surrender by ceaselessly attacking and by adopting a variety of tactical changes.
In the first place, I made up my mind to divide my unit into a number of small units, and to regroup the directional army into many small units to fight an audacious and elusive war of attrition. The small units would be mobile in action, capable of slipping through the enemy’s tight network of outposts with ease and throwing him again into confusion.
The small units would be able to hide quickly even after they had been discovered by the enemy.
Therefore, we regrouped the directional army into many small units without delay, and started a war of attrition.
As you can see, we did not flinch from the Japanese offensive, but faced up to it and countered it.
What would have become of us if we had cowered in the face of the enemy’s massive offensive and avoided the enemy, looking for safe places? Needless to say, we would have suffered a heavy loss. We were able to triumph because we maintained the initiative and struck the enemy time and time again, throwing him into confusion.
Even the enemy admitted that the KPRA had been victorious in the spring and sum-flier campaigns in Juche 29 (1940).
bandits, who skillfully parried the spearhead of the spring and autumn punitive
offensives, have been operating in full swing everywhere on the strength of the
thriving season. Especially over the past few months, they have been audacious
enough to raid villages behind the second and third lines, inflicting heavy
losses upon us. This is a matter of great chagrin for us all. We have tens of
thousands of troops, namely, the Japanese and
We gained a lot of experience in the small-unit actions during the spring and summer operations in 1940. Previously, we had engaged mainly in large-unit operations, although the situation occasionally required small-unit actions.
During the summer of 1940, however, we frequently employed versatile tactics of continuous strikes, repeated strikes and simultaneous strikes by small units. In the course of this, we acquired new and valuable experience, learning that the more the enemy reinforces his strength and the tighter the network of encirclement, the smaller should be the combat units employed in guerrilla warfare. This helped greatly towards establishing the strategic task for the next stage and evolving the fighting methods to implement the task.
If I had not gained this experience, I would have been unable to propose the switch from large-unit operations to small-unit actions at the conference held at Xiaohaerbaling in August that year. Because we were experienced in this tactic and convinced of its advantage, we adopted small-unit actions as the major form of fighting in the first half of the 1940s, and in consequance, were able to maintain the initiative.
Some people think that we engaged in only large-unit operations in the years before that conference, and only small-unit actions after the meeting. But that is not true.
Guerrilla warfare is characterized by adapting the tactics to the prevailing military and political situations and other circumstances. Small-unit actions had been considered important and employed, when necessary, during the latter half of the 1930s, when large-unit operations were the main form of fighting.
The dispersed small-unit action that was prevalent in the experimental stage in the first half of 1940 was adopted by all the guerrilla units after the conference at Xiaohaerbaling.
What I have said above is the story of the events that took place after the large-unit circling operations. Today I have taken time to explain this because historians have said they felt there were many blanks in the study of this period.
If we view the conference at Xiaohaerbaling as a landmark, our activities in the spring and summer of 1940 may be regarded as preparations for the conference.
It was when the war that
had broken out in
imperialists were making frantic efforts to spread the flames of war to
Southeast Asia in order to realize their ambition of creating the “Greater
East Asia Coprosperity Sphere”, even though they were still engaged in
aggression on the mainland of
Their tenacious, large-scale “punitive” offensive I mentioned above, and their unprecedentedly brutal fascist oppression and plunder of our people were products of the furtherance of their aggressive policy.
We considered, however, that with the expansion of their aggressive war the Japanese imperialists would be further isolated at home and abroad and find themselves in a deeper political, economic and military predicament.
The general situation indicated that the downfall of Japanese imperialism was certain and imminent, and that the day of our national liberation, the historic cause of our people, was near at hand.
That was why I summed up the successes and experiences in the ten years of the anti-Japanese armed struggle, and evolved a new line of preserving and expanding our forces in order to deal with the great occasion of national liberation on our own initiative, in keeping with the rapidly-changing situation.
Making full preparations for the momentous occasion of national liberation was the logical requirement for the development of our revolution at that time.
The transition to a new strategic stage did not permit us to see only the change in the objective situation one-sidedly and follow it in a passive way, but required us to take the lead in the struggle at all times on the basis of the calculation of the motive force capable of speeding up the ultimate victory, as well as the analysis of the past course of the struggle.
I first went over the strategic tasks of the preceding stage to see whether they had been carried out.
I examined the strategic tasks that had been defined at the Nanhutou conference, and found none of them outstanding. I came to the conclusion that these tasks—the laying of the organizational and ideological foundations for Party building, the formation and expansion of the anti-Japanese national united front, the advance to the border area, and the extension of the armed struggle into the homeland—had all been carried out.
Another important matter that must not be overlooked in defining the strategic stage of armed struggle is the change in the balance of forces between friend and foe.
In terms of numerical strength, the enemy was far superior to us. In those days, they said that we were a “drop in the ocean”. In these circumstances common sense undermined the validity of the traditional military term “estimate of the balance of forces”.
Our estimate of the balance of forces was not arithmetical. I calculated that one of my men was a match for a hundred or even a thousand foes.
After the Nanhutou conference, the KPRA quickly developed politically, ideologically and militarily. This army, though smaller than the enemy in number, had always taken the initiative, and always tri umphed over the enemy that was scores of times or even a hundred times superior in terms of numerical strength. In the course of this, it had grown up into a strong army that had acquired the tactical and strategic skills capable of coping with whatever situation cropped up.
The KPRA was a special, new-type revolutionary army that carried out both military and political missions at the same time.
In retrospect, the armed struggle against the Japanese imperialists, the established leadership position of the KPRA in the overall Korean revolution and its increasing role as the hard-core force patently proved that we were absolutely correct in adhering to the principle of concentrating on the building of the revolutionary armed force by giving it priority over all other matters.
In general, in the struggle of the communists to seize power, the principle was to organize the party as the political leadership first and then build the revolutionary armed force.
However, in view of the decisive role of the revolutionary armed force and violence in the revolutionary struggle, in the national liberation struggle in the colonies in particular, and in consideration of the specific situation in our country, I chose the method of giving priority to building the armed force, and then building the party.
We organized the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army, the first revolutionary armed force, in April 1932 and developed it into the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. By relying on this army we not only ignited the armed struggle against the Japanese imperialists and led the overall national liberation struggle to a fresh upsurge, but also successfully pushed forward the laying of the organizational and ideological foundations for party building, the formation of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland (ARF), the development of the united-front movement and the preparations for all-out national resistance under the leadership of the KPRA and its armed support.
We can say that the KPRA, which played the role of the backbone and hard core during the revolutionary struggle against the Japanese imperialist aggressors, gave the struggle political leadership and provided an armed guarantee for the national interests, was, in fact, our Party and our government as well as our armed force.
All this meant that our own hard-core force capable of carrying out the tasks of the new strategic stage had been prepared.
Many successes had been achieved in awakening the popular masses to ideological awareness and organizing them to get them prepared politically and ideologically. In those days the membership of the ARF amounted to 200,000.
In the homeland there were many paramilitary organizations, such as workers’ shock brigades and production guerrillas. These organizations served as parent bodies for the formation of armed units for all-out national resistance.
The political climate among the unorganized masses also was very good.
Around that time Kim
11’s small unit was on a march towards the
Suddenly, they spied a lame peasant hobbling after them. The man warned the guerrillas not to cross the river at the point to which they were heading. He said that the area was crawling with the enemy.
Kim Il was not sure whether he should believe this man or not, because he was a stranger.
Seeing that the guerrillas were hesitating, the peasant produced a newspaper report of the battle in the Musan area in May 1939. The man was so proud of his countrymen’s feat that he had been carrying the clipping with him ever since. Kim Il decided to trust him.
The peasant said he would guide them, adding that although there were guards on the route, these people would help the revolutionary army.
The small unit crossed the river in safety that night, with the help of local villagers who had been forced to stand guard, who guided the guerrillas to a safe crossing.
The growing politico-ideological awareness of the people and their invariable support for the KPRA gave a strong impetus to the development of the armed struggle against the Japanese.
Changes in the enemy’s strategic aims are another question that has to be taken into consideration in defining the strategic stage of armed struggle.
In the summer of 1940,
we captured a Japanese engineer officer at a road construction site in
Huanggouling. Through interrogation we got to know that the enemy was
undertaking a large project to form a road network in the wide area of Jiandao
The progress of military
road construction was reported every day to Kwantung Army headquarters through
the “Nozoe Punitive Command”. The prisoner said that Commander Nozoe would soon
inspect the roads, which were being built to increase the mobility of the
“punitive” forces in the campaign against the KPRA. These roads would be used
by the enemy to mass forces in the theatre of our operations from various parts
In addition, many aeroplane landing-strips had been constructed around us. The prisoner said that more landing-strips would be constructed in the three provinces in the southeast on Nozoe’s top-secret orders. He revealed the locations of the landing-strips that he knew, saying that the aircraft would be attached to the “area punitive forces” and even “small-area punitive forces”.
If the prisoner’s statement was true, we would be as good as surrounded by the enemy’s landing-strips.
About that time, the “Nozoe Punitive Command” was going to be moved from
Our Headquarters continually received information from reconnaissance parties and other sources that enemy reinforcements were ceaselessly moving towards the theatre of our activities. It seemed that the enemy was seeking a final showdown before long at any cost.
It seemed impossible to deal with the rapid change in the enemy’s situation using the previous strategic measures. A drastic change in our strategy was imperative.
For this reason, I put forward the strategic task of preserving and increasing our revolutionary force through actions on our own initiative while avoiding losses from inadvertent combat, regarding this task as most important for the revolution.
The strategic policy of taking the initiative to greet the momentous occasion of national liberation was adopted at the conference held in Xiaohaerbaling in August 1940.
When we reached the border between Antu and
I explained to Ju Jae Il the purpose of calling the conference of military and political cadres in Xiaohaerbaling, and told him to summon company commanders, company political instructors and higher officers to the meeting. They were to arrive by August 9, or the 7th of the seventh month by the lunar calendar. An Kil and Choe Hyon, who were operating around Wangqing and Dongning, were to be informed of the results of the conference later, and the 13th and 14th Regiments were to send only their company delegates who were fighting not far from us. Since Ri Ryong Un and Im Chol were already with us, there was no need to notify the 15th Regiment.
The conference lasted two days, from the tenth to the eleventh of August.
The major issue at the conference was whether to define the next strategic stage as the period of a great revolutionary event, in other words, whether we could liberate the country in the next stage.
I said, in short, that we could. I explained that the Japanese army was crumbling, though it still was strong, that the outbreak of mutiny in the air corps of the Kwantung Army, its crack unit, foreboded its imminent collapse, that the enemy was hard pressed to stop his men deserting and surrendering time and again on the battlefield in China, that there was no need for further explanation, and that the day of Japan’s defeat was not far off.
Some time earlier,
During the period from the September 18 incident1 to the July
7 incident2, the Japanese army lost nearly 200,000 troops in
In the days immediately before the conference at Xiaohaerbaling, the Japanese used ammunition that had been produced later than 1939, whereas at the time of the Battle of Jiansanfeng they had used ammunition produced in the 1920s. This meant that their ammunition reserves were exhausted.
At the conference, therefore, I summed up Japan’s state policy as an overt indication of her attempt to occupy Southeast Asia, taking advantage of the outbreak of war in Europe, and laid special emphasis on my consideration of the prospect that if Japan advanced into Southeast Asia, it would amount to digging her own grave.
To proceed, the conference discussed the strategic task that should be carried out pending the great event of national liberation.
At the time, we defined a new strategic task of preserving and accumulating the force of the KPRA, the backbone of the Korean revolution, and training its officers and men to be able political and military cadres in preparation for greeting the great event of national liberation on our own initiative.
The great event meant a final decision into which the opposing sides
would throw all their political and military capabilities. To win the decisive
battle, each of our men should be prepared to perform the duties of ranks
several grades higher than his present one. After the country was liberated,
these men were to play the pivotal role in the building of a new
The decisive battle and the building of a new country were a strategic challenge that would mean the making of a new history of our country and bringing about a dramatic change in the fate of our people. It was a task that could not be carried out by any foreigners. The KPRA and the Korean people had to carry it out themselves.
We had to rely on the force we ourselves had prepared through many years of revolutionary struggle against the Japanese. It would be welcome if other people helped us in the decisive battle, but we must fight in our own right. So I asked my men if they could raise their qualifications by a few grades, and they answered yes with confidence. I again asked if they could arm all the people and mobilize them in resistance, and again they answered in the affirmative.
In order to ensure the success of the strategic task, we put forward a new fighting policy on switching over from large-unit operations to small-unit actions.
Certainly, there was some argument about this idea. Some comrades were apprehensive of the possibility of small units being defeated piecemeal in an encounter with large enemy forces, which would attack us from all quarters.
“The heyday of large units is gone,” I said to these comrades. “This is no time for noisily moving about in large units. If we continued with large-unit operations when the enemy is trying to surround us with large forces and destroy us at one stroke, it would mean falling into the enemy’s trap and ending in self-destruction. Figuratively, it would amount to covering our heads with pumpkins and crawling into a pigsty. If we move and fight in small units and conduct political work among the masses, it will be easy to obtain food supplies and manoeuvre with freedom. How many comrades have been killed by the enemy on missions to get food! Even the food supplies that had cost their lives soon ran out because they had to be shared out among large units. Small-unit actions will scatter the enemy forces to the maximum. This was proved in the whole course of the small-unit actions carried out during this spring and summer. Our intention should be to minimize the enemy’s targets.”
We re-emphasized the need to develop elusive small-unit military actions in the wide areas of Korea and Manchuria, conduct intensive political work among the masses, quickly organize the work of improving the military and political qualifications of every soldier and officer, and strengthen solidarity with the anti-imperialist forces throughout the world, in order to carry out the new strategic task. We reached agreement on specific measures, and then closed the meeting.
The Xiaohaerbaling conference was a historic meeting that decided to change our strategic line at a new turning point of our revolution, like the Mingyuegou conference in December 1931 and the Nanhutou conference in February 1936 that also set forth important strategic lines for the armed struggle against the Japanese.
If we had continued with large-unit operations in pursuit of only immediate successes, unable to see the trend of developments at the opportune moments, it would have been impossible to preserve our force and we would have been wiped out, to be remembered by history as mere martyrs.
Xiaohaerbaling is the tail of the Haerba mountain range that stretches
along the border between Dunhua and
Mention of the conference reminds me of that grassy area. No one came to
cut the grass, probably because the place was far from any village. Seeing the
grass, I thought that Kim Chaek, Ho Hyong Sik and Pak Kil Song, who were said
to be riding about on horseback in northern
I remember that in the spring of 1940 the main force of the KPRA was
engaged in intensive military operations and political activity around Antu and
Helong, in the area northeast of
To tell the truth, we underwent a severe trial that spring. As we were set on taking the initiative with small forces, we naturally had to face many hardships.
The most difficult challenge was the enemy’s successive waves of “punitive” attacks on the Headquarters of the KPRA. The hundreds and even thousands of enemy troops that fell upon us with raucous battle cries from all sides drove me almost out of my wits.
Nozoe seemed to be determined to fight to the death at that time. He was
furious with us, as well he might be, because he had bragged that he would wipe
out “banditry” by riding his war-horse as far as
Depressed by the loss of the initiative in battle, and angry with himself to the point of frenzy, Nozoe brought in reinforcements from the Fengtian and Tonghua areas, and even the Soviet-Manchurian border guards, and hurled them into “punitive” actions.
To make matters worse, there were traitors like Rim Su San, who surrendered to the enemy and led them to track down the Headquarters of the KPRA.
On top of this, the enemy’s secret agents, lurking in mountain huts that had been put up by hunters, mushroom raisers and illicit opium growers, were watching the movements of the guerrillas. Groups of traitors, in the name of what they called “working parties”, appeared in places where we were active and openly shouted that the situation was in favour of the Empire of Japan and that we should surrender, instead of spilling blood in vain for a revolution that had no future.
But the shortage of food was the hardest nut to crack.
The enemy did everything conceivable to prevent even a handful of grain leaking into our hands. Whenever we stored food reserves underground in the mountains, they quickly sniffed them out and destroyed them.
The enemy also strictly controlled the food supplies to the inhabitants in internment villages. When the peasants went out to their fields, the sentries at the gates of these villages ransacked even their lunch pails. In many internment villages, the food rations, clothing and ammunition for the army and policemen stationed there were kept in secret stores outside the walled villages, and the locations of these stores were known only to the men who dealt with them. The storekeepers were the only ones who had keys to the stores and, only when necessary, opened the stores in secret and transported the supplies little by little to the villages. The enemy took such countermeasures because we had frequently attacked fortified towns and villages, and carried away all the supplies that we could get hold of.
The same situation prevailed in mining and lumbering areas. They kept food rations only for a couple of days, or for three or four days at the most, in those places.
When we were in the vicinity of Chechangzi, we ran out of food and salt. The 7th and 8th Regiments roamed around in the Antu area looking for food, but in vain. So the whole unit had to go hungry.
We were so hard up that we had to eat frog meat on May Day that year. In some countries, fashionable restaurants serve frog meat as a choice dish, but in our country no restaurant cooks frog meat. Occasionally, children can be seen catching frogs on the edges of rice fields or in brooks and broiling them skewered on sticks. But they do this not for the taste of the meat but mostly as a pastime.
Although guerrilla life was arduous, we had never fasted on May Day before. On May Day in 1939, which we celebrated on the Xiaodeshui plateau, we were even able to provide the men with bottles of liquor.
On May Day in 1940, however, liquor was out of the question. We had nothing at all to eat. So we caught frogs in brooks to allay our hunger. That was how we spent the festival, so there is no need to talk about how we got along on ordinary days.
We suffered severely from hunger in the vicinity of Chechangzi, and also on the outskirts of Yangcaogou.
The whole unit had to survive on boiled grass near Yangcaogou; I’ll never forget the name of that place.
One day I looked around the mess for the machine-gun platoon, and admonished them: “The thaw set in a long time ago,” I said. “You could have picked wild vegetables and at least made soup with them, which would have been tasty and made up for the shortage of food.” Kang Wi Ryong, the platoon leader, answered that he was short of men to stand guard, so he had not sent any men to pick edible herbs.
His answer annoyed me. Things like that could be picked on the way to and from the guard posts. If he had organized his work properly, they Could have obtained stuff for soup in no time at all.
I rebuked him, saying that a unit leader must know that he was responsible for his men’s lives. I told him that if he was short of men, he should take even my orderlies with him to gather wild vegetables.
The next day, the platoon leader took Jon Mun Sop and Ri Ul Sol, two of my orderlies, and Han Chang Bong to gather wild vegetables. The four men came back in the evening with a basket which was far from full of edible herbs. I asked why they had picked so few, and they said they had spent a long time, wrestling! I asked why they had wasted time wrestling instead of picking vegetables. They answered that the rustle of the spring breeze, the fragrance of the flowers and the sight of a soft lawn had awakened in them the memory of their home villages and their childhood, when they had frolicked on spring hillsides, so they spent the whole morning wrestling, in spite of themselves.
Jon Mun Sop and Han Chang Bong were nearly of the same age and same strength. So it took a long time to decide the winner of the contest. Kang Wi Ryong, a man of unusually large build, acted as referee and encouraged the wrestlers, shouting, “Well done! Well done! Go on! Again!” clapping his hands at the end of each round. Encouraged by the platoon leader, the two men grew enthusiastic and continued wrestling.
I was dumbfounded at their account of the incident. For the four men to return, having not even filled a basket and having wasted their precious time wrestling—when we were suffering a food shortage at that and when I had sent even my orderlies with them to pick wild vegetables!
I criticized them severely and gave them the penalty of a warning.
I could have meted out a heavier punishment in view of the grave-ness of their mistake. None of my men had ever slighted his commander’s orders as they had done. The irony of the incident was that it involved four men of whom each had had a strong sense of responsibility and had been more faithful to his duties than anybody else. They were in the habit of carrying out any assignment, light or heavy, with credit. To be honest, they were worthy of being held up as model guerrillas in our unit.
When I lay down in my bed that night, the basket with its light load swam before my eyes. Although I had given them the penalty of a warning at the sight of the basket, I pictured them in my mind, enjoying wrestling, forgetting everything, and I found myself beaming with delight at the thought of their optimistic way of life that found expression in the wrestling bout, unconcerned with the awful situation at that time.
A man without mental composure or without an optimistic view of life cannot think of wrestling in that threatening situation. Only men of strong faith and strong will like the men of our guerrilla army can live with optimism, dreaming of the future, singing songs and wrestling even when they are surrounded by the enemy.
The KPRA was a body of optimistic people, the like of which has never been known in all history. Eastern or Western. Although there have been many renowned armies and guerrillas in the world, probably none has been as vivacious and full of revolutionary optimism and ardour for a great future as the KPRA was. The KPRA was a collective of optimistic people who overcame difficulties with laughter, changed misfortunes into blessings, and firmly believed that there would be a way out even if the whole world crumbled.
Jon Mun Sop, though diffident, was very optimistic. Taking leave of his parents to join the revolutionary army, he had said, “Please wait for me. When the proletarian revolution has triumphed and the country has become independent, I will return in a car.” To return to the embrace of his parents in a car after destroying Japanese imperialism! How extraordinary and optimistic he was as he voiced his determination.
An Kil was also optimistic. I especially loved him because he was not only loyal to the revolution, but extremely optimistic, which I set great store by. He was a cheerful revolutionary who knew no pessimism.
Most of the anti-Japanese guerrillas were optimistic. In effect, all the men and women who took up arms to fight battles to the death against the Japanese imperialists lived with revolutionary optimism, knowing no pessimism.
Although I considered the mistake committed by the four men serious, I refrained from meting out heavier punishment than a warning because I valued their innocent cheerfulness and the courage that lay behind their behaviour.
This minor incident convinced me that even if we had to make arduous marches ten times or even a hundred times, those men would follow me to the end.
In my experience, optimistic people fighting for the revolution with unshakable faith will never be swayed, no matter what wind blows. Even if they were to mount the gallows tomorrow, they would stay firm. By contrast, those who drift into the revolution with the wind of the general trend, without their own faith, just to have a try at it, seeing that everyone else does, will run away to a more comfortable place sooner or later.
You comrades must have read about the way we caught crayfish during a march. That is a vivid example that shows how important optimism is in the lives and struggles of revolutionaries. That was an event that took place during the expedition to Dunhua, the first stage of the large-unit circling operations in the autumn of 1939.
In those days, too, we went through severe hardships because of a shortage of food. To procure food supplies, it was necessary to throw off the pursuing enemy. But the enemy’s “punitive” force was close on our tail, so it was impossible to obtain food. Not even a rabbit was to be found on our way, for some reason, and as we were marching through a vast expanse of wilderness, there were no local people we could turn to for rations.
The men were so exhausted that they found it difficult to step over
fallen trees, and had to go around them. When a break was ordered once in a
long while, they sank to the ground or lay down anywhere they happened to be to
allay their fatigue. Some of them were still fast asleep even when orders were
given to resume the march. Toudaobaihe, Erdaobaihe, Sandaobaihe and Sidaobaihe
on the upper reaches of the
“Comrades, shape up!” I used to shout, encouraging and helping the fallen comrades to rise. “We must keep our chins up in a situation like this. We’ll take a rest and have plenty to eat when we reach Liangjiangkou.”
I myself was hungry and tired, but, as their commander, I knew I should not reveal any sign of hunger or fatigue. One day, at noon, I ordered a break on the flat side of a gently-sloping ridge and sent scouts to a nearby valley to reconnoitre the place. They came back with a report that there was a small stream there and no sign of danger. I took a few of my men with me to the brook, rolled up my trousers to the knees and stepped into the water. I began to grope about in the stream, lifting stones noiselessly. Before long, I had caught a big crayfish. When I threw it onto the bank of the stream, the others cheered and dashed into the water to try to catch some more.
