KIM IL SUNG
With the Century
THE ANTI-JAPANESE REVOLUTION
Revolutionaries, believe in the people and rely on them at all times and you shall always emerge victorious; if you are forsaken by them, you will always fail. Let this be your maxim in your life and struggle.
Kim Il Sung
It is extremely moving for a man to look back on his past in his latter years. People lead different lives and their experiences are varied, so it is with different feelings that they look back on their past.
I look back on my life with deep emotion and I have strong memories as an ordinary man and as a politician who has served his country and people. The country and people I have served always occupied an important position in world politics.
I was born in the first period of the country’s ruin in the great national tragedy and spent the early years of my life in the vortex of the rapidly-changing situation at home and abroad, and I came to join my fortune with that of the country and share good times and bad with the people in my childhood. Following this path, I have now reached 80 years of age.
My whole life, which has flowed with the current of the 20th century when the life of mankind has undergone unprecedented vicissitudes and the political map of the world has changed beyond recognition, is the epitome of the history of my country and my people.
Naturally, the course of my life has not been all joy and success. There have been heart-breaking sorrows and sacrifices, and many twists and turns and difficulties. While I made many friends and comrades on the path of my struggle, there were also many people who stood in my way.
My patriotic spirit made me as a
teenager cry out against
In this course, however, I never once shrank back or hesitated.
I have always held a steady helm in my life’s rough voyage, and I owe this to my comrades and to the people who have helped me in good faith.
“The people are my God” has been my constant view and motto. The principle of Juche, which calls for drawing on the strength of the masses who are the masters of the revolution and construction, is my political creed. This has been the axiom that has led me to devote my whole life to the people.
I lost my parents at an early age and have spent my whole life amid the love and expectations of my comrades. I hewed out the path of bloody struggle together with tens of thousands of comrades, and in this process I came to realize keenly the real value of the comrades and organization that shared their lot with me.
I remember my early comrades of the Down-with-Imperialism Union who believed in me and came to follow me on the hill at Huadian in the 1920s when there was no telling as yet if we would ever liberate our homeland, and then those splendid comrades who shielded me from the enemy’s bullets and who laughed as they took their comrade’s place on the scaffold. They never returned to the liberated homeland; they are now lying as spirits of revered memory in the fields and mountains of a foreign country. The many patriots who started on a different path of struggle but joined up with us in the end are no more by our side.
As I witness our revolution progressing triumphantly and our country prospering, with all the people singing its praises, my heart aches with the thought of the comrades who laid down their lives unhesitatingly for this day; often I lie awake at night with their images before my eyes.
In fact, I little thought of writing my reminiscences. Many people, including celebrated foreign statesmen and well-known literary men, urged me to write my reminiscences, saying that my life would serve as a precious lesson for the people. But I was in no hurry to do so.
Now that a large part of my work is done by Secretary for Organizational Affairs Kim Jong Il, I have been able to find some time. With the change of generations, veteran revolutionaries have departed from this life and the new generation has become the pillar of our revolution. I came to think that it was my duty to tell of the experiences I have gained in the common cause of the nation and of how our revolutionary forerunners gave their lives in their youth for this day. So I came to put down in writing what has happened in my life, a few lines each time I found a spare moment.
I have never considered my life to be extraordinary. I am content and proud to think that my life has been dedicated to my country and nation and spent in the company of the people.
I hope that what I write will convey to posterity the truth and the lessons of life and struggle that if one believes in the people and relies on them, one will regain one’s country and win victory every time, and if one ignores people and is forsaken by them, one will surely fail.
Praying for the souls of the departed revolutionaries,
My life began in the second
decade of the 20th century when
The people were deeply grieved
and trembled with indignation at being robbed of their state power. In the
fields and houses of this land, where there was “wailing all day after the
nation’s fall,” many loyalists and Confucian scholars killed themselves, unable
to bear the agony of the country’s ruin. Even nameless people from the lowest
class, lamenting the tragic fate of the country, responded to the disgraceful
A barbaric system of rule by gendarmerie and police was established in our country, and moreover even primary schoolteachers, to say nothing of policemen and civil servants, wore gold-laced uniforms, regulation caps and sabres. On the strength of Imperial ordinances the governor-general controlled the army and navy and exercised unlimited power to stop the ears and mouths of our people and bind them hand and foot. All political and academic organizations founded by Koreans were forced to disband.
Korean patriots were thrashed with lead-weighted cowhide lashes in detention rooms and prisons. Law-enforcement agents who had adopted the methods of torture used in the days of the Tokugawa shogu-nate burned the flesh of Koreans with red-hot iron rods.
Successive decrees of the
government-general that were issued to blot out all that was Korean, even forced
Koreans to dye their traditional white clothes black. The big businesses of
While visiting various parts of the world I have had the opportunity of seeing many former colonial countries, but I have never seen imperialism so hideous that it deprived people of their language and surnames and even plundered them of their tableware.
My boyhood coincided with the
time when the imperialists were struggling fiercely to redivide their colonies
throughout the world. In the year of my birth successive sensational events took
place in many parts of the world. That year a US marine
corps landed in
In short, I was born at an uneasy time of upheaval and passed my boyhood in unfortunate circumstances. This situation naturally influenced my development.
After hearing from my father about the circumstances of our country’s ruin, I felt a profound bitterness against the feudal rulers and made up my mind to devote my life to the regaining of our nation’s sovereignty.
While other people were travelling the world by warship and by train, our country’s feudal rulers rode on donkeys and wore horse-hair hats, singing of scenic beauties. Then, when aggressive forces from the west and east threatened them with their navies, they opened the doors of the country that had been so tightly closed. The feudal monarchy then hosted a contest for concessions in which the foreign forces had their own way.
Even when the country’s fate was at stake, the corrupt and incompetent feudal rulers, given to flunkeyism towards the great powers for generations, indulged in sectarian strife under the manipulation of the great powers. So, when the pro-Japanese faction gained the upper hand, Japanese soldiers guarded the royal palace, and when the pro-Russian faction was more powerful, Russian soldiers guarded the Emperor. Then, when the pro-Chinese faction got the better of the others, Chinese guards stood on sentry at the palace.
As a result, the Queen was stabbed to death by a terrorist gang within the royal palace (the “Ulmi incident” of 1895), the King was detained in a foreign legation for a year (“Moving to the Russian legation” in 1896), and the King’s father was taken away as prisoner to a foreign country; yet the Korean government had to apologize to that country.
When even the duty of guarding
the royal palace was left to foreign armies, who was
there to guard and take care of this country? In this wide world a family is no
more than a small drop of water. But a drop of water is also a part of the world
and cannot exist apart from the latter. The waves of modern history that spelled
the ruin of
Our family moved north from
Our family settled at
Mangyongdae at the time of my great-grandfather
Mangyongdae is a place of great
scenic beauty. The hill by our house is called Nam Hill, and when you look out
over the River Tae-dong from the top of the hill you command a view that is like
a beautiful picture scroll. Rich people and government officials vied with one
another in buying hills in the Mangyongdae area as burial plots because they
were attracted by the beautiful scenery there. The grave of one governor of
Working as tenant farmers from generation to generation, my family eked out a scanty living. The family line had been continued by a sole heir for three generations before my grandfather Kim Po Hyon produced six sons and daughters. Then the number of members of the family increased to nearly ten.
My grandfather worked hard to feed his children. At early dawn when other people were still in bed he would go round the village to collect manure. At night he would twist straw ropes, make straw sandals and plait straw mats by lamplight.
My grandmother Ri Po Ik spun thread every night.
My mother Kang Pan Sok weeded the fields all day long and wove cotton by night with my aunts Hyon Yang Sin, Kim Kuilnyo, Kim Hyong Sil and Kim Hyong Bok.
Ours was such a poor home that my uncle Kim Hyong Rok was unable to attend school and helped my grandfather in farming from his boyhood. A slight knowledge of the Thousand-Character Text (a primer of Chinese characters) he learned at the age of nine was all the education he got.
All the members of my family toiled as hard as they could, but they could never afford enough gruel. Our gruel was prepared from uncleaned sorghum, and I still remember that it was so coarse that it was difficult to swallow.
So such things as fruit and meat were way beyond our means. Once I had sore throat and grandmother obtained some pork for me. I ate it and my throat got better. After that, whenever I felt like eating pork I wished I had a sore throat again.
While I was spending my childhood at Mangyongdae, my grandmother always regretted that we had no clock in our house. Although she was not a covetous woman, she was very envious of clocks hanging on the walls of other houses. In our neighbourhood there was one house with a clock.
I have heard that my grandmother
began to speak enviously of that clock after my father began attending
Sometimes she would prepare a meal in the middle of the night and, not knowing if it was time for her son to leave for school, sit looking out through the eastern window of the kitchen for hours. At such times she would say to my mother, “Go and find out what time it is at the house behind.” However, my mother would not enter the house, reluctant to bother the people there, but would squat outside the fence waiting for the clock to strike the hours. Then she would return and tell grandmother the time.
When I returned home from Badaogou, my aunt inquired after my father before telling me that whereas my father had a hard time walking a long way to school every day, it would be good for me to go and stay at my mother’s parents’ home at Chilgol, as the school was nearby.
My family could not afford the clock my grandmother so desired until national liberation.
My family, though living only on gruel, were warm-hearted and ready to help one another and their neighbours.
“We can live without money, but not without humanity,” was what my grandfather used to say when admonishing his sons and daughters. This was the philosophy of my family.
My father was sensitive to new things and had a great desire to learn. He was taught the Thousand-Character Text at the private village school, yet he was always anxious to go to a regular school.
In the summer of the year when
the Emissary Incident
at The Hague3 took place, a joint athletics meeting was held in
Sulmae village with the participation of the pupils from Sunhwa, Chuja, Chilgol
After the sports meeting my father went up the hill at the back of the school and cut off his pigtail. In those days it was no easy thing to cut off one’s pigtail without the permission of one’s parents and in disregard of the old convention that had been passed down over hundreds of years.
My grandfather took the matter very seriously and created a great fuss. By nature my family was strong in character.
Afraid of grandfather, my father
dared not come home that day. He hung around outside the fence, so my
great-grandmother took him to the back gate and gave him a meal. She loved him
dearly, he being the heir to the family. My father would often say that he was
able to attend
My father started at
The monthly tuition fee at
My father worked after school until dusk in a workshop run by the school to earn money. Then he would read books for hours in the school library before returning home late at night. After sleeping for a few hours, he would go to school again in the morning.
As is clear, our family was a
simple and ordinary one the like of which could be found commonly in any farm
village or town in
But my family were all ready to sacrifice themselves without hesitation when it came to doing something for the country and the people.
My great-grandfather was a grave keeper for another family, but he ardently loved his country and home town.
When he heard that the
General Sherman had sailed up to Yanggak Islet and was killing the people
there with its cannons and guns, and that its crew were stealing the people’s
possessions and raping the women, he rushed to the walled city of
After the sinking of the
General Sherman, the
My grandfather, who used to say, “A man should die fighting the enemy on the battlefield,” always told his family to live honourably for their country and he offered his children unhesitatingly to the revolutionary struggle.
My grandmother, too, taught her children to live uprightly and stoutly.
Japanese treated her harshly by dragging her round the mountains and fields of
My maternal grandfather Kang Ton
My father taught me tirelessly from my early childhood to foster profound patriotism. From his desire and hope he named me Song Ju, meaning that I should be a pillar of the country.
As a pupil of
Later, my father left Mangyongdae to continue his revolutionary activities and, following him, my uncle Kim Hyong Gwon took the path of struggle.
Then only my eldest uncle was left behind in Mangyongdae, but the three white aspens grew into tall trees. But their shadows fell across the fields of the landlord. The landlord said that the shadows would harm his crop, and he felled one of the trees. Yet, our family could not protest. Such was the lawlessness of the time.
I heard of this when I returned home after the liberation of the country. I felt really angry about it as I remembered my late father’s beautiful dream.
This was not the only cause of regret.
Several ash trees had stood in front of my old home. As a boy, I would often climb the trees and play in them with my friends. When I returned home after 20 years’ absence, I discovered that the tree that had stood closest to the house was no longer there.
My grandfather told me that my uncle had cut it down. The story was really pitiful.
While I was waging the war in me mountains, the police had tormented my family unbearably.
Police from the Taephyong sub-station took turns to keep our house under surveillance. Taephyong was some distance from Mangyongdae, and in summer the shade afforded by the ash trees served as a sort of guard post. As they sat in the shadow, they would call to the villagers or fan themselves to sleep. Sometimes they would drink alcohol and eat chicken or harass my grandfather and uncle.
One day my uncle, who was so good and quiet, went out with an axe and cut down one of the ash trees, and my grandfather told me that he had not even thought of dissuading him. He added, “There’s a saying that one is pleased to see the bugs die in a fire even though one’s house is burnt down.” His words caused me to smile wryly.
My grandparents had a very hard time because of their revolutionary sons and grandsons. But in spite of their bitter trials and persecution they never gave in but fought on stoutly. In the closing period of Japanese rule the Japanese imperialists forced Koreans to change their names to Japanese ones. But my grandparents refused to do so. In my home village only my family held out to the last without changing their names to Japanese ones.
All the other families changed their names. If they did not change their names, people found it hard to survive because the Japanese government authorities refused them food rations.
My uncle Hyong Rok was beaten and summoned to the police substation many times because he would not agree to change his name.
“Now you aren’t Kim Hyong Rok. What’s your name?” the policeman in charge would demand. To this my uncle would answer, “It’s Kim Hyong Rok.” At this the policeman would leap on him and slap him across the face.
“Tell me again. What’s your name?” the policeman would ask him once more. Then he would answer calmly, “It’s Kim Hyong Rok.” Then the policeman would slap him even harder on the face. Every time he replied, “Kim Hyong Rok,” he was boxed on the ears. Yet he never submitted.
My grandfather said to his son: “Its a truly good thing that you haven’t changed your name to a Japanese one. When Song Ju’s fighting the Japanese, you can’t change your name into a Japanese one, can you? We mustn’t change our names on any account, even if it means we’re beaten to death.” When members of the family said farewell to my grandfather and grandmother and left the house, they would walk out through the brushwood gate in high spirits, saying that they would return after liberating the country.
But I was the only one who returned.
My father, who devoted his whole
life to the independence movement, died under a foreign sky at the age of 31. A
man of 31 is in the prime of his life. My grandmother came from home after his
funeral. Even now I can see her before my eyes as she wept at the side of her
son’s grave in the
Six years later my mother, too, passed away, in Antu, without seeing the day of national independence.
My younger brother Chol Ju who joined a guerrilla unit after our mother’s death and fought the enemy was killed in battle. Because he fell on the battlefield his body was never recovered.
A few years later, my youngest uncle who had been sentenced to long years in prison and was serving his term in Mapho gaol died from cruel torture. Our family received notice that they should recover his body but could not do so because they had no money. So, my uncle’s ashes were committed to the earth in the prison cemetery.
Thus, over a period of 20 years many of the strong, healthy sons of our family turned to ashes and lay scattered in foreign lands.
When I returned home after liberation, my grandmother hugged me outside the brushwood gate and pounded me on my chest, saying: “How have you come back alone? Where did you leave your father and mother? Did you not want to return with them?” With her heart bursting with such deep grief, what was my agony as I walked through the brushwood gate of my old home alone without bringing with me even the bones of my parents who were dead and lying in a far-off foreign land? After that, whenever I passed through the gate of someone else’s home, I would wonder how many members of the family had gone out through that gate and how many of them had returned. All the gates in this country have a story about tearful partings and are associated with a longing for those who have not returned and the heart-rending pain of loss. Tens of thousands of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of this country gave their lives on the altar of national liberation. It took our people as long as 36 years to win back their country, crossing a sea of blood, tears and sighs and braving storms of shells and bullets. It was 36 years of bloody war which cost us too high a price. But if it were not for this bloody war and sacrifices, how could we ever imagine our country as it is today? This century of ours would still be a century of misery and suffering with the disgraceful slavery continuing.
My grandfather and grandmother were old country people who knew nothing but farming. But truth to tell, I marvelled at their firm revolutionary spirit and was greatly inspired by it.
It is not easy to bring up children and send them all out on the path of the revolution and then give them constant support while enduring silently all the ensuing trials and hardships. I think this is much more impressive than a few battles or some years in prison.
The misfortune and distress of our family is the epitome of the misfortune and distress that befell our people after they lost their country. Under the inhuman rule of Japanese imperialism millions of Koreans lost their lives—dying of starvation, of the cold, from burning or from flogging.
In a ruined country neither the land nor the people can remain at peace. Under the roofs of houses in a ruined country even the traitors who live in luxury as a reward for betraying their country will not be able to sleep in peace. Even though they are alive, the people are worse than gutter dogs, and even if the mountains and rivers remain the same, they will not retain their beauty.
A man who perceives this truth before others is called a forerunner; he who struggles against difficulties to save his country from tragedy is called a patriot; and he who sets fire to himself to demonstrate the truth and overthrows the injust society by rousing the people to action is called a revolutionary.
My father was a pioneer of our country’s national liberation movement. He dedicated his whole life to the revolution from his birth in Mangyongdae on July 10, 1894, until his death as he lamented the dark reality of national decay on June 5, 1926.
I was born the eldest son of my father Kim Hyong Jik at Mangyongdae on April 15, 1912.
“Jiwon” (Aim High!) was my father’s lifelong motto.
He used to write this motto in
large strokes on the walls at Sun-hwa and
Some of his writing still remains, and it demonstrates that lie was quite good at writing with a brush.
In those days calligraphy was celebrated, and it was the fashion to obtain handwritings from renowned people and famous calligraphers and keep them in scrolls, in frames or on screens. As a little boy I thought that this was normal for calligraphy.
My father used to hang up his handwriting without decoration in places which attracted public attention.
When I was old enough to understand the world, my father began to teach me how I should love my country, saying that in order to become a patriot I should aim high.
“Aim High!” means what it says.
There is nothing extraordinary about a father who teaches his son to aim high. One cannot succeed in a venture unless one has a noble ideal and a high ambition and works tirelessly.
But “Aim High!” has nothing in common with worldly preaching about personal glory or a successful career; it implies a revolutionary outlook on life in which genuine happiness is sought in the struggle for one’s country and nation, and an unbreakable revolutionary spirit to liberate the country by fighting through the generations.
My father told me a great deal to explain why I should have a noble aim. What he told me amounted to the history of our people’s struggle against the Japanese.
Before you were born, he continued, the Japanese conquered our country by force of arms. The five ministers6 of the feudal government who sold out the country to the Japanese invaders in the year of Ulsa (1905) are now condemned as traitors.
These traitors, however, could not sell the Korean spirit.
The Righteous Volunteers fought with spears in hand against the Japanese marauders in order to win back the sovereignty of their country. The Independence Army, armed with matchlocks, fought to destroy the invaders. Sometimes the people rose in revolt, cheering and throwing stones at the Japanese invaders, and appealing to human conscience and to international justice.
Choe Ik Hyon7 was taken to
Even Kang U Gyu who was in his sixties threw a bomb at the Japanese Governor-General Saito. Ri Jae Myong took revenge on traitor Ri Wan Yong by stabbing him in the back.
Min Yong Hwan, Ri Pom Jin, Hong Pom Sik and other patriots called for the regaining of national sovereignty by committing suicide.
At one time a campaign was
launched to pay back a loan of 13 million won which
What is essential is to rouse all the Koreans to a determination to win back the lost sovereignty of their country and develop sufficient strength to repel the invaders. With an unshakable determination you will be able to develop your strength, and if you develop your strength you will be fully able to defeat even the strongest enemy. If we are to recover our nation’s sovereignty, we must rouse the people throughout the country to the struggle, but this cannot be done in a day or two. That is why I tell you to aim high....
My father used to tell me these things from the days when he would lead me by the hand up and down Mangyong Hill. Everything he said was permeated with patriotism.
Once my father said to my grandparents, “What is the use of living if I cannot win my country’s independence? Even if I am to be torn to pieces I must fight and defeat the Japanese. If I fall in battle, my son will continue the fight; if my son cannot accomplish the cause, my grandson must fight until we win our nation’s independence.”
Later, I remembered these words when the anti-Japanese armed struggle, which I had believed we would win in three or four years, dragged on. As I lived through the long years of tragedy caused by national division after liberation, the division that compelled the north and the south to take opposite courses, I reminded myself of my father’s profound words.