The men vied with one another to jump into the water. They caught crayfish in high spirits, as if forgetting their days of starvation. When their feet became too cold, they came out and stood for a while, and then jumped back into the water. All the men spent a pleasant time catching crayfish. Even the men who had been plodding on the march with great difficulty did the same.
We went back to the spot on the ridge and built a fire and broiled the catch. Eating the reddish, fragrant broiled fish, the men joked and laughed. A short while catching crayfish had made a complete change in the atmosphere of the unit.
Of course, a few crayfish could not fill the men’s stomachs. But the joy of fishing had dispelled all feelings of hunger and fatigue. After that, the speed of the march doubled.
Looking at their merry countenances that day, I wondered, how the men could become cheerful so suddenly, as only a short while before they had been unable to stride over fallen trees, and had sunk to the ground as soon as a break was ordered.
I believed that the catching of crayfish had enlivened the men to be optimistic. While concentrating on catching crayfish, they forgot their tiredness, became refreshed, and gained new strength and grew cheerful as if they had not gone hungry for many days.
The unit acquired a cheerful atmosphere because the sport of fishing aroused romantic emotions in the men.
As I said previously, we arranged a joint entertainment for our soldiers and the local people. At Yushidong on May Day in 1939 we held a spectacular football match. As they had not played football for many years, the men were so inept that the spectators split their sides laughing.
The players made many slips, but the spectators did not blame them at all. Such mistakes provoked louder laughter among the people.
It sounds easy, but it was not a simple matter to celebrate the Tano festival with a football game in the heart of Helong, when the enemy was concentrating all his forces on the main force of the KPRA to destroy it after the battle in the Musan area.
It was a venture that was possible only for the men and officers of the KPRA, who used diverse tactics and had bold hearts bubbling over with revolutionary optimism.
Revolutionaries are optimistic about the future. The revolution itself originates from a dream of the future or from the craving for a new life. Revolutionaries have a noble ideal for the future, and devote all their minds and bodies to the struggle to realize this ideal. If they had no optimistic view of the future nor a firm faith in the victory of the revolution, they would not embark on the road of revolutionary struggle; and even though they threw themselves into the revolution, they would be unable to endure the severe trials and hardships that stand in their way.
A revolutionary’s view of life, his personality, and his creed and way of life differ from those of others, not only in his unshakable faith or his unbreakable will, but more importantly in the greatness of his ideal and ambition, and in his unwavering optimistic view of the future when his ideal and ambition will be realized. It may be said that revolutionary belief, will and optimism constitute the three special qualities of a revolutionary, or the three major elements of his ideological and moral qualities,
Some foreign journalists once asked me what the secret was of maintaining my health at 80 years of age just as if I were in my fifties.
I answered that the secret was my optimistic attitude to life. Hearing my answer, they all applauded. A man’s physiological age is affected by the degree of his optimistic attitude to life. Likewise, the success or vitality of a revolution in a country depends on the revolutionary optimism of its people. This is my firmly held view.
An optimistic man can feel the worth of life even if he is to live only a single day. An army that lives in low spirits can neither unite nor fight well.
Revolutionary faith and will can endure until the ultimate victory of the revolution when these are based on an optimistic view of the future.
What is meant by becoming a revolutionary? It means taking the road of struggle, ready to face prison, the gallows and death. It means, in other words, committing oneself to the cause of national liberation, class emancipation and human freedom, with a firm and optimistic view of the future, with a resolve and determination to dedicate oneself single-heartedly to the victory of the revolution. We talk much about living in a revolutionary way, implying living like revolutionaries. Revolutionaries beat an untrodden path without hesitation for a bright future. On this path, they endure whatever trials crop up with a belief in eventual happiness, and throw themselves into fire and water, with a noble awareness that it is a matter of honour whether they live or die on the road of struggle for the party and the leader, for their country and fellows.
This is the very reason why the lives of revolutionaries are valuable and worthwhile.
The deserters from our ranks were, without exception, pessimists who lost confidence in the future. They were weak-kneed people who had drifted into the revolutionary ranks with the wind of a revolutionary upsurge and ran away to save their own skins, afraid of manifold hardships and unfavourable situations, without caring a straw about the revolution.
The 1940s was a period when revolutionary romanticism and optimism were more valuable than anything else. These were the touchstones that tested the real value of each of my men and his loyalty to the revolution. Those who believed that we would emerge victorious followed me on the road of revolution to the end, and those who did not believe, gave up the revolution and left our ranks.
Revolutionary optimism does not come about of its own accord. It is acquired only through ceaseless education and continuous ideological training. Frankly speaking, it is not easy to take an optimistic view of the future when the enemy is strong and there is no knowing exactly when the revolution will triumph. That is why we need unremitting efforts for ideological education and ideological training. The KPRA was a strong army that was not swayed by any storm because we put great efforts into ideological education from the outset.
We consistently educated the guerrillas in unfailing loyalty to the revolution, and inspired them with an unbreakable fighting spirit, revolutionary optimism, the justice of our cause and unshakable confidence in the victory of the revolution.
I made use of every odd moment to inspire my men with optimism. I used to
say, “When the country is independent, let us go to
On May Day in 1940, too, when we ate frog meat in celebration of the festival, I encouraged them to have revolutionary optimism and a firm conviction of victory.
On the evening of that day, we sat up around the campfire deep into the night. We had a pleasant time, talking about the revolution, about me motherland, about our parents, brothers and sisters at home, and about the coming day of victory.
said to the men, “although we celebrated May Day by eating frog meat today, we
will defeat Japanese imperialism and celebrate the liberation of our homeland
The men’s faces, reflected in the light of the campfire, looked all cheerful and lively. They were full of confidence and determined to endure whatever hardships faced them bravely and optimistically, and win back their lost country, at any cost.
If I had kept my eyes on a distant mountain with folded arms in the face of difficulties, or if I had told the men to break up and go to bed in the tents now that they had eased their hunger with frog meat, it would have been impossible to create such a cheerful and lively atmosphere in the unit. Many of them would have been unable to sleep, worrying about what was in store for them to eat the following day, although they had managed to eat frog meat that day.
When they were told to catch frogs to prepare festival food, all the comrades turned out, raising cheers and rolling up their sleeves. When I was talking about the future of the revolution deep into the night, they sat by my side, and drank in my words. They did so because they had sensed in the looks of their commander unshakable confidence in the victory of the revolution and solid determination that no peril could shake.
I was convinced that, although the enemy was sticking to us like a tick so as not to allow us to eat, rest and sleep, the KPRA would never yield to them, nor would it be defeated by them.
As you see, a commander’s mental state is important. If the commander is courageous, his men will be courageous; if the commander’s belief is unshakable, so will be his men’s. Just as soldiers’ optimism is affected by their commander’s faith, so the people’s optimism depends on their leader’s faith and determination. This is the reason why the masses look up at the faces of their leaders in times of difficulty.
When I said we would emerge victorious, the guerrillas believed that they would triumph; when I smiled, they saw a bright future for the revolution in the smile. When I hummed a little while angling, they judged that the next operation would result in victory.
Not only I, but also all the commanding officers, inspired the men with an optimistic spirit. Choe Kyong Hwa and Kang Ton talked a lot even on the march to boost the men’s morale.
Artistic and literary activities served as major means of inspiring faith and optimism in the minds of the men. There is no talking about the lives of the guerrillas without revolutionary entertainment; and it was inconceivable to talk about the victorious struggle of the KPRA apart from revolutionary songs and dances.
Comrade Kim Jong Il was right when he said that the Korean revolution had begun with songs, advanced to the strains of singing and emerged victorious with songs. Probably no revolution in the world was so closely linked to songs or woven with songs as the Korean revolution was.
The revolution itself was a heroic symphony as well as a source of songs. There can be no revolution that is separated from songs. Can you imagine the development of the international working-class movement, separately from the Internationale?
It was our songs that won over the people on our expedition to northern
Songs have had a great effect on my own life. It may be said that my life
began with the Lullaby3 and that my revolutionary struggle
started with the Song of the Amnok River4. When I was
In my middle-school days I myself wrote the texts of songs and composed the melodies. Thus the Song of Korea5, the Song of War against the Japanese , and the Song of the Ten-Point Programme of the ARF were produced. Whenever I was in difficulty I derived strength from singing. When food supplies ran out, I used to pass the crisis by drinking only water and singing. In the course of this, I grew up and the revolution advanced.
When hungry, the melodies of songs allayed my hunger; and when exhausted, the sounds of songs braced me up.
Once on the Arduous March, some guardsmen were buried in an avalanche and could not get up. They struggled, but their limbs failed them because they had eaten nothing for days and were completely exhausted. I myself was hardly able to keep steady on my feet at that time. I approached the men lying in the snow like mummies and sang in a low voice the Song of Red Flag. The men came to themselves at the sounds of the song, stood up and resumed the march.
Once, the enemy blockaded the Chechangzi guerrilla base with thousands of troops, so that many people there died of hunger. It was the revolutionary song sung by the Children’s Corps that roused to a life-and-death battle the people in the guerrilla base who had been at the end of their tethers because of starvation and repeated “punitive” attacks by the enemy.
In those days, we had neither professional artist troupes nor professional creative workers and actors. Nevertheless, the anti-Japanese guerrillas wrote and composed songs—excellent revolutionary songs like the Guerrilla March—and produced a large number of revolutionary dramas, operas and dances.
In our days in the guerrilla zones, as in the days of the youth-and-student movement, we frequently organized artistic performances. Also, in the days of large-unit mobile operations in a wide area after the dissolution of the guerrilla zones we had cultural and emotional lives as part of our daily routine. Artistic performances were given both in mountains and in villages.
Artistic performances were given under the protection of machine-guns that had been posted in the surrounding area. In this way security was provided for the performances even when the enemy came to attack.
Performances took place on festivals, in the wake of major battles, and when many recruits had joined us. All these performances were aimed at equipping the soldiers and people with an unbreakable revolutionary spirit to destroy the enemy, unafraid of death, and at training all of them to be indomitable revolutionary fighters.
The announcement of the performance programmes was made in an optimistic way to meet the purpose.
Comrades from the 2nd Company of the 7th Regiment gave a performance in the form of army-civilian joint entertainment at Taoquanli, and this event was advertised as a “guffaw meeting”. A notice was put up to the effect that a guffaw meeting would be held and that everyone would be welcome to the meeting. Large crowds gathered in the yard of a villager and in the vicinity.
How witty and humorous the “guffaw meeting” was! People smiled even at the sight of the notice.
Guerrillas gave artistic performances not only on happy occasions. Even on sad occasions, they held entertainments to change the atmosphere.
After O Jung Hup and Kang Hung Sok fell in battle, we gave two big concerts. The officers and men of my unit had never been so mournful and indignant as they were when those comrades were killed in action. On the day of O’s funeral, an evening meal of rice and salted, roasted mackerel was served in the camp, but nobody touched it. Whenever she saw mackerel after liberation, Kim Jong Suk used to tearfully recollect O Jung Hup. You can imagine how sorrowful my men were when they had lost him.
That was why we took time off during our marches for entertainment. Songs, dances and juggling somewhat dispelled the gloom that had enveloped the ranks.
A few days later, we attacked Jiaxinzi and staged a concert on a large
scale in a forest near the
The performance was an unusual one.
Poplars were cut down to improvise a stage, and a large tent was made by patching up several small ones. The floor of the stage was covered with blankets, for the frozen logs were slippery. The programme, with a variety of items, such as choral singing, vocal solos, dances, juggling, a harmonica ensemble, and so on, was announced in advance. The curtain was to be opened and closed at the sound of a whistle.
After the evening meal, the veterans and recruits, and the workers who had helped us carrying away the spoils gathered to see the performance.
I still remember that Kim Jong Suk sang the Song of Women’s Emancipation and then danced. When she was dancing, somebody behind the folded curtain sang a song for the dancer.
Comical interludes were also interesting.
A lanky recruit from Diyangxi and another from Yanji who voiced narratives like a silent film interpreter moved the audience to tears.
Conjuring Up the Spirit of Paebaengi6 was quite spectacular, but I don’t remember who performed it.
A Chinese man danced on stilts like an acrobat playing in the interlude nowadays. That was exceptional. When necessary, he used to walk on stilts to rub out the footprints of men on the march in the snow.
The repertoire contained juggling by Jo To On and a song accompanied on a hogung (a Korean stringed instrument—Tr.) by a recruit, which was novel.
The last item was a sketch showing the life of the guerrillas. The script had been written by me at odd moments on the march.
The performance lasted four to five hours that night, but the audience was not bored at all. At the end of the performance, more people joined the army.
The entertainments during the years of the anti-Japanese revolution proved the great importance of art and literature in inspiring people with optimism.
Ideas, will and discipline are not all that is required for a revolution. Romantic emotions, in addition to ideology and morality, are also essential. Patriotism cannot sprout where there is no tangible love for one’s homeland, parents, wife and children. It would be naive to assume that such a profound thought as communism could be accepted as an eternal truth by a person who has no attachment to his fellows and no feelings of devotion to them.
The whole course of the revolution against the Japanese proves that the guerrillas, with optimism and rich emotions, were unfailingly loyal to their leader and his ideas, and, with firm confidence in the victory of the revolution and with all devotion, performed heroic exploits to be remembered for ever by their country and people.
What did Pak Kil Song say at the last moment of his life? He said, “Motherland! I am proud of you.... Communism means the youth of the world ..., is the cradle that raises a bright future for the country.... We know this so clearly that we face death with smiles.”
What did Choe Hui Suk say when she lost her eyes, tortured by the enemy? She shouted that she could see the victory of the revolution, that she could see our people cheering on the day of liberation.
The Japanese hangmen said to Ri Kye Sun, who was bound in chains, that if she made a speech of repentance, they would not only spare her life, but let her live in clover for the rest of her days. But she told the enemy not to defile her ears, censured them for their ignorance of what the Korean communists were like, and then shouted on the gallows that the day of national liberation was not far off.
All the fighters who laid down their lives on the road of the revolution against the Japanese were optimists, with rich emotions and unshakable confidence in the triumph of the revolution.
Revolutionaries have an optimistic view of the future. They set greater store by tomorrow than today, and give their lives when in full bloom for the good of tomorrow without hesitation. They are indomitable fighters.
I speak to you here today with special emphasis on revolutionary optimism because the situation at home and abroad now requires it more urgently than ever before.
Because of the imperialists’ clamour for sanctions since the collapse of socialism in several countries, our people are undergoing serious difficulties in many ways. We are faced with grave challenges in all fields of political, military, economic and cultural life. It may be said that we are in a hair-trigger confrontation with the enemy, in a situation more strained than in a war.
These difficulties, however, cannot last a hundred or two hundred years or indefinitely. These are temporary difficulties, and are bound to be overcome.
You comrades must work hard with an optimistic view of the future and in the spirit of self-reliance and fortitude to resolve today’s difficulties as soon as possible and promote the country’s advance.
The core of today’s optimism is a strong belief that we can emerge
victorious as long as we have younger people like Comrade Kim Jong Il. We are
perfectly optimistic about the future because Comrade Kim Jong Il is giving
leadership to the revolution.I
would like to emphasize again: Believe in Comrade Kim Jong Il, and everything
will be all right. The future of
The great leader devoted much effort to cooperation with international revolutionary forces during the years of the anti-Japanese revolution, while giving independent leadership to the Korean revolution.
He recollected the events in the period from the late 1930s to the early 1940s, when the Korean revolution was broadening its scope on an international scale with the deepening of relations with the Comintern and the Soviet Union, and when the joint struggle of the Korean and Chinese peoples against the Japanese was developing onto a higher stage of struggle that involved Korea, China and the Soviet Union. His recollections are as follows:
In 1939 we restored contact with the Comintern that had been interrupted for several years. It was when we had changed into new cotton-padded uniforms for large-unit circling operations.
The main force of the KPRA was then undergoing military and political training in the secret camp at Hualazi.
One day Kim Il, who had been on a small-unit operation, returned to Headquarters with three prisoners in dark dabushanzi. He said that he had captured the men because their appearances and behaviour were suspicious. They did not look like mountain peasants, and so he thought they might be special agents of the Japanese.
They had pistols, pans and roasted soy beans with them.
When I questioned them, and when they found out that we were the 2nd
Directional Army and that I was Kim Il Sung, they said they were messengers
from the Comintern. They produced a match-box, in which the match sticks were
longer than those produced in Manchuria or
I asked for more proof of their identity.
They then produced a pocket knife. It was the one I had sent to the
Comintern through Wei Zheng-min. It had been intended for use as a secret sign
of identification when making contact with us. Many stormy years had passed,
but I remembered that knife well. I had told Wei Zheng-min to leave it in the
care of the Comintern in
The knife dispelled our suspicions about the three messengers. It was very pleasing to us that the Comintern had sent us messengers, and had not forgotten us, though we had not yet heard their mission.
Contact with the Comintern that had been severed after the Nanhutou conference was re-established in this manner. The messengers’ arrival was a great encouragement to us as we were preparing for new operations, decisive battles, against an enemy force of more than 200,000 troops.
The messengers said that six men had been sent originally, but three of them, including a Korean, had fallen ill while searching for us and returned.
The Comintern, unable to pinpoint where we were, had instructed them to look for Kim Il Sung’s army around Yanji. They had searched for us here and there, guessing at our whereabouts, wasting much time and suffering many hardships. Although they had a map, it was useless because we were on mobile operations at the time.
To make matters
worse, the local people shunned them, and they were going to give up trying to
contact us and return to the Soviet Union when a man in the
They said that their clothes had been burned in an accidental fire while
they were sleeping in a mountain hut. Their food rations had run out and they
had had to survive on roasted soy beans. If they had failed to find us at
Hualazi, they would have abandoned their mission and gone back. They said that
from the moment they set foot on the soil of
I provided them with new clothes and articles of daily use. Then, after a meal, they took a good rest in comfort in the Headquarters tent.
An official record of the Japanese imperialists about the Comintern’s dispatch of messengers to the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung and the 1 st Route Army of the Northeast Anti-Japanese Allied Army (NAJAA) in late Juche 28 (1939) goes as follows:
October 11, in the 6th year of Kangde (1939), eight Russians wearing pistols
and dressed like bandits, accompanied by two Korean interpreters, came and had
an important interview with Kim Il Sung, who was in the forest of Zhenfeng,
northwest of Sandaogou, Helong County. They stayed there approximately ten
days, allowing nobody except high-ranking officers to approach them, and then
left there taking with them 12 infirm persons from the group of Kim Il Sung’s
bandits. It is said that the Russians were messengers from the
about the line of party leadership. In December last year (1939), four messengers
came to the
The message for us from the Comintern at that time was brief, and
concerned two matters. One was the invitation of the delegates of the KPRA and
In those days, the Comintern and the Soviet Union were taking a new
approach to the trend of development of guerrilla warfare in
To settle these differences, the Comintern discussed the matters in the
Of course, the messengers from the Comintern did not explain to us these
details, but such an inference was fully possible from the military and
political situation in the Far East region and from the policies pursued by
However, neither Yang Jing-yu and Wei Zheng-min nor I were in a position
to leave the theatre of operations. Our absence from our units for a trip to
After explaining our views about the two issues to the messengers, I sent one of them to Wei Zheng-min. Our Headquarters’ correspondent code-named Mangang guided him.
I sent the records and photographs about the struggle of the KPRA to the
Comintern through its messengers when they left the Hualazi secret camp. These
documents would be safe in the
There were about enough documents to fill a knapsack. The photograph of
me wearing spectacles, taken at a secret camp at Wudaogou,
Unfortunately, the messengers were said to have been captured by
Self-defence Corps men at a railway crossing in
There was a Chinese named Ning among the messengers. A letter Wei Zheng-min sent to the Comintern mentioned that Ning had been wounded in a clash with the enemy.
Wei Zheng-min held the same opinions as we did about the two issues raised by the Comintern.
It was in the early 1930s that we first got in touch with the Comintern. It may be said that we were in fairly close contact with the Comintern during the first half of the 1930s. From early 1936 to the autumn of 1939, however, we had almost no contact with the Comintern. Wei Zheng-min had been to Moscow in early 1936 to settle the differences about the anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle7, an issue that had not been resolved at the Yaoyinggou conference8. After that, we did not send any messenger to the Comintern, nor the Comintern to us.
Frankly speaking, we felt no need to contact the Comintern. Since the question of the strategic line that would affect the future of the Korean revolution had settled in a reasonable way, we believed that all that we needed was to continue with the revolution in line with the decision adopted at the Nanhutou conference.
We advanced the revolution in keeping with this clearly-defined strategic
line, and expanded the armed struggle into the homeland from the base on
Because we have the historical tradition and experience of firmly maintaining an independent revolutionary line ever since the years of the struggle against the Japanese, we are still the Party with the strongest spirit of independence, the nation with the strongest spirit of independence, and the country with the strongest spirit of independence, in the world.
There are many nations in the world that have fought guerrilla wars or modern wars using regular armed forces, to drive out foreign forces from their lands. But one can hardly find another example of armed resistance that has been carried out in such arduous conditions as in our country. We often say that we fought for 15 long years without our own home front and without any support from a regular army, and there is no exaggeration in this expression. When we say this, we are referring to the arduousness of the Korean revolution.
We are well aware that the Yugoslav guerrillas fought well during the
Second World War. Considering, however, that
Moreover, the Yugoslav guerrillas received much aid from the Soviet
people. According to Zhukov’s memoirs, the
The Chinese people’s war against the Japanese can also be explained in a similar way.
Jiang Jie-shi had several million troops under his command. You cannot say that his large army fought only against the communists. In fact, they had engagements with the Japanese, though in a passive and lukewarm way. If Jiang Jie-shi’s army contained the Japanese even a little, that should be considered support for the Chinese people’s guerrilla war. The expression, Kuomintang-Communist Cooperation, should be understood as meaning joint resistance against the Japanese.
In Korea, on the other hand, the regular army ceased to exist in 1907, and we began the armed struggle more than 20 years after that. When we started the armed struggle, there was no remnant of the regular army.
Because the country had gone to ruin, a home front was totally inconceivable.
There were some rifles that had been left over from the Righteous Volunteers and Independence Army, but these were all outdated and so rusty that they were useless. We had to obtain every single rifle at the risk of our lives.
There would be no end to it if we were to dwell on all the hardships we suffered during the armed struggle and the bitter trials our guerrillas underwent in the mountains for nearly a decade.
Still, we never turned to others for help.
As I have said on many occasions, the Comintern paid great attention to
the revolution in large countries like
Even in its relation to the Chinese revolution, the Comintern showed
great interest in the revolutionary struggle in the heartland of
By contrast, it sent no advisers to help the revolution in
If it gave any support to the revolution in
The Comintern’s slighting of the revolution in Northeast China can be
seen clearly from the fact that it brought commanding officers from Manchuria
to the Soviet Union to give them training, but it sent most of them to
Records left by the Japanese say that the revolution in Northeast China
was carried out with the support of the
At one time, the Japanese claimed that I had been trained in the
communist university in
This kind of propaganda was aimed at describing us as people acting under
the instigation and control of the
To tell you the truth, we owed nothing in particular to the
So how was it that the Comintern, which had been somewhat cool and
indifferent to the revolution in Northeast China and in
It may be explained that the change in its attitude was, in short, the
requirement of the military and political situation in the Soviet Union in
those days, when an invasion by
At this point, the Comintern attached special importance to finding
potential allies capable of giving armed support to the
It seems that the Soviet people, who had paid no particular attention to the anti-Japanese resistance movement in Northeast China in the first half of the 1930s, realized that the guerrillas in Manchuria were not to be slighted only when they saw the KPRA and the NAJAA taking powerful offensives behind the enemy lines in support of their country at the time of the Lake Khasan and Khalkhin-Gol incidents. From that time, they made every effort to strengthen ties with us.