What he said always reflected his idea of “Aim High!”, his conviction and his thought and aspiration for national liberation.
In spite of his family’s
poverty, my father went to
This school took pupils from all parts of the country. Many young people who wished to receive modern education came to the school. History, algebra, geometry, physics, hygiene, physiology, physical training, music and other subjects of a modern education offered by Sungsil Middle School attracted the young people who wished to eliminate national backwardness and advance in step with the new world trend.
My father said that he attended this school in order to receive a modern education. He had no desire to learn the difficult Nine Chinese Classics that had been taught at Confucian schools.
Apart from the educational aims
set by the missionaries, the
Yun Tong Ju, a talented patriotic poet, also attended it, but left it early.
“Learn to read and write for
Under his guidance a reading
circle and a single-hearted friendship association were formed at
During the school holidays my
father used to travel around Anju, Kangdong, Sunan, Uiju and other places in
The greatest achievement made by
my father at
Many of his classmates were not only friends of my father but also ready to take up the common cause with him in order to shape the destiny of the country and nation. They were all young men with foresight and a high reputation, men of great ability, wide knowledge and outstanding personality.
Ri Po Sik was one of them. He
When we were living at
Ponghwa-ri, many times he visited my father who was teaching at
Among my father’s classmates
Gwan stayed in the same hostel as my father in their days at
While teaching at
Of all the independence fighters O Tong Jin was the most intimate with my father.
It was in my father’s days at
The athletics meeting was
attended by more than ten thousand young people and pupils from
At the debating contest held at
the end of the athletics meeting, my father became the focus of attention by
claiming that our country should be modernized by our own efforts, in opposition
to some pupils who asserted that, if our country was to become a civilized
country, it should adopt Japanese civilization. Among the audience was O Tong
Jin, who later became the head of Jongui-bu. Whenever
he recollected the event, O Tong Jin used to say with deep emotion, “Mr. Kim’s
speech that day made a great impression on me.” In the guise of a trader, from
around 1913 he travelled around
At first I took him for an honest businessman. It was only when we had moved to Badaogou and Fusong that I learned that he was an important fighter for independence.
By that time he enjoyed such a high reputation that there was no one who did not know his name, O Tong Jin (alias Songam). Judging from his property status and background, he could afford to live comfortably instead of taking the thorny path of revolution, but he took up arms and fought the Japanese.
O Tong Jin respected my father highly and loved him dearly. Many people visited his home in Uiju. The outbuilding of his house was wholly reserved for such visitors. He had so many visitors that he had to keep a cook exclusively for them. But he met my father in the main building and the mistress of the house herself used to cook for my father, so I was told.
Once O Tong
Jin and his wife visited us. My grandmother gave them a brass bowl as a
souvenir. I am writing about him in great detail not only because he was a
friend and comrade of my father’s, but also because he played an important part
in my younger days. From my childhood I felt greatly attached to him. He was
arrested by the Japanese imperialists while I was studying in
On the day of his trial
thousands of visitors thronged the court with the result that the trial
scheduled to begin early in the morning started at one o’clock in the afternoon.
Then he denied the power of the court and shook the room by jumping into the
chief judge’s seat and cheering for
The confused Japanese judges quickly suspended the trial and sentenced him without his even being present. At his appeal he was sentenced to life imprisonment, but he died in prison without seeing the day of liberation.
As we struggled to build up the
guerrilla army, the press reported his trial, telling of his unstained honour
and his unbreakable fighting spirit, and carrying a photograph of his being
escorted in a prisoner’s hood to
Many of my father’s close
friends in his
My father left Sungsil Middle School early and began to teach at Sunhwa School in Mangyongdae and then at Myongsin School in Kangdong, applying himself to the education of the younger generation and to rallying his comrades. He explained that he had left middle school with a view to concentrating on the practical struggle and to extending the theatre of his revolutionary activities.
During a school holiday in 1916
he toured Jiandao in northeast
My father had a high regard for
Sun Yat-sen as a forerunner of the bourgeois democratic revolution in
In particular my father spoke highly of the Three Principles of the People—the nation, the people’s rights and the people’s life—proposed by Sun Yat-sen as the programme for the Chinese revolutionary coalition, the Alliance Society, and of his new three-point policy of alliance with the Soviet Union, alliance with communism and assistance to the working class and peasantry which had been formulated under the influence of the May 4 Movement. He said that Sun Yat-sen was a revolutionary of large calibre, strong will and foresight, but he added that Sun Yat-sen had been mistaken when he had conceded the office of generalissimo to Yuan Shi-kai after the establishment of the Republic of China, on condition that he establish a republican system and remove Qing Emperor.
In my boyhood I often heard my
father talking about the bourgeois reformist movement in
Judging from what my father
said, I realized that Kim Ok Kyun was a pre-eminent figure and that, if his
reformist movement had succeeded, the modern history of
It was much later that we discovered the limitations in Kim Ok Kyun’s reformist movement and its programme and analysed them from the point of view of Juche.
Most of my teachers in Korean history regarded Kim Ok Kyun as pro-Japanese. The academic circles of our country after liberation labelled him as pro-Japanese for a long time because he had received help from the Japanese in his preparations for the coup. But we did not consider this estimation of the reformist to be fair.
I told our historians that, although he was wrong to neglect the link between his movement and the popular masses, assessing him as pro-Japanese simply because he had drawn on the strength of Japan would lead to nihilism, that the aim of his use of Japanese forces was not to effect pro-Japanese reforms but to turn the balance of forces in those days in favour of the Enlightenment Party on the basis of a meticulous calculation of the balance, and that such tactics were inevitable in the situation in his time.
My father said that Kim Ok Kyun had failed in his attempted coup mainly because the reformists relied only on their supporters within the court, instead of believing in the forces of the popular masses, and that we must learn a lesson from his failure.
My father toured Jiandao and Shanghai to obtain a firsthand knowledge of the independence movement abroad of which he had heard rumours, recruiting new comrades and defining his policies and strategies for the subsequent years.
Judging from the international situation in those days, the national liberation struggles in the colonies were not fully developed. The mode and method of the independence movements in colonies had yet to be evolved.
When my father was visiting
The situation in Jiandao
reaffirmed my father’s belief that
By that time our family had
moved from Mangyongdae to Pongh-wa-ri, Kangdong. There he taught at
In a literary exercise at school I made a speech against the Japanese, from a composition prepared for me by my father.
In those days he composed revolutionary poems and songs and enthusiastically taught them to his pupils.
Many independence fighters
visited my father at Ponghwa-ri. He himself travelled frequently around North
On the basis of these
preparations, he and other patriotic independence fighters such as Jang Il Hwan, Pae Min Su and Paek Se Bin formed the Korean
National Association at Ri Po Sik’s house at Haktanggol,
The Korean National Association was a secret organization with the aim of achieving national independence and establishing a truly modern state through the efforts of the unified Korean nation. It was one of the largest anti-Japanese underground revolutionary organizations of Korean patriots at home or abroad at the time of the March First Popular Uprising12.
In 1917 there were not many
clandestine organizations in
It was in this situation that the Korean National Association was born.
It was a revolutionary
organization that stood firmly against imperialism and for independence. Its
manifesto stated that, in view of the clear evidence that European and American
forces were heading East and that they would soon rival
As is clear from the manifesto,
the Korean National Association, unlike those who pinned their hopes on foreign
forces, adopted the independent stand that
The Korean National Association drew up a great plan for sending its members to Jiandao and developing that area into the strategic base for the independence movement.
The association had a
closely-knit network of organizations. It admitted to its membership only
well-prepared, tested and well-selected patriots, had an organizational system
that worked from top to bottom and used code words for communications between
its members. Its secret documents were compiled in code. It planned to hold a
general meeting of its members every year on the day of starting a new school
The association had a solid mass
foundation. It drew its membership from among workers, peasants, teachers,
students, soldiers (of the Independence Army), shopkeepers, religious believers
and artisans— people from all walks of life. Its organizational network spread
throughout the country and even reached
In the course of forming and building up the Korean National Association, my father recruited many new comrades such as Jang Chol Ho, Kang Je Ha, Kang Jin Gon and Kim Si U. It would be impossible to describe all the painstaking efforts made by my father in order to discover them. He did not mind walking hundreds of miles if it was to meet a comrade.
O Tong Jin, on his way to
He boasted that he had found a fine man.
“He is a young man named Kong Yong, living in Pyoktong,” O Tong Jin said. “He is well-informed, nine feet tall and handsome. Being a man of composure and skilful at Kyoksul (an art of self-defence—Tr.), he would have made a good defence minister if he was living in a feudal age.” Delighted at the news, my father remarked, “From olden times someone who recommended a good man has been more appreciated than the services of the good man himself. So your recent visit to Pyoktong has been of great benefit to our movement.” When O Tong Jin had left, my father asked my uncle to make a few pairs of straw sandals. The next day he put on a pair and set out on a journey.
He returned home before a month had passed. He had walked such a long way that his sandal had worn almost to shreds. Nevertheless, he was smiling as he entered through the brushwood gate, and showed no sign of fatigue.
My father was extremely satisfied with his interview with Kong Yong.
In my boyhood I learned from my father the ethics of comradeship.
The Korean National Association was the result of many years of my father’s energetic organizational and propaganda activities at home and abroad after the annexation. He planned to build up the movement on a large scale on the strength of the organization.
But the organization was put down harshly by the Japanese imperialists. In the autumn of 1917 the enemy discovered a clue concerning the organization.
One windy day three policemen
fell upon my father as he taught at
Mr. Ho who had followed my father as far as the Maekjon ferry hurried back to my mother with a secret message from him.
My mother, as my father had written in the message, climbed up to the attic and came down with some secret papers which she destroyed in the kitchen fire.
From the day following my
father’s arrest the Christians living in Ponghwa-ri gathered at
On hearing that my father was soon to be put on trial, my grandfather in Mangyongdae sent my uncle to the police station. He wanted to know whether my father wished to have a lawyer to defend him at the trial or not. When my uncle said that he would find the money to hire a lawyer by selling some household goods, my father flatly refused.
“A lawyer speaks with his mouth,
and I can do the same. So there is no need to waste money on a lawyer. An
innocent man does not need a lawyer to defend him!” The Japanese imperialists
tried my father three times at the
After my father’s imprisonment uncle Hyong Rok and my second uncle on my mother’s side (Kang Yong Sok) came to Ponghwa-ri to take us to Mangyongdae.
But my mother said that she would remain at Ponghwa-ri through the winter. She wanted to remain there in order to get in touch with the members of the Korean National Association and other anti-Japanese fighters who might visit there, and to resolve any problems caused by my father’s arrest.
After dealing with all such problems my mother took us to Mangyongdae in the spring of the following year. My two grandfathers came to Ponghwa-ri with a cart to carry away our household goods.
For me the spring and summer of that year were miserable.
Whenever I asked my mother when
father would return, she would answer that he would return soon. One day she
took me to the
After that she visited the prison many times without my knowledge, but she said nothing about it when she returned home.
One day she took me in the
direction of the city, saying that she was going to Phalgol to have her cotton
ginned. She left the cotton at her mother’s house at Chilgol on the way, asking
her mother to have it ginned, and then took me to
My grandmother told her daughter to go without me, saying that a child too young to understand the world should not see a prison. If I saw my father behind bars, how frightened I should be! She was dead against her taking me to the prison. At that time I was six years old.
On crossing the wooden bridge over the River Pothong, I recognized the prison building. Nobody had told me what a prison looked like, but I could judge it from its unnatural shape and from the dreary atmosphere of its surroundings. The exterior of the prison building was forbidding and dreadful enough to terrify people. The iron gate, high wall, watch-tower and iron bars, as well as the black uniforms of the guards and their sharp glances were all menacing.
The visitors’ room was dim, screened from the sunshine. The air in the room was thick and oppressive.
Even in such an atmosphere my father was smiling as usual. He was delighted to see me, and praised my mother for having taken me with her. The gaunt face of my father who wore prison clothes defied instant recognition. His face, neck, hands, feet and all the rest of his body were scarred and wounded. Despite his condition, however, he was worrying about the safety of his family at home. His imposing and dignified bearing inspired me with an irresistible feeling of pride, mixed with a grievance and hatred for the enemy.
“You’ve grown up. Obey your elders at home and be good at your school work!” he said to me in his usual tone of voice, calm and composed, without so much as glancing at the warden.
The sound of his voice brought tears to my eyes. I said in a loud voice, “Yes. Please come home soon, father.” He nodded with satisfaction. He asked my mother to help the brush-sellers and comb-sellers who might occasionally come to visit her. By these he meant his comrades in the revolution.
His indomitable image that day left a lasting impression on me. I saw Ri Kwan Rin in the visitors’ room, and that also made an unforgettable impression on me. She was a student of art at Pyongyang Girls’ High School and a member of the Korean National Association. It was fortunate that she had not been arrested by the police. She had come with her classmate and fellow member of the association to see my father. It was strange in those days when feudal customs prevailed for a girl to visit a political prisoner. Things were such that if her visit to the prison were generally known no man would marry her. Even the wardens were surprised to see the smart, modern girl visiting a political prisoner and treated her with caution. With a bright face she consoled my father and my mother.
My visit to my father in prison was a great event for me. I understood why my mother had taken me with her to the prison. The physical wounds to my father made me feel to the marrow of my bones how fiendish was Japanese imperialism. Those wounds gave me a much more real and visual image of Japanese imperialism than the image provided by numerous statesmen and historians through their analysis and assessment of it.
Until that time I had not really experienced the atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese army and police. I had seen some Japanese policemen in Mangyongdae who had come to take a census or inspect the cleaning and found fault with one thing or the other and in the end slashed the door of the kitchen of my house with a whip and broken the lid of the cooking pot. But never had I seen them inflicting such appalling wounds upon an innocent person.
The wounds remained in my mind throughout the period of my revolutionary struggle against the Japanese. The shock I received on that visit still has a strong effect on me.
In the autumn of 1918 my father was released after completing his term in prison. My uncle and my grandfather went to the prison with a litter and the villagers waited for my father at the fork of Songsan-ri that leads to Mangyongdae.
With wounds from his beatings all over his body, my father tottered out through the prison gate. My grandfather, trembling with indignation, told my father to lie down on the litter.
“I will walk. How can I be carried on a litter under the eyes of the enemy? I will walk to spite the enemy,” my father said walking boldly forward.
Back home, my father said to his brothers, “In prison I even drank as much water as I could out of my determination to survive and fight to the end. How can I leave unpunished the Japanese who are the worst of living creatures? Hyong Rok and Hyong Gwon, you, too, must fight the Japanese. The enemy must be made to pay for our blood even if we must die.” Listening to him, I resolved to follow my father in the fight to destroy the Japanese imperialists.
My father read books even in his
sickbed. To convalesce he stayed for some time with his aunt’s husband, Kim Sung
Hyon, an ophthalmologist, and there he continued with his medical studies which
he had started in prison. From Kim Sung Hyon my father obtained many books on
medicine. Earlier in his
It was in prison that my father made up his mind to change from a teacher to a doctor.
Even before he had completely
recovered, my father went on a journey to
My grandfather encouraged him to stick to his cause until it was accomplished. Prior to his departure, my father composed a poem, “The Green Pine-tree on Nam Hill.” The poem expressed his firm resolve to bring a new spring of independence to the silk-embroidered land of three thousand ri by fighting on even if he were to be torn to pieces.
My father left home one very cold day.
I anxiously waited for the spring. The cold was a great enemy for us who were poorly fed and dressed.
As the weather became a little warmer, my grandmother grew anxious, saying that soon it would be my birthday. Her worry came from her concern about how she could make my birthday not too bad during the lean spring, although the buds would be in flower and my father who had gone to the north would suffer less from the cold.
Although my birthday is in the spring when the farmers’ food has run out, my family used to put on the table a bowl of boiled rice and an egg fried with shrimps. An egg was a sumptuous feast for our family who could hardly afford even gruel.
However, in the spring of that year I gave no particular thought to my birthday. This was because my father’s arrest had shocked me and, on top of that, I was constantly worried about my father who was far away.
Soon after my father left home the March First Popular Uprising broke out. The March First Popular Uprising was an explosion of the pent-up anger and resentment of the Korean nation who had been exposed to extreme humiliation and mistreatment under the ten-year long brutal “sabre rule” of Japanese imperialism.
The ten years that followed
Our people who, following the
country’s annexation by
The March First Popular Uprising was scrupulously planned and carried forward under the leadership of people in the religious world, from Chondoism, Christianity and Buddhism, and patriotic teachers and students. The national spirit of our people which had been inherited and sublimated through the reformist revolution in 1884, the movement for defending justice and rejecting injustice, the peasant war in 1894, the patriotic enlightenment movement and the volunteers’ struggle, erupted at last like a volcano in a call for sovereignty and independence.
People from Mangyongdae and
Chilgol also thronged to
I, then six years old, also joined the ranks of demonstrators in my worn-out shoes and went as far as the Pothong Gate, cheering. It was hard for me to keep up with the adults who were thronging towards the city in angry waves. So, from time to time I took off my straw sandals, the sliding shoes being a nuisance to me, and ran after the ranks with the shoes in my hand. When the adults cheered for independence, I joined them.
The enemy used swords and guns indiscriminately against the masses, even mobilizing mounted policemen and troops. Many people were killed.
Despite this the demonstrators resisted the enemy fearlessly, becoming human weapons. A battle was fought in front of the Pothong Gate.
This was the first time I saw one man killing another. This was the day when I witnessed Korean blood being spilled for the first time. My young heart burned with indignation.
As the sun set and it became dark the villagers climbed Mangyong Hill with torches in their hands and there they again cheered for independence blowing bugles and beating drums and cans.
The struggle continued in this way for many days. With my aunt Hyong Bok I used to go up Mangyong Hill after my mother and there we cheered until late at night before going back down. My mother carried drinking water for the other people and peeled hemp stalks to be used as torches.
With a view to repressing the
demonstration, the Japanese governor-general Hasegawa mobilized the 20th army
division stationed in Ryongsan. The enemy brutally massacred the demonstrating
masses, shooting and stabbing them. The streets of
However, the demonstrators continued their march, the second rank stepping forward to the van if the front rank fell.
People in other parts of the country also fought heroically, shedding their blood and not yielding to the brutality of the enemy who suppressed the demonstrators by force of arms.
When a young girl student had her right arm that held the national flag cut off by an enemy sword, she took the flag in her left hand and, when she was unable to move any further having had her left arm cut off, too, she continued to shout “Long live the independence of Korea!” striking terror into the hearts of the Japanese imperialist soldiers and policemen.
With the demonstration in
Even women from respectable families who would previously not have gone outdoors because of feudal custom and kisaeng girls who were treated as women of the lowest birth formed ranks and rose in the demonstration.
For a couple of months following the outbreak of the uprising the whole country shook with cheers for independence. Then, as the spring passed and summer came, the spirit of the demonstrators gradually began to flag.
Many people believed that the enemy would
withdraw if they raised their spirit and shouted cheers for only a few months.
However, this was a delusion. It was most unlikely for the Japanese imperialists
to give up their occupation of
In order to seize
As long as 400 years ago Kato
Kiyomasa and Konishi Yukinaga, Hideyoshi’s subordinates, ignited a fire in the
land of our country, bringing with them a large army amounting to hundreds of
thousands of men. That incident was called the “Imjinwaeran” (the Japanese
As soon as
Although the “theory of the
It is said that a bronze statue
of Saigo Takamori, head of the advocates of the “theory of the conquest of
How cold-blooded the Japanese military clique was can be seen from the following story.
It was Nogi who commanded the
Japanese forces at the battle at
Nogi won the war at a great
cost, but he could seize neither Siberia nor
They are said, however, to have shut their mouths at the sight of three boxes of ashes hanging on the breast of Nogi as he disembarked from the ship. Nogi had lost all three of his sons in the battle.
There is no knowing how truthful
this story is. However, it was clear from this that the Japanese occupationists
would not give up
However, the leaders of the March First Popular Uprising defined the character of this movement as non-violent from the outset, ignoring the elated fighting spirit of our people, and oblivious of this historical lesson. They confined themselves to formulating a “declaration of independence” and clarifying to the world the intention of the Korean nation for its independence. They did not want the movement extending any further and turning into a mass struggle led by the popular masses.
Some leaders of the nationalist
movement went so far as to try to achieve the independence of
However, the representatives of the parties to the entente gave the Korean question no consideration; they were concerned only about themselves.
Properly speaking, it was a
miscalculation for senior figures from the nationalist movement to pin their
It was impossible for the
During the Russo-Japanese War
and the Portsmouth Peace Conference King Kojong sent a secret envoy to the
Kojong then sent emissaries to the International Peace Conference held in The Hague in an attempt to have the illegality of the “Ulsa Treaty” (the treaty between Korea and Japan concluded in 1905—Tr.) proclaimed and maintain the nation’s rights by appealing to international justice and humanitarianism. However, the King’s letter to the conference was not effective because of the persistent obstructive manoeuvres of the Japanese imperialists and the lukewarm response of the representatives of the various countries, and all the efforts of the emissaries in appealing to the great powers for sympathy were frustrated. Under the pressure of the Japanese imperialists Kojong was held responsible for having sent secret envoys and was forced to hand the throne over to Sunjong.
The incident of the emissaries
That the highest levels of the
nationalist movement again pinned their hopes on the
The March First Popular Uprising demonstrated that bourgeois nationalists could no longer be the leading force of the anti-Japanese national liberation movement.
The class limitation of the
leaders of the March First Popular Uprising was that they did not go so far as
to totally reject
Until that time in our country there existed neither a progressive idea capable of smashing reformism nor a large army of the industrial proletariat who could fight under the guidance of a progressive idea. The young working class of our country did not have its own party whose mission it would be to establish Marxism-Leninism as the idea of the new era and to rally under its banner the working masses.
If the popular masses of our country who were groaning under the misrule of the Japanese imperialists were to find the true way ahead for their struggle and have a vanguard which would defend their interests, they had to travel along a longer and thornier path.
Through the March First Popular Uprising our people became keenly aware of the fact that no movement could emerge victorious without a powerful leading force.
Although millions of the masses came out into the streets in resistance with the common desire to win back their country, their struggle was dispersed and spontaneous; it was not waged according to a unified programme and combat plan because they were not led by the working class, by the party.
The March First Popular Uprising served as a serious lesson that if the popular masses were to win in the struggle for national independence and freedom, they must fight in an organized way with a correct strategy and tactics under the leadership of a revolutionary party, and that they must completely reject flunkeyism and prepare a strong revolutionary force for themselves.
Through the March First Popular Uprising the Korean people demonstrated to the whole world that ours are a people with a strong spirit of independence who do not want to live as the slaves of others and that they are a people with indomitable stamina and ardent patriotism who fear no sacrifice in order to regain their country.
This uprising dealt a heavy blow to the Japanese imperialists. In order to soothe the anti-Japanese feelings of the Korean people after the March First Popular Uprising, the Japanese occupationists had to change, although it was for form’s sake, the “sabre rule” for a “civil government.” With the March First Popular Uprising as a momentum, in our country an end was put to the era of the bourgeois nationalist movement and the national liberation struggle of the Korean people began to enter a new stage.
The shouts for independence which echoed to the whole world shaking my ill-fated country continued ringing in my ears throughout the summer. Those cheers made me mature at an early age. In the street in front of the Pothong Gate where I witnessed the fierce struggle between the demonstrating masses and the armed policemen, my world outlook leapt into a new phase. It can be said that my childhood ended as I shouted for independence standing on tiptoe squeezed in between the adults.
The March First Popular Uprising marked the first time that I stood in the ranks of the people and that the true image of our nation was implanted in my mind’s eye. Whenever I heard the cheers for independence which echoed like a roll of thunder to my mind I felt boundless pride in the indomitable fighting spirit and heroism of our people.
In the summer of that year we received a letter from my father.
With the letter my father sent me some Chinese ink sticks with the trade mark “Jinbuhuan” and some writing brushes. They were a special gift for me to improve my handwriting.
I ground one of the ink sticks onto an inkstone, dipped a writing brush in it so that there was plenty of ink on it and wrote the word “Father” in bold characters on a sheet of Korean paper.
That night our family took turns to read the letter by lamplight. My uncle Hyong Rok read the letter three times. Although he was of a carefree disposition, he was as careful as someone elderly when reading letters.
My mother read the letter quickly and, handing it over to me, told me to read it aloud so that my grandfather and grandmother could hear. Although I was under school age, I could read Korean letters because my father had taught me the Korean alphabet when he was at home.
When I had finished reading the
letter, my grandmother stopped her spinning and asked me, “Doesn’t he say when
he’s coming back?” And, without waiting for my answer, she said to herself:
“Whether he is in
When I told her of what I remembered of parts of the letter, my mother said, stroking my hair: “It’s all right. Sleep now.” My father returned home in the early autumn of that year to fetch his family. It had been a year since we had seen my father.
During that time my father had
worked hard to restore the organizations of the Korean National Association, win
comrades and rally the masses in the area of North Phyongan Province such as
Uiju, Chang-song, Pyoktong, Chosan and Junggang, as well as in Manchuria; It was
around that time that my father convened the Chongsudong Meeting (November
1918). This meeting, which was attended by representatives of the organizations
of the Korean National Association in
My father, now back at home,
told us many things, particularly about news from Manchuria and about
Because all his stories were woven with vivid detail and facts, I thought that my father might have been to the Maritime Province of Siberia.
Korean fighters for independence
and patriotic people who had come to the Maritime Province of Siberia as exiles,
formed self-governing organizations and anti-Japanese resistance organizations
throughout the area and conducted vigorous activities for the restoration of
national rights. Units of the Independence Army based in the Maritime Province
of Siberia advanced into such areas of
When the combined forces of
imperialism and the internal enemy who followed their dictates pounced upon the
Soviet Union from all directions in order to strangle the new-born political
regime there, thousands of Korean young people gave their blood and lives with
arms in hand either in the guerrilla ranks or in the Red Army in order to defend
the socialist system which mankind had longed for as their ideal. The names of
Koreans are engraved in large letters on the monuments erected in the
Such people as Hong Pom Do, Ri
Tong Hui and Ryo Un Hyong who had worked hard for the
independence movement for some time with the Far East of the
The activities of the Korean fighters for independence in the Maritime Province of Siberia left traces which cannot be ignored in the history of the national liberation movement of our country, even though they once led to the heart-breaking tragedy as the Heihe Incident, brought about by the interference of outside forces and the antagonism among various associations.
I was not wrong to have guessed that my father had been to the Maritime Province of Siberia in order to win comrades.
My father told the family about
the demonstration of the people in the northern border area, and we told him of
how courageously the people of
Of what my father told us that day, the following is still vivid in my memory. He said: “It is unlikely that robbers who have intruded into your house and are wielding knives will let you live simply because you make a fuss begging them for mercy. If the man outside is also a robber, he will not come to your aid when he hears your cry. If you want to save your life you must fight the robbers. You can prevail over those who are armed with knives only when you fight them with a knife.” My father had already formed a new view and a new determination with regard to the independence movement. I learned later that at the time of the March First Popular Uprising and before and after this uprising my father had sought continually for the way ahead for national liberation, carefully following the events taking place at home and abroad and conducting his activities with the northern border area and south Manchuria as his base. He also had paid close attention to the process of the change in the socio-class relations in our country.
As the lesson of the March First
Popular Uprising shows, the aggressors will not withdraw if we only hold
demonstrations and cheer. It would also be impossible to regain the country only
through the struggle of the Independence Army. We must fight the aggressors with
a nationwide effort because all the country has become the prison of the
Japanese and is covered with a forest of bayonets. To this end we must make a
popular revolution, as in
This is the conclusion my father had drawn after all his hard work. This was the policy of the proletarian revolution.
With the independence movement unable to get out of its stagnation and only blood being spilled, my father asserted that a popular revolution should be made, necessitating a fresh method.
After the October Socialist
Revolution had emerged victorious in
At the Chongsudong Meeting held in July 1919 my father proved the historical necessity for a proletarian revolution. On the basis of this, he convened, in August of that year, a meeting of the heads of various districts under the Korean National Association, liaison agents and chiefs of the organizations for independence in Hongtong District, Kuandian County, China, formally proclaimed the policy of shifting the anti-Japanese national liberation movement from a nationalist to a communist movement and advanced, in keeping with the change in the time, the task of defeating Japanese imperialism with the strength of our nation and building a new society which would ensure the rights and interests of the unpropertied masses.
My father’s proposal of the policy of shifting from the nationalist to a communist movement is another of his exploits in the anti-Japanese national liberation movement.
My father used to explain his idea of the proletarian revolution plainly as the building of a new society which would provide rice to those who had no food and supply clothes to those who had no clothing and, through his practical activities he awakened the workers, peasants and other working masses to a progressive idea and united them into one revolutionary force by forming and expanding a variety of mass organizations.
Another feat my father achieved was his success in the struggle to prepare for fresh armed activities and unite armed groups.
My father expedited the preparations for fresh armed activities out of his conviction that the country could be regained only through armed activities, not through “petitions” or “diplomacy”.
My father’s plan was to select patriotic young people from the proletariat and train them into military cadres, ideologically remould the commanders and the rank and file of the existing armed organizations and thus turn their ranks into an armed force of the workers and peasants that was capable of carrying out the proletarian revolution.
Having put forward this policy, my father sent members of the Korean National Association to various units of the Independence Army to guide them in various matters—in the spreading of progressive ideas in the armed units, in the purchasing of weapons and in the training of military cadres and the increasing of the combat efficiency of the army.
At the same time he worked hard to achieve the unity of the armed units. What distressed my father most in those days was the lack of unity in the ranks of the independence movement.
At that time there were many
units of the Independence Army and organizations engaged in the independence
movement in Jiandao and the Maritime Province of Siberia. The so-called
Association of Koreans, the Korean Independence Association, the Thaeguk
Association, the War-fund Raising Association and suchlike would spring up
overnight. There were more than 20 such organizations engaged in the
independence movement in south
If this situation was not put to rights, there was a fear that the ranks of the independence movement would be disrupted and the movement forsaken by the people or destroyed piecemeal by the enemy; and it would be impossible to promote the great cause of shifting the direction of the movement which my father had resolved to undertake.
Under these circumstances, when my father heard that the conflict between the Korean Independence Youth Association and the Kwangje Youth League was becoming aggravated, he hastened to Kuandian and, while staying there for several days, persuaded the leaders of the two organizations to merge. Thanks to my father’s efforts, the armed organizations in the area along the River Amnok, such as the Corps for the Promotion of Industry and the War-fund Raising Corps, merged to form the National Corps.
It can be said that my father’s intention in preparing for fresh armed activities was to build up the strength of the armed organizations with people of worker and peasant origin to make a fresh start in the armed activities geared to the communist movement and ensure that the various armed organizations worked in concert by merging them.
My father was concerned with implementing the policy of shifting the direction of the movement until the evening of his life and, in the course of this, he suffered from a persistent illness.
After the policy of shifting the direction of the movement to the communist movement was proclaimed at the Kuandian Meeting the process of ideological disintegration was accelerated among the nationalists.
With my father bedridden, some of those who shared his idea and purpose were arrested, some became turncoats and others were scattered. So there remained only a few people who would work for the communist movement.
Conservatives from among the nationalists were building a wall against the new. However, many progressive people chose the new road and later joined the communist revolution with us.
My father’s idea about the communist movement served as great food for my growth.
As father often moved the centre of his activities, we had to move house many times.
When I was five years old I left my birthplace for the first time. In the spring of that year we moved to Ponghwa-ri. At that time I was not particularly sorry to part from my grandfather, grandmother and family. Still young, I was curious about the unfamiliar place and new things rather than concerned about parting.
But my heart ached that autumn when we moved to Junggang.
My family was very sorry about having to move to the northern tip of the country. My grandfather would normally support father and not offer a contrary opinion whatever he did, but he was stunned by the news that his son and grandsons would be going so far away.
Father made great efforts to console my grandfather when he showed his sadness at the forthcoming parting. Still ringing in my ears is what father said, while giving my grandfather a helping hand in his work on the earthen verandah for the last time.
“Watched, I cannot move freely
Father said, holding his hands in his: “I will not forget my home. How can I forget it? This evil time forces us to part in this way, but when the country wins its independence we will live together and lead a life full of pleasure, I believe. From a child you have helped me by making sandals, getting blisters on your palms. I am sorry to leave this large family for you to keep.” “Brother, it’s nothing. I will take care of father and mother. Be sure to put up a good fight and achieve your cherished aim. I will wait here for the day.” I could not repress my sorrow as I watched them part.
Mother said that we would return home again when the country was independent, but I did not know when that would be and felt myself choking. In fact my parents were buried in a foreign country without seeing Mangyongdae again. Time and again I looked back at my grandparents, so loath to part from them.
I did not like to leave that
place where I was born and grew up, but I felt relieved about one thing. I liked
Junggang because it was far from
When I asked how far it was from
All our household goods we were to take were the bundle mother made of a few bowls and spoons and the haversack father was to sling over his shoulder. When we moved to Ponghwa-ri, we carried some boxes, a table and brassware and earthenware, but this time we had nothing to speak of. At that time a friend of my father’s accompanied us.
Getting off the train at Sinanju, we trekked all the way to Junggang, passing through Kaechon, Huichon and Kanggye. At that time there was no railway to Kanggye.
As we set out on the journey my father was concerned, doubting that I would be able to walk such a long distance. Mother, too, seemed to fear that I would not keep up. As I was only seven years old my parents were naturally anxious about me.
I got a lift on a passing cart at times but walked most of the way. It was the first major physical trial of my life.
At Kanggye we stayed overnight at the inn outside the Nam Gate and the next day resumed our journey. The owner of the inn, together with the members of the underground organization in the Kanggye area, warmly welcomed our party. The 125 miles from Kanggye to Junggang covered many passes and much desolate scenery.
Mother had a hard time when we
When we arrived at Junggang, I
was disappointed. There, too, the Japanese were swarming like they did in
Hwanggum and Somun Streets in
Father said that wherever
Koreans lived there were Japanese. I learned that in Junggang there were a
police station, a prison and some military police. On my arrival at Junggang I
realized that the whole of
The Japanese had taken over more than half the upper street of Junggang, where there were a school, some shops and a hospital for them.
The people of Junggang said that
the Japanese imperialists had begun to stretch their tentacles of aggression
there ten years before. Having wrested the right to fell trees in
Father had taken us to Junggang because he intended to set up a surgery there which the independence fighters could frequent and, with it as a base, wage the anti-Japanese struggle more actively. The position of physician would enable him to hide easily from the enemy’s surveillance and to contact people reasonably and freely.
We settled at Kang Ki Rak’s inn. Kang Ki Rak allotted to us the quietest and cleanest room at the inn. My father had stayed there for a while on his way back from Jiandao where he had gone upon his release from prison. He used the room where my family stayed.
Kang Ki Rak was both a dentist
and a photographer, while running the inn, and he secretly maintained contacts
between the organizations abroad of the Korean National Association and my
father when he was active inside
Through the inn father established contacts with the champions of the independence movement active in the areas along the River Amnok such as Linjiang, Changbai, Junggang, Pyoktong, Changsong and Chosan, and in other places at home and abroad.
Being an influential figure in Junggang, Kang Ki Rak had free access to the government office. The information about the enemy he obtained through the government authorities was a great help to my father in his activities.
To help father I used to keep watch, look after the champions of independence movement who visited the inn and carry out secret liaison missions, going to Jungsang, Jungdok and other places. One .of my strongest memories from Junggang is that of my wrestling with a Japanese boy bigger than me who I got down with a belly throw. If a Japanese boy bullied Korean children, I would not let him get away with it. The owner of the inn feared that this might bring trouble later, but my father praised my courage, saying that one should never bow to those who look down on the Korean people.
In those days the anti-Japanese sentiment ran high in Junggang and the distribution of leaflets, a school strike and the disposal of some wicked stooges were common.
The enemy came to consider that all the changes in Junggang were connected with my father. The Junggang Police Station, acting on information from the Police Department of South Phyongan Province, listed my father as a “recalcitrant Korean” and a “person to be placed under the closest surveillance” and kept watch over him. At the sub-county office Kang Ki Rak chanced to see a copy of my father’s census register in which his name had been underlined in red. He intimated to my father that he had better leave as soon as possible for his safety since the police had marked him down for arrest. In the meantime a policeman serving at the Junggang Police Station let drop the remark that my father was going to be arrested. So my father could no longer stay in Junggang. We had to leave even the cold northern tip of the country, taking our bundles with us, and cross into a foreign land.
A step on from Junggang, and
The day we left Junggang was unusually gloomy. The fallen leaves of late autumn drifted desolately up to the ferry. The migratory birds were flying in a flock towards the southern sky. The sight of them saddened me in spite of myself.
Junggang was the last my mother saw of her motherland, and my younger brother Chol Ju was unable to return to his homeland after crossing the river.
Man experiences many sorrows in his lifetime. The greatest of them is the sorrow of leaving one’s country as a stateless person. However great a sorrow one feels when leaving one’s birthplace, it cannot be compared with the sorrow one experiences when leaving one’s homeland. If a birthplace can be likened to a mother and a place away from home, to a stepmother, I wonder what a foreign country which is far stranger can be likened to.
The thought that I would be living in a foreign country where there were no people to welcome me and where I could not make myself understood disgusted me, though I was young, and everything went dark before my eyes. But in silence I had to endure the sorrow of leaving my country for the sake of my father’s aim of winning back the country.
The boatman groaned over the
wretched plight of the Korean people, saying that more and more people were
My father said that no one knew how many people had gone abroad, abandoning the fertile land of their birthplaces.
Even before the ruin of the
country hordes of people from this country had left for the wilderness of
Nevertheless, then they had their own country.
After the ruin of the country,
tens of thousands of farmers deprived of their farmland had drifted like fallen
leaves to the desolate wilderness of
The Japanese upstarts and merchants who had dreamed of a windfall swarmed to the land where our forefathers had lived from generation to generation, and the masters of the land who had made it fertile were driven out and were forced to wander off to foreign countries. So the plight of the nation which has lost its state power can be likened to the fallen leaves or roadside pebbles, I think.
Every day now children of the emigrants visit the ancestral land their forefathers abandoned. Whenever I meet them, I am reminded of the wanderers I saw on the banks of the River Amnok.
In Linjiang many things were strange to me and not good for me, but one thing was good: I saw little of the Japanese.
Linjiang, a commercial town in
On arriving at Linjiang my
father made me learn Chinese under a Chinese teacher for six months and then
immediately saw to it that I was admitted to
That I gained a good command of Chinese from my early years is entirely thanks to my father.
At that time I did not
understand fully why my father was so quick to make me study the Chinese
language and go to Chinese schools; however, looking back on those days now I
realize that father’s farsightedness based on his idea of “Aim High!” was a
great help to me. If my father had not made me learn Chinese at an early age I
might have had to face a great language barrier at every step of my life for the
quarter of a century I spent in
Without a good command of
Chinese it would have been impossible for us to gain a foothold in
The Japanese detectives who were
said to have a hound’s sense of smelling and the
Father rented a house through
the good offices of Ro Kyong Du, an old acquaintance of his, and set up a
surgery. He used one room as a surgery-cum-dispensary and hung up a large sign,
“Sunchon Surgery,” on the outside wall. He also hung up a diploma from the
After several months father was known as an excellent physician. That he won fame as a physician though he began clinical practice only after reading a few books on medicine cannot be attributed to his diagnostic skill but to his humane treatment. Wherever he went, my father valued people. With unusual devotion he treated and took good care of his fellow Koreans who, deprived of their birthplaces and homeland, were leading a sorrowful life in a foreign country.
Many patients visited Sunchon Surgery with little or no money.
Whenever they worried about paying the doctor’s bill, my father would tell them to pay it after the country had won its independence, if at all, and consoled them, saying, “Though we are now living in poverty in a foreign country, the day is not far off when we will win back our country and cross the River Amnok again.” Our house in Linjiang was always alive with guests, just as in Ponghwa-ri. Among them were patients, but most of them were anti-Japanese champions.