The Comintern also made concerted efforts with the
This does not mean, however, that the Comintern and the Soviet Far East
military authorities were in complete agreement in their views on the
anti-Japanese forces in
Anyhow, it was a notable change in its policy for the Comintern to take
more interest in the anti-Japanese movement in Northeast China and invite us to
However, we reserved judgement on the Comintern’s proposal. We did not
suspend large-unit operations, nor did we visit the
As a result of the victorious large-unit circling operations, we were
able to map out a new fighting policy on our own initiative. If we had paid a
In the autumn of Juche 29 (1940) the great leader received another invitation to a conference convened by the Comintern. Its messengers braved all sorts of perils to reach his Headquarters. Looking back on the event, he said as follows:
I received a second message from the Comintern in mid-October 1940. At that time, all the units of the KPRA were engaged in small-unit actions everywhere, in line with the policy adopted at the Xiaohaerbaling conference.
Two messengers from the Comintern came to see us. They said that they had
been sent by General Lyushenko working in the Headquarters of the Soviet Far
East Forces, and that the general had given them a message in the name of the
Comintern to the effect that I was invited to a conference to be convened by
the Comintern at Khabarovsk in December. They also conveyed to me the
Comintern’s instructions that all the anti-Japanese armed forces in
While working in the Headquarters of the Far East Forces, Lyushenko dealt
with the Comintern’s affairs. Later, I went to
“Hello, Comrade Kim Il Sung. It’s very difficult to get to shake hands with you,” he said and explained how he had sent small groups of men to get in touch with me. I got the first impression that he was an attractive man of ardour and friendship.
Lyushenko often used the alias Wang Xin-lin, doing a lot of work to
establish contact mainly between the Comintern or the
According to the messengers, the
However, the Comintern did not abandon the original plan, and was set on
holding the conference of the commanders of all the armed forces in Northeast
China to discuss the direction of the development of the anti-Japanese
resistance movement in Northeast China and straighten out the difficult
situation facing the
The messengers arrived in October 1940, but the Comintern had issued the
notice on the convocation of the conference in September that year. Telegraph
messages had been sent to the 2nd and 3rd Route Armies, but we received the
message through the messengers because we had no wireless communication system.
The Comintern invited the commander-in-chief, political commissar. Party
secretary and other major military and political cadres of each route army to
I notified Wei Zheng-min of the arrival of the Comintern’s messengers, and proposed to him to take joint measures for the event.
Wei Zheng-min said that he ought to attend the conference to be held on
the authority of the Comintern, but that ill-health did not permit it. He asked
me to represent not only the KPRA but also the
The Comintern’s idea of small-unit actions was in agreement with the policy we had adopted in this regard at the Xiaohaerbaling conference.
The military and political situation in this period was much more difficult than in late 1939 and early 1940, when we were engaged in large-unit operations. In other words, it became difficult to move about in large units.
In the first place, the enemy had completed setting up a network of internment villages, which obstructed our procurement of food supplies for large units. We often obtained a handful of food grains or a piece of maize cake only at the cost of our blood and the blood of our comrades.
The enemy in those days were putting special efforts into what they called eradicating the basic roots and ideological work.
The enemy’s policy of internment villages in this period was much more
vicious than the one they had pursued against us in
At the same time, they clamoured about “relief for the poor” and “working for the people’s livelihood” in order to demoralize the revolutionary masses and other sections of the population.
Our experience proved that small units in action found it relatively easier to obtain food than large units. The food problem was a vital consideration in working out strategy and tactics. Food took priority over tactics. Can you fight without eating? I use the expression, “food, clothing and housing”, instead of “clothing, food and housing” from my experience of many hardships due to food shortages in the years of guerrilla warfare.
If we operated in small units, moving in and out of the Soviet Far East
region, it would be convenient to do political work among the people and to
train the cadres of our units. We should also be able to engage in military
actions in the summer season, and military and political training in the
winter season in places recommended by the
In the late 1930s and the early 1940s we lost many cadres because of the enemy’s large-scale “punitive” operations.
We informed the messengers from the Comintern of the fact that in view of
the requirement for the development of the anti-Japanese armed struggle, we had
adopted at the Xiaohaerbaling conference the policy of preserving our forces
and undertaking small-unit actions, and said that we would take into
consideration the invitation to move into the
Securing a breathing space as well as geographical space for regrouping in a situation in which the enemy was making frantic efforts to destroy us would be beneficial to us not only for the armed struggle at that time but also for its future development. In addition, a base for us to settle down in was needed to preserve and consolidate our forces.
At that particular moment we paid a lot of attention to the need to preserve our forces, because we were convinced that the day of ultimate victory of the Korean revolution was near at hand.
In the latter half of 1940, the conflagration of the Second World War
enveloped the whole of
The best thing to do in this situation was to avoid a frontal clash and
preserve and build up our forces. This view of ours was in basic agreement
with that of the
It was welcome news that the
However, I did not make a hasty decision about our move to the
Would we be there for a short time or for a long time? If we were to
establish our base there and remain there for a long time, how could we
continue with the armed struggle? Would we be able to move back when necessary
into our homeland or into
In these circumstances, I contemplated a number of choices.
The first option was for the commanders to go to participate in the
conference, leaving behind the main force where it was at the moment, and then
continue the struggle in the original theatre of operations on the return of
the commanders. The second option was for the commanders to go first to attend
the conference, and then take our unit into the
I settled the matter on the principle of reinforcing our secret base in
My original intention had been to develop small-unit actions in the area under our control during the winter, in line with the policy adopted at the Xiaohaerbaling conference. So we had been making preparations for the winter operations, and it was not advisable to abandon these preparations.
On the basis of this analysis and judgement, I put off giving my answer
to the request of the Comintern. We continued with our winter preparations
while waiting for the persons we had sent to the
We gave Ri Ryong Un an assignment to open a new route to the
Ri Ryong Un was a regimental commander who was renowned for his fighting
skills in the 3rd Directional Army. He became regimental commander as successor
to Jon Tong Gyu when the latter fell in the battle of Dashahe-Dajianggang in
Ri Ryong Un was to go to the
He was a man of large build and looked much older than he actually was. He was reticent and prudent. Usually he was quiet, but on the battlefield he was courageous and swift in action.
Once his unit raided an internment village in
When darkness fell, Ri Ryong Un and his orderly went down to the internment village and walked straight into the barracks without being challenged. In the main office, however, there were approximately 30 officers being given a briefing.
The orderly, who followed him into the room, said in subsequent days in recollection of the event that at that time he thought that he would never get out of there alive.
Ri Ryong Un, taking out his revolver, said in a calm and composed manner: “You are surrounded. Stick your hands up!”
The senior officer grabbed Ri’s revolver. Ri Ryong Un pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired. He pulled it back so hard that the Japanese officer let go of the barrel.
Ri Ryong Un reloaded his revolver and shot the officer down, kicked off the resisting officers, and overwhelmed them single-handed. Many officers were shot to death.
All this time, Thae Pyong Ryol stood by the door, without firing a single shot. Only when he heard Ri Ryong Un shouting, “Pyong Ryol, guard the wall!” did he notice scores of pistols hanging on the wall.
Ri told his orderly to collect the pistols, and took the officers in the room prisoner. That night he and his orderly captured all the enemy soldiers returning from a “punitive” action.
Ri Ryong Un became renowned as a peerlessly courageous, audacious and
talented commanding officer in the raid on the
I think I gave him the mission on the outskirts of Xiaohaerbaling. I met
him and Im Chol at the same place. When I told him to open a safe route to the
When he and Im Chol were opening the route on the Soviet-Manchurian
border, Rim Chun Chu and Han Ik Su left for the
The wounded and infirm comrades reached their destination in safety, but
Ri Ryong Un, who had departed with the mission of an envoy, died a heroic death
in an encounter with the Japanese. He had carried out his assignment to open
the route and succeeded in sending the wounded to the
But the charcoal burner was a turncoat, who had once worked for the revolution but had become a secret agent of the enemy. He said he would go to buy clothes for Ri Ryong Un, but brought back with him a hundred enemy soldiers. Ri fought against heavy odds and died heroically after mowing down scores of the enemy.
Contact with the Comintern, which had been interrupted for several years, was re-established in this manner.
In subsequent years, I maintained close touch with the Comintern and worked hard to strengthen solidarity with international revolutionary forces.
Reading articles recently about the history of the anti-Japanese revolution, I have found some phases that need deeper exploration, although historians have made many research achievements in this field.
Especially, information about the events in the period centring on the Xiaohaerbaling conference is scarce.
The autumn of 1940 was unusual. Several tomes would not be enough to
cover all the tortuous events we experienced. Because we were engaging in
small-unit actions after the change-over from large-unit operations, we did not
have big engagements like the
Everyone says that no march was so hard as the Arduous March and no period was so trying as the period of the Arduous March in the history of the revolution against the Japanese. That is correct. It may be said, however, that the trials we underwent in the autumn of 1940 were no less severe. During the Arduous March we had to endure unbearable physical hardships, whereas our adverse circumstances in the autumn of 1940 were another trial in which our mental sufferings were just as great.
Strong will power is needed to endure mental suffering just as much as for physical hardships. And the process of their endurance is accompanied by a ceaseless struggle with oneself. Our experience in the autumn of 1940 was exactly of this kind.
After adopting the policy of change-over from large-unit operations to small-unit actions at the Xiaohaerbaling conference, we reorganized ourselves into many small units under the 2nd Directional Army, in keeping with the changed fighting strategy.
After designating the missions and areas of activity for the small units, I moved towards the Yanji area in command of a small unit.
At that time, Kim Il’s small unit was given an assignment to operate around Wangqing and Dongning, and O Paek Ryong’s small unit was given the task of obtaining food grain for the winter around Yanji and Antu, before they were sent off on their assignment.
We waited for O Paek Ryong’s small unit at the edge of Facaitun,
I did not wonder why, because in those days it cost us blood to obtain even a single ear of maize. To obtain a few pounds of cereal, it was necessary to break into an internment village, a venture that had to be made at the risk of our lives.
Throughout the previous summer, we had lived almost entirely on boiled-down musuhae (a plant of the family Compositae—Tr.). There were plenty of these plants in the mountains, but by themselves they could not dispel the feeling of hunger, no matter how much we ate.
A reconnaissance party, which had been sent to look for a possible source of food, came back with a report that they had found a farmhouse down at the foot of the mountain. They said that there was a spacious ploughed field around the house, in which three Koreans were living. They added that if we asked them, we might get some food grain.
I sent Kang Wi Ryong to the farmhouse, telling him to talk to the farmers, without hiding the fact that we were guerrillas.
When he asked them for help, they were reticent, saying that they would have to go to Mingyuegou to obtain food, but that they could not get past the enemy’s surveillance. After thinking it over, however, they said it would be ignominious to decline the guerrillas’ request, and left for Mingyuegou.
Hearing this report from Kang, I ordered my men to be wideawake and stand guard with especial vigilance.
The men on mess duty were preparing gruel from todok (Codonopsis lanceolata—Tr.). This plant, if crushed and boiled down, made something like gruel, and when mixed with a little cereal it tasted very good. It was the best of similar grass foods.
Just as the gruel was coming to the boil, Son Jang Chun, who was standing guard, shouted that the enemy was swarming upon him. The men rushed to the guard post, but said that they could see no enemy anywhere. Still, Son Jang Chun insisted that the enemy was approaching, pointing down towards the foot of the mountain. But there was nothing but tree stumps where he was pointing.
A man who has had a fever can be subject to such a hallucination, and Son had had a fever not long before.
While I was calling the officer on duty to account for having posted a sick man to keep watch, the alarmed men in the kitchen threw away the gruel that had cost us much effort.
A few days later, I received a report that the farmers who had gone to Mingyuegou to obtain food, had returned together with a man in a Western suit, who was requesting an interview with me. The man turned out to be Choe Yong Bin who had once been a company commander of the Wangqing guerrillas.
He was one of the best fighters as well as a man of great physical strength.
Once he had come to see me and asked me for leave of absence, saying that he needed to recuperate from exhaustion. I had sent him home on leave so that he might hunt in the backwoods of Xiaowangqing and help the Party organization there in its work.
Later on, he had been charged with involvement in the “Minsaengdan” case. He fled to the enemy-ruled area, leaving behind a note to his wife, which said, “Good-bye to you and the baby. I would hate to be killed on a false charge of involvement in the ‘Minsaengdan’ case while fighting for the revolution. So I am going away. I will continue to work for the revolution there.” His wife, who had given birth to the baby only a few days before, came to see me in tears, with the note. Her face was swollen probably because of ill health after delivery. The baby seemed to have trouble breathing.
How can you run away to the enemy area to save your own skin, deserting your wife and baby in distress! Are you a man at all? These feelings of indignation flared up in my heart. Though condemning him for his cold heart, I hoped that he would continue to work for the revolution, as he said in his note.
We looked after his wife and baby, and later sent them to the
Now, after five years, that man, Choe Yong Bin, appeared before me again. Our current circumstances were worse than at the time of the “Minsaengdan” hullabaloo.
He had climbed up the mountainside carrying a knapsack from which a pan was dangling. The fact that he was in good shape gave me the impression that he had not gone through many hardships. “How many years has it been?” he bellowed, as he stepped into the Headquarters tent, and hurried towards me.
I received him cordially. His past was not without blemish, but he had been an officer under my command at Wangqing.
He immediately reeled off a lengthy account of how he had trekked around in the mountains to join the guerrilla army again. I asked whether he had eaten, and he said that he had just had a meal of boiled rice down the hill. He produced a packet of rice, dried flatfish and a bottle of liquor from his knapsack.
I noticed that the pan tied to the knapsack was not sooty at all. It was strange that a man who said that he had been trekking in the mountains looking for the guerrillas for many days and had boiled rice only a short while before, had a brand-new pan.
I did not doubt that he had degenerated into scum of the Earth like Ri Jong Rak. There had in fact been a rumour in my unit that Choe Yong Bin had surrendered to the enemy.
Not knowing that he had aroused my suspicions, he filled a cup to the brim with liquor and offered it to me as a token of a memorable reunion.
When I declined, his hand holding the cup suddenly began to tremble. Hearing my angry voice, he must have felt that his real identity had been revealed.
I demanded that he tell the truth, how he had met the farmers, and what was his real purpose in coming to see me.
He instantly realized that it would be useless to lie any further. He confessed that the three men in the farmhouse were enemy spies, and that, hearing their report, he had brought three “punitive” units, which had now surrounded the area. At his signal the “punitive” troops were to fall upon us.
I felt that we were trapped.
My heart, however, ached more at the fact that Choe Yong Bin had become a lackey of the Japanese imperialists and had so shamelessly appeared before me than at the thought of the danger that had to be faced with a determination to fight to the death.
What appalled me more than that was that he was resorting to all kinds of
absurd rhetoric to try to persuade me to surrender: “General Kim, I know how
hard your circumstances are,” he blabbed, reading my face. “The whole of
Unable to hear him out, I interrupted with angry words: “Yong Bin, how is it that you’ve come to this pass? You were once a company commander at Wangqing. Shame on you! We were sorry that we had lost a good commanding officer when you deserted your wife and child. How dare you come to see me in this wretched state? Do you have an iota of human conscience, you who have thrown yourself into the enemy’s embrace, abandoning your family? You have degenerated in a shocking way.”
A man who thinks of himself alone ends up like this fellow.
Choe Yong Bin’s treachery had started already when he left the company on an excuse of ill health to live in the backwoods of Xiaowangqing, I should say. At that time he placed his own health above the revolution. He later claimed to have run away to the enemy area to escape death on a false charge of involvement in the “Minsaengdan” case, but that was the outcome of his weak faith in the revolution.
As Choe Yong Bin’s case shows, one step back from the road of revolution will end up in treachery. That was why I always said to my men that the only way for a revolutionary to follow was the road of revolution, dead or alive, that going astray from this road would lead to reaction, to treachery, to being human scum, and that a man who would abandon the cause of revolution, afraid of the rain and snow, bullets, hunger, marching through mountains, prison and gallows, would instantly change Jhis colours if he was dragged to the rack a couple of times and forced to gulp peppered water.
It can be said that treachery begins with the discarding of conscience. This is the lesson we learned from the incident of Choe Yong Bin.
A considerable number of people left the guerrilla zone for the enemy area, as Choe Yong Bin did, in those days, when many people were executed on false charges of involvement in the “Minsaengdan” case in Jiandao. But most of the revolutionaries stood firm in the revolutionary ranks, instead of deserting the guerrilla zone, although they were unfairly subjected to persecution, stigmatized as “Minsaengdan” members. Why? Because they could not afford to sell out their consciences even if they were to be murdered, because they knew well that deserting the cause of revolution was the way to counterrevolution and nowhere else. As you can see, the revolutionaries considered it a disgrace and a living death to abandon their consciences and turn away from the red flag of the revolution. They thought that, in short, it would be an inhuman act.
In the years of the Shenxiandong guerrilla zone, there was a woman guerrilla named In Suk in Pak Song Chol’s company.
One day she showed a letter secretly to Pak Song Chol, who was on sentry duty. It was a letter from her husband, the commander of another company. The gist of the letter was that he was “bound with a red rope”, meaning that he had been charged with involvement in the “Minsaengdan”.
In those days, Pak Song Chol was an instructor in charge of the young guerrillas of his company. From the point of view of her attitude towards her organization, it was a good thing that she showed the letter to her instructor to discuss her problem with him. She said to him that because her husband had been branded a “Minsaengdan” member, she, too, would not be safe. She asked him what he thought about her going down to the enemy area, instead of suffering undeserved death.
Pak Song Chol advised her that that would be absurd, that going down to the enemy area would mean abandoning the cause of the revolution and surrendering to the enemy, and that she should by no means do so.
She said that she was not giving up the revolutionary struggle, but escaping from the “Minsaengdan” uproar.
Pak Song Chol explained that by leaving the revolutionary ranks she would end up becoming a counterrevolutionary.
The woman guerrilla realized at last that she had been on the brink of going astray, wandering from the road of revolution. It was fortunate that Pak Song Chol gave her good advice. Had he encouraged her to run away if she didn’t want to be killed, what would have happened to her?
In Suk continued to fight in the revolutionary ranks and died a heroic death in battle, so I heard.
When poised between revolution and desertion, she was able to choose revolution, because she took her personal affairs to her instructor, instead of dealing with the matter as she pleased, and received advice from her organization. As a result, she regained her reason and overcame her vacillation like a revolutionary.
By contrast, Choe Yong Bin ran away, unlike a man of integrity, to the enemy area, leaving behind a note to his wife, not even thinking of getting assistance from his comrades in the revolution. If he had had valued human conscience even a bit, he would not have run away in that cowardly manner to the enemy area, deserting his wife who had just given birth.
He lost control of his personal feelings, and that decided his fate. Loss of self-control may result in committing an unimaginable capital crime. A man who thinks only of himself and regards his own feelings as absolute will probably betray the revolution sooner or later. Treachery always starts from self-centredness, while the concept of the collective cannot and will not give rise to treachery.
Revolutionaries must, therefore, exercise self-control at all times and try to become accustomed to the concept of the collective. This means that revolutionaries must have clear consciences as well as engage in a ceaseless process of self-cultivation leading to self-perfection.
A man who thinks only of himself can never be a revolutionary, nor can he follow the road of revolution to the end.
At Nanpaizi, Ri Jong Rak, in the uniform of a Japanese army employee, appeared before me and advised me to surrender; at the time of the Arduous March, Ri Ho Rim ran away, and Rim Su San too became a turncoat; and now Choe Yong Bin had come to see me and was blabbing absurdities. How much heartache they caused me!
What was the crux of the question?
The point was that both Ri Jong Rak and Choe Yong Bin were men I had had confidence in and had taken loving care of. Had I not trusted them and had I not loved them so much, my heart would not have ached so bitterly.
Commander of the Korean Revolutionary Army was not a simple job, nor was the job of company commander in the Anti-Japanese Guerrilla Army. It would have been a different matter if the turncoats had stayed quietly at home. My heart ached all the more bitterly because these brazen-faced traitors appeared in front of their one-time commander and preached “surrender”, without an iota of conscience and not at all ashamed of betraying the revolution.
How did they dare to appear so shamelessly before my face?
It was because they had become blind to the situation and degenerated to such an extent that they believed that the revolution had come to naught, and that, therefore, they could preach “surrender” to the face of their old commander with impunity.
Choe Yong Bin met the same end as Ri Jong Rak.
That day the enemy surrounded our mountain base in double and treble rings. Campfires could be seen all around. No matter how tight they might surround us, however, they were not able to cover all the mountain. They usually posted sentries on ridges and valleys after surrounding us.
We slipped away down the mountainside, leaving the enemy to clash among themselves.
We crossed the road that led from Mingyuegou to Antu, and then took shelter in a nearby forest. While getting our breath, we saw the “punitive” troops fighting among themselves in the gorge of Facaitun, where we had been.
We disappeared deeper into the forest.
Because of this unexpected situation, we found it difficult to get in touch with O Paek Ryong’s small unit.
Originally we and O Paek Ryong’s small unit were to meet in the gorge of Facaitun. So somebody had to go there to meet his messengers—a very risky venture.
A more serious matter was that his small unit had no idea that the gorge was in the enemy’s hands.
We sent Ji Pong Son and Kim Hong Su to the rendezvous.
When he had joined the guerrilla army at Changbai, Kim Hong Su had got the nickname of “little Bridegroom”. He had a strong sense of responsibility.
Ji and Kim met the messengers from the small unit at the rendezvous the next day, and returned safely with a note from O Paek Ryong.
On their way to the rendezvous they had had a hair-raising experience. They had had to dodge from tree to tree to avoid the enemy’s eyes.
Meanwhile, O Paek Ryong’s small unit had obtained some food grain by raiding an internment village. Later they sent most of it to Headquarters.
From Facaitun we proceeded to the base in Huanggouling,
To engage in small-unit actions and restore the damaged revolutionary organizations, building up a mass foundation, it was necessary to winterize ourselves properly.
I had given many other small units, in addition to O Paek Ryong’s, assignments to procure food rations, salt, cloth and other supplies needed for the winter.
Politico-ideological preparation was the most important of the preparations for the winter. It was especially important to give the men ideological training so as to help them keep their revolutionary faith, however difficult the circumstances might be. In addition, we had to tighten discipline more than ever to prevent any accidents.
Later, however, Kang Wi Ryong’s small unit revealed a sign of ideological laxity. On their way back from their mission to look for a place suitable for setting up a secret camp, they came upon a stream teeming with fish and fired at them at random.
I felt a chill in my heart when I heard the account of the incident. How dangerous it was to fire shots when enemy soldiers were building a gun turret on a hill nearby!
Our plans for doing a lot of things, entrenched in the secret camp, might have fizzled out because of their gunshots.
Another thing that I still remember from those days is an incident concerning a cow.
Jang Hung Ryong was involved in this incident. Jang, a squad leader of the machine-gun platoon, was out in command of a small unit seeking to obtain food supplies in the vicinity of Jiapigou.
He came back with a cow that belonged neither to a lumber station nor to the “people’s association”, the cattle of which were branded with the Chinese character for “king” on the horns. It obviously belonged to a peasant.