It was in those days that my
uncle Kang Jin Sok came to Linjiang and formed the Paeksan Armed Group. This was
an armed group with independence champions active in
In those days the farsighted
The Paeksan Armed Group was a
fairly large and well-knit grouping of large and small units from the
Independence Army in the Linjiang and Changbai areas. Its headquarters was in
After his arrival in Manchuria
my uncle who had been active as a member of a secret youth organization in
My uncle, together with the commanders of the armed group, frequented our house. In those days Pyon Tae U and Kim Si U, who was in charge of the financial affair of the Paeksan Armed Group, visited our home, accompanied by my uncle. Its commanders often stayed at our home overnight.
Other guests stayed in the front room, but my uncle always slept with us in the back room, with his pistol under his pillow.
In those days my father made
great effort to prepare an armed struggle based on his progressive ideas as
required by the switchover in the struggle declared at the Kuandian Meeting.
Father went frequently to Hongtuga to work with the Paeksan Armed Group. When I
woke up one night, I saw father and my uncle taking a pistol apart under the
lamplight. For some reason the sight of it conjured up a scene before me of
demonstrators cheering in front of the Pothong Gate at the time of the March
First Popular Uprising. At that time I had seen only rakes and sticks in the
hands of the demonstrators. But within a year I saw a pistol in the hands of my
uncle. Drawing a bloody lesson from the death of several thousands, the leading
A few days later I received from father the task of fetching some ammunition and gunpowder from Junggang. He seemed to have decided to entrust the task to me since in those days the adults were subjected to close examination at customs posts.
I went to Junggang with a firm determination and came back safely, carrying with me a bag stuffed with ammunition and gunpowder. The policemen at the customs post had closely examined the people boarding the boat, but for some reason I had not feared them.
Later my uncle left Linjiang to work with the armed group in the homeland.
But within a month corporal Kim Tuk Su from the military police in Junggang came to Linjiang and informed us that my uncle had been arrested. Though he was a corporal in the military police, Kim Tuk Su was a conscientious man who did errands for my father on many occasions.
On returning home from school, I found my mother weeping. The arrest of my uncle had stirred the whole of my family.
After leaving Linjiang my uncle
conducted vigorous activities in the Jasong, Kaechon and
My uncle who fought against
gambling, drinking and superstition, forming an enlightenment organization
called the Miphung Society at his birthplace came to join the noble movement to
save the nation. This can be ascribed to the good influence of my grandfather
A revolution is not conducted by a few special people alone. If awakened ideologically and placed under a good influence, anyone is capable of rendering distinguished service in the revolutionary struggle for the remoulding of the world.
After the arrest of my uncle the enemy sent many secret agents and plainclothes policemen to Linjiang to arrest father. So he used to take shelter in his friend’s house in the suburbs of Linjiang at night, while working at home during the daytime.
But it became impossible for him
to remain in Linjiang any longer. We had to move to another place in a foreign
country, taking our household goods with us. The whole family left Linjiang,
carrying loads on their backs and shoulders, but it was impossible for us to
carry all our household goods, so Missionary Pang Sa
Hyon accompanied us, taking them on a sledge to Badaogou,
Like Linjiang, Badaogou was a border village near the River Amnok. As in Junggang on the opposite side of the river from Linjiang there were Japanese military police and a police sub-station, so in Pho-phyong just opposite from Badaogou there were a branch station of the Japanese military police and a police sub-station.
Though Phophyong is in the
northern tip of
My house was near the place where the River Badao joined the River Amnok. Father hung up a new sign “Kwangje Surgery” at our house.
To the right of my house there lived the family of Kim, a member of the Korean National Association, and to the left another family Kim who ran a noodle house. Just across the street from our house there lived yet another family Kim who earned a living by selling noodles.
In our neighbourhood lived the merchant brothers Kim who furnished supplies to the armed units in the areas along the River Amnok under my father’s direction. Thus four families Kim who lived around our house were good people.
Only the family who lived to the back of our house was questionable. It turned out later that Son Se Sim, the head of the family, was a secret agent for the Phophyong police sub-station. Son’s family had lived in Junggang before moving to Badaogou after us to keep watch on my father on the instructions of the Japanese police.
In Badaogou my father contacted people from various walks of life. Among them was a thinker with the surname of Hwang. While working as a clerk at the Namsa Timber Mill, he had embarked on the road of revolution under the influence of a progressive idea. He secretly carried out liaison missions for my father. After being given a task he would leave Badaogou immediately and fulfil it, wherever it was, and then return to my home to wait for another task to be given.
Sometimes he had long talks with my father over a glass of wine. Once he commented animatedly on the situation, referring to an article in the newspaper Asahi Shimbun.
When my father went fishing, he followed him to the riverside, carrying a pot stuffed with peppered bean paste, and caught fish and gutted them. He frequented our home for about three years, and one year he joined us in celebrating Harvest Moon Day.
Father was many times taken to
the Namsa Timber Mill by him, which was 50 miles away,
and there he taught and rallied the workers around the anti-Japanese
organizations. The teachers of
Phophyong chapel was one place my father frequented in those days. It had no spire tipped with a cross but was an ordinary tile-roofed house. The only difference that marked it out from other houses was that the whole of the house was a single room without partitions.
After father’s arrival in Badaogou the chapel was used as a place for teaching people and as a rendezvous for revolutionaries. Whenever a service was held he went over to Phophyong and conducted anti-Japanese propaganda. At times he taught them to sing songs, accompanying them on the organ.
When father could not go, mother or uncle Hyong Gwon met those who had come to attend the service and conducted anti-Japanese education among them. I, too, went to the chapel, taking Chol Ju with me, and learned how to play the organ from father.
There were many places for secret rendezvous in the streets of Phophyong which father used.
The cleaner at the Phophyong police sub-station undertook clandestine work. When he discovered some secret information at the police station and conveyed it to the mail depository, the information would be sent to father.
I often went on secret errands
for father. Once I sent some clothes and food to the patriots detained at the
Phophyong police sub-station. The place I frequented most was the mail
depository. Father told me to bring from the mail depository Tong-A Ilbo, Joson Ilbo and other newspapers, magazines and
I used to go to the mail depository a couple of times a week. Unless the river was iced over, it was difficult to travel to and from Phophyong.
But after the river was iced
over, at times I went there every other day. When I was busy with my studies
uncle Hyong Gwon used to go on the errand. When there was a lot of mail
addressed to my father, uncle Hyong Gwon and I would at
times go over there together to fetch it. The mail was mainly parcels, magazines
and books on medicine published in
When we went to Phophyong, we received a great deal of help from Hong Jong U, an assistant military policeman. He became the supporter and helper of the revolution under father’s influence. Of course, our relations with him were not satisfactory from the beginning.
Badaogou was under the jurisdiction of the Phophyong military police sub-station. Subordinated to it were policemen from the police sub-station and the local customs officials. In those days the military police organs had great authority in the border areas.
Father and other members of the organization always kept movements at the observation posts of the military police under close surveillance and they, too, kept close watch on our house.
When Hong Jong U first appeared in the dispensary at our house, wearing the uniform of an assistant military policeman, all my senses were on the alert and father and mother were careful to guard against him.
After looking around the dispensary awkwardly for a while, he said: “Today I have visited you merely to convey the compliments of Jang Sun Bong in Anju. When I left for my new post in the border area he told me to seek out and meet his friend Kim Hyong Jik in Huchang. I was also eager to meet you and ask you for instruction.” His words and manner were very modest for a person wearing the uniform of a military policeman. But my father gave him the cold shoulder the first day.
“You were on intimate terms with corporal Kim Tuk Su in Jung gang, so what is the matter with you today?” mother asked him after Hong Jong U had left.
“The sight of Hong in the
uniform of a military policeman reminded me of
Father regretted having behaved like that towards Hong Jong U who had gone to the trouble of conveying a greeting, and decided to treat him better the next time.
Later Hong Jong U visited our home again.
One day father said, while talking with mother: “If Jong U intends to make some secret inquiries into our house, I will make some secret inquiries into the military police through him. If I fail here, I will only endanger myself. But if I could win him over, what a great help it would be for our cause! We have Kim Tuk Su in Junggang and Hong Jong U in Phophyong. Wherever I go, there are military police.” From that day on my father gave Hong Jong U positive education. Throwing aside the formal manner used in speaking to assistant military policemen, he behaved sincerely towards him as a compatriot and treated him well.
Gradually he began to open his
mind. It turned out that originally he had had a national conscience. He was
born in Sunchon,
The Japanese imperialists
reduced their military police organs at home, set up and expanded their police
organs on a large scale in
One day he came to my father and expressed his readiness to take weapons from the military police and join the independence movement.
Father spoke highly of his courageous decision.
Father said, “It is praiseworthy for you to have decided to join the independence movement. Your Japanese military uniform has not corrupted you. How can we who boast a 5,000-y ear-long history meekly resign ourselves to slavery in bondage to the Japanese? I think it is better for you to help us in our work by remaining at your present post. If you wear the military police uniform, you may be able to help the independence movement in many ways.” Later Hong Jong U helped the independence champions as father told him to.
Often visiting father. Hong Jong U notified him beforehand on which day he would be standing guard at the ferry and at what time and told him to send anyone who wanted to cross the river during his duty. In this way he saw to it many times that revolutionaries crossed the river safely.
Thanks to him my father, too, escaped critical situation on many occasions. When something unpleasant was likely to happen to father, he would come over immediately to Badaogou and warn him, “Some policemen will soon be here. Take care,” or he would say to my mother, “When Mr. Kim returns home, please tell him to go to the countryside and stay there for a few days.” One day when he came over to Badaogou, having been given the task by the head of the military police sub-station of enquiring into the movements of the independence champions active on the opposite bank and the Koreans there, he saw a policeman from the Phophyong police sub-station escorting my father who was bound with a rope to the ferry.
Hong Jong U stood in his way and shouted at him, “He is one of our men who is working for the military police. Why have you arrested him without notifying us? If any question about Kim is raised, don’t meddle but notify me.”
The policeman begged his pardon for his error and undid the rope which bound my father’s arms.
Thus father escaped from a critical situation.
On returning from patrol, a military policeman once said to the head of the sub-station that doctor Kim was said to be a thinker and suggested that he be arrested and questioned.
Hong Jong U showed them the logbook of the military police which recorded information, and said that it had all been obtained through doctor Kim. He said, “If you want to know the mood of thinkers, you should disguise yourself as a thinker. Only then can you grasp their inmost thoughts. Doctor Kim has rendered us great service in our work.” The information was false, concocted by Hong Jong U himself.
In May 1923 when the post of
assistant military policeman was abolished, he said that he would come over to
My father took great pains to dissuade him. He said, “You would do better to return home and serve in the police, continuing to help us in our work as before. That will be of greater help to us than if you join the Independence Army and serve in it. When you return home, please visit Mangyongdae and convey my best regards to my parents.” On arriving home he visited Mangyongdae and gave my father’s compliments to my grandparents. He served as a policeman in the homeland as my father had told him to. On several occasions he asked his superiors to transfer him to the Taephyong police sub-station and began to serve there in 1927. On arriving there to take up his fresh post, he visited our old home at Mangyongdae, having a servant at the substation take wine, pork and oranges, and offered my grandparents New Year’s greetings. Mangyongdae was under the jurisdiction of the Taephyong police sub-station.
Hong Jong U did not abandon his conscience as a member of the Korean nation, as my father had taught him, and consistently protected our family. He transferred to the Taephyong police sub-station to protect our home at Mangyongdae. When he was in charge of Nam-ri, my grandfather and uncle Hyong Rok were less troubled by the enemy. The head of the police sub-station always told him to watch Kim Hyong Jik’s family closely and search his house from time to time since his family had the reputation of being anti-Japanese, but each time Hong Jong U said that he had found nothing special.
Immediately after liberation people everywhere caught and beat up the pro-Japanese, but Hong Jong U was left alone. Although he served as a pensioned policeman in his home town, he did not incur people’s hatred because he did not wrong them and always overlooked a violation of Japanese law.
He was misunderstood because of his past, but never sought praise for what he did. An ordinary man would have written to me to dispel any misunderstanding, but he did not do so.
Several years after the Fatherland Liberation War I told some officials to search for him and they succeeded in finding him in Sunchon. He was an old man of over sixty years. Nevertheless, we sent him to the provincial cadre-training school to give him education.
Even after graduating from the provincial cadre-training school he led a simple and quiet life, such being his natural disposition. He devoted his last years entirely to unearthing relics of my father’s revolutionary history.
A police uniform or title of
policeman was no impediment to those who decided to live conscientiously for the
country and nation like
The education of the younger generation was always my father’s concern during his time at Badaogou. Even after he left teaching for medicine, father made a great effort to educate young people as before. It was father’s conviction that only when many able cadres were produced by enlightening people at regular schools and evening schools was it possible to win back the country and build a rich and powerful independent country. The summer short course for Korean primary school teachers was held in Sanyuanpu in the summer of 1924 when my father drew up detailed educational and musical programmes for the pupils.
A Korean school was established
Wherever he went, my father
would say: “The education of the younger generation is the foundation for
national independence and state building.” “If a man is illiterate, he is as
good as an animal. Only when a man is literate can he prove his worth and win
back his country.” Bearing what he said in my mind, I studied hard.
So, on my return home from school I received
private education from my father. He taught me the Korean language, geography
and Korean history, told me many stories about Lenin, Sun Yat-sen, Washington
and other famous men. He chose progressive novels or books for me and gave me
systematic guidance in my reading so that I never failed to read the books he
recommended and related my impressions after reading them. Thanks to him, I read
many good books such as Great Men of
Father exercised tight control over my studies. When we neglected our studies, he at times made not only me and my brother Chol Ju but also uncle Hyong Gwon stand up so he could lash us on the calf.
Mother, too, showed a great deal of concern for my studies. When I was going to the mountains to collect firewood on returning from school, she would say, “Don’t worry about collecting firewood. Do your lessons, instead,” so that I spent a longer time on my studies. Seeing mother so solicitous about me, though she led a life of hardship without even being properly clad, I always wondered what I could do to please her. Once when I went over to Phophyong I bought a pair of rubber shoes for her with the money she had given me to buy a pair of canvas shoes for myself, and I gave her them.
At this she said, “Though young, you think deeply. I don’t mind what kind of shoes I wear. If you study hard and grow up fit and well, it will give me pleasure.” Mother put her whole heart into making me merry and seeing that I grew up with a bright heart.
So I grew up with optimism and free of any cares and worries. Looking back on my childhood, I think I was most mischievous when I lived in Badaogou. Sometimes I worked such terrible mischief that me adults were astounded. How can we think of our childhood apart from mischief? When I recall the winter in Badaogou when we made a metre-wide hole in the ice on the River Amnok and jumped over it for fun after lining up on the riverside, it seems to me that I am reliving my child’s feelings of 70 years ago. We jumped over the ice hole, saying that those children who failed were not qualified to become Korean soldiers in the future. The children used to run towards the hole with all their might, taking it as a shame to be unqualified to become Korean soldiers.
Sometimes the children whose
stride was short or who were frightened fell into the water, failing to jump
over the ice hole. Then, as they dried the wet clothes of their children over a
brazier, their families would complain, saying that because of Song Ju from the
family which had come from
Sometimes I and the children played games of soldiers on the hill behind Badaogou till late at night, causing their parents to worry. Then the people of Badaogou would search for us all night, losing their sleep. Because this happened frequently, the parents were stricter with their children. However, they could not lock up children whose thoughts were apt to take free flight.
Once my classmate Kim Jong Hang brought a detonating cap he had taken out of a box kept in the shed of his house and showed it to us. The shed at his house was packed with weapons, clothes, shoes and the like which were to be sent to the troops of the Independence Army. His brothers bought work clothes, shoes and the like in large quantities through the agencies of Japanese companies and sent them to the troops. Having furnished themselves with two boats and even horses, they bought in goods by lots to supply to the Independence Army.
That day we played near the brazier, cracking pumpkin seeds. Kim Jong Hang whistled with the detonating cap in his mouth. In the course of this the detonating cap came in contact with embers and exploded, injuring him in many places.
His brother wrapped him in a blanket and hastily carried him on his back to my father.
If the police had heard that he had been hurt in the explosion of a detonating cap it might have caused great trouble. So, my father hid him in my house, giving him medical treatment for more than 20 days.
On that occasion I learned that Kim Jong Hang’s family was of patriotic merchants who distributed war supplies to the troops of the Independence Army.
Those years were years full of adventure.
But even in those days I was shadowed by one care.
As I grew older, my mental agony due to the ruin of the country increased.
One day early in 1923 my father told me to sit at his side and asked me what my intention was having finished my primary education.
I said I wanted to go to secondary school. That was also my parents’ long-cherished desire, and I wondered why he was asking such an obvious question.
He said with a serious look that I should go to the homeland and continue to study there.
This advice was unexpected.
My mother who was sewing was surprised and asked if I couldn’t study somewhere nearby for I was still young.
My father seemed to have made a determination. He repeated that I must go, though we might miss one another for a time. He would never change his decision without a proper reason.
He said in earnest: You have suffered a lot of hardship, moving with us from place to place since your childhood; you may find yourself in a worse plight when you are in Korea again; nevertheless, I am determined to send you there; a man born in Korea must have a good knowledge of Korea; if you get to understand clearly while you are in Korea why she has been ruined, that will be a great achievement; share the fate of the people in your home town and experience how miserable they are; then you will see what you should do.
I said that I would do as he
told me to do. In those days me rich people in
My father’s way of thinking was
unique. As I recollect the event, I think he was right in sending me to
To be frank, my feelings at that time were not simple. I was happy to hear that I was to study in the homeland, but I didn’t want to leave my parents and younger brothers. However, I was eager to see my home town. I spent several restless days with mixed feelings of yearning for my homeland and reluctance to leave the sweet family atmosphere.
My mother asked my father if it wouldn’t be better to send me when the weather was warmer. She was afraid of sending her young son on a 250-mile journey alone.
My father did not agree with this suggestion, either.
Though anxious over her son’s long journey, my mother spent the nights making me an overcoat and socks so that I might start on the date appointed by my father. She did not dispute her husband’s decision, as was her trait.
On the day of my departure my
father told me that it was 250 miles from Badaogou to Mangyongdae and asked me
whether I could walk all the way alone. I replied that I could. Then he drew the
route in my pocketbook, marking off the names of the major places on the way as
well as the distance between them, for instance, from Huchang to the next place,
from Hwaphyong to the next, and so on. He further told me to send him two
telegrams—one from Kanggye and one from
On the last day of the first lunar month (March 16 by the solar calendar) I left Badaogou. A snowstorm was severe from the morning. My friends in Badaogou accompanied me for 7.5 miles to the south of Huchang across the River Amnok to see me off. They insisted on accompanying me the whole way, so I had trouble to persuade them to return home.
As I began my journey, various thoughts flooded my mind. For more than half the 250 miles of my journey I would have to walk over steep, craggy mountains which were virtually uninhabited. It would not be easy to cross them alone. Even in full daylight beasts of prey prowled about the woods on both sides of the road from Huchang to Kanggye.
I suffered a lot during the
journey. I really had a hard time of it while crossing the
As I crossed
After Wolthan and Mt. Oga, I passed through Hwaphyong, Huksu, Kanggye, Songgan, Jonchon, Koin, Chongun, Huichon, Hyangsan, Kujang, arrived at Kaechon and then proceeded to Mangy ongdae by rail.
A narrow-gauge railway service
was available from Kaechon to Sinanju; a light train pulled by a small English
locomotive Nikisha covered the route. From Sinanju to
During that journey I met many kind-hearted people. Once, when I was suffering from sore feet, I was picked up by a peasant on an ox- drawn sleigh. When parting, I offered him some money, but he declined it and bought me some toffee instead.
The most memorable of them was the inn-keeper at Kanggye.
I arrived at Kanggye late in the evening and came to the inn. The inn-keeper came out to the gate and received me cordially. He was a small man who wore his hair in the Western fashion and dressed in Korean jacket and trousers. He was affable and sociable. He told me that he had received a telegram from my father and was expecting me.
His elderly mother, referring respectfully to my father as “Mr. Kim,” was as glad to see me as if I were her own grandson. She said, “When you were here with your father 4 years ago on your way to Junggang, you were a small boy but now you are quite grown up.” She served me with beef-rib soup and fried herrings which she had probably been saving for her own grandchildren. She made a bed for me with new quilts. They showered me with full hospitality.
The next morning I went to the Kanggye Post Office and sent a telegram to my parents as my father had told me to. The telegram would cost 3 jon for each of the first six characters and 4 jon each for any more. So I wrote 6 characters “Kang Gye Mu Sa To Chak” (Arrived safely in Kanggye—Tr.).
The next day the inn-keeper went
to the bus station to arrange for my transport. On returning, he told me that I
should have to wait for about ten days because the bus had broken down. He added
that he had made a reservation for me, so I should stay with him. I was grateful
for his kindness, but I said I could not afford to wait. He did not hold me back
any more but offered me two pairs of straw sandals. Moreover, he introduced me
to a cartman who was heading for the
The keeper of the “West-Korea Inn” in front of Kaechon Railway Station was also a kind man.
At the inn I ordered a 15-jon meal, which was the cheapest of the meals they served there. However, the inn-keeper served me with a 50-jon meal. When I said I could not afford it, he told me not to mind the cost.
At night they gave a mattress and two blankets to each guest for 50 jon. I examined my purse and found that I could not afford the luxury of sleeping under two blankets. So I ordered only one blanket. Again the inn-keeper told me not to worry about the cost and said that he could not be so cruel as to see a boy sleeping miserably when other travellers were comfortable.
Though living in poverty as a ruined nation, the Korean people still preserved their traditional fellowship and beautiful customs. Up until the turn of the century there were many people travelling without money in our country. Villagers used to provide free accommodation for travellers. This was a Korean custom, which was the envy of the people of the West. My journey made me realize that the Korean people were truly kind-hearted and morally excellent.
The keeper of the “West-Korea Inn,” like those of the Kanggye and Junggang Inns, was under the guidance and influence of my father. As I had experienced on my previous journey to Junggang at the age of seven, my father had comrades and friends everywhere.
When I saw people receiving and taking care of our family as their own flesh and blood, I wondered when my father had made so many friends and what distance he had travelled to rally such comrades.
With so many friends everywhere my father, when away from home, was always helped by them. I, too, benefited a great deal from their assistance.
An unforgettable memory of my
journey was of the town of
The profound meaning of what my
father had said to me on my departure about learning about
The 250-mile journey was, for me, a journey of learning about my homeland and my fellow countrymen.
Towards sunset on March 29, 1923, fourteen days after my departure from Badaogou, I entered the courtyard of my old home.
My grandmother, who was making yam inside, hurried out to the yard, without stopping to put on her shoes, and took me in her arms.
“Who has come with you? How have you come? How are your father and mother?” She showered me with questions, giving me no time to answer.
Grandfather stopped making straw mats and ran out into the yard.
When I answered that I had come alone on foot, she exclaimed doubtfully, “Oh Lord! Really? Your father is more hard-hearted than a tiger.” The whole family sat together, and we talked all through the night.
The mountains and rivers were familiar and beautiful as ever, but the signs of poverty in every comer of the village were more conspicuous than ever before.
After staying for a few days at
Mangyongdae, I started in the fifth year of
My mother’s parents were in no position to support me. They were having a difficult time because my mother’s brother, Kang Jin Sok, was In prison. After his arrest, the police kept the family under strict surveillance, bothering them and, worse still, my uncle was in poor health. The whole family worried about him. The family were living in dire poverty, eating gruel made from coarsely ground grain or boiled rice mixed with ground beans. They always ran short of farm produce and my younger uncle had to carry goods on a cart for hire to eke out a livelihood.
However, they did not reveal any signs of poverty in my presence and supported me wholeheartedly while I attended school. They provided me with a separate room furnished with a kerosene lamp and fine floor mats. They were kind to my friends who used to visit me at all times.
Towards the end of the Ri dynasty and after the “annexation of
This movement was led by patriotic fighters An Chang Ho, Ri Tong Hwi, Ri Sung Hun, Ri Sang Jae, Yu Kil Jun, Nam Kung Ok and others. The learned societies formed in all parts of the country also pushed ahead with the education movement.
At the height of the educational and cultural movement that swept the country, thousands of private schools sprang up, awakening the intellect of the nation that had slept in feudal fetters. It was around this time that village schools which had been teaching the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius were transformed into institutions for modern education and encouraged the younger generation to kindle the spirit of patriotism.
The leaders of me nationalist movement, without exception, regarded education as the starting-point of their independence movement and concentrated their financial power and energy on the undertaking. Kim Ku14, who was the mastermind behind the heroic ventures undertaken by Ri Pong Chang15 and Yun Pong Gil16, with terrorism as his major policy for the independence movement, had been engaged in education in Hwanghae Province in his early years. An Jung Gun, too, was a scholar who had established a school in the area of Nampho to teach the younger generation.
Among the private schools
established in west
My grandfather used to say that
it would be an honour for
I replied that, even though I might not become such a praiseworthy martyr as An Jung Gun, I would become a patriot who would not spare himself for the independence of the country.
Of the private schools
established in west
Paek Son Haeng, too, contributed
a vast amount of money to this school. This woman, better known as Widow Paek
than by her real name, was popular in
This woman, who did not even know how to use an abacus, had made this fabulous profit in a deal with the Japanese capitalist at a time when public resentment was running high at the traitors who had sold out the whole country to the Japanese imperialists with the signing of a paper. That was why people took pleasure in talking about her as if she were a great war hero.
People respected her because she had helped the community a great deal. Even though she was rich, she did not seek personal glory; she led a simple life, eating frugal meals, and donated her money unsparingly to society, money she had saved all her life. The money had been spent on building a bridge and a public hall—the Pyongyang Public Hall— which still remains intact before the Ryongwang Pavilion.
A few days after I began school my grandfather brought me a bundle of fifth-year textbooks. In excitement I took them and turned over the pages one after another. But, when I opened the textbook titled Mother-tongue Reader, I felt offended. It was a textbook of the Japanese language.
The Japanese imperialists forced our people to use the Japanese language in order to make them the subjects of the Japanese emperor. As soon as they had occupied our country they proclaimed that the official language of the government and public offices, courts and schools would be Japanese, and prohibited the Korean people from using their own language.
I asked my grandfather why the Japanese language book was titled Mother-tongue Reader.
He merely heaved a sigh.
With a pocket-knife I scratched
out the word Mother-tongue from the title of the book and wrote in its
place the word Japanese. The Mother-tongue Reader became the
Japanese Reader in an instant. My urge to resist
After I had been at the school for some days, I found a few children speaking Japanese in the classrooms, streets and playgrounds. Some of them were even teaching Japanese to other children. Nobody seemed to feel ashamed of this or criticized it. They seemed to think that our language was disappearing for ever with the country ruined.
Whenever I saw children trying to learn Japanese, I told them that Koreans must speak Korean.
The day I arrived in Chilgol
after my return to the homeland from Badaogou the villagers gathered at my
mother’s maiden home to hear about the situation. They said they wanted to hear
me speak Chinese as they thought I might speak it well after living for some
Only once did I speak Chinese in the homeland.
One day my mother’s brother
asked me to go sightseeing in the city with him. Because he was usually very
busy he seldom went outings, but that day he managed to find time for me. Saying
that as I had been away for a long time he would buy me lunch in the city that
day, he took me to
After touring the city we entered a Chinese restaurant in the western part of the city. In those days there were many Chinese restaurants in the area where the Ponghwasan Hotel now stands.
In order to earn more money the restaurant-keepers would come out to the door and receive customers kindly, saying, “Welcome!” They vied with each other to attract guests.
The keeper of the restaurant we went to asked us in poor Korean what we would like to eat.
I ordered in Chinese, for his convenience, two plates of Chinese pancakes.
Wide-eyed, he asked me if I was a Chinese pupil.
I said that, though not a
Chinese pupil, I knew some Chinese because I had lived in
The restaurant-keeper was very
glad to see me, a young boy who had a good command of Chinese. He said with
tearful eyes that he was reminded of his homeland on seeing a pupil from
He placed dishes we had not ordered on the table as well as pancakes and told us to eat plenty. We declined but, as he insisted, we ate everything. After our meal we tried to pay the bill, but he would not even take payment for the pancakes.
On our way home uncle said, laughing, “I took you to the city to give you a treat but instead you gave me a treat.” The whole village heard of this episode.
As I had hoped I joined the
class of Mr. Kang Ryang
I had gone to stay at Chilgol
not long after Mr. Kang left
His family was so poor that his wife (Song Sok
Jong) left him to stay at her maiden home for a while. It is said that her
parents admonished her severely, saying, “You may not be a good wife in time of
destitution for lack of grace, but how dare you abandon your husband because you
are tired of poverty? How many households are there in
We called his wife “Sukchon
auntie,” for she came from Sukchon,
One day after liberation I went
to Mr. Kang’s to wish him a happy birthday and talked to his wife, recollecting
what I ate in those days: “Madam, on occasions I still recall the rice mixed
with ground beans you would serve me in Chilgol. You can’t imagine how I enjoyed
it. Having been away from the homeland for 20 years I could not thank you for
it. Please accept my thanks today.” To this, she replied with tearful eyes: “My
family was so poor that I served you only rice mixed with ground beans, not
proper rice. But as you say you are grateful for that, I do not know what to
say. Those meals were never tasty.” Saying that she would make up for her poor
treatment of me in my days at
One year she sent me some wine called Paekhwaju, which she had distilled, to wish me a happy birthday. The name of the wine means distilled from a hundred flowers.
The poetic name of the wine aroused my interest but I could not drink it with a light heart because the vision of her struggling against hunger with no proper meal of boiled rice, swam before my eyes.
For me who had felt to the marrow of my bones the misery of a ruined nation, a tree, a blade of grass and a grain of rice in the homeland seemed many times more precious than they were before. Moreover, the teacher steadily inspired the pupils with national consciousness, so I was constantly under a patriotic influence at home and at school. In those days he organized picnics and excursions frequently to inculcate patriotism in the pupils.
An excursion to
After liberation Kang Ryang
He had a wonderful voice which sounded better than professional tenors. When that voice sang the Song of Advance or the Song of the Young Patriot, the whole class listened with bated breath.
I think the melodies of the songs he taught us infused patriotic feelings into our minds. Later, when waging the anti-Japanese armed struggle, I would often sing those songs, and I still remember their words and melodies clearly.
Back in the homeland I found that the people were poorer than before.
When spring sowing began, the children of the very poor would be absent from school, for they had not only to help in the farming but also to gather mulguji, pickpurse, the roots of bindweed and other herbs to supplement their meals when the grain ran out. There were some boys who would go to the city on market days to sell wild vegetables to buy grain and others would babysit at home for their parents. Children from poor families would eat boiled sorghum, foxtail millet or barnyard millet for lunch. Worse still, some had to skip lunch.
In Chilgol and Mangyongdae there were many families that could not afford a school education for their children. It was a pity to see children cooped up in their homes with no access to schooling because they were so poor.
For such children I would organize night classes whenever I went to Mangyongdae on holidays. I called them all to the class and taught them. I began by teaching them the Korean alphabet with the Korean Reader and then taught history, geography, arithmetic and songs. It was simple enlightenment that I undertook for the first time in my life.
While visiting the city
frequently with my friends, I came to realize that the citizens of
Of the 100,000 people living in
In the “Westerners village”
inhabited by Americans and the Japanese settlers, brick houses, shops and
churches increased in number; on the other hand, in such places as the area
along the River Pothong and in
Now with the construction of such modern streets as Chollima, Kyonghung and Ponghwa Streets and of such large buildings as the People’s Palace of Culture, the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium, the Ice Rink, the Changgwang Health Complex and skyscrapers, no evidence of old Pyongyang can be found, but when I was going to Changdok School, many small slum dwellings with straw-mat doors and board roofing were huddled there.
In the year when I returned
home, there was an epidemic in
Today 105-storeyed Ryugyong
Hotel, the tallest hotel in the world, is being built behind
While living through the miseries I came to aspire to a society where the toiling masses could live happily and harbour a bitter hatred for the Japanese imperialist aggressors, landlords and capitalists.
When I was a pupil at
From that time I would not allow Japanese policemen on bicycles to pass with impunity. I would bury spiked boards in their way and their tyres always went flat.
Feelings of hatred for the
Japanese imperialists and of love for our motherland were reflected in the
musical play Thirteen Houses we produced. In this play thirteen pupils
appeared on the stage and sang and danced while assemblying a map of
We staged this musical at a school athletics meeting in the autumn of 1924. In the middle of the performance a policeman appeared in the playground and ordered us to stop at once. In those days holding a small-scale athletics meeting required approval from the police, and even an approved event had to have police surveillance.
I met my teacher, Kang Ryang
He, with the other teachers,
protested against the unjustifiable conduct of the policeman and told us to
continue the performance. Since we primary schoolchildren had such a high spirit
of patriotism and resistance, is there any need to say more about the adults’
spirit? In the summer of the year when I returned to the homeland a general
strike broke out in the Pyongyang Hosiery Factory. The newspapers gave front
page headlines to this event. At the news, I thought, even though
Thus I spent two years. One day a few months before I left school I heard from my mother’s father that my father had been arrested again by the Japanese police. This was a great shock, I felt a terrible anger and hatred for the enemy. The distressed people of Chilgol and Mangyongdae seemed to examine my face.
I made preparations for a journey with a determination to fight at the risk of my life to take revenge on the enemy of my father, my family and my nation.
When I said I would go to Badaogou, my mother’s family advised me to go after finishing at school. My grandfather at Mangyongdae also tried to dissuade me, saying that I should wait a few months until I had finished school and the weather was warmer.
But I could not wait. I thought: How can I study here when misfortune has befallen my father?; I must go at once to help mother with her young sons; I must do my bit wherever it means going.
Knowing that he could not dissuade me, grandfather relented and said that I should do as I was determined and that it was up to me now that my father was behind bars.
The next day the family saw me off. The whole family wept—grandfather, grandmother and my uncle. My mother’s younger brother (Kang Chang Sok) who came to Pyongyang Station to see me off and Kang Yun Bom, my classmate from Chilgol, also wept in sadness.
My most intimate friend at
When the time came for the train to depart he gave me some boiled rice in a packet and an envelope. He told me that as he was not sure when he would see me again, he had jotted down a few words for me to read on the train. I opened the envelope after the train had left. In it were a short letter and 3 won. I was very moved by the letter and money. No one without a good heart could be so considerate towards his friend. In those days it was not easy for a boy to obtain 3 won. Even though I had started out on the journey, determined to avenge my father, money was a serious problem. He saved me from many difficulties.
It seemed that he had had a great deal of difficulty in getting the money. He came to see me after liberation. The first thing I told him was how grateful I had been for the money 20 years before, to which he confessed that he had had great difficulty in obtaining it. That money was more precious to me than millions of won to a rich man. What can compare with all the pure and beautiful feelings of friendship that produced that 3 wont Money cannot buy friendship, but friendship can produce money and everything else.
He said that while I had been
fighting in the mountains to liberate the country, he had done nothing in
particular. I said that we should combine our efforts and build a new country,
and that the shortage of cadres was an obstacle to nation-building. I asked him
if he could do his bit by helping to build schools. He readily agreed. After a
short time he had set up a school in Jochon and asked me to give it a name. I
named the school
Afterwards he took charge of the setting up of a university. These days building a university is no great problem, but there were many difficulties at that time because we had neither funds, building materials nor skilled builders. Whenever he had a problem with his work he would come to see me and discuss the problems with me throughout the night, staying in my house.
Kang Yun born was an
unforgettable comrade and friend who saw me off on my way to national
liberation. I still remember him as he saw me off in tears at Pyongyang Station
that day. The letter he gave me read: Dear Song Ju, when parting with you I
cannot keep back my tears. When shall we meet again after this parting? Let us
remember our days at
Encouraged by his friendship and moral support, I again negotiated one steep pass after another. In the evening of the thirteenth day after my departure from Mangy ongdae I arrived at Phophyong. Having reached the ferry I hesitated to cross the Amnok; I walked the bank of the river restlessly. The mountains and rivers of my motherland held me back from crossing over to Badaogou.
I was held back by a vision of my grandmother and grandfather who had seen me off at our brushwood gate, weeping, stroking my hands, adjusting my dress, and worrying about possible snowstorms. I felt I could not hold back the tears that welled up if I crossed that river. And, looking back at my motherland in misery at the bleak border I could scarcely suppress the impulse to rush back to my home town, to the house where I was born.
I had spent only two years back in my motherland, but I had learned and experienced much in those years. My most valuable experience was to have acquired a deep understanding of our people. Our people were simple, and industrious yet brave and strong-willed. They were staunch people who did not yield, whatever the adversity or hardship; they were polite and kindhearted and yet resolute and uncompromising against injustice. When the national reformists were conducting the reactionary “autonomy” campaign in the name of the “Yonjong Association,” the popular masses, particularly the workers, peasants, young people and students, were shedding their blood in resistance to the Japanese imperialists. From the image of them I felt an undaunted sense of national dignity and unbreakable spirit of independence. From that time I believed that our people were the greatest in the world and that I could liberate the country if I organized their efforts properly.
While seeing the Japanese army and the number of police and prisons increasing with each passing day behind the screen of “civil government” and looking at the waggons and cargo ships carrying the wealth plundered from our nation, I formed the clear understanding that Japanese imperialism was the most heinous destroyer of the liberty and dignity of our people and a vicious aggressor and plunderer imposing unbearable poverty and hunger upon our people.
The oppressive situation in the
motherland gave me a firmer belief that only through a struggle would the Korean
nation be able to drive out the Japanese imperialists
and live in happiness in a liberated country. My desire to liberate my country
as quickly as possible and turn everything into ours, into
I walked a little way down from
the ferry to the rapids to evade police observation and set foot on the frozen
river. Across the river, which was only 34 metres wide, was the town of
I stepped back and picked up a pebble from the river bank, holding it firmly in my hand. I wished to take everything that could be a token and memento of my motherland and to keep it as a treasure. That day I underwent a truly painful psychological experience. Because this experience had left a wound in my heart, at the banquet given by patriots in the homeland in my honour after my triumphal return home, I spoke first about that experience.
I walked slowly towards the opposite side of the river singing quietly the Song of the River Amnok:
On the first of March in 1919
I crossed the River Amnok.
The day will come round every year
I’ll return when my work is done.
Blue waters of Amnok, my homeland,
Wait the day I return to you.
I crossed to attain our dearest wish
I’ll return when we have won.
I looked back at the mountains
in the motherland over and again with sorrow and indignation. I thought: My dear
Then I sang the song again. As I
sang this song, I wondered when I would be able to tread this land again, when I
would return to this land where I grew up and where my forefathers’ graves lay.
Young as I was, I could not repress my sorrow at this thought. Picturing in my
mind the miserable reality of the motherland, I made a grim resolve not to
I entered Badaogou at dusk. Having felt uneasy throughout the long journey, I became more strained the moment I reached my house.
But my mother was calmer and more composed than I had expected. She hugged me in delight and said, “You’ve made the 250-mile journey all by yourself. I’ve never done that, but you’ve played the man!” I told her briefly about affairs in Mangyongdae and asked about my father. She said in a low voice that he was well.
From her look I guessed that my father had passed the crisis but was still in danger. She was clearly being very cautious about being overheard or watched.
I gave my younger brothers some biscuits I had bought from the money I had saved from what I had received in Mangyongdae, and settled down for the night to swap experiences.
After supper, however, mother unexpectedly told me to leave at once because the family was under strict surveillance by the enemy. She did not tell me where my father was; she just said that he had escaped, and that I must go. Though normally tender and gracious, on that evening she gave no thought to my will or intention. She ordered me to set out immediately, even though I had travelled hundreds of miles on foot in the coldest season and she had not seen me for two years; she was not allowing me to stay with her even for a night. I was struck dumb with amazement. When she told me to take my brothers with me, I asked her what she was going to do with herself.
“I am waiting for your uncle to return from Sinpha. On his arrival here I will dispose of our household articles and wind up our affairs here. But you must leave quickly.” She cautioned me to slip out quietly and go to Ro Kyong Du’s house in Linjiang. Then she requested a sleigh from Taskmaster Song.
He complied willingly with her request. His real name was Song Pyong Chol, but the people in Badaogou used to call him Taskmaster Song because he always behaved like a taskmaster.
With his help we left Badaogou by sleigh for Linjiang.
All my life as a revolutionary I have met and bid farewell to many people, but that was a particularly memorable experience.
As I set out on a journey again as soon as I had met my mother after a fortnight’s long travel from Mangyongdae, I thought a lot about her.