We could, of course, make allowances for Jang’s situation at the time. On their way down to a village to obtain food grain, they saw the cow on the mountainside. Jang Hung Ryong looked here and there for the owner of the cow, but in vain, and told his men to take it to the secret camp. He stayed at the spot where the cow had been tethered, to pay the price to the owner if he came.
Jang waited for a long time, but the owner did not turn up. So he returned to the secret camp without paying the price after all.
As we found out later, when the owner came to take the cow back he saw an armed man hanging about there, and ran away in fear.
Hearing this account of the incident, I got indignant at Jang.
It would have been another matter if he had been a raw recruit without a good knowledge of the regulations of the revolutionary army. I could hardly believe that a veteran revolutionary like Jang Hung Ryong could make such a blunder.
In 1932 he had lost a finger to an enemy bullet and been taken prisoner in an engagement with Self-defence Corps men. He soon escaped, however, and returned to his unit. At that time, the other guerrillas suspected that he might have been given a mission by the enemy and allowed to return.
He had made strenuous efforts to recover the confidence of his comrades and, in this way, endured severe hunger in the Chechangzi guerrilla zone and the Arduous March.
It was beyond my understanding that such a man could steal a cow.
Maintaining good relations with the people had been emphasized ever since we first embarked on the armed struggle, and this principle was clearly stated in the regulations of the revolutionary army. By 1940 our relations with the people had been maintained on a high level. How good were these relations? When local people brought aid goods to us we would return them as soon as possible.
In the spring of 1940 we engaged in a battle at Yangcaogou. When the battle was over, the local villagers sent us many chickens. We, for our part, offered them a price more than twenty times what the chickens were worth. The villagers were unwilling to receive the payment. They even got angry, saying that they were not the sort of people to sell chickens to the revolutionary army, to their own sons and daughters, and that we were indifferent to their goodwill. We had nothing more to say. It was natural that they were offended at us responding to their goodwill by offering cash. Then we said we would not accept the chickens if they refused to accept the money. The money and the chickens were passed back and forth several times. Finally, we accepted the chickens and they the money. When we withdrew from Yangcaogou, we released the chickens for which we had paid.
Now this was only a recent event, not an event of many years or months before. But Jang Hung Ryong, ignoring this precedent, had transgressed the principle of maintaining good relations with the local people.
His comrades criticized him severely. They insisted that Jang would be unable to amend his mistake even by death.
Jang also criticized himself unmercifully.
Therefore, we only punished him and told him to return the cow.
He belonged to Kim 11’s small unit and fell in battle in 1941, when I
When we were at the Huanggouling base, a man of Chinese nationality, named Cai, deserted.
He was unusually homesick. One Harvest Moon Day he was so homesick he ate moon cakes in tears. He was very weak-minded, so the Party organization had given him a lot of individual education.
As he had caught a fever, we sent him to a hospital in a secret camp. Later, Headquarters received a report that he had egged on a woman guerrilla of a cooking unit to join him in returning to their home village. He was not faithful to military service. When on duty, he used to doze off. When told to stand guard, he used to complain that he had a stomachache. One cannot carry out revolution against one’s will.
At last he deserted us, turning his back on our goodwill, and to make matters worse, he soon came back as a guide for a “punitive” force.
Most of my men were out on a small-unit mission at that time. Only a few orderlies and I remained in the secret camp, so, as Headquarters, we moved to the backwoods of Mengshancun.
Small units and groups assembled there after carrying out their missions.
O Paek Ryong’s small unit obtained hundreds of sacks of maize and stored them in secret places. They bought maize standing in the fields, harvested the crop, put the ears in hemp sacks and then stored them in chests deep in a forest nearly 13 miles from Fuerhe.
It was around that time that the Comintern sent its messengers to invite
us to the conference of Korean, Chinese and Soviet commanders to be held in
Unfortunately, however, word soon came to me that all the stored food supplies had fallen into the hands of the enemy. Because Regimental Commander Bi turned traitor, the location of the stored food rations was revealed to the enemy. The regimental commander was a man, nicknamed Bilaogada, who had been saved by Kim Myong Hwa’s kind nursing in the forest near Dunhua. Even the regimental commander turned renegade, unable to endure the hardship.
Having discovered the location of the maize storage, the enemy set fire to the forest and took away all the maize. Months of hard work came to naught overnight.
Despite all these setbacks, however, I did not despair. True, the difficulties in those days were great, but we had gone through many such before.
How arduous the hardships we had suffered on the tableland of Luozigou,
the two expeditions to northern
We had endured all these trials. We had endured freezing cold, hunger and the darkness of despair. We had stood up, enduring heartache and grief over our fallen comrades.
That was because we all had firm confidence in the victory of the revolution, and always bore in mind the mission and responsibility we had undertaken before our motherland and nation. We always kept true to our revolutionary conscience, no matter what situation arose.
“Let us overcome this crisis, come what may, and bring about a fresh upsurge in the revolution. All right! Let us see who will be the winner!” I said to myself at Mengshancun at that time.
The sense of revolutionary mission in my innermost heart set me afire with greater audacity, and with ardour and a lofty sense of responsibility for the revolution in the recurrent trials.
What was the way out?
A forced march was the sure way to break out of our dilemma. But such a course required ideological mobilization for inspiring the men with confidence and courage.
The upshot of this was the convocation of the Mengshancun conference.
I told my men frankly: “The situation is growing more and more rigorous and arduous. We all believe that our revolution will triumph and that our country will become independent, but nobody knows when. We have fought for some ten years or more already, undergoing all sorts of hardships. But it is difficult to say definitely how many more years we shall have to endure such sufferings—five years, ten years or more?
“It is clear, however, that the ultimate victory will be ours.
“Needless to say, our road ahead is beset with many difficulties. These difficulties may be much more serious—ten times or twenty times—than those we have experienced so far. So any of you who is not confident about following us to the end in carrying out the revolution may go home.
“If any of you wants to go home, we will give him travel expenses and food rations. We will not take issue with him for giving up the revolution. It cannot be helped if he is too weak and lacking in confidence to remain in our ranks. Anyone who wants to go may go. But you must say goodbye to us for ever when you go.”
Hearing this, the men rushed to cling to my arms, saying tearfully:
“General, we won’t regret it even if we die without seeing the day of the revolution’s triumph. Dead or alive, we won’t leave you, General. How long can a man live after all? We prefer fighting here to the death to betraying our comrades and going down the mountain to live in submission to the enemy. We’ll share life and death with you, General!”
Their resolve moved me to tears. You can’t imagine what great strength and courage I derived from their determination. No speech, no matter how eloquent, could move people as profoundly as what the men said to me that day.
The pledge we made at that time was our resolve not to waste our own blood that had been dedicated to the great cause of revolution against the Japanese.
The conference held at Mengshancun reaffirmed the unbreakable unity between the commander and his men, the steel-like unity of the leader and the masses. This conference deepened the belief of the anti-Japanese guerrillas that the basic way of saving the anti-Japanese armed struggle from the current crisis was to keep their revolutionary conscience intact, and for the commander and his men to share the same lot through to the end.
The conference inspired us with a firmer conviction that the Korean revolutionaries would surely emerge victorious if they fought indefati-gably with unshakable revolutionary faith and will.
At this very moment, a message came from the comrades I had sent to the Soviet Far East region.
The message again requested that Wei Zheng-min and I, and other delegates
of the KPRA and the
The Comintern proposed that we spend the winter in the
Now that the Comintern’s purpose of holding the conference was clear, and now that the other commanders of the NAJAA were said to have arrived, I decided to go to the conference in command of part of the main force of the KPRA.
Making this decision was not easy. In general, the men were reluctant to go farther from their motherland and leave the battlefield, even on a temporary basis.
When I announced the decision to the men after making it at a meeting of the commanding officers, some of them asked if it wouldn’t be better for myself and a few other delegates to go there, since the Comintern had invited the commander to the important conference, leaving the other men behind to continue the fighting.
Of course, it might have been an alternative. But I thought at that time
that it was better to take the unit to the
Later, looking back upon the rigorous autumn of 1940,1 thought that I, as Commander, had made the right decision at the right time.
We finished the preparations to go to the
Before our departure, I sent messengers to Wei Zheng-min and O Paek Ryong, both of whom were too ill to go with us.
O Paek Ryong, who had not met the messengers, searched the whole area of Antu looking for us, so I was told. He arrived at Chechangzi when we had already started off.
It was at that time that he and his men shed tears when they found the food supplies and winter clothing we had stored underground for them. The two straw sacks of rice and scores of padded clothes we had buried for them before our departure saved them from great difficulties over the winter.
Later, O Paek Ryong and his small unit came to the
On our way there, too, we went through many hardships. In the daytime we mostly took shelter in woods and marched by night, which cost us much effort and time, to avoid the enemy’s surveillance. But as far as Laotougou we marched at a stretch.
When we were marching towards Baicaogou, we encountered a “punitive” force. As we were crossing over a mountain pass in single file, the enemy was climbing up the pass towards us from the other side, We turned back and ran up over the ridge.
Kim Jong Suk, who was carrying a heavy load on her back, lagged behind, finding herself in a great danger.
When we crossed the ridge, I checked the column and found her missing. I went back onto the ridge and looked down the pass along which the enemy was approaching. Kim Jong Suk was plodding up under the weight of the heavy load. The enemy was pursuing, shouting that she must be caught alive.
I fired my Mauser at the pursuers. The Guard Company men also protected Kim Jong Suk with machine-gun fire. Thus she was saved.
We shook off the enemy and camped near Hamatang. That day the enemy prowled all around, so we had to lie hidden m foxtail millet fields near the village until dusk.
There were cabbages and radishes growing in the furrows, and we allayed our hunger eating them, but the cold was unendurable. We lighted candles to warm our fingers that were numb with cold.
From Hunchun onwards, two Korean peasants guided us nearly to the
Soviet-Manchurian border. They said that beyond the mountain in front of us was
the territory of the
I told Ri Tu Ik to climb a tree and see if any river flowed in any direction and if there were any houses. He had been good at climbing trees since his boyhood. But he said that he could see neither a river nor houses.
We moved further to the east for some time, and found telephone lines in
the woods. The insulators differed from those in
That night we sent out a reconnaissance party and took a rest for a good while. Then, we suddenly heard the crackle of machine-gun fire in the east. Soon the reconnaissance party returned with the report that they had found a sentry box about four kilometers away, and that they had been discovered while they were fumbling with the cups and kettle there, and had fled. They said that, judging from the unusually large and clumsy shapes of the cups and kettle, it was clear that the sentry box belonged to the Soviet border guards.
The Soviet border guards fired their machine-guns all through the night. Our reconnaissance party must have alarmed them.
The next day, I sent Ri Ul Sol and Kang Wi Ryong to parley with the Soviet border guards.
They came back with some of the Soviet guards, but the language barrier caused us a lot of trouble. I said over and over again that we were Korean partisans and I was Commander Kim Il Sung. Fortunately, they seemed to understand the word “partisan” and my name.
Our journey to the Far East region of the
Quarantine upon our entry into the
My men felt bored, spending whole days in one room, not doing anything in particular. Some of them sang all day. They sang all the revolutionary songs they knew; and when their repertoire was exhausted, they sang whatever ditties they had picked up many many years before. The sight was spectacular.
My comrades had a large repertoire of songs.
I went to their room and urged them not to feel too bored.
“You may be sorry about being delayed for several days at the border,” I
said, “but you must not think that the Soviet comrades are inhospitable to us.
Every country has its regulations about border transit. There may be the necessary
investigation of personal identities in accordance with the regulations.
Quarantine is needed to discover carriers of diseases. Recently, the
bacteriological research group of the Kwantung Army in
Then, Soviet guards took us to Posiet.
At the border post I met Kim Sung Bin who had been an interpreter for Hong Pom Do’s volunteer army. He acted as an interpreter for us and the Soviet people. He knew a lot about Chechangzi.
Our women guerrillas saw Soviet women walking about freely and wearing fashionable dresses. They wondered aloud, in tears, how long it would be for Korean women to be able to walk about like them.
As you can see, each day of the autumn of 1940 was replete with hardships and trials. But even in the midst of these hardships and trials, we were not stifled but survived, because we faced and broke through whatever adversity cropped up, without wavering in the least, cherishing our revolutionary faith.
We never took a roundabout way when treading the thorny path. We always rushed straight forward to liberate the country. We never avoided any trial if it could hasten the day of the liberation of our motherland.
It may be said that revolutionaries are destined to go through trials, because the lives of revolutionaries who change the outmoded and create new things are always accompanied by trials and difficulties. A man who is afraid of trials or avoids them cannot be called a revolutionary.
I still remember the autumn of 1940. The mountains of Jiandao, where we used to sleep in fallen leaves in the late autumn, still swim before my eyes.
In the Soviet Far East region, where there were neither gunshots nor death, we felt as if we were in a wonderland. However, we still had many trials to endure, as five years still remained till the day of the liberation of our motherland.
The great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung often recollected his experiences with Wei Zheng-min, a high-ranking political worker and military commander of the NAJAA.
His reminiscences give us a lot of information about the exceptional friendship between the great leader and Wei Zheng-min, the latter’s personality as a revolutionary, his tragic end, his torment and wishes at the last moment of his life.
I made the acquaintance of Wei Zheng-min when he came to Jiandao to participate in the conference at Dahuangwai11 as the representative from the Manchurian Provincial Party Committee. After that, he and I always shared warm friendship on the road of anti-Japanese struggle.
Wei Zheng-min was a professional revolutionary who had fought against the
Japanese for the cause of patriotism from an early age. He had been trained at the military academy at
His revolutionary career, it may be said, entered a new stage when he
moved his activities to
Wei Zheng-min looked more like a university professor or a civil servant than a soldier. He was a meditative man who, had it not been for the revolution, might have devoted all his life to scientific research or to authorship.
He was characterized by sincerity, integrity and modesty. He was also sociable and not afraid to speak his mind.
of the personal files of commanding officers of the guerrilla forces in
Zheng-min. Deputy commander of the southern group. A member of the CPC. Secretary of
“He enjoys high prestige among the guerrillas. No details about his past record.
“No negative information available from the Reconnaissance Bureau or the Ministry of the Interior.”
Wei Zheng-min, though a Chinese revolutionary, made unremitting, silent
efforts to give support to the Korean revolutionaries and to promote the Korean
revolution. How serious the issue was at the Dahuangwai conference! If he had
not been fair and reasonable as the Party representative at that time, we might
have found ourselves in very unfavourable circumstances. He, alone of all the
other people, listened to me with attention, affirmed what had to be affirmed,
and took into consideration what had to be considered. After the conference at
Yaoyinggou, he took the trouble to visit the head office of the Comintern in
His visit to the Comintern proved very helpful to the Korean revolution. I still remember how warmly I embraced him when he returned to Nanhutou, shadowed by death all the way.
When he hugged me as he conveyed the Comintern’s view that my argument that the Korean revolutionaries should fight under the banner of the Korean revolution did not contradict internationalism, and that my statement that the struggle against the “Minsaengdan” had been conducted in an ultra-leftist way was right, as well as the Comintern’s conclusion that the Korean revolutionaries should lead the army of the Korean people and fight in Korea and on the Amnok River, I determined not to forget his efforts to assist the Korean revolution.
On the occasion of the Nanhutou conference, the warmth of friendship between him and me became redoubled. During the fortnight we spent together at Nanhutou, we had many conversations, and I gained a deeper understanding of him.
Wei Zheng-min supported my opinion about unit reorganization at the conference at Mihunzhen, and warmly welcomed the formation of the ARF later.
Around that time, he started to study the Korean language, saying that a smooth communication of ideas was essential for the joint struggle with Korean comrades. He dearly loved the Korean guerrillas. This was the expression of his internationalist support for and encouragement of the Korean revolution.
We, in our turn, did everything we could for Wei Zheng-min, as there is a saying that “Love is returned for love.”
On our advance to the
Subsequently, Wei Zheng-min went to Yang Jing-yu to convey to him the
Comintern’s directive about the expedition to Rehe, and then came
to see me when we were putting the finishing touches to the secret camp on
After his journey to southern
Once, while leading a group of his men over a mountain ridge he had a heart attack and fell unconscious. When I advised him to get treatment, he passed off the matter with a smile, saying that physical illness was not to be feared, but ideological ill-health was to be dreaded.
I gave Pak Yong Sun and Kang Wi Ryong an assignment to build something like a sanatorium in the vicinity of Hengshan for Wei Zheng-min. The Heixiazigou secret camp was situated in the battle area, so it was not suitable for the treatment of an infirm person like Wei Zheng-min. He spent some time recuperating in the secret camp at Hengshan. I sent Kang Wi Ryong and Kim Un Sin to Changbai to obtain tonics and nutrients for Wei Zheng-min. They bought artificial terrapin blood, rice, flour, tinned goods, milk and even pancakes for him at the cost of 200 yuan they had raised. He was especially fond of food made of flour.
On the lunar New Year’s Day I celebrated the festival with Wei at the Hengshan secret camp. Pak Yong Sun made a noodle-press out of an empty tin, and Wei and I ate starch noodles and even drank a few cups of liquor on the festival that year.
Quan Yong-lin, commander of the 8th Regiment, also enjoyed the festival with us. He could cook wonderfully. He even brought with him different kinds of knives for slicing meat and cutting vegetables, and prepared a variety of dishes. He sliced meat as thin as paper and portioned the slices out from dish to dish and then sprinkled condiments over them like lightning. His skill was uncommon.
We also assigned men to Wei at his request. Hwang Jong Hae and Paek Hak Rim were my favourites, but I sent them to him because he had asked me for them by name.
Hwang Jong Hae was a man intelligent enough to cope with the job of company commander or regimental commander. He was capable of tackling any difficulty. He spoke Chinese fluently. He was also the right man to work among the masses.
Paek Hak Rim had served as my orderly for many years. He was faithful, straightforward and did not spare himself, so I had always taken him with me wherever I went.
He was with me when we attacked Pochonbo. When I was commanding the
battle under a poplar on the
When the comrades of Choe Hyon’s 4th Division were surrounded by the enemy at the time of the Battle of Jiansanfeng, I ordered the 7th Regiment and the Guards Company to charge to their rescue. It was Paek Hak Rim who conveyed the orders to these units at that time.
Once he asked me to assign him to a combat unit so that he himself could fight, so I did as he wished. After some time, I asked him how he liked the combat unit, and he answered that he liked it very much but that he could not get along away from me, and asked me to make him my orderly again. So I brought him back to Headquarters.
He underwent the Arduous March with us. He was one of the men who shared a handful of roasted rice flour with me at that time.
If an officer and his men get along on such intimate terms, they will take loving care of each other as they would their own flesh and blood. To be candid, sending away such a man to work with another man went somewhat against the grain.
However, I sent him away without regret, because he was wanted by Wei Zheng-min, who was seriously ill.
Wei Zheng-min grieved at the news of Yang Jing-yu’s death more bitterly than anybody else. He was so upset that he ate nothing for days.
Wei, who assumed command of the
That autumn, he was again wounded in battle. To make matters worse, he contracted a lung disease and became unable to command his army.
After killing Yang Jing-yu, the Japanese imperialists displayed his head
on a post on a public street, and claimed that they had destroyed all the
anti-Japanese allied forces operating in southern
The NAJAA was, in fact, undergoing severe trials both internal and
external at that time. The Japanese “punitive” actions were growing more
rampant as the days went by, and traitors and waverers were appearing one after
another in the ranks of the armed struggle. Fang Zhen-sheng, the commander of a
brigade, was captured and turned renegade around the time of Yang Jing-yu’s
death. On top of that, the mass foundation of the
This state of affairs greatly worried Wei Zheng-min, political commissar
He thought that there were gaps and serious shortcomings in his work that had to be corrected.
He was a soldier and political worker who made strong demands on himself
and was modest enough to learn from other people’s experience and good points.
He told me that he would like to hear about the experience of the Korean
comrades, who had made great efforts to build up party and mass organizations
in the wide areas of eastern
In the years of the guerrilla zones, the revolutionary organizations had mobilized everything in all the counties in Jiandao. Even children aged six or seven marched around carrying clubs and singing loudly, doing the work of the Children’s Corps. Women cast off the shackles of feudalism and rallied around the Women’s Association. These organi zations roused the people to activity. The masses turned out to fight shoulder to shoulder with the soldiers, to do farm work and set up the people’s revolutionary government.
By contrast, the units in southern
These units revealed the tendency to resolve all problems by means of military action and military confrontation. This tendency found its most glaring expression at the time of the expedition to Rehe.
Even when conducting an armed struggle, you must not regard military actions as everything. Guerrilla warfare is impossible without reliance on the masses, the mass foundation that supports and assists the army and provides it with manpower reserves.
When we were organizing the Anti-Japanese Guerrilla Army, we did not have many rifles, nor was our force large. However, we declared war against the Japanese without hesitation. We launched ourselves into the great war against the Japanese with firm confidence in victory and a strong determination to destroy the enemy. To compare the fighting capability of our guerrilla army with that of the Japanese army that had powerful economic support was out of the question.
What, then, did we rely on when we started the great war against the Japanese? We made our decision to defeat Japanese imperialism on the strength of our politico-ideological, moral and tactical advantages based on our revolutionary outlook concerning the masses.
The absurdity of the expedition to Rehe was that the masterminds of the expedition attempted to fight the Japanese army in a frontal confrontation, away from terrain familiar to them, swayed by their subjective desire, without giving priority to their ties with the people and tactical calculations.
After the dissolution of the guerrilla zones, we had adopted the decisions
of the Nanhutou and Donggang conferences, decisions to build the Party, to form
the united-front organization, to reorganize the Young Communist League into an
Anti-Japanese Youth League, and to extend the armed struggle to the area on the
The KPRA benefited greatly from these organizations. Had it not been for them, we would have found ourselves in a fix, no matter how elusive the tactics we employed, in a situation when the enemy was making frantic efforts to separate the people from the guerrillas by building mud walls around their villages and prevent even a handful of cereals or a single thread from leaking through the walls.
The army in relation to the people is what the needle is to the thread; they must always exist in inseparable unity.
At a conference convened by the South Manchuria Provincial Party
Committee, Wei Zheng-min got a decision adopted on sending well-qualified
guerrilla officers to various parts of
It was fortunate that, though belatedly, he realized his defects and decided to rectify the tendency of placing exclusive emphasis on military actions.
What he was concerned most about while struggling with his illness in the secret camp was how he could retrieve the huge manpower and material losses of the 1st Route Army and revitalize its strength, and how he could bring about a fresh upsurge in the south Manchurian revolution that had suffered failures and setbacks.
While racking his brains to formulate a flexible strategy in anticipation of the forthcoming great event and to change his tactics in line with the strategy, he was unable to make a decision to cope with the prevailing situation, and so he was extremely irritated.
As an option, he was thinking of effecting a link-up with the
Here is a passage from his letter to the Comintern, which reveals his problem:
“We are now under attack from the cunning enemy in every quarter, when neither directives nor documents and correspondence from the central authorities are available to us because we have been completely out of touch with the central authorities ... since the autumn of 1935....
“We really feel as if we were aboard a ship without a navigator on a vast ocean, or like a blind child groping about here and there. Although the waves of the great revolution are raging, we are like a man who is cooped up in a strange house or locked up in a large, airtight drum.... We have been suffering unexpected, serious losses in our activities since we lost touch with higher organizations.”
The purpose of his letter was to give a clearer knowledge of the difficult
situation of the
His expectations from the Comintern and the CC of the CPC were most unlikely to be met.