My mother was of a gentle character. My father was stout-hearted and strict as a revolutionary, so I received a warmer love from my mother.
Being tender-hearted, she had
bitterly regretted our parting when I left for
Although she had done nothing to stop me leaving her, being in the presence of such a strong husband who, as my grandmother in Mangyongdae had said, was harder-hearted than a tiger, I saw tears gathering in her eyes.
She was a woman with such a kind heart as to accord a warm welcome to a stranger of my age of thirteen if she knew that he needed shelter after a journey.
One spring day a boy with
serious boils on his left leg and neck had come on his uncle’s back to my house
After examining the patient my father told my mother that if the boy underwent an operation on his leg he would be unable to walk for some time, so he should stay at our house during his treatment. She gladly agreed. Once every day after the operation my mother helped my father to mix honey, wheat flour and soda and apply it to the boils. As she dressed (he dirty wounds, she never frowned.
Thanks to her kind care, the boy recovered.
His uncle, when he came to fetch him, offered a one-yuan note to my father, saying, “The medical fee would normally amount to hundreds of yuan, but please accept this as a token of the thanks of a poor family. I hope you will buy some wine with it....” Hearing this, my mother said, “Please don’t bother about the medical fee. It is unreasonable to take it from a poor man. I am sorry I haven’t fed the boy as I should.” But the man insisted on paying. If he had been rich it would have been a different matter. But he was a poor man who had earned the money by gathering fallen pine-needles from the mountain and selling them. So my parents were embarrassed.
My father said to my mother that if he refused to take the money it would be a rejection of the man’s gratitude, so she said that they should accept his thanks. So she went to the market with the money and bought five yards of cotton cloth and gave it to the boy saying that he should have some new clothes made with it for the forthcoming Tano festival. At that time one yard of cotton cloth cost 35 fen. So, she added 75 fen of her own to the one yuan to buy cloth for the boy.
Poor as she was, she was not mean.
She used to say, “A man dies not because he hasn’t money but because he is mortal. Money changes hands.” That was her philosophy.
She was a truly good-natured and sympathetic woman.
When father criticized her once in a while, she never answered back. She would apologize for having done wrong and promise not to do it again. When through mischief we got our clothes dirty, damaged the household utensils or played noisily in the house, grandmother would ask her why she left her children alone without so much as scolding them once.
“I don’t think it necessary to scold them for such a mistake,” she would say simply in reply.
She herself was proud of helping her husband in his revolutionary work, but as a woman she lived through endless hardship that she could hardly endure. She seldom lived in comfort with her husband, because he was always away from home working for the independence of the country. I can say she was happy for about a year, when her husband was teaching at the school in Kangdong, and then at Badaogou for a year or two while they lived a home life together.
With her husband in prison, ailing after his release and moving from place to place under police surveillance, and after his death, with me, her son, fighting away from home for the revolution, she spent her whole life in misery and under constant strain.
When she was living in Mangyongdae, too, she was always on her feet as the eldest daughter-in-law of a family of twelve. What with caring for her husband and her parents-in-law, and what with the household chores of washing the dishes, laundering and weaving, she had not a moment of leisure. During daylight she had to work in the fields without a moment to relax, gazing up at the sun. At a time when feudalism prevailed and etiquette was extremely complicated, the duties of the eldest daughter-in-law of a large family were not simple. When boiled rice was prepared for a meal at times her share was the scorched portion at the bottom of the pot, and when gruel was made she drank the thinnest part of the liquid.
When she was exhausted she would
go to church with my aunt. In Songsan where the
When parents went to church their children followed them. In order to increase its congregation the church frequently distributed sweets and notebooks to the children. The children liked such gifts, so they went to Songsan in groups every Sunday.
At first I, too, was interested in the church and sometimes went to Songsan with my friends. But I became tired of the tedious religious ceremony and the monotonous preaching of the minister, so I seldom went to church.
One Sunday, as I ate some bean toffee made by my grandmother, I said to my father, “Father, I won’t go to church today. Attending worship is not interesting.” “Do as you please,” he said to me who was still too young to know the world. “In fact, there is nothing in the church. You may not go. You must believe in your own country and in your own people, rather than in Jesus Christ. And you must make up your mind to do great things for your country.” After that I stopped going to church. When I was a schoolboy in Chilgol, too, I did not go to church although the pupils who did not were under suspicion. I believed that the Christian Gospel had nothing in common with the tragedy which our people were suffering. The Christian doctrine preached humanism, but the call of history for national salvation was more pressing to me who had been anguishing over the destiny of the nation.
My father was an atheist. But,
because he had once attended
I do not think the spirit of Christianity that preaches universal peace and harmony contradicts my idea advocating an independent life for man.
Only when my mother went to church in Songsan did I go. She went to church, but she did not believe in Jesus Christ.
One day I asked her quietly, “Mother, do you go to church because you believe in God?” She smiled, shaking her head.
“I do not go to church out of some belief. What is the use of going to ‘Heaven’ after death? Frankly, I go to church to relax.” I felt pity for her and loved her all the more. She often dozed off during prayers. When everyone else stood up to say amen at the end of the minister’s prayer, she would wake up with a start. When she did not wake even after the amen I would shake her to tell her that the prayer was over.
One evening, together with my friends I passed the funeral director’s located by the pass at the back of the village. We children were in dread of it.
As we were passing it a boy shouted, “A ghost is coming.” Surprised by his shout we ran for our lives, without stopping to pick up our shoes when they slipped off.
That evening we could not return home, so we slept at a friend’s house. Early the next morning we returned home, collecting our lost shoes on the way.
Back at home I told mother about it.
“Sing a song when you pass such a place,” she said, “If you sing, nothing will come out for fear of you.” She said this probably because she considered that singing would dispel my fear. After that I used to sing a song as I passed the shed, She was gentle and generous at ordinary times, but before die enemy she was bold and stout-hearted.
In Ponghwa-ri, a few hours after my father’s arrest, some Japanese policemen stormed into my house to search it. They began to search for secret documents. Filled with anger she shouted, “Search all over the house if you want.” She faced the enemy with an indomitable spirit, even throwing around and tearing clothes. The policemen lost heart and left, quite at a loss.
My mother was such a woman.
That evening a snowstorm raged over the River Amnok.
The sound of the howling wind that seemed to sweep away the forest and the roar of beasts in the dark night stung my heart, aching as it was with the sorrow of national misfortune.
Sitting on the sleigh that glided along the boundary between the two countries, holding tightly in my arms my two younger brothers who were trembling with fear, I realized that the road of revolution was not smooth and that it could not be easy for a mother to love her children.
We three, wrapped in a quilt, trembled with cold. The night was pitch-dark and my brothers huddled up against me, murmuring that they were afraid.
We stayed overnight at Ogubi on the Korean side of the river and arrived in Linjiang the next day.
We met Ro Kyong Du and discovered that he was none other than the inn-keeper who had helped us to get a house in Linjiang and called frequently on my father to discuss the destiny of the nation. He warmly welcomed us as important guests and treated us hospitably.
His house had seven rooms
arranged on two sides and we stayed in the quietest, second room on the quieter
side. There were three guest rooms opposite our room with a kitchen between
them. These rooms were always full of guests, most of whom were going to
A nationalist who was thoroughly anti-Japanese, Ro Kyong Du was a man of mild yet obstinate and stubborn character. He used some of the income from his inn to support independence fighters. Because he made a scant living by selling food I considered him as a labourer, so to speak. I was not sure why he had settled in Linjiang, but rumour had it that he had been in hiding in the Dandong area for a while because of his involvement in the diversion of tungsten ore into illegal channels to gain funds for the independence movement, and that after things had quieted down he had moved to Linjiang for safety.
His home town was Ha-ri,
My family and I owed him a great deal. During our month-long stay in his house he did everything to make us comfortable and always treated us with a kind smile. Once he arranged on our behalf and at his own expense a long-distance call to my father in Fusong. Thus I spoke on the phone for the first time in my life. My father wanted to hear the voices of all his children, so each of us, as well as my mother, spoke on the phone in turn.
Mother had come to Linjiang with my uncle Hyong Gwon on the appointed day. On her arrival, she took us to a Chinese restaurant, telling us we were going sightseeing through the city. She bought a bowl of meat dumplings for each of us and asked us about various things.
At first I thought that she had taken us to the restaurant because she wanted to buy a good meal for her children who had been under the care of other people for a month, but I discovered that she had done so because she wanted to hear how we had been faring.
“Has any suspicious character appeared at the inn looking for you during your stay?” she asked. “Have you ever visited another house to play? How many people know you are staying at Ro’s house?” And then she exhorted us not to reveal our identity anywhere on any account and to be cautious in everything we did until we moved to a new place.
In Linjiang, too, she could not sleep at ease because of her worries about us. A rustle in the night made her wake up and listen with her full attention.
How could a mother who was so anxious about her children’s safety be so firm in sending us to Linjiang?! I think that it was the real love of a mother, a revolutionary love.
No love in the world can be so warm, so true and so eternal as maternal love. Even if a mother scolds or beats her children, she does not hurt them; she loves them. Her love can bring down a star from the sky if it is for her children. A mother’s love knows no reward.
Still now in my dreams I see the image of my mother.
Mr. Hwang who would often call at our home in Badaogou made a great impression on my father’s life. It was he who rescued my father from the hands of the Japanese police in Huchang.
My father had crossed the river to go to Phophyong to liaise with the organizations within the country. There he was caught by policemen lying in ambush near the noodle house which he used as a secret meeting place. It was Son Se Sim, the keeper of the inn at the back of our home, who had informed against my father. This man used to come to our house once every few days and, sitting close by my father, flatter him, calling “Mr. Kim,” “Mr. Kim.” My father had not known that this fellow was a spy.
In order to uncover the
underground organization, the police affairs bureau of the government-general
kept my father’s arrest in absolute secrecy and dispatched high-ranking officers
to the police department of
While my father was locked up in
Phophyong police sub-station they would not allow us, the members of his family,
to see him. Therefore, we were unaware that he was going to be escorted to
Seizing his chance, my father got free of the handcuffs with the help of Mr. Hwang and escaped with him from the inn. They climbed Ppyojok Hill opposite. When they were nearly at the top, it began to snow. When the policemen woke having recovered from the effect of the wine, they rushed out in pursuit of my father, firing their guns blindly. While they were rushing about firing, my father parted with Mr. Hwang at the top of Ppyojok Hill. After that, they never met again.
After liberation I sent people to many places to find this Mr. Hwang. Somehow the man who had risked his life unhesitatingly to help my father when he was in distress would not appear readily when a good world had been created. Mr. Hwang was a true friend and comrade who would have mounted the scaffold in my father’s place. But for the help of so faithful a comrade as Mr. Hwang, my father would not have been able to escape at the critical moment. It was natural that my father’s friends told him that he was blessed with many good comrades. Because my father did not spare himself in the cause of the country and the people and shared good times and bad, life and death with many independence movement champions, he had many people around him and a great many revolutionary comrades and friends.
During the strategic retreat of
the People’s Army in the Korean war, I heard the story
of my father’s escape from Mr. Ri Kuk Ro. In the year when the war broke out, in
early autumn, the Government of our Republic sent out many members of the
Cabinet to the provinces as plenipotentiary delegates in order to speed up the
delivery of taxes in kind. Mr. Ri Kuk Ro who was then a
minister without portfolio was sent to an area which was a part of
Kuk Ro had spent all his life in
The man who had told him about
my father was Hwang Paek Ha, father of Hwang Kwi Hon.
Mr. Ri Kuk Ro had been in
The Singan Association had sent
In that crucible of the war when
the destiny of our young Republic, no more than two years old, was at stake,
what he said about the need to preserve our revolutionary traditions really
filled me with a deep sense of gratitude. I felt warm inside; it seemed as
though the spirits of the patriotic martyrs who had fallen fighting for the
country had appeared before my eyes all at once calling on me with all the force
of their voices to fight on and win, to defend the country to the end. At a time
when it was suggested that
After parting with Mr. Hwang, my
father wandered about the mountain all day long before finding a dugout hut at a
place called Kadungnyong which was not very far from the inn at Yonpho-ri, and
asked the man living there for help. While introducing themselves to each other,
my father learned that the other man was named Kim and from Jonju. The man was
pleased to meet a revolutionary with the same name as himself in such a deep
mountain as Kadungnyong, and with friendly feelings towards my father helped him
all he could. The old man Kim hid my father in a stack of millet straw near his
hut. It was then that my father got frostbite on his feet and knees and all
across the lower part of his body. While he hid in silence with bent limbs in
the cold straw stack over several days, he caught an incurable illness. The old
man protected my father, thrusting balls of rice or roast potatoes into the
stack. Akishima was harangued by his superiors for losing my father. The police
After safely crossing the river in such a desperate fashion, my father stayed in Taolaizhao village for a few days for treatment before leaving for Fusong, conducted by Kong Yong and Pak Jin Yong who were Independence Army men from the unit stationed in Fusong under the command of Jang Chol Ho; this unit was attached to the nationalist organization Jongui-bu.
I have already mentioned the
fact that my father became acquainted with Kong Yong through the introduction of
O Tong Jin. Kong Yong came from
On his way to Fusong with the two men, my father was captured by mounted bandits near Manjiang and was thus in danger again. That was a time when bandits were rampant everywhere. The confused and uncertain situation at the time when warlords were at daggers drawn in their struggle for influence produced many bandits. Many men from the dregs of society, finding no way out of their hopeless situation, took this road. To make matters worse, the Japanese imperialists infiltrated the bandit groups and manipulated their leaders or bred new bandits for the purpose of weakening the anti-Japanese forces. Moving about in hordes, the bandits would sack the people’s houses or capture and rob wayfarers of their money or belongings. When they were out of humour, they would not hesitate to commit such brutalities as cutting off people’s ears or beheading them. So the two men who were escorting my father were on the alert. My father told the bandits that he was a doctor, but the robbers would not let him go, insisting that a doctor must be rich. My father soothed and humoured them; he said to them that being a doctor who was earning a scant living from his patients, he had no money, that if any one of them was ill, he could cure him, and that back home, he would not report them to the authorities. With this he asked them to let him go, but they would not listen.
At this Kong Yong came to a decision. While the bandits were off their guard smoking opium after dinner, he extinguished the oil lamp and helped my father and Pak Jin Yong to escape before attacking the rascals, some ten in all, with skillful boxing. Then he made off from the den of the bandits. That was a truly dramatic sight, resembling a fight scene in a film. My father often recalled with deep emotion the self-sacrificing deed of Kong Yong in this escape. Kong Yong was a devoted fighter who would not spare himself when it came to helping his comrades.
A few days later my father met Jang Chol Ho in Fusong. He had been a surveyor until a few years previously, but now he was a commander of a company of the Independence Army. When he saw the pale face of my father he was extremely worried and asked him to rest until he was well again, at a place they had arranged for him. Other people, too, advised him to rest. In fact, my father was in such a state at the time that he should not keep going any longer without some treatment. My father realized this. It was the coldest time of the year. But he set out immediately on a journey to the north without thinking even of putting a wet compress on his sick body. Company Commander Jang Chol Ho conducted my father to his destination.
With the development of thought
and the deepening of the infusion of the revolutionary idea, party politics had
become the trend and was spreading rapidly in the political circles of the
world. Both bourgeois politicians and communists supported party politics. With the October Revolution as a turning-point. Communist
Parties were founded in succession in many Asian countries. With the spread of
new ideological trends, the age of party politics began in the East. In 1921 a
Communist Party was founded in
In this situation the pioneers
Party politics requires as its prerequisite the establishment and development of an idea and ideal to serve as its guiding principle and basis; without this it is scarcely conceivable.
Bourgeois nationalism emerged as an ideological trend in the modern history of our country and guided the national liberation movement, but it withered away without having its own political party. In the arena of the national liberation struggle the new, communist ideological trend emerged in place of bourgeois nationalism. Among the pioneers of the new generation who were aware that bourgeois nationalism could no longer be the banner of the national liberation struggle, the number of adherents to communism increased rapidly. Many progressive elements in the nationalist camp turned to the communist movement.
The line set out at the Kuandian
Meeting of changing course did not end simply as a declaration but was carried
into reality by the pioneers within the nationalist movement. O Tong Jin was the
first to put into effect the line of the Kuandian Meeting. After the meeting
many people belonging to the Independence Army unit commanded by O Tong Jin came
out in support of the Marxist-Leninist ideology. The Japanese imperialists
called the new force that appeared in this period the “third force.” The
mid-1920s, when my father escaped from the grip of the Japanese police and went
With a clear understanding of the situation,
my father decided that it was time to found a political organization which would
be capable of carrying the idea of reorientation into effect. The nationalist
movement of the Koreans in
The first thing done in this
regard was the convening of a meeting at Niumaxiang in
After a year the leaders of the
independence movement who attended the Niumaxiang Meeting held a joint
conference with delegates from the Chondoist reformist group and from the
Hyongphyong Association from the homeland, as well as with delegates from the
Maritime Province of Siberia, at which they formed the Revolutionary Party of
Koryo with the aim of “abolishing the present system of private property and
doing away with the existing state organization so as to build a unitary world
state based on communist institutions.” My ailing father was unable to attend
this conference. After looking round Beishan and
“I can see the water of the
homeland has really done you good! After I sent you home to
That night our family sat in a happy circle and talked until late, saying everything we wanted to tell one another. That was when I heard of Mr. Hwang and old Mr. Kim from Jonju who had helped my father to escape, and of the saga of Kong Yong in the bandits’ lair in Man-Jiang.
While I was talking about what I
had seen and felt in the homeland, I told my father of my resolve never to cross
the River Amnok again before
A few days later I started at
Fusong Primary School No. 1. My closest friend at that school was Zhang Wei-hua,
a Chinese boy. He was a son of the Chinese who was the second or third richest
man in Fusong. There were dozens of private soldiers at his house. Almost all me
insam (ginseng) farms in Donggang,
Among the Korean pupils, Ko Jae Bong, Ko Jae Ryong, Ko Jae Rim and Ko Jae Su were my friends.
In the days when my father was
conducting revolutionary activities in and around Fusong, the situation was very
unfavourable because the reactionary Chinese warlords had turned pro-Japanese
and were obstructing the activities of the Korean patriots in every possible
way. Moreover, my father’s health was not good owing to the aftereffects of the terrible
torture inflicted on him in
A new doorplate outside our house in the street of Xiaonanmen read “Murim Surgery.” In fact, my father was not in a position to treat any patients. Rather, he needed treatment himself. But before long he set off again on a trip. Everyone tried to dissuade him. Jang Chol Ho, Kong Yong, Pak Jin Yong and all the other independence movement fighters in Fusong remonstrated against the trip. Uncle Hyong Gwon and I tried to stop him, and even my mother who normally supported and backed up silently whatever he did entreated him to refrain from going for this once.
But he stuck to his decision and left Fusong. My father was so uneasy at the news that, because the upper levels of the Independence Army units operating in the area of Naidaoshan were not united and were squabbling in several factions for influence, the army was in danger of disintegration.
On the instructions of Jang Chol Ho, a man escorted my father to Antu. When he left Fusong, he took some ten kilogrammes of millet and a pot of bean paste for two men’s provisions in a knapsack, and carried an axe and a pistol with him. They would have to go hundreds of miles across a deserted country to reach their destination. They had a hard time going through the no-man’s-land, I heard later. At night they built a campfire in the open and slept, leaning against a pile of logs with nothing to cover them. My father kept coughing so hard that the other man was constantly worried.
Even after his return from Antu,
he continued to cough violently. A few days later, in spite of the bad state of
his health, he began to work to obtain authorization for the opening of
Wherever he went, my father used
to pay primary attention to the education movement and set up schools. On the
eve of its opening, my father went to the school with Jang Chol Ho, taking with
them on carts desks and chairs made at a woodworking mill. Although he did not
stop working as a doctor at the “Murim Surgery,” his heart was always at the
school. He became honorary headmaster of
The Mother Tongue Reader
My father called many meetings
in Fusong to discuss problems of education and dispatched able people to Antu,
Huadian, Dunhua, Changbai and other areas to set up schools and night schools
everywhere there were Koreans. The
As matters at
A new era was ushered in when
the three organizations of Jongui-bu, Sinmin-bu and Chamui-bu came into being in
Manchuria as a result of the amalgamation of the many small independence
movement organizations that had had their own areas of influence in the three
In this situation my father, who was convinced that unity was the most pressing historical need, held discussions about the measures for achieving the unity and cohesion of the ranks of the independence movement with representatives from the Korean National Association and military organizations at home and abroad in Fusong in August 1925, and formed the Association for the Promotion of the Alliance of National Organizations. My father’s intention was apparently to hasten the establishment of a single party through the activities of this association. He worked against time every day, busier than ever. It seems that he realized that his days were numbered.