The Comintern, or the Soviet Union, was pursuing a policy of appeasement at that time, so as not to provoke the Japanese imperialists in Manchuria, in consideration of its own security, and the CC of the CPC was up to its ears in fighting against the Japanese imperialists in a far-off theatre and was not in a position to help the revolution in Northeast China.
Wei Zheng-min pinned his hopes on the Comintern and the CC of the CPC for support in the circumstances because he had been away from military and political operations for some time, was unable to obtain the latest objective information for a correct estimate of the situation and was very weak in both mind and body because of ill health.
He was waiting so impatiently for a reply from the Comintern because he
had strongly appealed for cadres and war supplies needed for the
He believed that support from the Comintern was the only way to revitalize his army.
At a time when the Comintern found it difficult to send even a messenger to him, where could it get cadres, and how and by which route could it send war supplies? I was of the opinion that restoring the damaged underground organizations to strengthen the mass foundation and receiving manpower and material support from them would be more reasonable than expecting impossible support from the Comintern.
After the conference at Xiaohaerbaling, I went to see Wei Zheng-min, who was getting treatment in the secret camp at Hanconggou. My heart ached as I saw his face so pale from illness. My comrades, who had been taking care of him, said they were worrying about his recurrent chronic illness, although his wound was healing up. It occurred to me that in the adverse conditions at the secret camp, it would be difficult to ensure his recovery.
Wei Zheng-min said that something like a stone was surging up in his chest. I shuddered at his words because I had heard my mother complain of such a symptom when she had had heart trouble.
Wei Zheng-min, however, tried to turn the topic to the immediate task of the guerrilla movement, and its strategy and tactics. I told him that we had adopted the policy of preserving and accumulating our revolutionary force in keeping with the prevailing situation and of changing over from large-unit operations to small-unit actions, and that we had taken practical measures in line with this policy. He expressed his support for our policy, saying that the Korean comrades had made a correct estimate of the situation and formulated a correct strategy.
We had a long conversation about the situation and our future activities.
We discussed the matter of sending the wounded, sick and infirm comrades to the
That day I advised him to go to the
I was distressed to see Wei Zheng-min worrying more about the future of
The situation at that time did not permit me to visit the
“Commander Kim, that is my request of you!”
That was what he said to me when I left the secret camp. That was his last will, for I never met him again.
The request was, in fact, simple and commonplace.
But I heard it with a heavy heart and understood its profound meaning. I
believe he had meant to ask me to carry the revolution through to success, the
revolution to which he had dedicated all his life and for which he had a close
attachment. He might have meant to entrust the work of the
I cannot forget the look in his eyes as he made the request. It was a look of deep grief.
When I left the secret camp, I left food rations and other supplies for him, but my heart was heavy. Could rice or winter clothing revive him? What he needed was good health to carry out the revolution.
I impressed on Hwang Jong Hae and Kwak Ji San that they should do their best to cure him by whatever means.
They said they would take good care of him and told me not to worry.
My feet would not move on at the thought of leaving them behind on that nameless mountain. So I delayed my departure.
my visit to
The officials of the Comintern said that Wei Zheng-min’s letter had arrived without a hitch.
Wei Zheng-min’s secret letter to the Comintern was made public after the Japanese imperialists carried the full text of the letter in their official publication. Thought Bulletin No. 25, in December Juche 29 (1940).
The letter fell into the hands of the Japanese imperialists because it was contained in the kit of Ri Ryong Un, a regimental commander of the 3rd Directional Army, which was captured by the enemy when Ri fell in battle at Wangqing in the autumn of that year.
For this reason, it was understood that the letter had not reached the Comintern.
Who, then, delivered the letter that the Comintern said it had received without a hitch?
The following document kept in the Comintern’s archives may be considered to give a clear answer to this question.
“Top secret. To the Executive Committee of the Comintern.
“I am sending translations of the report dated April 10, 1940 and two
letters from Comrade Wei, Deputy Commander of the
The document bears the date January 23, 1941, and Dimitrov’s signature.
The first section of the letter reads:
“Our information comprises four sections. Many things have been omitted or over looked here. So I hope that you comrades talk to the messenger Wang Run-cheng and find solutions to all (he-questions you are concerned about.
“He will tell you about the secrets which I have refrained from putting down in my letter.
“I stand special surety for the messenger.”
The quotation suggests that Wei Zheng-min duplicated his letter to the Comintern, one copy to be delivered by Ri Ryong Un and the other by Wang Run-cheng. Slight differences can be found in some parts, but the basic content is the same in the two copies. The only major difference is that the letter discovered in Ri Ryong Un’s kit says nothing about Wang Run-cheng.
Wang Run-cheng was known by his nickname, Wangdanaodai, when he was fighting
in close coordination with the great leader earlier in eastern
In the spring of Juche 30 (1941), the great leader came back to Manchuria in command of a small unit, braving great perils, and paid a visit to Hanconggou where he had last met Wei Zheng-min, but the latter and his company were no longer there.
The great leader heard the details about them several months later, at the end of the year.
I returned from small-unit activities in Manchuria and
The car seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace, so I was most impatient.
On our arrival in
Kwak Ji San had been a teacher in Yanji before he joined the guerrilla army. Later he had become a political worker. In his early years, he had been in command of a guerrilla company in Yanji.
He was a seasoned revolutionary who had gone through all kinds of hardships. Many guerrillas had learned from him how to read and write.
He was good-natured and well-informed, and enjoyed respect from everyone everywhere. People respected him from the bottom of their hearts, because he helped them through thick and thin.
He was also generous. Some people called him a “twelve-width skirt”, which must have meant that he was magnanimous to everyone, or that he was like the mistress of a large family, a mistress who takes the trouble of looking after all the family affairs.
Kwak Ji San did everything for Wei Zheng-min. More than once he ventured into the enemy-held area at the risk of his life to obtain food and medical supplies. It was no accident that Wei Zheng-min used to say that he was able to live long thanks to the aide-de-camp.
When his excitement at our reunion had subsided somewhat, Kwak asked the Soviet army colonel to bring the Mauser he had entrusted to him. The colonel did so, and Kwak told me in a choking voice that it had belonged to Wei Zheng-min.
I took the Mauser from Kwak, but I didn’t dare to ask what had happened to Wei. Anyway, the solitary revolver explained everything.
It was not until that day that I heard in detail about Wei’s death, as Kwak explained.
After I bade farewell to Wei Zheng-min at Hanconggou, he and his men
moved to the secret camp at Jiapigou in
Wei’s company established two secret camps, one several miles north of Jiapigou, the other a little farther to the southwest of the district.
Wei Zheng-min lodged in the first one. Hwang Jong Hae, Kim Pong
Kwak Ji San alone knew the locations of the two secret camps. He travelled between the two, carrying heavy loads of food and delivering
messages. He obtained food rations with the help of puppet
Both the puppet army officers and the special corps commander ran with the hares and hunted with the hounds. They brought food, salt and other supplies to the guerrillas in the mountains, and then took away wom-out clothes, shoes, pans and similar things from the guerrillas to make false reports that they had killed or wounded guerrillas, and got bonuses for doing so.
It was said that Wei Zheng-min had wielded his pen until the last moment of his life, writing reports, reviewing his guerrilla struggle and drafting documents relating to his unit. It must have been his revolutionary desire to work as long as he breathed. When death was knocking at his door, he turned over his Mauser and his documents to his comrades, saying, “You vigorous young comrades must fight to the last. The revolution depends on you. The revolution is an arduous undertaking accompanied by bloodshed and sacrifices, but you must not be afraid of such hardships. Our bloodshed will not be in vain.
“You must go to Comrade Kim Il Sung without fail.”
Wei Zheng-min died in March 1941, at the age of thirty-two. He died too young. There was neither a volley for his death nor a mourning ceremony. His comrades buried him with acute sorrow and great care.
Strange to say, one of his men, of Chinese nationality, sneaked down the mountain and guided the enemy to his grave. There is no knowing why that man, Wei’s favourite, did such a thing.
The enemy’s report that they had killed him in action was not true. He was not killed in action, but died of illness. The Japanese were fond of such false propaganda. They exhumed Wei in order to get a bonus. Only barbarians could do such a thing.
The account of how the Mauser reached my hands also showed that Wei Zheng-min’s bodyguards had undergone many excruciating experiences.
Wei Zheng-min handed over the Mauser to Hwang Jong Hae, whom he loved dearly and trusted deeply.
Hwang was in charge of communications at first. When necessary, he also acted as an interpreter for Wei. Later, he became the leader of the guards platoon, guarded Wei at all times and became his right-hand man. He translated documents and materials under Wei’s instructions and wrote for him when he was too ill to write himself.
Hwang and Kwak guarded Wei to the last moment of his life. Hwang was a devoted guard.
Once, Wei’s white horse disappeared from the secret camp. Leaving Wei in the care of a machine-gunner, Hwang went out to look for the horse. As he was tracing the horse’s footprints he noticed enemy troops stealing towards the secret camp. They were also following the horse’s footprints in the opposite direction. It was a critical moment. The guardsmen were all out obtaining food supplies, and only Hwang and the machine-gunner were by Wei’s side.
Hwang hurried back to the camp, and, after hiding secret documents, ran through the forest, carrying Wei on his back. Bullets whistled like hail around him, but he clasped Wei in his arms, shielding him with his own body, and kept running. He was determined to save Wei, even at the cost of his own life. Wounded in the shoulder and unable to carry Wei any further, Hwang turned him over to the machine-gunner. He took the machine-gun himself, and held the enemy back with constant firing.
Being such a man, he was dearly loved by Wei Zheng-min. It was not without reason that Wei handed over his Mauser to him.
After the death of Wei Zheng-min, Hwang Jong Hae and his small unit moved to the secret camp where Kwak Ji San was. They hunted wild boars, bears and any other animals they could find both for immediate consumption and for supplies of food for the next march.
It was at this time that Hwang Jong Hae was killed in a hunting accident. As he was chasing a wounded bear the animal turned and mauled him to death. It was a tragedy that we lost such a loyal man in such an accident.
The Mauser was taken over by Ri Hak Son, a friend of Paek Hak Rim’s from the same hometown. Ri Hak Son cleaned the weapon every day, in memory of Wei Zheng-min. He also met an accidental death.
After his death, Kwak Ji San took care of the weapon.
Kwak grew opium while
conducting small-group actions, in preparation for moving into the
It was probably around this time that Ryu Kyong Su and his small group met an old man who had been in touch with Kwak in the vicinity of Jiapigou. But because the old man kept this fact secret, Ryu Kyong Su failed to meet Kwak, and returned.
Kwak and his company obtained new uniforms and food rations including
salt in exchange for the opium they had grown. In spite of these preparations,
they experienced many hardships on their way to the
The revolver reached me through several hands.
Later, Kwak Ji San joined Kim I1’s small unit and moved into
Kwak and other Korean communists, who had served as bodyguards for Wei Zheng-min, made every effort to put an end to the tendency of concentrating exclusively on military actions, the tendency over which Wei had been so remorseful in his lifetime, and to strengthen the mass foundation of armed struggle.
Kwak fell in battle, probably in 1943. He had returned to
Wei Zheng-min gave us sincere support when the Korean revolution was undergoing the severest of trials. That is why I still recollect him with affection.
Whenever he had a difficult decision to make on practical matters, he
consulted us. How deep the confidence was that he placed in us can be seen from
the fact that after Yang Jing-yu’s death in battle, he discussed exclusively
with us the problems relating to the work of the
When cadres of the
After Wei Zheng-min’s death, the Comintern discussed with us all the
problems relating to the work of the
Wei Zheng-min was an excellent man and an excellent revolutionary. For this reason, we helped him wholeheartedly.
Many people made painstaking efforts to take care of him, and many internationalist fighters protected him with their lives.
Wei Zheng-min was specially concerned about the Korean revolution, and cherished a special friendship for us.
According to our comrades who worked at his side for a long time, Wei Zheng-min always linked the future of the Korean revolution with us, and, therefore, he always told them to give loyal support to me.
Wei Zheng-min’s life was beautiful because his life was the same both at its beginning and at its end. A man who has started his career for his country, for his fellow people, and for humanity must end his life for his country, for his fellow people, and for humanity. Only then will his life be remembered by people for ever as a noble and beautiful life.
In the years of the revolution against the Japanese, people’s spiritual world was a pure one.
Since the emergence of modern revisionism in the international communist movement, not many people talk about internationalism. Even those who used to preach internationalism whenever they opened their mouths are now busy feathering their own nests.
The times were good when revolutionaries, though not well fed and well clothed, helped one another, regardless of nationality, offering food and other necessities to one another. Communists must not betray their internationalist duties and obligations anytime, anywhere.
In the summer of Juche 73
(1984) the great leader stayed overnight in
Khabarovsk is a place I wanted to visit.
When I was entering the Soviet Union I did so via Manzhouli, so I had no chance
In the days when the KPRA and the NAJAA formed the International Allied Forces (IAF) together with the units under the Soviet Far East Forces and waged a joint struggle, Khabarovsk became an important place where the officials from the Comintern and the communists and military cadres of Korea, China and the Soviet Union got together to exchange opinions and discuss the orientation and methods of their joint struggle.
In those days the
Headquarters of the Soviet Far East Forces was situated in
It was in November 1940
that I first entered the
I gazed at the snow-covered land of the
My thoughts were complicated from the first step I took towards
The Comintern had seldom invited Koreans to its meetings.
In the 1920s people connected with the Korean Communist Party frequented the Comintern, each carrying an ID card with a stamp produced by a seal made from a potato; nevertheless, these were factional visits aimed at winning hegemony. They were not activities in the true sense of the word aimed at promoting the communist movement. What these people achieved by their scurrying back and forth was the disbandment of the Party itself and the compulsory transfer of its members to the parties of other countries under the principle of one party per country.
As far as I know, the Comintern leadership rarely put forward the issue of the Korean revolution as an independent agenda item of any meeting.
After the breakup of the Korean Communist Party, the Korean revolution
virtually disappeared from the view of the Comintern. What the Comintern was
mostly concerned about in Asia was the revolutions in such big countries as
It was at its Seventh Congress that the Comintern recognized the independence of the Korean revolution, and for the first time expressed its official support for it.
Despite its poor attention to the Korean revolution, we did not resent this too much, but supported the Comintern consistently and valued its work and the importance of its existence.
In the years after the First World War it performed great exploits in rallying the ranks of the communist movement and in ensuring the purity of those ranks to cope with the new situation. We made a due appraisal of the achievements of the Comintern that performed faithfully the role of an international vanguard for the victory of the world revolution.
With the dignity of being the masters of the Korean revolution and the pride of being full-fledged members of the international communist movement, the Korean communists strove for the victory of their revolution and at the same time made efforts to implement the directives of the Comintern aimed at promoting the world revolution.
I expected a great deal from the
As I had been fighting in forests for such a long time, everything in front of my eyes was strange. The peaceful avenues free from gunshot reports, plunder and hunger, the happy looks of the people striding along the streets, talking freely—all these were signs of the life we had been imagining as an ideal one.
I was told that
On the very day of my
arrival I met So Chol in our lodgings, and An Kil the next day. So Chol was to
participate in the conference in the capacity of a member of the South Manchuria
Provincial Party Committee, and An Kil as chief of staff of the 3rd
Directional Army. I could not express in words the emotion of meeting the
comrades-in-arms whom I had failed to see frequently because of battles when I
went to and fro in eastern, southern and northern
The commander of the
So Chol and An Kil
informed me that Zhou Bao-zhong, commander of the 3rd Route Army, had come to
Khabarovsk already in early November, followed by Zhang Shou-jian and Feng
Zhong-yun, commander and political commissar of the 3rd Route Army, respectively,
and Ji Qing, chief political officer of the 5th Corps. They told me that Kim
Chaek and Choe Yong Gon were also in
Before the opening of the conference I met General Lyushenko from the Soviet Far East Forces, the representative of the Comintern.
He explained to me the
purport and objectives of the conference of the representatives of the
I acceded to his request, and compiled with So Chol and An Kil detailed data, which I sent to Wang Xin-lin on New Year’s Day 1941.
Wang Xin-lin was the pseudonym
of Lyushenko, chief of intelligence of the Soviet Far East Forces. In the days
when the units of the KPRA and the NAJAA were in the territory of the
In the archives of the
Comintern there is the original text of the great leader’s report written in
January Juche 30 (1941) in the capacity of representatives of the South
Manchuria Provincial Party Committee (
Comrade Wang Xin-lin, As for all the questions you raised with us concerning
the work of the
Kim Il Sung
January 1, 1941
Before the conference I had an emotion-filled meeting with Kim Chaek and Choe Yong Gon, and a reunion with Zhou Bao-zhong after a long separation.
An Kil and So Chol stayed in the same lodging with me until the day we
Already in late January 1940, a conference of the guerrilla commanders
from Manchuria called by the Comintern had been held in
Reviewing the experiences and lessons of the guerrilla movement in
On the basis of this success, another consultative meeting was held in mid-March 1940 to strengthen mutual relations and cooperation between the NAJAA on the one hand and the Soviet military authorities on the other. Attending the meeting were the representatives of the 2nd and 3rd Route Armies of the NAJAA, the acting commander of the Soviet Far East Forces, the commanders of the Soviet troops stationed in Khabarovsk and Voroshilov, and Lyushenko.
At the meeting the NAJAA asked the Comintern and the Soviet army to
increase their support for it. But the Soviet army requested that the
prerogative of command over the units of the NAJAA be handed over to it. The
commander of the Soviet troops stationed in
This attitude of the Soviet side aroused heated controversy at the meeting, and only basic agreement was reached on the issue of the forms and contents of mutual support and cooperation. This matter was not solved satisfactorily, and was earmarked for further discussion at the forthcoming conference.
The gathering we frequently refer to as the
As the senior officers and officials from the NAJAA, the KPRA and the
provincial Party committees had got together here for the first time, in the
first stage they discussed in real earnest for several days the measures to be
taken to establish relations between the different route armies and provincial
Party committees, and to take concerted action with the Comintern and the
Soviet Union. Then, from early January 1941, they mainly discussed with the
authorities of the Comintern and the Soviet Union the future of the
anti-Japanese guerrilla movement in
Representing the Comintern and the
Right from the beginning, the conference proceeded in an awkward atmosphere owing to the conflicting attitudes between the Soviet side and the NAJAA side towards the power of command over the NAJAA.
The other thing that made the atmosphere awkward was the discontent felt by the officers of the NAJAA at the absence of a representative of the CPC at the conference.
When calling the
I do not really know why the representative failed to go to
The conference proceeded in the form of round-table talks, without a
separate communique. The representatives of the different route armies of the
NAJAA reported on their work, broadening each other’s knowl edge and
understanding needed for the discussion of the issues on the agenda. I reported
on the activities of the
In the situation prevailing at that time it was impossible to present a comprehensive report on the military and political activities of the NAJAA.
The CPC did not provide a centralized and unified leadership over the
activities of the NAJAA. Some people such as Zhao Shang-zhi and Zhou Bao-zhong
tried in this way or that to establish relations with the Party Central
Committee and thought about setting up a separate Party organization in
It was no easy job to grasp the revolution in
The central issue discussed at the
As for this issue, the Soviet side proposed that the NAJAA give up its
independence and merge with the Soviet army, stressing the need to take
substantial measures for a joint struggle in order to emerge victorious in the
fight against world fascism, as the fascist forces of Germany, Japan and Italy
were forming an anti-Comintern alliance and as the Second World War was
continuing to spread. They went on that this would agree with the principle of
proletarian internationalism and benefit the revolution in
During that one year one dramatic change took place after another in the global political situation and in the military situation in the Soviet Far East region. The Soviet proposal reflected the trend of these situations.
In those days the
The Soviet people were making every effort to avoid a pincer attack from the east and the west. At the sight of the plan of cooperation presented by the Soviet side one could fully guess their anxious state of mind caused by the strained situation.
It was impossible for the Soviet Union, a country with one part of its
large territory belonging to Europe and the other part occupying a vast area of
From the first days of its founding, the
It was the September 18 incident that directly occasioned the Soviet
Union’s drastic expansion and replenishment of its military strength in the
The Soviet forces in the
The Soviet proposal to put the NAJAA under the direct control of its Far East Forces was interpreted as a repetition of the proposal it had advanced one year previously and, worse still, it incited criticism that the Soviet Union, giving precedence to its political and military interests, was trying to subordinate the anti-Japanese movement in Northeast China to these interests.
In view of the situation prevailing in the
Clamouring that the anti-Japanese armed units in Manchuria were fighting
under the instigation and directives of the Soviet Union,
Proceeding from this actual situation, the Soviet Union, while
strengthening its defence capabilities in the
The Soviet proposal to set up a military system combining its Far East Forces and the NAJAA was aimed on the one hand at giving no excuse to Japan for invading the Soviet Union and on the other hand at gaining an ally with whom its Far East Forces could collaborate in case of an anti-Japanese campaign.
With regard to the issue of merging, heated discussions took place in and out of the conference hall.
The leaders of the NAJAA had not the least intention of placing
themselves under the umbrella of the Soviet Far East Forces. They insisted: We
have fought bloody battles for ten years, eating and sleeping in the open, so
what’s all this nonsense of merging about? We can never give up the revolution
It was learned later that both Stalin and Dimitrov supported the NAJAA’s attitude. As a result, Lyushenko was replaced by Sorkin in the end.
At that time the Soviet side anxiously wanted to know my opinion about
the issue. They tried hard to convince me that their proposal did not proceed
from national selfishness. But their explanation reeked of an insistence that
the revolutions in
I told them, “There is some sense in your proposal, and we know the
conditions under which you had to conceive it. But, it is as yet a unilateral
and premature proposal. It is true that
The Soviet side asked me whether I was opposed to any form of merger.
“No, I am not,” I replied. “I am not opposed to a merger or forms of
cooperation beneficial to both sides. What I am opposed to is an unreasonable
merger through which one side slights the other or does not recognize its
independence. The KPRA formed the Anti-Japanese Allied Army with Chinese
comrades and is waging a joint struggle, and yet it is maintaining its
independence. So there is no problem with the form of joint struggle. I am
opposed not only to dissolving the KPRA in the Anti-Japanese Allied Army but
also to placing it under the control of the Soviet army. This is because it
would ignore our independence in its form and content. We can study further
concrete ways and means how to effect a joint struggle of the KPRA, the NAJAA
and the Soviet Far East Forces. We are of the opinion that the joint struggle,
in its form and content, must not only be helpful to the Soviet Union but
beneficial to the revolutions in
After listening carefully to what I said, the Soviet side replied that I had given them a clue to putting an end to the argument which had been going round and round in circles and to concluding the conference, adding that they had got a very helpful hint from my words that day. They told me they would further study the issue of independence.
Supporting their determination, I said, “Let us stop insisting on unilateral points and conclude the conference at an earlier date. Every hour is precious for us, as we have to return to the various theatres of war as soon as possible to conduct small-unit activities, build organizations and work with the masses. It doesn’t stand to reason for communists to drag out a meeting wrangling over an issue. If everyone thinks reasonably on the basis of proletarian internationalism, no issue is impossible to be settled.”
Zhou Bao-zhong and Zhang Shou-jian also wanted to know my opinion on the issue.
I said to them: “If the independence of each force is recognized, I will not oppose an international alliance of our armed forces. The crucial point is the form of such an alliance, and this needs time for further study. Though unilateral, the Soviet proposal contains a seed of reason. So let us not reject the proposal out of hand. With a comradely, unselfish attitude we should give the fullest play to proletarian internationalism and finish the discussion as soon as possible for the common good.”
My proposal was supported at the conference. Our principled stand shown during the course of the conference was a positive force for realizing unity and cooperation between the revolutionary armed forces of three countries—Korea, China and the Soviet Union.
Assured that our strategic policy of preserving and building the forces of the revolution and switching over from a large-scale guerrilla struggle to small-unit actions was correct in that it fully met the requirements of the new situation, the conference discussed in real earnest waging small-unit actions with the main emphasis on preserving the forces of every unit of the NAJAA and the KPRA.
The discussion of this issue took two days or so. A consensus of opinion
was reached relatively easily, but opposition was also encountered. Some were
of the opinion that the switchover was a retreat from the revolution. Others
doubted that we could defeat Japanese imperialism by engaging in small-unit
actions, as they were not still satisfied with the large-unit actions. They
claimed that, when the comrades in
It was misguided to think that we could save face if we fought in large units and would lose face if we fought in small units.
On the issue related to the policy of conducting small-unit activities, I had a great deal of discussion with the Soviet and Chinese comrades inside and outside the conference hall. As we had already adopted the policy of switching over to small-unit actions at Xiaohaerbaling so as to preserve and build the forces of the KPRA and had accumulated successful experience of these actions, the Soviet and Chinese people expressed considerable interest in my opinion.
To them I said, “The situation has changed radically, and we have suffered considerable losses. The issue of preserving our forces mustn’t be neglected not only for the present situation of the revolution but for its future. Don’t think that we can defeat Japanese imperialism easily. For the KPRA and the NAJAA to defeat Japanese imperialism and liberate their motherlands, they must preserve their forces and build them up. If we engage in small-unit actions, we can briskly build organizations for an all-people resistance and obtain food more easily. Moreover, such actions enhance mobility. We have waged small-unit actions since the summer of last year and scored inspiring successes. These actions are worth taking. We can take large-unit actions later if necessary.”
However, although I explained the rationality of small-unit actions in
some detail, this did not impress those who saw the actions as a retrogression.
So we discussed the matter a great deal. Referring to the situation prevailing
At that time we discussed the situation in real earnest. We had held many
meetings before on this issue, but we had not discussed the situation as
earnestly and as long as we did at the
To those who insisted on large-scale actions, I said, “It is the
Comintern’s request that we refrain from large-scale actions. Behind this
request are the aspirations and determination of communists of different
countries to defend the
And to the Soviet delegate, I said, “You should not try to keep us here
without good reason. We can’t advance the revolution if we sit with folded
arms, doing nothing, on the plea of preserving our forces. We’ll continue to
wage brisk political and military activities in small units in
All the other delegates from
But we could not wage the revolution in such a passive way. If we spent our time engaged in that degree of activities, what would it be other than eating the bread of idleness? We concluded the discussion with the decision to put emphasis on small-unit actions, work with the masses, building organizations and fostering our strength. This coincided with the policy we had adopted at the Xiaohaerbaling conference.
The Soviet side promised that they would provide the NAJAA and the KPRA
with bases in their territory. We decided to wage small-unit actions in the
vast area of
After the conference the Soviet Union provided us with two bases in the
Far East—one being
At that time I, as Commander of the KPRA, took charge of
That we became able to take brisk small-unit actions in
Had we not taken these timely and active countermeasures as required by the prevailing situation and the developing revolution, we would not have been able to save the revolution from the imminent crisis nor win the final victory in the anti-Japanese revolution.
In the course of waging a revolution, one faces constant difficulties and adversities. But there were no ebb tides or lulls in our revolution. We neither vacillated in the face of difficulties, nor yielded to distress, nor lost the initiative to the attacking enemy. Had we yielded to adversities or stood on the defensive even once, the enemy would have trampled on our revolution without mercy. We always turned misfortunes into blessings, and unfavourable conditions into favourable ones, with the determination and courage that we would neither yield nor retreat even though it meant our end.
After the meeting at
the great leader was conducting positive political and military activities
after advancing a new line, strategy and tactics, the armies and police of
The following materials graphically show how confused the enemy were:
elements of the Korean Communist Party plotting against
“Kim Il Sung is the military chief of the Okeanskaya Camp under the direct control of the Soviet Red Army.” (Case of Activities of the Rebellious Organizations of Koreans in Manchuria, Document of the Police Affairs Bureau of the Government-General of Korea sent to the chiefs of the provincial police bureaus, Showa 19 (1944).)
strong bandit groups led by Kim Il Sung, Choe Hyon, An Sang Gil and Chai
Shi-rong all entered the Soviet Union early this year and received various
types of training in Voroshilov. After rearranging their forces and with a new
policy they have been infiltrating
One day several months after the demise of the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung, Comrade Kim Jong Il said to some officials:
“In the Kumsusan Assembly Hall there was a safe used by the leader. No one, including his aides, knew what he kept in the safe.
“After his death we wanted to open it but we could hot find the key. Some days ago we found the key and opened the safe to find... a photo of him posing with Comrade Kim Chaek.
“He usually kept all his photos in the Party History Institute. But he was keeping in his safe a photo he had had taken with Comrade Kim Chaek. This shows how dearly he cherished the memory of his comrade-in-arms Kim Chaek.”
To be immortal in the memory of his leader—this is the greatest glory a man can win in his lifetime and the greatest happiness a revolutionary can feel. Kim Chaek was the loyalist of loyalists, standing on the peak of such glory and happiness.
How could he live for ever in the memory of his leader?
I met Kim Chaek for the first time at the conference the Comintern
As we stayed there for several months, not just a day or two, Kim Chaek and I frequently met each other. I shared board and lodging with An Kil and So Chol, and Kim Chaek would visit us and talk with us for a few hours before returning to his lodgings.
I was so impressed by my meetings with him that I still vividly remember the very first meeting.
He had a calm demeanour, and he was going bald even though he was not yet 40. Strangely enough, even though I had not met him before, I had the strong feeling that he was an old friend of mine. I think it was because I had heard so much about him and had looked forward to seeing him.
After the usual exchange of greetings, I told him I felt that he was an old friend in spite of the fact that it was our first meeting. Kim Chaek replied that he also felt that Kim Il Sung was not in the least a new acquaintance.
The fact that Kim Chaek and I felt that way means we thought about, and missed, each other equally.
I had wanted to meet Kim Chaek and Choe Yong Gon so much that I had made
special trips to northern
Whether the theatre of our struggle was northern Manchuria or eastern Manchuria, we all thought at that time about the Korean revolution
and never forgot that we were Koreans, revolutionaries and sons of
This community of like minds can be said to have made the Korean
revolutionaries in eastern and northern
Why did Kim Chaek and Choe Yong Gon cast a covetous glance all the more
“Why did it take so long to meet Commander Kim?” Kim Chaek muttered to himself after we had exchanged greetings at our first meeting.
I did not know why, but his soliloquy went straight to my heart.
He did not let go of my hands for a long time, even after we had greeted each other. I looked at him, and saw that tears were brimming in his eyes. For a man of few words to show tears, how sorely must he have missed the Koreans in Jiandao and the units of Koreans? That day I also shed tears.
Who does not cherish his native land? But people joined the northward exodus one after another to eke out a living.
Kim Chaek’s parents thought that once they were in Jiandao, their troubles would be over. As they had three sons, they did not worry about labour. Nevertheless, the sons whom they had pinned such great hopes on abandoned the household and joined the revolution.
It was Kim Chaek’s elder brother, Kim Hong Son, who let the wind of
revolution into this household. During the March First Popular Uprising he
cheered for independence on the street, fought in the Battle of Qingshanli12
as a soldier of the Independence Army and joined the communist movement. In the
Kim Chaek’s younger brother was also a prominent revolutionary. Kim Chaek
told me that he had once come across an article in a newspaper about his
younger brother being held in
While tending the fields by day, Kim Chaek diligently attended night school.
At that time he threw himself into the revolutionary movement.
The organization he first affiliated himself with was the General Federation of Korean Youth in Eastern Manchuria (GFKYEM). Subsequently he was admitted to the Korean Communist Party. The Party cell he belonged to was under the influence of the Tuesday group13. Though he knew that the Korean Communist Party which had been organized in 1925 had been disbanded owing to factional strife, he did not hide the fact that he had been a member of a cell of that Party.
In those days there were two general bureaus of political groups in
Learning the inside story of factional strife filled with feuds for hegemony, Kim Chaek felt disillusioned with the hierarchy of the Communist Party. A turning point in his thinking came about at this time. Writhing in mental agony over the debacle in the communist movement resulting from factional strife, he heard the news that the Comintern had disbanded the Korean Communist Party while he was languishing in a prison cell. Though the Party had been stained with factional strife, its disbandment rended his heart.
Then, which path should Korean communists follow from then on? And what should I do? Kim Chaek thought when in prison and out of it, he told me. He could do nothing by relying on the existing generation of Party members, but there seemed to be no new force that could replace them. However hard he thought, the way ahead was bleak. In these circumstances, not knowing which way to turn and penniless, he decided to say thanks to his benefactor Mr. Ho Hon.
When Kim Chaek had faced trial. Ho Hon had defended him in the court. From the outset Kim Chaek had not asked for a lawyer. He had neither money to engage a lawyer nor did he want someone to speak for him. Then Ho Hon had volunteered to plead for him free of charge. This lawyer had undertaken to defend many revolutionaries and independence fighters in court, getting them released or their sentences reduced.
Kim Chaek stayed at Ho Hon’s house for some days. When he was leaving
The two men established relationship in this way. It was out of pure patriotism that Ho Hon defended Kim Chaek in the court. He did it free of charge as he was mortified to see a Korean patriot facing a penalty for doing what he, as a Korean, ought to do. Sympathy, solidarity and the obligation of an elder patriot—three feelings influenced him, I would say. All considered, Mr. Ho Hon was truly an excellent man.
After liberation, when Kim Chaek was Vice-Premier and concurrently Minister of Industry in the Cabinet, Ho Hon served as the first Speaker of the Supreme People’s Assembly. How strange their relationship was, as a man who had stood in the dock in the past and a man who had spoken in defence of him became senior cadres of a state! The day he was appointed Vice-Premier, Kim Chaek said to Ho Hon: “In the bygone days, sir, you spoke for me in the court; now you have the duty to criticize me. If I make mistakes, whether as Vice-Premier or as a private citizen, please take me to task without mercy.”
Though good-natured. Ho Hon was a man of principle. He really would have criticized Kim Chaek severely had the latter made mistakes in his work. But he had no opportunity to do so, for Kim Chaek did nothing deserving scolding as Vice-Premier or as a private citizen.
Instead, Pak Hon Yong was always hated by him when Pak was Vice-Premier. Ho Hon advised me to be watchful of Pak, apparently because he felt some foreboding about him.
I can never forget how loudly Ho Hon wept over the news of Kim Chaek’s death. He deeply grieved over his death, saying that my right-hand man whom no one could replace had passed away so early.
Kim Chaek told me that he was embarrassed to receive such kind treatment from Ho Hon and his family. He had done nothing particular for the nation, he said, but had been a tool in the hands of factionalists before serving a prison term. Yet Ho Hon’s family took care of him as if he had been an outstanding revolutionary, and he felt as though he was sitting on needles.
Even if I have to die one hundred times and come back to life one hundred times, I will live up to the people’s expectations—this was what Kim Chaek determined when leaving Ho Hon’s household for Jiandao.
Entering Jiandao, he heard the heartbreaking news that his father and wife had died of illness during his absence. Only his two infant sons were left in the house.
Nevertheless, he had no time to care about private affairs. He was informed that secret agents of the Japanese imperialists had been sent to arrest him. How cunning the Japanese imperialists were! They arrested revolutionaries, gave them a good beating and released them through the front door as if showing great generosity, before taking them in again through the back door. They were masters of such tricks.
Kim Chaek left the village, leaving his sons in the care of his wife’s brother. In peasant’s attire and with a shabby reed-hat on his head he went past the entrance to the village driving a cow belonging to his wife’s brother. Reaching a hill the cow lowed ceaselessly for its calf left behind in the stable. The calf also bleated plaintively for its mother. Disguising himself was crucial, but he could not go further in this way. Hearing the mother and her young calling to each other so pitifully, he thought of the sons he had left in his wife’s brother’s house and wept in spite of himself. He felt sorry for the calf as well as for his sons, he told me. So he let the cow go. For the next 16 years he did not see his sons. Only a revolutionary like Kim Chaek could endure such an experience.
I asked him if he knew how his sons were getting on.
He replied he did not, saying, “If my wife’s brother is still alive, they will keep body and soul together. If something bad has happened to his family, then my sons will be beggars. For all that, I hope that they remain alive. Then they will see the day of liberation sooner or later and meet their good-for-nothing father.”
In Ningan, Kim Chaek heard rumours about us. After taking leave of his
sons, he proceeded to
When I was in
Soon after this, Kim Chaek went in search of me. But by that time I had already left the city. He instead happened to meet in an inn some of my comrades, who had apparently been tailing him.
After confirming his identity and
hearing the purpose of his visit to
They then gave him travel expenses and saw him off. He went to northern
As soon as he was released, he was again detained by the warlord police and
sentenced to death. It was quite nonsensical to give the death penalty to a man
who, though a communist in name, had not yet been engaged in a movement worth
mentioning and who had not harmed the warlords at all.
He escaped death by the skin of his teeth on the execution ground. An officer appeared and ordered that he not be shot. He seemed to be a progressive officer with strong anti-Japanese sentiments. Leaving the execution ground Kim Chaek thought the world was not so hard-hearted after all.
What lesson did he learn while undergoing all these trials? He told me that, though he had tried to wage the revolution from the days of his youth, he had been on the run, doing nothing worth mentioning and wasting most of his time in prisons and on the roads, and that he had given the enemy blows on his own initiative only after taking up arms.
“The enemy regards revolutionaries fighting empty-handed as scarecrows,” he said, laughing.
He meant that unless one armed oneself, one was a powerless and defenseless being, like a scarecrow, in front of the armed brigands. He said that this was the most important lesson of his life.
Hearing what he had to say, I thought he had learned a correct lesson. It was not only a lesson Kim Chaek learned through half his lifetime; it was also the general law-governed nature of the revolutionary struggle.
Revolution must be waged with the force of arms, and the end of all forms of struggle for national independence and social liberation is decided generally by the armed struggle. The basic factor of our victory in the anti-Japanese revolution was that we had our own independent revolutionary armed forces.
In the theatre of the national liberation struggle of our country there were various forces, like Kim Ku’s, Syngman Rhee’s and Ryo Un Hyong’s, but the force that the Japanese imperialists saw as their most fearful enemy was our KPRA. And why? It was precisely because we fought against them tenaciously by the method of armed struggle, the highest form of national liberation movement, not through petitions, strikes, writings or speeches.
The victory of the anti-Japanese revolution convinced us of the correctness of the truth that revolution must be waged with the force of arms, and after liberation it induced us to hold fast to the line of building a revolutionary army and channel all our efforts into building powerful revolutionary armed forces throughout the whole course of building a new Korea and accomplishing the cause of socialism.
The power of a nation and its pride rest on arms. A strong army ensures a
reviving nation and a prospering country.
That Comrade Kim Jong H is today training the Korean People’s Army to be
an unrivalled, ever-victorious army and scoring marvellous successes in army
building at the helm of the revolutionary armed forces is the most brilliant,
historical achievement he has made in inheriting and consummating the
revolutionary cause of Juche pioneered on
Kim Chaek spoke a lot about the harmfulness of factions. He told me that it was because of factions that he had been thrown behind bars after doing nothing special, and went on:
“After experiencing prison life I keenly realized that the communist
movement could not be waged through conventional methods and that unless
factions were eliminated, nothing, let alone national liberation and class
emancipation, could be achieved. I wanted to meet you, as I thought that if it
was true that the force that had appeared in
He said that what could be called proper life for him started when he
organized a guerrilla unit in Zhuhe and began an armed struggle. His life
before then was one of roaming and groping, he said. It was true. From the time
he organized the guerrilla unit in Zhuhe, he played a conspicuous part in the
“I have long looked forward to meeting you,” he said. “Do you know how earnestly the Korean revolutionaries in northern
He continued that when we had organized an expedition to the motherland
and attacked Pochonbo, he had earnestly wished to shake my hands and extend
words of gratitude to me in the name of the Korean revolutionaries in northern
Kim Chaek, known as a stem man, was surprisingly sentimental in front of me.
Saying that he had heard a lot of the news about eastern Manchuria and
West Jiandao from the people I had dispatched to northern Manchuria, he told me
that what he regarded as a model to follow in the activities of the main-force
unit of the KPRA was the trait of unity between officers and men, between
superiors and subordinates, and between the army and the people. In addition,
he said, he admired the spirit of independence with which I had justifiably
insisted on the Korean people’s fighting for the liberation of
Kim Chaek was well-acquainted with the course of my struggle. He even knew the story of how I had repaired a rifle stock for one of my men. He said that he had regarded me as a model in his revolutionary struggle and everyday life. He was such a modest man.
Though he held me up as a model, frankly speaking, he himself was a paragon of revolutionaries.
He had earned the reputation of being a fierce man, but he was a political worker who loved his men more than anybody else. Though he said he had been impressed by my anecdote about the rifle stock, there were as many uplifting anecdotes about his relationship with his men.
What is the combat power of a revolutionary army? It is love between comrades. Value and love your comrades. When you love, love them as you would your own heart. No one is more precious than revolutionary comrades in this world—this is what he stressed to his men.
Once a guerrilla from another contingent came to him with a docu ment. Kim Chaek ordered him to sleep in his own quarters while he himself studied the document. At night he went to the quarters, taking with him a needle and thread, and patched up the messenger’s clothes and underwear. When he was accepting the document, he had noticed that the messenger’s clothes were torn, and decided to mend them. The messenger belonged to another unit, but he took care of him as his own father or brother would do.
After every battle he would congratulate his men. He did this not to them
as a group, but meeting them one by one. He praised each in concrete ways—You
did this and that well when breaking through the gate; you did such-and-such
well when attacking the puppet Manchukuo army barracks; you did this and that
well and this and that wrong when shouting to demoralize the enemy. According
to those who had fought in northern
Kim Chaek worked in quite an experienced way with soldiers who were criticized or punished. When a soldier was criticized by his commander, Kim Chaek would meet him and examine him as to whether he had realized his mistake; if the man had not, he would talk to him persistently until he saw what he had done wrong.
The following happened when Kim Tae Hong was a platoon leader:
He once hurled severe abuse at an assistant machine-gunner. Under a hail of enemy fire, the assistant, who had joined the guerrillas only a short time before and had not been tempered in battle, fired in the air. Incensed, Kim Tae Hong shouted, “You, coward! If your life is so dear to you, put down the gun and go back to your parents!”
After the battle, Kim Chaek sent for Kim Tae Hong and said to him:
“You mustn’t treat your men in that way. He is a raw recruit, isn’t he? How can you hurl abuse at a man who is in battle for the first time? Instead of abusing him, you should first set a personal example.”
Thereafter, Kim Tae Hong never hurled abuse at his men.
For all that, Kim Chaek did not show only affection for his men. He was a commander of principle; he persuaded, criticized or punished his men according to the situation. When someone made a serious mistake, he would subject him to a severe rebuke.
This is what Jang Sang Ryong said in recollection of Kim Chaek after his death:
In the winter of 1942—i.e. when Kim Chaek was fighting with a small unit in Manchuria after the Khabarovsk conference—his unit suffered greatly from a shortage of food.
One day Jang went hunting outside the secret camp. Finally, at dusk he shot a bear and a wild boar. After burying the animals, he hurried off, but he could not reach the camp before dark, for he was exhausted and the way was rugged. He stayed overnight in a hunter’s hut not far from the camp and returned the next morning. Kim Chaek had ordered his men not to use the hut, saying it could be used by enemy spies.
Learning that Jang had stayed overnight in this hut, Kim Chaek summoned Jon Chang Chol and ordered him to call Jang to account for it, saying Jang was not fit to be a guerrilla.
Jon Chang Chol asked him to forgive Jang this once, as Jang had thus far fought faithfully for the revolution.
Kim Chaek said, “No, I can’t. Make him stand outside in the cold for three hours.”
Jon Chang Chol took Jang outside as ordered. But before two hours had passed Jang was in such a pitiable state that Jon Chang Chol asked Kim Chaek to call Jang in, as he must have fully repented of his mistake by that time. Saying that attempting to commute the penalty given to a wrongdoer was an equal violation of discipline, Kim Chaek ordered his orderly to stand Jon outside as a penalty.
He called Jang into the tent only after the passage of three full hours. He told him to take a meal first. Jang sat at the table, but he could not eat the food put before him. He realized to the marrow of his bones what he had done wrong.
Kim Chaek sat near him and said in a gentle voice: “You might think your mistake was not so serious. That’s wrong. Why do I take it seriously? It is because your mistake might reveal the whereabouts of our small unit and consequently ruin our revolutionary task, not to mention our safety. This is why I ordered the men not to use that hut. However, you neglected the order of your superior and risked your life overnight. What would have happened if there had been spies there?”
Jang engraved every one of these words on his heart, he told me.
Kim Chaek was a man of few words, but each word he spoke was so weighty that it was as inviolable as an article of the law.
Once the enemy, to dishearten the anti-Japanese guerrillas, spread the rumours that Kim Chaek had been arrested, Pak Kil Song had surrendered, such-and-such a contingent had defected and some calamity had overtaken Ho Hyong Sik.
The commanders and guerrillas, who were well aware that these were sheer lies, were enraged. Disgusted by the false rumours, the commander of the 2nd Contingent decided to teach the enemy a good lesson, and drew up a plan to make the enemy pay dearly. He lured an enemy spy who was roaming about his camp and asked him to go down the mountain and negotiate with the military police for the surrender of his contingent.
The military police informed him, through the spy, of the place and time of surrender, promising the contingent commander a generous reward. The police, guided by the spy, appeared at the promised place at the set time. Grinning at the contingent standing in lines in the forest, the police even waved their hands to them.
At that moment the guerrillas aimed their rifles at them, shouting, “Stay where you are!”
The contingent commander said, “You fools! We came here not to surrender, but to capture you. Hands up!”
The enemy leader protested.
“I have heard that the communist army does not tell lies. How can you go against your promise? An army must keep faith.”
“Shame on you,” the contingent commander replied. “How dare you talk about faith when you spread false rumours and tell lies every time you have a chance? As you tell so many lies, we also told a lie.”
The contingent returned with the captured police. All praised its commander, saying he had done a great meritorious deed and a successful operation. It was similar to the incident of Pak Tuk Pom who had been criticized for advertizing his “surrender” in order to capture food.
Kim Chaek gathered the officers of the 2nd Contingent and criticized them severely, saying, “To think that the guerrilla army could lie like the enemy do! What on earth is this way of thinking? However false the game was, how could you use the surrender of guerrillas as a trick? You are not entitled to be officers of a revolutionary army.”
He then demoted all the officers, including the contingent commander.
Perhaps this makes you think that Kim Chaek knew nothing besides punishment. But he was not an officer to give punishment at random.
Let me tell you another anecdote.
In a battle a guerrilla was so flustered that he retreated, carrying only his grenade-launcher, and leaving his knapsack full of grenades behind on the battlefield.
His unit assembled and criticized him. Criticizing or punishing a guerrilla who had lost his rifle happened occasionally in the units of the revolutionary army. The guerrilla thought he deserved the criticism of his comrades-in-arms, and made up his mind not to repeat such a mistake. Then, a senior political cadre suggested that a severe penalty be given him, making the atmosphere of the meeting threatening.