Not long after that my father became seriously ill. From the spring of 1926 he was confined to bed. Hearing of his illness, many people from different places visited our house. Every time I came home from school I saw five or six pairs of unfamiliar shoes on the earthen verandah. The people came to inquire after the condition of my father, bringing medicines they believed to be efficacious for his health, and consoled him. However poor they were, nearly everyone of them brought at least one insam root. But my father’s illness was too far-gone, so medicine had no effect on him. Spring was bringing a rich lifeblood to everything alive on Earth and everything was singing of the new season. But alas, this could not restore my father’s health, even though everyone desired it so earnestly.
I was too worried to go to school in peace. One morning I turned back halfway to school and went home. I was anxious about father.
“Why don’t you go to school?” he asked me sternly. I heaved a deep sigh, unable to say anything in reply. “Go,” he said. “A man with such a weak heart will never do anything great.” Thus he made me go to school.
One day O Tong Jin came from
My father who had been listening attentively to the two men took both of them by the hand and said, “No, that won’t do. It may be a hard job, but we must bring about unity at all costs. We won’t win independence before we are united and rise in arms against the enemy.” After they had left, father spoke of the factional strife which had continued from the period of the Ri dynasty, and he deplored the fact that when the country had been lost due to the factional struggle, the people who professed themselves to be champions of the independence movement were still unaware of the truth and, split into many small groups, were squabbling in factions. Without doing away with the factional strife, he went on to say, it was impossible either to achieve the independence of the country or to bring about civilization and enlightenment. Factional strife is a cause of decline in national strength and attracts foreign forces. When foreign forces come in, the country will go to ruin. During your generation it is imperative to root out the factional strife, achieve unity and rouse the masses.
When I returned home from school to nurse him, father had me sit by his bedside and told me about many things. They were mainly accounts of his experiences in life, and they were very instructive. One thing I cannot forget to this day is his remark about how a revolutionary should be prepared for three contingencies.
“Wherever he may go, a revolutionary must always be prepared for three contingencies. He must be prepared for death from hunger, death from a beating and death from the cold; yet he must stick to the high aim he set himself at the outset.” I engraved these words of my father deep on my heart. His remarks about friends and friendship were also instructive.
“A man must not forget the
friends he has gained in adversity. One must rely on one’s parents at home and
on one’s friends outside; that is what is traditionally said, and it is an
important saying. True friends who will be one’s partners through thick and thin
are dearer than one’s brothers.” That day he talked for a long time about
friends and friendship. He said: I began the struggle by winning comrades. There
are people who obtain money or pistols to begin the independence movement, but I
started by seeking in all places for good comrades. Good comrades will not fall
from heaven nor spring out of the earth. They must be
looked for at great cost by oneself just as gold or precious stones are
prospected for, and must be fostered. That is why I have moved around
He said that even in his sickbed he missed his friends more than anything else, and told me over and over again to find many good comrades.
“Only he who will die for the sake of his comrades will find good comrades.” Still now this teaching given me by my father remains deeply impressed on my mind.
For several months my mother nursed my father devotedly as he fought desperately against his illness. Her devotion was unequalled and really touching. But even her superhuman exertions could not save my father.
On June 5, 1926, my father passed away under the small roof of a hut in a foreign land hundreds of miles away from his home, grieving over his lost country.
“When we were leaving our home, we said we would achieve independence and return together. But I am afraid I cannot return. When the country wins its independence, you return home with Song Ju. I do not want to depart without attaining my aim. I entrust Song Ju to you. I wanted to give him education up to secondary school, but I think that is impossible. If you can, please send him to secondary school at least, even if you must live on gruel to do so. Then, as for the younger boys, everything will depend on Song Ju.”
My father’s last wish imparted to my mother began with these words. Handing over to her the two pistols he had always carried with him, he said:
“If these guns are discovered after my death, there will be trouble. So bury them and then give them to Song Ju when he has grown up and starts on the road of struggle.”
Then he gave us three brothers his last injunction:
“I am departing without attaining my aim. But I believe in you. You must not forget that you belong to the country and the people. You must win back your country at all costs even if your bones are broken and your bodies are torn apart.”
I wept loudly. My father’s death let loose my pent-up grief for my lost country. My father died after passing his life enduring every manner of hardship and suffering for the sake of his country. Even when he was mortally ill because of repeated torture and severe frostbite, he did not give in but went to meet the people and his comrades. When he was exhausted, he walked with a cane, and when he was hungry, he allayed his hunger by eating snow. He never looked back or wavered; he always walked straight forward. My father did not take sides with any faction or seek power but dedicated his whole life without hesitation to the cause of national liberation and the working people’s well-being. He was free from worldly desires and self-interest. When he had money, he suppressed his desire to buy sweets for his children and saved it up and bought an organ, which he contributed to a school. He placed his fellow-countrymen above himself, and his motherland above his family. He moved forward without faltering in the teeth of the cold wind. He lived as a man of integrity and an upright revolutionary. I never once heard my father talking about household affairs. I inherited a great deal from my father in ideological and spiritual wealth but nothing in the form of property and money. The farm implements and household utensils now on display in my old house are all legacies left behind by my grandfather, not by my father.
The thought of “Aim High,” being prepared for the three contingencies, the idea of gaining comrades, and two pistols—this was all I received from my father. My heritage was such that it portended great hardship and sacrifice for me. Nevertheless, there could be no better heritage for me.
My father was accorded a public
funeral. On the day of the funeral the street of Xiaonanmen was crowded with
mourners. Many of his comrades, friends and disciples who had followed and
respected him in his lifetime, as well as his former patients, streamed from all
parts of north and south Manchuria, Jiandao and from the homeland. Even the head
It was decided that my father’s body would be laid to rest at Yangdicun on the bank of the River Toudao-Songhua some four kilometres from Xiaonanmen. During his lifetime my father had often visited the village. He was great friends with the villagers, as close as brothers and sisters, and talked with them and treated their illnesses. After his death, my father would have wished to be among the people with whom he had been so close. That day the four-kilometre-long road from Xiaonanmen to Yangdicun was a sea of wailing. The independence movement followers who were carrying the coffin wept bitterly. The Korean women in the Fusong area wore white ribbons in their hair for a fortnight after the funeral.
Thus I lost my father. I lost my father overnight, and with him a teacher and leader. He was my flesh and blood who had given me a life and, at the same time, a teacher and leader who had led me along the path of the revolution from my early years. His death was a heavy blow to me. The irreparable loss left a hollow in my heart. At times I would go and sit alone in tears on the riverside gazing at the far-off sky of the homeland.
To think back, my father’s affection for me had been extraordinary. After I had grown a little, he used to tell me earnestly about the future of our country and people. His love for me had been stern and yet infinitely deep. Now I could no longer receive or expect such love and such guidance.
But what lifted me up from the depth of grief was the extraordinary heritage my father had left me: “Aim High,” preparedness for the three contingencies, the gaining of comrades and two pistols. When I was at a loss what to do in my inconsolable and sombre grief, I drew strength from my inheritance and began to seek the path I must follow.
After my father’s funeral, his friends stayed in Fusong for a few days to discuss my future.
It was in mid-June of 1926 that
I left for
That was immediately after the June 10th Independence Movement in our country.
This movement was a mass anti-Japanese demonstration organized by the communists who had recently appeared in the arena of the national liberation struggle following the March First Popular Uprising.
As is well known, the March First Popular Uprising was a turning point in the national liberation struggle in our country in its shift from the nationalist to the communist movement. Among the forerunners who realized through the March First Popular Uprising that bourgeois nationalism could no longer be the banner of the national liberation struggle, the trend to follow the new current of thought rapidly increased, and through their activities Marxism-Leninism spread quickly.
In the year after the March First Popular Uprising a working-class organization called the Labour Mutual-aid Association appeared in Seoul and, following this, mass organizations such as peasant organizations, youth organizations and women’s organizations came into being one after another.
Under the guidance of such
organizations, an energetic mass struggle got under way in our country from the
beginning of the 1920s to defend the rights and interests of the proletarian
masses and oppose the colonial policy of the Japanese imperialists. In 1921 the
By replacing their “sabre rule” with the silk cloak of “civil government” and drawing some pro-Japanese elements into the “Advisory Council,” the Japanese imperialists pretended to encourage the participation of Koreans in politics. At the same time, under the specious title of “promoting the expression of public opinion,” they permitted the publication of some Korean newspapers and magazines and made a fuss as if an era of prosperity had come. However, our nation would not tolerate such trickery and continued its struggle against the aggressors.
The trend of the development of
the mass movement, particularly the working-class movement, called for a
powerful political force capable of giving it unified leadership. To meet this
historic demand, the Korean Communist Party was founded in
The Korean Communist Party did not fulfil its role effectively as the vanguard of the working class because of some essential limitations—its lack of a guiding ideology that conformed with the actual situation, and its failure to achieve the unity of its ranks and strike root deep among the masses. However, its foundation, marking as it did an important event that demonstrated the change of the old current of thought to a new one and the qualitative change in the national liberation struggle, gave impetus to the development of the mass movement, particularly the labour movement, the peasant movement and the youth movement, as well as of the national liberation movement.
The communists started to prepare for a fresh anti-Japanese demonstration on a nationwide scale.
It was around this time that Sunjong, the last King of the Ri dynasty, died. His death stimulated the anti-Japanese feelings of the Korean nation. At the news of the King’s death Koreans, irrespective of age and sex, wept loudly in mourning. Even though the country had been ruined Sunjong, as the last King, symbolized the Ri dynasty. However, now that he was dead Koreans’ pent-up sorrow for their ruined country again burst out. The following song sung by some students to the band music added to the grief of the mourners.
Farewell to you,
For ever and ever.
Go I shall to my grave
To a place forlorn.
Now that I am leaving you,
When shall I come again?
May the 20-million
Korean people thrive.
Their wailing was a great irritation to the Japanese occupationists.
Wherever Koreans gathered in crowds to mourn, Japanese mounted policemen immediately moved in and dispersed them with clubs and by force of arms. Even pupils from elementary schools were clubbed mercilessly. What the Japanese desired was that Koreans should not grieve over the ruin of their country and should shut their mouths, without weeping over the death of their King. This was the true nature of rule by the governor-general who disguised his “sabre rule” with the “civil government.” The enemy’s outrageous repression of our people added fuel to their burning anti-Japanese feelings.
Taking advantage of the anti-Japanese spirit of the popular masses, the communists planned a nationwide anti-Japanese demonstration on the day of the funeral of Sunjong and secretly pushed ahead with preparations for it.
However, the secret was betrayed to the Japanese imperialists by factionalists who had found their way onto the preparatory committee for the demonstration. The preparations for the anti-Japanese demonstration were ruthlessly suppressed.
However, patriotic people did not discontinue the preparations.
On June 10 when the bier of
Sunjong was passing through the streets, tens of thousands of
The June 10th
Independence Movement failed to overcome the ruthless suppression by the
Japanese imperialists because of the machinations of the
factionalists. If the bourgeois nationalists’ worship of
the great powers was a basic reason for the failure of the March First Popular
Uprising, the factional activities of the early communists were the root cause
that ruined the June 10th Independence Movement. In leading this struggle the
Tuesday group worked from their factionalist point of view, whereas the
After the June 10th Independence Movement, most of the principal figures in the leadership body of the Korean Communist Party were arrested.
As a result of the June 10th Independence Movement the deceitful-ness and craftiness of “civil government” were revealed to the whole world. Through this movement our people demonstrated their indomitable will and fighting spirit to regain their country and defend their national dignity whatever the adversity.
If the communists had rid themselves of factionalism and organized and led this struggle in a unified way, the June 10th Independence Movement would have expanded and developed as a nationwide struggle and a heavier blow would have been dealt to the colonial rule of the Japanese imperialists.
This movement left a serious lesson that without getting rid of factions it would be impossible to achieve either the development of the communist movement or the victory of the anti-Japanese national liberation struggle.
In those days I analysed the result of this movement in my own way. I wondered why the organizers of this struggle had used the same peaceful method which had been applied at the time of the March First Popular Uprising.
There is a saying, “Train soldiers for a thousand days to use them for a day.” Likewise, if one wants to send the popular masses to the battlefield once, one must educate and organize them sufficiently and train them well.
However, the organizers and leaders of the June 10th Independence Movement sent tens of thousands of empty-handed people to confront armed soldiers and policemen, having failed to make full preparations. S0 it was natural that the outcome should be tragic.
I could not sleep because of my indignation at the setbacks suffered by the anti-Japanese movement, each time entailing wholesale deaths. The failure of this movement made my blood run hot and made me still more firmly determined to defeat the Japanese imperialists and regain my country.
With this ideological urge I
resolved to make my days at
Having found the way to national
resurrection in building up strength, the fighters for independence and the
patriotic champions of the enlightenment movement worked hard to establish
military schools to train military personnel at the same time as founding
general schools. Thanks to their efforts many military schools were established
in various parts of
Such leaders of the independence movement as Ryang Ki Thak, Ri Si Yong, O Tong Jin, Ri Pom Sok, Kim Kyu Sik and Kim Jwa Jin played the central role in the establishment of these military schools.
Those admitted to
Now there remain very few of my
fellow students from
When my father was alive I worried little about my future and household affairs. After he had passed away, however, I was obliged to consider my future and to deal with the many complex problems which were raised in household management.
I was at my wits end because of the sorrow and distress caused me by the death of my father. However, I pondered over my future with the single desire to devote my whole life to the independence movement, whatever the cost, as my father had hoped, and with the ambition to go to a higher school, if the circumstances permitted it, even though it might be a burden to my mother.
In his will my father had wished that I be sent to a secondary school. However, my family was so poor that I felt I could not express my wish to go to a higher school. If I were to go back to school my mother would have to bear the heavy burden of raising money for my school fees. However, the small amount of money my mother was getting for doing laundry and needlework for others was not enough to pay for my education, it being spent on keeping our poor family.
After my father died my uncle Hyong Gwon, who had been his assistant, soon lost his job in the dispensary. There was only a small amount of medicine left in the dispensary by my father.
It was at this time that my
father’s friends advised me to go to
My mother wrote to many people, as he had requested. My mother had to do so, although she regretted it, because the world was so cruel that it was impossible to live even for a single day without the help of kindness. So the question of my future was presented for discussion among those fighters for independence who remained in Fusong after my father’s funeral.
This is what O Tong Jin told me:
I have sent a letter of introduction to Uisan Choe Tong O for you to go to
It appeared that my father’s friends wanted to train me as a reserve cadre who would succeed their generation in the future. It was good that the leaders of the Independence Army were concerned about training reserve cadres and attached importance to it.
I readily agreed to O Tong Jin’s proposal. I was extremely grateful to the independence fighters for their kind concern about my future. Their intention to send me to a military school and train me for the independence movement conformed with my desire to devote my whole life to the cause of national liberation. My view in those days was that we could defeat the Japanese imperialists only through a military confrontation and that one could stand in the front rank of the independence movement only when one had a military knowledge. The way was open now for me to realize my dream.
Once a foreign statesman asked me: “Mr. President, how did it happen that you, a communist, went to a military school run by nationalists?” This must seem quite puzzling.
It was when I had not yet joined
the communist movement that I entered
There were more nationalists than communists around me. The teachers at the schools I attended in various places advocated nationalist ideas more than communist ones. We were surrounded by nationalism, which, though destined to give way to a new trend of thought, had more than half a century of history, and its influence could not be ignored.
The fact that there were many
sturdy young people at
Frankly speaking, in those days
I pinned great hope on the education provided at
However, when I actually left home I frequently looked behind me even as I stepped forward. As I turned back to see Yangdicun where my father’s remains were buried and my mother and younger brothers who were far away, watching me out of sight, I could not move my feet easily because of my distraction.
I was worried about my mother who would have a hard time of it with my little brothers. In those days it was not easy for a mother to support her family single-handedly in such a godforsaken place as Fusong.
I calmed myself by thinking over the words of my mother, that a man who has started on a journey should not look back.
It was about 75 miles from Fusong to Huadian. Rich people made the journey in comfort in a covered carriage called a Hanlinche. But I could not afford to do so because I had only a little travel money.
Huadian was a mountain town
under the jurisdiction of
When I started on my journey,
one fighter for independence in Fusong said that
What made me uneasy was the
thought of whether
When I got to Huadian I first visited Kim Si U’s home, as my mother had told me. He was the Huadian area controller under Jongui-bu. The area control office was a self-governing organization which helped the Koreans residing in the district under its control in their everyday life. There were such offices in Fusong and Panshi, as well as in such localities as Kuandian, Wangqingmen and Sanyuanpu.
Kim Si U was a fighter for
independence who had known my father from the time when he was in
The rice mill he built was the
Yongphung Rice Mill situated in
From my days in Linjiang I had followed with awe and highly respected him, being fascinated by his openhearted character typical of a northern man and by his strong disposition. He loved me dearly like his own son.
Kim Si U and his wife who were mending a hencoop in the yard, received me gladly, shouting for joy as I appeared. There were so many chickens in the yard that they got in my way.
Kim Si U took me to
He wore clothes that gave off the smell of rice bran, typical of a rice-dealer.
Both the school building and the hostel were much shabbier than I had imagined, but that did not matter. I suppressed my misgivings by thinking that it would be fine if I could only learn a lot of good things, although the building was shabby.
Nevertheless, the school grounds were spacious and tidy.
Carefully I examined the whole
I remembered how once, when we were living in Badaogou, O Tong Jin had called on us one cold winter day, not even wearing a fur cap, and consulted my father about the founding of Hwasong Uisuk School.
Having arrived at the school as a new student and looked around it, I was full of deep emotions.
The headmaster, a middle-aged, shortish man with a receding hairline and a pleasant appearance, received me in his office. He was Uisan Choe Tong O.
Uisan was a disciple of Son
Pyong Hui, the third high priest of Chondoism and one of the leaders of the
March First Popular Uprising who were known as the thirty-three people. He
graduated from the training school founded by Son Pyong Hui, and then started in
the independence movement by building a village schoolhouse in Uiju, his home
town, and giving an education to the children of believers in Chondoism. He had
taken part in the March First Movement. Later he came to
The headmaster said to me that he would repent all his life of his failure to be present at my father’s funeral. He and the area controller spoke about my father for a good while.
What Choe Tong O said on that
day made a great impression on me. He said: “Song Ju, you have come to our
school at the right time. The independence movement has entered a new era which
requires talented people. The era of Hong Pom Do and Ryu Rin Sok when people
worked in a random way has passed. In order to overcome the tactics and the new
types of arms employed by the Japanese, we need our own modern tactics and new
types of arms. Who can solve this problem? It is the new generation such as you
who should take charge of this and settle it....” The headmaster also told me a
lot which could serve as a lesson for me. He said that the board and lodging
were poor, but, he urged me to put up with and endure all the difficulties and
look forward to the future—the independence of
That day Kim Si U’s family prepared supper for me. As I sat face to face with people belonging to my father’s generation at a modest table that expressed the sincerity of the host and hostess, I was full of deep emotion.
There was a bottle of alcohol made from cereal at one edge of the round table. I thought that Kim Si U had put it there to drink with his meal. But he poured some into a glass and offered it to me, much to my surprise.
I felt so awkward that I flapped my hands. I was bewildered because this was the first time in my life that I had been treated as a grown-up. True, during my father’s funeral Jang Chol Ho had offered me some alcohol when he saw me so upset. However, he had acted so towards a mourner and no more than that.
Nevertheless, Kim Si U treated me as if I were completely grown up. He also changed his style of speech, making it a little more respectful.
He said: “At the news of your arrival, I thought eagerly of your father. So I saw that a bottle of alcohol was prepared. Whenever your father came to Huadian he would drink the alcohol I offered him at this table. Now you take this glass in place of your father. You are now the head of your family.” Although he offered me the glass as he said this I could not bring myself to take it readily. Although the glass was so small that it could be hidden in the palm of one’s hand, it was loaded with inestimable weight.