Finding out that the guerrilla was a new recruit, Kim Chaek concluded that his officers were responsible for not training him properly and that the recruit should be given assistance, not a penalty. He dismissed the suggestion of the senior political cadre, Had the issue finished there, everything would have been all right. But, as the political worker insisted that the man be executed, the new recruit fled in the night. Thus, a problem that could have been settled without a hitch developed in an unforeseen direction. The political officer became an object of hatred. All denounced him as an inhumane man. Some condemned him as a counterrevolutionary and others urged that he be punished.
Receiving a report about this, Kim Chaek said that he and none other was responsible for it, and it was a fault in his own work, the work of the chief political officer, that there was a political officer who did not treasure the political integrity of his men. That day he enrolled the political officer in his guard unit, and took him with him to give him individual education.
At every opportunity Kim Chaek stressed to his officers and men the need to establish a good relationship between the army and the people and between superiors and subordinates.
He spoke highly of my holding aloft, though in a foreign land, the banner of the Korean revolution, relating it to the spirit of independence. He told his Korean guerrillas that though they were fighting in a Chinese unit, they should bear in mind the Korean revolution at all times, that the revolution must be carried out by Koreans, not by others, and that they should always remember their motherland.
Kim Chaek and I had many things in common—from the aspect of the revolution, the approach to the people, the stand on the spirit of independence, to the issue of the method and style of work, not to mention the issue of building the Party, the state and the army.
To Kim Chaek, who was surprised to find that I knew every detail of his life, I said I also had long observed his progress.
Smiling, he said, “If men who have neither seen nor met each other pay attention to and miss each other, then it is a predestined relationship.”
As it was in the summer of 1930 that he had gone to
In consideration of his age and the course of his revolutionary struggle,
Kim Chaek, ranking high in the north Manchurian unit, could be called a senior
among the Korean military and political cadres of the guerrilla army from
As for me, I was not yet the Head of State nor the General Secretary of the Party.
For all this, Kim Chaek gave prominence to me as the representative and leader of the Korean revolution in front of the Soviet and Chinese people.
Why did he so absolutely trust and give prominence to me, a man nine years his junior? This can be explained in various ways. His heart was full of the idea that there should be a centre of leadership for the revolution, and all should be firmly rallied as one around the centre. His yearning for and missing of the centre were expressed finally in his special concern and affection for me.
After he met me, he became one of my closest comrades, and followed and helped me consistently. Regardless of changes in circumstances, he entrusted himself wholely to me and worked faithfully.
Returning to the motherland after its liberation, he never relaxed for a single day, as he was constantly on the move to build the Party, the state, the armed forces and industry.
It was the same during the Korean war. In those days he went wherever he
was wanted. When he was the Front Commander he went as far as
The people who accompanied me to Suanbo were scolded sharply by Kim Chaek at that time.
While young communists of the new generation upheld me as the centre of
leadership in the days in
At the training base in the Soviet Far East region in those days were guerrillas who had fought in northern Manchuria as well as in southern
I will give you an example that shows how Kim Chaek followed and trusted me.
After participating in the
I sent a telegram to him in my name, judging that he was not well aware of the fact that we had formed the IAF in view of the changed situation, and were expediting the final victory of the anti-Japanese revolution.
He returned to the base only after receiving my telegram. Why did he come back as soon as he received my message, a man who had remained unmoved even by the order of the IAF Headquarters? It was because he followed and trusted me so much. He regarded my words and requests as absolute, thinking that it was proper for him to return when I ordered him to do so, and without any conditions.
From the days at the base in the
When I was leaving with a small unit in the spring of 1941 he showed concern for each man of the company which was to guard me.
When we were making preparations for the final operations against the Japanese troops, he called a meeting of Korean commanders in the IAF without giving me notice. The meeting discussed the issue of ensuring my personal safety. He told the meeting: “Everyone must ensure the personal safety of Comrade Kim Il Sung with a high sense of vigilance.
Comrade Kim Il Sung is the
leader representing the people and revolutionaries of
After the triumphal return of the soldiers of the KPRA to their motherland, he called another meeting on guarding me.
“Returning to the motherland,” he said at this time, “we can see that the situation is more complicated than we heard. The manoeuvrings of terrorists are quite threatening. We must be on the highest alert, or else I’m not sure what might happen. The chief secretary of the South Phyongan Provincial Party Committee, Hyon Jun Hyok, was assassinated by terrorists. You must never allow the news of General Kim Il Sung’s triumphal return to escape your lips. The time will come when the news will be made public, so until then you must keep it a secret. We must ensure General Kim’s safety particularly well, as we are his personal bodyguards.”
Later he took the initiative of organizing my Guard Unit.
If I were to recount all the details of how faithful he was to me, it would take more than a day.
As I still do today, I channelled great efforts into working with the
people after liberation. I really had a busy time working with the people, the
Though we had distinguished guests, we had no system of entertaining them. We had not even a guest house where we could provide them with board and lodging. Most of them were accommodated in my house, where only boiled rice and soup were served. Everyone regarded this as normal, as it could not be helped just after liberation. But Kim Chaek showed considerable concern over it. He worried about the fact that not even good liquor was available in my house.
It is true that the country is in a pitiful state and we have no money. But how can we go to the market to buy liquor each time a guest visits the General? When the Republic is founded, guests will come to see the General in droves. We have to build a distillery with our own hands and make liquor for entertainment purposes. Besides, for the safety of the General we should make it ourselves—this was what Kim Chaek thought.
Without my knowledge, he began to inquire into which liquor was the most famous across the country and who was its distiller. The liquor made in Ryonggang was said to be the best soon after liberation. A distiller and his daughter made it, and senior Japanese and well-to-do people enjoyed drinking it before liberation. Kim Chaek went to Ryonggang to meet them. Moved by his words, the distiller asked Kim Chaek to take his daughter with him if a specialist in making liquor was needed by the country. She was Kang Jong Suk. After that, Kang Jong Suk cooked meals for Kim Chaek and made liquor in her spare time. When she laid out a place for distilling, Kim Chaek went to the market with another man and bought rice. Soon his house became a distillery.
After several days Kim Chaek came to me with the first bottle of the new liquor.
Filling a glass to the brim, he said, “This is the first Ryonggang liquor Kang Jong Suk has made for you.”
Kim Chaek was delighted when I praised the taste.
From then on, the Ryonggang liquor Kang Jong Suk made was served at state banquets, and as another happy ending to this episode, Kim Chaek and Kang Jong Suk became man and wife.
To what degree he considered his leader’s authority absolute can also be known from the fact that whenever I called him over the phone, he stood up, adjusted his dress and buttoned up his jacket before speaking on the phone. When he was ill in bed, he would still rise to his feet to receive a call from me, whether there was anybody nearby or not. A man who does not respect his leader from the bottom of his heart cannot do as he did.
He thought he could not exist without me.
The severest of times during the Fatherland Liberation War were the days
of retreat. Though it was announced that it was a temporary and strategic
retreat, some timorous people even thought the Republic was coming to an end.
When the enemy advanced to Sariwon, Kim Chaek, the Front Commander, built a
line for defending
But instead of retreating he sent me his Party membership card. Apparently he was resolved to fight a do-or-die battle.
I called him on the phone, and said I
would not leave
Some people said he was a very stem, truculent man. But, frankly speaking, he acted severely only in front of idlers, sycophants, the discontented, the selfish, careerists and factionalists; he was boundlessly kind-hearted and modest in front of his subordinates and the people. As he so hated those who played a double game, Pak Hon Yong was mindful of his behaviour in front of Kim Chaek. Kim Tu Bong, though him-self Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, avoided encountering him.
Kim Chaek was completely free from affectation and hypocrisy.
Immediately after liberation, his son, who had been wandering in
He said to his son: “Don’t feel ashamed of your straw sandals.
You seem not to know what kind of man General Kim Il Sung is. Don’t worry. You have so far lived barefooted, and you can’t imitate a wealthy son all of a sudden. The General will be happier to see you in straw sandals and those clothes. If you were in a Western suit and leather shoes, he would not be happy.”
When he appeared in my office with his son in straw sandals, the son he had met after 16 years of separation, I could not hold back tears. That day I shed more tears than Kim Chaek did. How copiously he must have shed tears in his mind! But his family reunion lasted only for four years.
Kim Chaek died because he overtaxed himself. He carried too large a burden.
It was on January 30, 1951 that I saw him last. At the time the Supreme Headquarters was in Konji-ri. That evening he came to me without prior notice. He said that the 24th of the previous month had been Comrade Kim Jong Suk’s birthday but he had failed to come to see me because he had been busy, although he knew I would feel lonely. He apologized, continuing that the end of this month was approaching and he had come now as the more he had thought the more he had felt he had been remiss and he could not stand it any longer.
I said to him: “In December last year we were in quite a hurry to drive
out the Americans from the north of
That day he was not like himself. I did not know why, but he was strangely sentimental.
He asked me to take a stroll, so I went outside with him. He told me that
he did not know before the war that there was such a scenic place there, and we
should build an excellent rest house there after the war. I agreed. To be
candid, we had been so busy after liberation building a new country that we
failed to inquire into where valleys suitable for building rest houses and
scenic places were situated. As for our own recreation, all we could do was go
to the Maekjon Ferry or the
I gave him a pair of my socks, saying, “Don’t overtax yourself with work. Take care of yourself. How can you stand the winter cold wearing torn socks? Please take care of yourself for my sake.”
That evening he wanted to dine with me. But Ho Ka I unexpectedly appeared to report about Party work. He took a great deal of time over this report, without coming straight to the point. So Kim Chaek left Konji-ri without taking a meal.
Leaving the Supreme Headquarters, he said to me: “We will be victorious over the Americans, General. Please don’t work too hard, and look after your health.”
This was the last request he made to me. The request moved my heart in a special way on that day.
That day Kim Chaek burned the midnight oil in his office before dying of heart failure.
When the Minister of Public Health and Director of the Medical Bureau, Ri
I regretted having failed to make Kim Chaek stay with me the previous night. Had he done so, he would not have worked late into the night and he would not have had a heart attack.
Another thing I regretted was that on the evening when he called on me I saw him off without having a meal with him. Even if I had had a meal with him that evening, my grief would not have been relieved, and it still weighs on my heart.
I cannot remember most of the things that happened on the day when I bade
him my last farewell. The only thing I remember clearly is touching his hands
for the last time before the departure of the hearse, the hands I had shaken
for the first time in
Whenever our revolution encounters trials and difficulties, I yearn for Kim Chaek.
As I said before, I did not go to his grave by car. Whenever I went to his grave, I felt guilty about riding in a car, so I got off at the foot of Mt. Taesong and walked up to his grave.
Even if he is now in the world beyond, how can my love and respect for him change? I have experienced a lot while waging the revolution, and what I cherish most deeply is the experience of comrades.
For a person who has embarked on the road of revolution with a determination to dedicate his life to the freedom and liberation of his fellows, the most precious things are comrades and camaraderie . A faithful comrade can be said to be one’s alter ego. I do not betray myself. If faithful and obliging comrades unite, they can prevail against Heaven itself. This is why I always say if one gains comrades, he can win the world, and if one is forsaken by one’s comrades, one will lose the world. The word “comrade” means a like-minded man. The mind is inseparable from ideology. The relationship between comrades formed through temporary interests or mental calculation cannot be solid; it breaks up easily, depending on the circumstances. But the relationship of comrades based on ideology and will is eternal; even bullets or the gallows cannot break it.
The Korean revolution has produced many comrades who showed noble examples of fidelity. They constitute a galaxy around us.
After Kim Chaek’s death, we named Songjin, a city near his home village,
the Chongjin Iron Works, an enterprise associated with his devoted life, and
Pyongyang University of Technology after him— namely,
I hope that the city, the enterprise and the university named after him will always take the lead in socialist construction.
Kim Chaek hated following in the wake of others. He always stood in the van. He performed significant things in the building of our industry. When I see factories and enterprises that fail to manage themselves efficiently, I say to myself, “If Kim Chaek knew this.... If Kim Chaek knew this....”
In the days when Kim Chaek was Minister of Industry, the industry of our country operated smoothly. Some of our officials who are still active once worked with him. I hope they will not make his service to the building of our industry come to naught.
On a visit to the museum, he stopped in front of me photo and said that he valued it the most.
When he recollected the anti-Japanese revolution, he often spoke about his memories of Comrade Kim Jong Suk. She was cherished in the great leader’s heart as his dearest comrade, a never-to-be-forgotten comrade-in-arms.
I posed for this photo when I was in
We spent a winter there and, then moved into
Choe Hyon, who had arrived there earlier, came out a long way to receive us. He looked wide-eyed at me, as I was wearing a fur cap and fur overcoat. He burst out laughing, saying, “I was wondering who this gentleman was, and it turns out to be you, General Kim.”
I still remember that occasion. He hugged me so tightly, I felt like
choking. He said jokingly that he had heard that I was in a conference at
A short way from
The soldiers of the KPRA assembled in the camp built more barracks, houses, stores, kitchens and ablutions. The barracks were of the dug-out type, with bunk beds like those in the present barracks of the Korean People’s Army. My men worked hard to construct them. They laid out a wide sports ground in front of the barracks.
There we had no need to worry about food supplies. We were each served with about 200 grammes of sliced bread at every meal. At first, the meals were not to our taste, as we were not accustomed to Western food and the side dishes were not very good.
There was a truck in the camp which brought supplies to us from a nearby farm. Its driver was a Russian. Ri O Song followed him like a shadow to learn how to drive. Sometimes he followed him to the farm. In the course of this, he learned how to drive, and also how to drink. Apparently the driver was very fond of drinking. With this experience, Ri O Song worked as a driver for some time after liberation. He was mad about driving. But one day he ran into a fence while driving my car. After that, he was banned from driving.
Once after liberation the Soviet comrades who had been in
I will never forget the year when we spent the winter and greeted spring
in the Far East region of the
The year 1941 witnessed a great
change in our revolution and great events breaking out all across the world. In
June the Nazi army invaded the Soviet Union, and in December the Pacific War
broke out with
Viewed from the spring of that year, however, the Soviet-German War and the Pacific War were still in the future. We greeted 1941 full of optimism and confidence in the future. The time for the Korean revolutionaries to carry out the sacred mission they had assumed for the times and history, for their motherland and nation, was near at hand.
That spring I thought a lot about our small-unit activities and future
joint operations, and exchanged opinions with my comrades. At that time Kim
Chaek and Zhou Baozhong stayed at
Pending our departure, Kim Jong Suk helped us in our preparations. By that time she and I were married.
Fighting for the revolution, we had got to know each other, and while
sharing life and death on
It was around the time of the Dahuangwai conference that I first saw her.
I am not sure whether it was during the meeting or after it, but I went to
Later, I met her again in Maanshan, as she had been enrolled in my unit. She, along with Kim Myong Hwa, greeted me in Manjiang, and I was very impressed with her appearance. That day I talked a lot with her. Through our conversation I learned that she had no one to rely on except her comrades-in-arms.
From that time on, she fought shoulder to shoulder with us. In my unit
she took part in the
I should say that I owe my survival in that fierce battle to her. With seven or eight other women soldiers, she was preparing the morning meal on a col not far from the battle site. In the depression was a house in which they could cook, as the smoke from the chimney could not be seen by enemy observers. But the enemy pounced upon the col all of a sudden. If this strategic spot were to be occupied by them, we could be attacked from both sides.
Sensing the critical nature of the situation, Kim Jong Suk drew her Mauser and, with the other women soldiers, delivered heavy fire at the enemy, mowed many of them down and beat the rest back. The battle made her the favourite of her comrades-in-arms. That year (1936—Tr.) we operated in Changbai. Then in March the next year we set out on an expedition to Fusong.
I have often mentioned this arduous expedition. Frankly speaking, everyone, including myself, was tired out.
Every night most of the exhausted men fell fast asleep. But Kim Jong Suk would sit up all night by the campfire, mending the torn clothes of her comrades. As they marched through rugged mountains, their clothes were easily torn. Ma Tong Hui, a recruit at that time, had a hole burnt in his cap from a campfire spark. Kim Jong Suk mended it neatly. As I learned later, she made everything tidy with the utmost care. That night I was moved by her kind heart, by the fact that she could not sleep in peace before she had helped others. This fact gave me a deep understanding of the woman.
That was why I readily agreed to the proposal of some commanding officers to assign her to an underground workers’ group to be sent to Taoquanli. She did a lot of work in Taoquanli and Sinpha. And it was at this time that I found in her uncommon skill and ability as a revolutionary. She had an unusual ability to motivate the masses, awakening them to consciousness and enlisting them in action. The “testimonial for a good citizen” which hundreds of people in Taoquanli and its vicinity are said to have submitted to the police with their signatures when she was arrested by the Jingan army soldiers showed their affection for her.
How could she enjoy such trust from the people? Because she had worked with her full devotion. Whatever she did, she threw herself into it heart and soul, unafraid of death. And this was why she could survive any danger.
She was afire with love for the people. She thought her sacrifice for others was not in the least wasteful. It was her nature to go through even fire and water if it was for the sake of her comrades.
In April 1938 we had an encounter at Shuangshanzi on our way back from attacking the enemy in Liudaogou. The battle was so fierce, I myself took a machine-gun on the firing line and mowed down the enemy. As the enemy was closing upon us from all sides, we had no way out, nor even a chance to take a meal.
Then I felt something warm at my side. I felt in my pocket, and found dumplings in it.
Glancing round, I could see Kim Jong Suk running about the battlefield, putting dumplings in the hands of the comrades. We continued fighting while eating the dumplings. The food was cooked by a spring at the foot of a cliff. There was no knowing how she had climbed up the perpendicular cliff carrying a pan full of dumplings.
She carried food to her comrades even running about the battlefield like that, lest they should go hungry, but she herself always went hungry.
Once the unit ran out of cereals, and had only potatoes to eat. If a man eats potatoes for several meals in a row, he gets tired of them and loses his appetite. Kim Jong Suk was sorry to see her comrades-in-arms with nothing but potatoes to eat for several days, and racked her brains about how to stimulate their appetites. She ground up potatoes and cooked pancakes out of them, or made cakes out of them stuffed with stewed edible herbs. From that time on, her comrades ate the potatoes with relish.
Kim Jong Suk lived all her life not for herself, but for her comrades. Her life started with love for her comrades, and developed on the basis of that feeling. In the course of this, she became a prominent revolutionary who displayed communist moral qualities to the fullest extent. All that she did throughout her life was for her comrades, her fellows and for the revolution. She did nothing for her own benefit. She never thought of herself at all.
“I can endure hunger, cold and pain. I am satisfied if my comrades do not feel hunger, cold or pain. If I can save my comrades from danger at the cost of my own life, I will face death with a smile, with no regrets.”—This was her outlook on life.
The story about a blanket is sufficient to illustrate how sincere and ardent her love for her comrades was.
Some time ago. So Sun Ok, one of her comrades-in-arms, came to
Choe Hui Suk, on her way back from underground work in Yao-fangzi, brought with her So Sun Ok. So Sun Ok, only 15 or 16 years old at that time, joined the KPRA. Choe also took with her So’s nephew. The recruit whom Om Kwang Ho branded as an enemy spy in the Qingfeng secret camp was this very nephew.
Kim Jong Suk loved So Sun Ok dearly. When camping, she would sleep with So Sun Ok, some years junior to her, under the same blanket. Kim Jong Suk and So Sun Ok were the only women guerrillas near Headquarters.
The blanket So Sun Ok brought with her to
On the day of her leave-taking So Sun Ok hugged Kim Jong Suk and wept without ceasing. Her departure was full of tears as the two women had slept under the same blanket. Kim Jong Suk was worried at that time over what to give her as a memento. Putting the blanket in her knapsack, Kim Jong Suk said, “Well, please take this as a memento. It’s not a new one, but don’t forget that it carries my warmth, the warmth of your elder sister, who has loved you so much.”
The blanket came to me after half a century.
Despite the passage of time, I could recognize the favourite blanket of Kim Jong Suk. The pair of binoculars was the one I had given to Kim Myong Ju.
Had she had a thing dearer to her than the blanket, Kim Jong Suk would have given it to So Sun Ok without hesitation. She always said she was happier to give than to receive. It was her philosophy of life that she was much happier giving her tender feelings to others than receiving others’ tender feelings, although the latter was also good.
Her love for her comrades found a most distinct expression in her efforts to help me, with unstinted devotion. Loyalty to one’s commander is in essence an expression of one’s love for one’s comrades.
One year we fought many battles in which we had to skip meals, as we had mn out of food supplies. When I was commanding a battle someone put something in my pocket. I turned to find that it was Kim Jong Suk. After the battle I looked in my pocket. There were cracked pine nuts wrapped in paper. I asked her where she had got them. She only smiled. Later, the women soldiers told me that she had climbed pine trees to pick the cones.
She snatched me from the jaws of death on several occasions. She was always prepared to become a shield herself to protect me from enemy fire.
During the battle on the outskirts of Dashahe, a critical situation arose around me. A group of enemy troops were approaching me stealthily, yet I was not aware of the situation for I was commanding the battle. But for Kim Jong Suk’s help, I would have been killed. She shielded me with her own body and shot all the enemy soldiers. So I was saved miraculously. Similar things happened on several occasions.
The padded coat I wore in the mountains for several years was also made by her. Apparently she had heard somewhere that floss-silk was bullet-proof. So she gathered floss whenever it was available and made a padded coat for me. As the coat she had made, stitch after stitch with the utmost care, sitting up late for several nights, fitted me perfectly, she was overjoyed.
When I sat up all night or went to sleep at bivouacs, I would spread on the ground the deer skin I was carrying with me and lie on it, covering my body with the padded coat. Then I would feel warm enough.
Nowadays, women do not do much knitting, I was told. They do not take the trouble, because machines do the job nowadays. Whenever I see knitwear, I am reminded of Kim Jong Suk. She did a lot of knitting for me. I wondered how she could manage to find time from her cooking duties to knit, and where she obtained knitting wool. Anyhow she read books or did knitting whenever she had time.
It was not easy to obtain knitting wool in the mountains. In those days we had to fight a battle just to obtain a packet of needles. Nevertheless, Kim Jong Suk made padded overcoats and waistbands, because she worried about my health, as I had to eat, sleep and march in the open in all seasons, fighting the enemy. She knitted woolen stockings for me every year until the country’s liberation.
I was sorry she took so much trouble for me, and I once asked her where and how she obtained knitting wool. She only smiled. I asked her again if she had woolen stockings of her own. She again did not answer. As I pressed her for an answer, she only said, “You are engaged in a great work. General, and you needn’t worry your head about such trivial things.”
After liberation she again did knitting for me. If my socks were worn out, instead of patching them, she would unravel them, wind the yam on a spool and knit new socks for me. She would work all night and put them by my bed in the morning. She could of course buy socks better than those in shops and markets, but she did not buy new ones. If a pair of new socks she had bought was worn out, she would unravel them and knit them again for me until the yam wore out. She wanted to knit my socks herself. That was truly a womanly heart.
I once could not help becoming annoyed at her exceptional devotion to me. It was one winter—I cannot remember which year it was—when she gave me my clothes she had washed and then dried against her own body. She had tried to do it unnoticed by others, but the other women soldiers’ high praise for her deed reached my ears.
Dumbfounded at this unheard-of episode, I called her to Headquarters. I was near tears when I saw her face so pale from the cold. To think that she had done for me what my mother dared not do in her lifetime, I did not know what to say to her.
The devotion with which Kim Jong Suk undertook of her own accord the thing even my mother had not done, to sacrifice herself! I thought it must have been her warm feeling towards the man Kim Il Sung, as well as her revolutionary devotion to her Commander.
“Comrade Jong Suk, I respect your devotion to me,” I said to her. “I am always grateful to you for it. But why on earth did you do this? What if you catch pneumonia? If I bask in your self-sacrificing devotion, do you think I will feel at ease? Don’t do it again.”
Smiling, she said, “It is nothing at all if only I can see you, General, in good health....”
Though I was angry in front of her, I shed tears after sending her back. I don’t know why, but I was reminded of my mother at that time. I felt as if Kim Jong Suk’s kindness for me contained that portion of love my mother could not give me in her lifetime.
I can never forget the look of Kim Jong Suk trying, biting her lips, not to reveal the chill she was feeling as she had been deprived of the warmth of her body by the wet clothes.
In the subsequent years, too, she would dry my clothes with her body. All in all, she protected me from bullets, rain and snow, and from fits of cold with her body.
Our contemporary historians call the road of anti-Japanese revolution we
trod an unprecedented path. They are right. The anti-Japanese revolutionary
veterans blazed a trail not only in the revolution but in love. Their life was
trying beyond imagination, but love blossomed on the hard rocks of
I believe that an important thing in human love—love between parents and their children, love between husband and wife, love between sweethearts, love between teacher and his pupils, and love between comrades—is the spirit of devotion. Throwing oneself into fire, facing the gallows or jumping into a hole in the ice if necessary in order to relieve the person one loves of hunger, pain and cold, even though one feels hungry, cold and painful oneself—only this self-sacrificing spirit of devotion can create the most beautiful, ennobling and sincere love.
When I visited Mangyongdae on my return to the motherland after liberation, my family and relatives said that they had heard that I had married a good woman when fighting in the mountains. They asked where we had had the wedding ceremony, how it had been arranged, who had been the best man and who had provided the wedding feast.
I could not answer. I was suddenly choked, and found myself at a loss for words to answer these questions. Telling the truth would grieve my grandparents and make my kinsfolk feel sorry for me.
When we were fighting in the mountains, we could not afford to think of things like wedding feasts. Life was arduous and trying, and, worse still, we had not won back the country and were ashamed of being a ruined nation. So how could we think of things like wedding ceremonies or birthday parties? None of us wished for such extravagance.
A wedding ceremony in the guerrilla army was very simple. All that had to be done was just to announce that such and such comrades were married. We could never imagine such a ceremony as giving a party in wedding gowns as the young men and women do now. When we enjoyed fairly good conditions, a bowl of cooked rice was all that was served. If rice was not available, gruel was served, and, if even gruel could not be served, potato or maize was shared. For all that, no one complained. On the contrary, we took it for granted and regarded it as natural.
After the announcement of the wedding we went on with our usual life in the companies and platoons we belonged to. There was no exception even for commanding officers. Some couples went into battle immediately after their weddings and fell in action, and other couples lived apart, as they were given different missions.
On the day I married Kim Jong Suk, our comrades-in-arms tried to obtain something special for us, but to no avail. Where could they obtain anything when the whole unit had run out of food supplies and were going hungry? There was no wedding dress, no wedding cake, no master of ceremonies and no best man, but I will never forget that event. Kim Jong Suk, too, often recalled the day.
If they hear this, younger people may wonder how it could be so. But it could not be otherwise in the circumstances of those days.
The anti-Japanese guerrillas felt the worth of life in gladly accepting and enduring today’s hardships for the sake of tomorrow’s happiness. That was their joy of life. They lived in that way for the coming generation, for their motherland as we see it today.
In the days in the Paektusan secret camp and the training base in the Soviet Far East region, I thought of arranging proper wedding ceremonies for my comrades-in-arms after the liberation of the country. But I found that I could not do as I had wished because, though the country was liberated, the people were not well-off and the food problem was acute.
One day immediately after liberation Jang Si U called on me and protested
that a veteran guerrilla intended to spend money belonging to the Party
I called Kim Song Guk to my office and ordered Ri Ul Sol to disarm him. I then reprimanded him, asking who had authorized him to meddle with the finances of the provincial Party committee.
Almost in tears, he said, “I wanted to prepare a wedding suit, quilts and a party for Son Jong Jun. As he has no relatives, what can he do if we do not help him?”
Nevertheless, I criticized him severely.
“I know full well that it would be nice to prepare these things for Son’s wedding. But are we in a position to do so? If you had recalled even once the days when we held weddings without proper food, you would not have asked the Party for money. The country is in dire circumstances, so observe with care and be prudent in your behaviour, as befits a veteran guerrilla.”
Though I reprimanded him, I felt my heart ache. Frankly speaking, how laudable it was for Kim Song Guk to try to arrange a proper wedding ceremony for a comrade with whom he had shared weal and woe, joy and sorrow! Many of the veteran guerrillas got married in the liberated motherland, but they all held their weddings in a simple way. This always weighed on my heart. This is why Comrade Kim Jong Il arranges parties for their 60th and 70th birthdays, and sends gifts to them.
Kim Jong Suk, however, did not enjoy such things and passed away in her early 30s, leaving behind her this photo. It was by mere chance that she and I posed for it. But for the care of our revolutionary comrades-in-arms, she would not have been able to leave behind even this photo.
When I was making preparations to leave in command of a small unit, my comrades called on me one day and suggested having photos taken. They said that as there was no knowing when we would meet again, we should leave photos as souvenirs. They added that all that I needed to do was to pose, because they had borrowed a camera.
Going outside in my uniform, I found Choe Hyon waiting for me. It was still chilly, but spring air could be distinctly felt everywhere.
Leaning on a tree on which spring tints were emerging, I posed with my
comrades-in-arms for photo, as souvenir of our meeting in
Others posed in groups of twos or threes.
At that time, some women guerrillas, getting wind of our photography session, ran to me and said they also would like to get their photos taken. So I posed for a few photos with them. They then suggested to me that I should have a photo taken with Kim Jong Suk. Hearing this, she grew shy and hid herself behind the backs of the women guerrillas. They pushed her forward to my side, smiling all the way. In order not to miss the moment, a comrade clicked the shutter.
That was probably the first time in my life that I had posed with a woman comrade individually. For Kim Jong Suk and me, it was as good as a wedding photo.
In those days we were still young and vivacious. We had many dreams of a bright future. Though we greeted the spring in a foreign land, we were full of confidence and in high spirits.
For both of us, it was an unforgettable first spring that we greeted after our wedding.
As I wanted to remember that spring forever, I jotted down on the back of
the photo: “Greeting the spring in a foreign land, March 1, 1941. At
I never imagined that this photo would remain in history to be displayed
in such a large museum as the
Kim Jong Suk wore her hair bobbed, like the other women guerrillas did. But you cannot see her hair style in this photo, for all her hair is covered by her cap. There was a reason for this.
That spring I went to
Those who posed for the photos with me that day are now all gone— An Kil, Choe Hyon, Kim Jong Suk. There were many of them, but they have gone, leaving me behind.
The young tree which An Kil, Choe Hyon and 1 leaned against to pose for a photo must have become a giant tree by now.
I don’t know how
Even after liberation, Kim Jong Suk attended me with all her heart.
How meticulous she was in taking care of me! She would change my collars once every few days. She starched them and smoothed them by pounding them with a club. This was because only pounded collars became soft and did not feel stiff to the neck. If starched collars are ironed, they become stiff, injuring the skin of the nape and restraining the free movement of the neck. She would pound the collars with a club only when I was not around. She did not do it even once when I was at home, lest it disturb my thinking.
I will tell you one more anecdote related with her faithfulness.
On the eve of national liberation I went to
On my return from
As the months passed, the memory of the dream grew dim.
However, Kim Jong Suk did not forget it. When we were living in a house
at the foot of
It may be said that Kim Jong Suk devoted all her life to me. Even after marrying me, she considered me as Commander, Premier and as the foremost leader. The relationship between her and me was that between the leader and the led, between comrades. She always said she was a soldier of the leader. She never addressed me in familiar terms; she only said “General” or “Comrade Premier”.
One day after liberation, some women journalists called on her to introduce her to the public.
She only said to them: “A fighter’s life is enshrined in the history of his leader.
Please write more about General Kim Il Sung.”
I think one can detect her exceptional personality in these words.
She passed away after experiencing nothing but hardships all her life. I felt so heartbroken at this, I strapped a watch to her wrist when bidding my last farewell to her. Could I repay her lifelong devotion to me with a watch? Or could I assuage the grief of losing her by such an action? Nonetheless, I would not have thought of doing it had me watch been an ordinary one with no story to it. It was a watch which had endured remarkable events.
One year my grandmother said to me that she needed a ladies’ watch and asked me if I could buy her a good one even though it was expensive.
I was puzzled at my grandmother, who had lived all her life without even a wall clock, all of a sudden wanting a ladies’ watch, and a good one at that.
I bought such a watch, and took it to my grandmother. I asked her what she needed it for.
“I heard,” she said, “that you got married in the mountains without any fine presents or a feast. This weighs heavily on my heart. A long time has passed since you returned from the mountains, but I haven’t arranged a party for you nor have I had clothes made for you. So I want to have Jong Suk wear a watch. I would be happy if she wore a watch.”
The watch Kim Jong Suk took with her when departing this world was the very same one.
My grandmother’s affection for her grandson’s wife was really deep. This affection also represented that of my father and mother, who had died long before.
However, I did nothing for her. She had arranged a birthday party for me, though simple, every year, but while living with her for nearly ten years after our marriage, I had not arranged one for her. She had not even allowed me to mention her birthday.
As I felt sorry about having done nothing for her, I offered her a glass of wine when I dropped in at my old house for lunch on the day the Republic was founded, saying, “All these years you have taken so much trouble to look after me, but so far I have done nothing for you; I have only given you trouble. Today I wish to offer you a glass of wine.”
She said, “What do you mean by saying that you have done nothing for me? You gave me wonderful presents by founding the Party, the armed forces and the Republic! You have made my lifelong wishes come true. I have nothing more to wish for.”
In the year after Kim Jong Suk’s death, women veterans collected money and presented it to the Party, asking that her grave be renovated. When the project started, I visited her grave on Moran Hill, and found that a steel fence, stone facing and granite steps were being built.
I said to the women veterans working at the construction site:
“Please don’t take offence, but look at those houses over there. People are still living in those small houses. They lived shedding bitter tears in the past, suffering hardships, but they are not yet leading decent lives. We have not yet reunified the country. If Jong Suk knew you were decorating her grave with granite slabs in these circumstances, how sorry she would be for the people! If you really want to pay tribute to her, you can plant trees and flowers around her grave and, when you recollect her, bring your children here to have a rest and look after her grave. This is the way to express your true feelings for her. Stop the project at once, and send those granite slabs to other construction sites.”
Though she dedicated her all to the well-being of her comrades and fellows all her life, she did not leave a single penny or any property for her son and daughter. The money she spent came out of my salary and the house and furniture she used all belonged to the state.
If there is any heritage she left with us, it is that she brought up Comrade Kim Jong Il to be the leader of the future, and presented him to the motherland and the Party. You say I brought him up to be my successor, but in actual fact the foundation was laid by Kim Jong Suk. This is the greatest service she rendered for the revolution.
On her last day she sat Kim Jong Il by her side and told him to sup port his father loyally and inherit and consummate his cause. This was her last will. Three hours later, she breathed her last.
I still frequently recollect her. She wore chima (the traditional Korean skirt) and jogori (the traditional Korean jacket for women) for several years. For some reason, however, it is more often in military uniform than civilian attire that she appears in my mind’s eye, mostly shivering from cold, as she did when she came to me with my clothes she had dried in her bosom.
It is still heartrending for me to remember how she looked.
times the publications on the payroll of Japanese imperialism gave wide
publicity to the effect that the units of the Anti-Japanese Allied Army had
been routed if their commanding personnel fell in action. Even though they knew
full well that large forces of the Anti-Japanese Allied Army were putting up
resistance as ever, the army and police of
If their claim that the anti-Japanese armed units had been routed and an
end had been put to our resistance was true, then why did Nozoe move his
headquarters from Jilin to Yanji, the theatre of operations of the KPRA, and
mass his troops northeast of Mt. Paektu, the troops that had been enlisted to
attacking Yang Jing-yu? And why did he throw into “punitive” actions against
the guerrillas not only the forces of the Kwantung Army and the puppet
The sizes of small units and groups were different according to the situations, but usually small units consisted of 10 to dozens of men as well as groups of only several men. They were armed lightly to suit their missions and duties. After their formation, we defined their tasks and their areas of operation. According to the tasks assigned, some small units and groups conducted mainly political work, some performed military actions and some were engaged in reconnaissance. But the tasks were not immutable. They executed other tasks than their own as well, according to the circumstances. For instance, the reconnaissance groups would sometimes conduct political work or the groups engaged mainly in military actions might do political work and reconnoitring at the same time.
As they were being formed, we directed efforts to building temporary
secret bases on which they could rely. The typical ones built after the
conference at Xiaohaerbaling were those situated near Daomugou in
After the conference at Xiaohaerbaling the great leader, in command of
some men from the Guards Company, fought a successful battle at a swamp near
The battle fought near Huanghuadianzi was the first one after our switchover to small-unit actions after the Xiaohaerbaling conference. After the conference I went to Hanconggou with about a squad of my guards. On our return, we came across the enemy near Huanghuadianzi and fought a battle there. Every scene of the battle still remains vividly in my memory.
The name of Huanghuadianzi, like those of Matanggou and Nan-paizi, has a story attached to it. When we asked the local inhabitants what the name of their locality meant, they gave different answers. Some said that it meant a swamp full of chrysanthemums, others replied that it meant a swamp full of day lilies, and still others said it originated from the love of a boy and a girl. We did not know which interpretation was right.
We had passed through the place several times, and found that there were not many chrysanthemums or day lilies there. But there was a swamp. The battle was fought in the swamp.
Hwang Sun Hui was one of our company. I had given her the task of conveying the policies discussed and decided at the Xiaohaerbaling conference to Choe Hyon. Though small in build, she was agile and had a lofty sense of responsibility. She knew well where Choe Hyon’s unit was.
As dusk was falling, we took a break on the mountainside behind Huanghuadianzi.
I thought about how to pass through the swamp. There was a wide ditch
across it and a log bridge across the ditch. Foul water of uncertain depth was
flowing along the ditch. If we crossed the log bridge and then a couple of
mountains, we could go straight to Daomugou in
Nevertheless, over the bridge the enemy could have been lying in ambush. As I was gazing at the far end of the bridge, I spotted, as I had expected, a flashing light on the other side. I wondered if it was a firefly at first, but it was without doubt an enemy flashlight, I decided. We could get to Daomugou only by crossing the log bridge, but we were in a fine fix as the enemy soldiers were entrenched in darkness. The situation could be likened to the Korean proverb that “You will meet your enemy on a narrow bridge.”
In the days of armed struggle I was surrounded by the enemy and placed in the jaws of death on several occasions, but I think this was the first time that I felt so hemmed in that I could not find a way out If we could not cross the bridge, we would have to make a troublesome detour of several miles. We had to continue our march straight ahead at all costs. As I stood there silently sizing up the circumstances, my men were holding their breath in suspense.
After a while, I decided to dash across the bridge before the enemy could notice us, and gave my men the order to start marching. We all crossed the bridge safely, but as soon as I, bringing up the rear, entered the bushes on the other side of the bridge, enemy machine-gun fire rang out.
I ordered my machine-gunner to return the fire, and diverted the column to the high road. Jon Mun Sop and Hwang Sun Hui guarded me at the risk of their lives. It was quite a critical moment. One false step and we might fall into the unfathomable marsh, and in the meantime enemy bullets were raining all around us. But we escaped the trap with no casualties. It was really a godsend.
Had we been thrown into confusion by the prevailing situation or failed to make a decision in time, we would not have been able to escape from the enemy’s trap, and suffered great losses.
When we were marching towards the high road, I got the report from the scout that the enemy had appeared in front of us. No doubt the main force of the enemy, which had been standing by, had been alerted by the shots at the bridge.
I ordered my men to rush back to the bridge. Firing at the enemy soldiers at the bridge and those on our tail, we slipped away to one side, to a mountain. I then gave an order to take a break.
We took a short rest on the ridge of the mountain. Meanwhile, the enemy forces from the bridge and from the high road fell into an exchange of heavy fire.
The people in Antu told us later that the enemy suffered many casualties in the exchange of fire between themselves. The two enemy contingents accused each other of firing first, and wondered whether they had seen ghosts cross the bridge.
Later we killed many enemy soldiers at Facaitun,
We fought such battles almost every day. Some days a number of small units pooled their forces to attack a large target. As we fought large battles now and then, with the main emphasis on small-unit actions, the enemy did not realize that the People’s Revolutionary Army had switched over from large-unit operations to small-unit actions.
After being informed through Hwang Sun Hui about the policies adopted at
the Xiaohaerbaling conference, Choe Hyon and his men conducted efficient
small-unit activities. His unit first attacked the enemy at Guangshengtun and
Small units led by O Paek Ryong fought in Yanji, Helong and Antu; those led by Kim Il and Sun Chang-xiang in Hunchun and Dongning; and those led by Han In Hwa, Pak Song Chol and Yun Thae Hong in Dongning, Ningan, Muling and Wuchang.
The whole region of Northeast
China and the northern border area of
On the small-unit actions he personally commanded after the
In the days before the conference, the small units and groups operated
mainly in the northern border area of
The contents of their activities were varied. They built Party organizations
and underground revolutionary organizations or rebuilt those that had been
destroyed in the homeland and
The units of the NAJAA also took part in the small-unit actions in those days. The theatres of these actions were allocated as follows: The units of the KPRA and the 1st Route Army and some units under the 2nd Route Army were to operate in Korea and southeastern Manchuria; the remaining main units of the 2nd Route Army were to operate in the area from north of Lake Xingkai to Donggang; and the units under the 3rd Route Army, in such counties as Qingcheng, Tieli and Hailun.
We ensured that those who had returned to the base from small-unit actions participated compulsorily and without exception in political studies and modem-warfare training.
In April 1941 I left the base with a small unit. Our task was to establish
contact with the small units and groups operating in southeastern
We also decided to find out the whereabouts of Wei Zheng-min.
The situation in the homeland and
That was why some commanding personnel counselled me to take all precautions, as they were worried about my going to the enemy area in command of a small unit. Kim Chaek, too, was apprehensive about my safety at first.
Before leaving, I appointed Ryu Kyong Su company commander and Kim Il political instructor. Jon Mun Sop was appointed my orderly. When Jon’s appointment was announced, Kim Chaek gave him strict instructions never to be as much as an inch away from me.
An Yong was chosen as wireless operator of the small unit.
An Yong had operated in eastern and northern
We chose him as our radio operator because when he had been fighting in
the unit in northern Manchuria he had taken a six-month radio-operating course
He sported a bushy moustache, about which he was often teased.
The number of men in the small unit would have been about 30. We wore Japanese-style uniforms, so that we looked like Japanese.
In the dead of night in early April we crossed the border. Then we
marched to the northeast of
We had lots of things to do northeast of
Availing themselves of our temporary stay in the Soviet Union the enemy
had again massed regular troops northeast of
For the revolution northeast of
We planned to raise a revolutionary upsurge in Antu, Wangqing, Yanji, Hunchun and Dunhua, and then proceed to Mt. Paektu to build more revolutionary organizations in West Jiandao and in the homeland while strengthening the forces for all-people resistance and selecting hundreds of patriotic young people for training in the Paektusan secret camp and the base in the Soviet Far East region as military and political cadres.
After a forced march lasting several days after crossing the border, we arrived at a valley not far from Daheixiazigou.
Once some Koreans living in Yanbian brought me a video tape they had recorded, saying that while exploring an area bordering three counties—Wangqing, Dongning and Hunchun—they had discovered a camping site of the guerrillas. I watched the video tape and recognized the area as the one our small unit had used as a temporary secret base.
When we arrived at the valley we had run out of food.
I sent Kim Il and some other men to raid the gold mine near Jin- chang,
In the vicinity of the base, Jon Mun Sop caught a big bear. Several men had to carry it to the base on a pole. We extracted a pailful of grease from the bear.
Some days later, Kim Il returned with food. Crestfallen, he reported to me that Jang Hung Ryong had been killed on the mission. It had been because of Ji Kap Ryong that Jang had been killed. Ji had stubbornly insisted on having a meal on the way back from the raid on the gold mine, and the party was delayed for about an hour, during which the pursuing enemy surprised them.
Regretting that he had not refused Ji’s request to take a meal, Kim H said he was ashamed to face me.
Jang’s death tore our hearts apart. We felt even sadder as we looked back on how he had made painstaking efforts to make up for his mistake when he had been given a penalty concerning an incident involving an ox.
Coinciding with Jang’s death, a guerrilla of Chinese nationality was captured by the enemy. The result was that the whereabouts of our unit was revealed. The enemy pursued us tenaciously, saying that Kim Il Sung had reappeared.
I thought that the news of our reappearance would rather serve our
purpose. If the enemy made a commotion about this, then it would be known to
the people, and in the long run it would be tantamount to making public the
struggle of the KPRA. In fact, the enemy was giving publicity to our struggle!
To cover our traces, we crossed a pass and marched towards Taipinggou. In early
May we arrived at Jiapigou,
There I parted with Kim Il. He was to operate with a group which had a temporary secret base at Jiapigou. In the areas of Luozigou and Tumen-Jiamusi, the theatre of the group’s operations, there were many organization members we had trained with great efforts in the days of the guerrilla bases. Telling Kim Il that Choe Chun Guk’s family would be living somewhere around there, I asked him to establish contact with them.
An Yong, the radio operator, was to remain at the Jiapigou base with two of his assistants. The base played the role of an intermediary liaison centre.
I left Jiapigou with about 20 men for the wide areas on the Tuman
By the time we arrived at Hanconggou the season had changed. The forests were thick and it was hot at midday.
From there I dispatched groups for political work to Changbai, Dunhua
and Chechangzi, as well as to the homeland and
Han Chang Bong and Han Thae Ryong were dispatched to the Changbai area. Their task was to guide the activities of the secret organizations there and to locate the families and relatives of guerrillas, link them to organizations and send them to the homeland. Changbai was home to many of the soldiers of my unit. If their families and relatives were all affiliated with organizations and planted in the homeland, they could play an important role in forming organizations for the all-people resistance movement. I gave the two men the task of selecting excellent young people and sending them to our base in the Soviet Far East region. I told them in detail whom they should contact in Taoquanli and Changbai, and in other places. I ordered them to make inroads into the homeland after building up underground organizations there and entrench themselves among the working class.
Jon Mun Sop and Kim Hong Su went to the head of a valley in Chechangzi and dug up the weapons and maps we had buried there previously and returned with them.
Those who had been to Dunhua brought an old man with the surname of Pak from a forest near Dahuanggou. He had been eking out a living by hunting wild animals. He had in the past been affiliated with the Anti-Japanese Association, an underground organization, in Huadi-an County.
I had a long talk with the old man. He said that the mountains were crawling with the Japanese “punitive” troops and their stooges. He added that we should take care as the huts of charcoal burners and opium growers, as well as the huts where biers had been kept and caves were all occupied by enemy spies. Complaining that underground work was quite difficult as the enemy had locked up all the local people in internment villages, controlling their travel and making them keep watch on one another, he said he would, for all that, do his best for the benefit of the guerrillas.
Later, the old man was arrested by the enemy and executed.
In this way, we enjoyed the active support and cooperation of the people in the days of small-unit actions. This support proved to be a great encouragement for us in our difficult struggle in the enemy area. This was clear testimony to the fact that the people had already been aroused to engage in all-people resistance.
While expanding the network of underground organizations, we endeavoured
to find the whereabouts of the remaining units under the