At that table where Kim Si U treated me as an adult, I solemnly felt that I should behave like a grown-up for the sake of the country and the nation.
He offered me the room which he used as a bedroom and study. He surprised me by saying that he had discussed the matter with the headmaster and that I should stay at his home without ever thinking of living in the dormitory.
He said that, because my father Kim Hyong Jik had requested him to take good care of me in the letter he wrote in his dying moments, he was under an obligation to do so.
Thus in Fusong and in Huadian my
father’s friends behaved with the utmost sincerity towards me. I suppose they
did so because they wanted to be loyal to my father. At that time I thought a
great deal about their sincerity and faithfulness. That faithfulness was based
on the ardent hope of the people belonging to my father’s generation that I
would do something for the independence of the country. That hope made me feel a
heavy responsibility as a son of
From the following day I started
a strange life at
There were more than forty students there, but none of them was as young as me. Most of them were about 20 years of age. Some of them had sparse beards; some had children. All of them were like elder brothers or uncles to me.
As soon as the headmaster had introduced me, the students applauded.
I went to the front row by the window and took the seat the teacher had told me to take.
The student sitting next to me was Pak Cha Sok from the first company. Whenever a new lesson began he briefly whispered into my ear, telling me about the teachers as they entered the classroom.
The teacher whom he introduced
with the greatest respect was military instructor Ri Ung. Ri Ung was a member of
the military commission under Jongui-bu and had attended
Pak Cha Sok told me that
This is how my ties with Pak Cha
Sok were established. Later, in the days of the armed struggle, he left an
indelible wound in my heart. Although later he was to take a wrong path, in our
That afternoon Choe Chang Gol from the sixth company, accompanied by more than 10 of his comrades, came to Kim Si U’s home to visit me. It seemed that their first impression of me had been favourable and that they were curious and felt an urge to talk to me because I had entered the school at a very young age.
Choe Chang Gol had a big scar on his head. His wide forehead and black eyebrows were very manly. He was tall and had a good constitution. So he could have been called handsome but for the scar on his head. There was something free-and-easy in his way of speaking and in his manner which attracted people. During our first meeting he made a great impression on me.
“You say you are only 14 years
old, but you seem very advanced for your years. How did you come to serve in the
Independence Army at your young age and how is it that you are attending
Briefly I told him what he wanted to know.
When they learned that I was the eldest son of Kim Hyong Jik, they became more friendly towards me, expressing their surprise on one hand and casting respectful glances at me on the other. They asked me many questions in order to learn of my experiences of the country.
A little while later I asked Choe Chang Gol about his time in the Independence Army.
First he told me how he had got the scar on his head. He embellished his story to make it more interesting, sometimes cracking jokes so that it was really splendid. What I remember in particular about his story was that he always spoke of himself in the third person. When he meant, “I did so,” or “I was deceived,” he said, “Choe Chang Gol did so,” “Choe Chang Gol was deceived,” thus provoking a smile from his listeners.
“This happened when Choe Chang Gol was a common soldier under Ryang Se Bong. Once he captured a spy in the vicinity of Kaiyuan. On his way back he stopped at an inn. But that extremely careless Choe Chang Gol started nodding off with the spy in front of him. He was tired after walking many miles. Meanwhile the spy undid the rope that bound him, hit Choe Chang Gol on the head with an axe and escaped. Fortunately he did not strike very hard. The ‘decoration’ on Choe Chang Gol’s head had this dismal history. If a man is careless, he will suffer the same fate as Choe Chang Gol.” After a few hours of heart-to-heart talks I found him to be a very interesting man. I made friends with hundreds and thousands of people in my youth. However, this was the first time I had met such a buffoon as Choe Chang Gol who, referring to himself in the third person all the time, skilfully wove his stories.
Afterwards I learned more about
his personal history. His father ran a small hotel in
I became friendly with Choe
Chang Gol, Kim Ri Gap, Kye Yong Chun, Ri Je U, Pak Kun
Won, Kang Pyong Son and
Every afternoon they called at Kim Si U’s to talk with me. I was grateful for the fact that so many of my fellow students visited me, yet I was surprised at this. I became acquainted from the start with people who were five to ten years older than me, and not with those of my own age. This is why many of my comrades-in-arms in the days when I was working among young students and in the period of my underground revolutionary activities were older than me.
Within a few days of starting at
But I had a great ambition.
Although the house was grey, shabby and cramped for space, what reliable young
people were growing up in that straw-thatched house!
soon became accustomed to life at
The biggest headache for the students was mathematics. One day during class several students were called on to solve a long problem of four arithmetical equations, but they could not do so. They marvelled at me when I solved it without difficulty. It was little wonder that they had failed; they had been away from regular education for several years, serving in the Independence Army.
From then on I found mathematics harassing. Whenever we had mathematics homework, I was bothered by bearded young students who were loath to use their own brains.
As a reward for my labour, so to speak, they related their various experiences to me. Many of them were instructive.
They strove to help me in many ways in military drill, which was physically very tough.
In the course of this we became intimate friends and came to relate frankly our inmost thoughts and stories that we kept locked away in our hearts. They thought that I, a young first year student, might hold them, who were older than me, up, but I did not lag behind them in class or at drill and mixed well with my classmates, being liberal in everyday affairs. So we were close in spite of the difference in age.
Such being the situation, my situation was good.
Some time later, however, I
gradually became dissatisfied with the education provided at
Although the bourgeois nationalist movement had a history of several decades, the education at the school did not cover a theory to encapsulate, critically analyse and generalize it. The bourgeois nationalists led the nationalist movement for decades, but they prepared no proper treatises or textbooks which might serve as a guide to the movement and provide lessons. The leaders of the Independence Army and patriotic figures who visited the school only spoke vaguely about winning independence as they banged their lectern. They said nothing about methods of aligning revolutionary forces, of mobilizing the masses and of achieving the unity and cohesion of the ranks of the independence movement, or about proper tactics and a proper strategy for the armed struggle. The Korean history they taught mainly described the history of dynasties, and their world revolutionary history, the history of the bourgeois revolution.
What was taught at
The teachers, imbued with
nationalist ideas, talked a great deal about opposing
The students complained, “The
school is an officer-training school producing cadres for the Independence Army
only in name. How can we drive out the Japanese when we drill only with wooden
rifles and have no cartridges for target practice?” Once one
student asked the drill instructor when they would be able to handle the new
type of rifle. Embarrassed at this the instructor prevaricated, “The
cadres of the Independence Army are conducting vigorous activities to raise
funds to buy weapons from the
Whenever I ran with sand bags attached to my trouser legs at military drill, I wondered whether we could defeat the Japanese by acting like that.
Previously a Tonghak Army tens
of thousands of men strong led by Jon Pong Jun had been routed by a Japanese
army of one thousand men on Ugumchi Hill. The Japanese army had been armed with
a new type of weapon. If the Tonghak Army which was a hundred times stronger had
beaten the Japanese, they could have attacked Kongju and advanced up to
The arms and equipment of the Righteous Volunteers Army were no better than those of the Tonghak Army. The Volunteers Army, too, had a small number of new rifles but most of its men used swords, spears or flintlocks. I think that is why historians qualify the struggle of the Volunteers Army as a struggle fought between flintlocks and Model 38 rifles. It is not difficult to imagine what perseverance it would have required to overpower the Model 38 rifle which could fire ten rounds per minute with a flintlock which required priming each time it was fired, or what a hard fight it would be.
The Japanese troops at first fled, scared at a flintlock’s report, its powers being a secret that only the volunteers knew. But after they learned the flintlock’s powers they were no longer afraid and made little of it. So, what was the result of the battle? The volunteers who came from intellectuals’ families and respected the nobility’s ethics and Buddhist precepts are said to have fought wearing broad-brimmed hats and cumbersome gowns.
Those volunteers were mowed down by the cannons and machine guns of the Japanese troops.
The power of the Japanese army was much stronger than in those days. So, I wondered whether we, by running with sandbags, could defeat the troops of an imperialist country which produced tanks, artilleries, warships, planes and other modern weapons, as well as heavy equipment, on assembly line.
What disappointed me most was the ideological backwardness of the school.
The school authorities followed only the road of nationalism and guarded against other ideological trends, so the students naturally followed that course.
Some young students at the school still believed in dynastic rule or harboured illusions about US-style democracy.
These trends found fullest expression in seminars on world revolutionary history. The students called on by the teacher enlarged on capitalist developments, repeating what they had been taught in the lesson.
I was dissatisfied with their
dogmatic approach to lessons. At the school, politics lessons did not deal with
the independence of
I asked what type of society
should be built in
The student replied without
No student asserted that a democratic society should be built or that a society where the masters were the working people should be established. At that time the national liberation movement was switching over from the nationalist movement to the communist movement, but they did not seem to take into account the prevailing trends.
Some students said, as they sat with their arms folded, that the country to be built should be discussed after the country became independent, and that a controversy over capitalism or the restoration of the dynasty before independence was pointless.
As I listened to them, my
feeling that the nationalist education provided at
The thought that the arguments over the restoration of the feudal dynasty and the adoption of capitalism were anachronistic, made me feel frustrated.
I could not endure any more. So, standing up, I said, “Our country cannot carry out a bourgeois revolution like the European countries, nor should we restore the old feudal ruling machinery.
“Capitalist and feudal societies
are ones where people with money lead a luxurious life by exploiting the working
The limitations of
In this period troops from the Independence Army became powerless and were engaged only in a struggle for influence. They rarely launched military actions as they had done in the homeland and in the areas along the River Amnok in the first half of the 1920s and, lying low in the areas under their control, engaged only in collecting war funds.
People from the Shanghai Provisional Government which professed to be the “national government representative of the Korean nation” were divided into factions called the “self-government group,” the “independence group” and the like and became engaged in a fierce struggle for power. That was why the head of the provisional government was frequently replaced. There was even a time when two government reshuffles took place in a year.
The leading figures of the provisional government continued to press the mean “petition,” to the extent of impairing the nation’s dignity, instead of drawing a due lesson from the fact that at the Paris Peace Conference the “petition for the independence of Korea” had not even been included on the agenda of the conference due to the wicked obstructive manoeuvres of the delegates from the United States and other entente powers.
When the “US congressmen’s
Eastern inspection mission” went to
But the provisional government
found it difficult to support itself due to a shortage of funds in the mid-1920s
until finally it had to maintain its miserable existence with the help of Jiang
Frightened by the revolutionary advance of the working masses, many of the nationalist leaders coming from the propertied classes, characterized by political vacillation, turned their coats and surrendered to the enemy. They degraded themselves, becoming the stooges of the Japanese imperialists, national reformists instead of “patriots,” and stood in the way of the national liberation movement.
In the name of the “civil government” the Japanese imperialists decided that if the Korean people wanted national independence they should cooperate politically with Japanese rule instead of opposing it, strive to acquire the right to self-government under Japanese colonial rule, develop their culture and the economy and improve their nation.
Their decision was accepted by
the nationalist leaders from the propertied class. They advocated the
“development” of education and industry, the “self-cultivation” of individuals,
“class cooperation,” “unity” and “national autonomy” under the cover of
“national reform” and the “cultivation of strength.” So, the wind of reform
The front room of Kim Si U’s house was always alive with young people who had come to discuss politics with me. In those days I read books on Marxism-Leninism that I found in Kim Si U’s study, so our conversations generally drifted to politics.
In Fusong I read The
Biography of Lenin, The Fundamentals of Socialism
and a few other books, but in Huadian I read even more books. Previously I had
confined myself to grasping the content of the books I read, but after going to
How to overthrow Japanese imperialism and win back the country? Who is the enemy and who an ally in the struggle for national liberation? What course to take to build socialism and communism after winning national independence?... I wished to find answers to all these questions.
When I picked up a book to get an answer to these questions, I delved into it at length until I found an appropriate passage. In particular I read the passage dealing with the question of colonies twenty times. So, when friends came to see me, I had many topics to discuss.
We talked a great deal about the
new trends of thought and about the
But at school they could not speak freely about Lenin or about the October Revolution. The school authorities prohibited such talk.
The expectations I entertained
old-fashioned nature of
I made a firm resolve to employ new methods in paving the way to national liberation. My comrades agreed with my resolve. But we were few. The majority of the students would not readily accept my new idea; they were guarded in their reaction to it or rejected it.
The school prohibited its students from reading books on communism. Whenever I went to school with The Communist Manifesto, the other students would nudge me and tell me that I should read such a book at home. They told me that the school authorities guarded against, and exercised strict control over, “Red” books and had threatened even to expel those who persisted in reading them.
I argued: If a man does not read the books he wants to because he has been prohibited from doing so, how can he undertake a great cause? We should read books that teach us the truth even though we are threatened with expulsion.
I had borrowed The Communist Manifesto from Kim Si U. He had many books on communism in his study. His study could be said to be demonstrating the trend of the times when the national liberation movement was turning from the nationalist to the communist movement, and to be revealing the view of Kim Si U himself who was trying to swim with the current of that time.
I could only feel dissatisfied with the fact that the school authorities prohibited the students from reading such books. But we were so fascinated by the new thought that the school regulations could not dampen our passion to delve into it. I devoured the books on communism, disregarding the policy of the school authorities. By that time the number of students who were eager to read such books had increased to such an extent that we drew up an order and the timetable for reading each of them and insisted that it be returned on time. Most of the students observed the reading regulations, being approved by schoolmates who aspired to the new thought.
Only Kye Yong Chun, who was absent-minded, violated these regulations, and he did so frequently. He didn’t observe his reading timetable and was careless about selecting a suitable place to read. He kept The Communist Manifesto for more than ten days. When I told him to hand it to another comrade right away, he said he needed two more days to extract something from it. The next day he was absent from school, and even slipped away from the hostel. He did not turn up throughout morning classes, and lunch time came. We found him absorbed in the book in a thicket by the River Huifa. I told him quietly that, although it was good to read avidly, he should never miss classes and that he should be careful about when and where he read. He said that he would, but during the history lesson the next day the teacher snatched the book from him while he was reading it secretly. The book was handed to the headmaster, and we got into serious trouble.
Having discovered that I had borrowed the book from the study of Kim Si U, the school authorities sent the history teacher to take Kim and me to task. He said to Kim Si U that it was not proper for him, an area controller who was in a position to help the school in its work, to fail to prevent the students from reading Leftist books and that from then on he should see to it that the students refrained from reading such books. He told me in a threatening tone to watch my step.
I was angry with the
authorities’ handling of the affair. In front of Kim Si U I gave vent to my
pent-up indignation against the school. I said: “For a man to develop sound
qualities he must acquire a wide knowledge. Why do the school authorities
deprive young men who need to imbibe new ideas of their right to study a
progressive idea recognized by the world? The works of Marx and Lenin are on
sale even in ordinary bookshops, so I can’t understand why only
As a man’s idea is the basic criterion for defining his value, so its educational ideology is the basic criterion for determining the value of a school and its education. However, the school authorities tried in vain to counter the current of new thought with an outdated idea that did not accord with the trend of the times. This incident let the students know that there was a group which was studying Marxism-Leninism in the school. The authorities made a fuss about punishing and expelling the group but this only stirred up the aspiration for and interest in the communist idea among the progressive young men. After that incident, the number of students coming to me to borrow Leftist books increased sharply.
I began to meet individually those with whom I could share my idea, purpose and fate.
My father had always said that one should have reliable comrades and many of them. He also said that a man who had a just and wonderful aim could not attain it if he had no comrades with whom he could share his fate. I always remembered his teachings.
I mixed with many students, among them a certain Ri from the first company. Because he was clever, proficient and good-natured he was popular with the students. But he was strangely conservative in his idea. It was he who had insisted that the monarchy be restored during the class on the history of the world revolution.
Normally we only greeted each
other when we met, but after a football match with senior course pupils of the
I went to the hostel and lived there for more than ten days while I nursed him. In the course of this we became quite open with each other. He said that it had been ridiculous for him to insist on the restoration of the monarchy and that, as I had said, our country, after independence, should develop into a society in which the toiling masses ate their fill and lived in happiness. He said we should drive out the Japanese as soon as possible and live happily.
I asked him: “Do you think you
can defeat the Japanese after receiving military training at this school? People
It appeared he agreed with me. He remained silent for a while, and then asked me to lend him some books.
I told him that I would lend them to him after he had recovered, and I encouraged him to get back to normal soon by taking good care of himself.
The tide of sympathy for the new thought swept the school with an irresistible force. Except for a few bigoted students who followed nationalism, the overwhelming majority accepted the progressive idea. I frequently organized seminars with the progressive students on the books they had read. The seminars were held at the houses of Kim Si U and Kang Je Ha, the school superintendent, and at the side of the River Huifa.
When a seminar was taking place in his study, Kim Si U would, secretly, take strict measures to ensure that the members of his family and his guests kept away from it. Sometimes he would sit on the porch to keep watch while pretending to do odd jobs. I would recognize his warm heart and tacit support in such actions.
We decided on Kang Je Ha’s house as a place for seminars because not only was his son Kang Pyong Son my close friend but also Kang Je Ha himself had been a friend of my father’s and his ideological tendency was good. He was a nationalist, but he did not reject communism. Whenever I visited his house he would talk to me about communism. He used to say that he was too old and that we should triumph by using communist methods. This was a great encouragement to us. He had several books on communism in his house.
When I look back now, I think we
discussed the practical problems arising in the Korean revolution at a very high
level at that time. In the course of those discussions the young men would reach
a consensus and adopt similar positions on the revolution in
One day when we were holding a seminar at Kim Si U’s house, Ri whom I had been nursing arrived on crutches and asked me to lend him the books I had promised. He said that, with the other students following a new road, he, as he lay in the hostel, was afraid he might fall behind. Thus he, too, joined us.
Capitalists say they take great
pleasure in making money, but I took the greatest pleasure and interest in
making comrades. How can we compare the happiness a man feels when he has won a
comrade to the delight a man feels when he has obtained a piece of gold! Thus my
struggle to win comrades started at
With so many reliable comrades coming together, I wondered how I should organize them so that we could work on a greater scale. I spoke of this to my comrades. As far as I remember the meeting was held towards the end of September. I think I said a lot about the need for an organization. I said to the following effect: We must open up a long and thorny path in order to liberate the country and build a society in which the working people can live happily; if we build up our ranks and fight tenaciously at the cost of our blood, we shall emerge victorious; after forming an organization we should rally the masses behind it and arouse them to liberate the country by relying on their own efforts.
The comrades were all delighted; they insisted on forming the organization as soon as possible.
I said that we should make further preparations for forming it and attract more comrades who shared our idea and would fight at our side. The meeting marked eligible people out for membership of the organization and gave an assignment to each of us to educate individual candidates. But some of the comrades were apprehensive lest the forming of the organization should mean the appearance of factions. I said to them: The organization we are going to form is a revolutionary one of a new type that will be quite different from the factions of the nationalists and communists; it is not an organization for factional strife but one for revolution, and we shall fight tenaciously by devoting ourselves to revolution.
After a period for preparation
we held a preliminary meeting on October 10, then the national day of
That day everyone was excited, including me. Being on the threshold of forming an organization I was reminded, in spite of myself, of my late father and the Korean National Association. In order to form that association he had travelled tens of thousands of miles over several years and rallied comrades from everywhere. After the formation of the association he had devoted his whole life for the realization of the ideal of the association. He had left his cause unaccomplished for his sons to take up. I felt my heart beating and tears welling up in my eyes as I thought that I was taking a first step on my way to executing my father’s will that we must liberate our country even if our bones were to be crushed and our flesh torn to shreds.
The programme for our organization embodied my father’s ideal.
I still remember vividly the faces of the young men who spoke with fervour at the meeting that day. Choe Chang Gol, Kim Ri Gap, Ri Je U, Kang Pyong Son, Kim Won U, Pak Kun Won, Ri Jong Rak, Pak Cha Sok (though the last two of them later turned traitor)—they all took a militant oath that they would devote their all to the revolution. Some of them were good public speakers while others were not. But they all made good speeches. I, too, made a speech, quite a long one in fact.
At the meeting I suggested that we name the
organization the Down-with-Imperialism Union, abbreviated to
At the meeting Choe Chang Gol
nominated me as head of the
We rushed hand in hand to the River Huifa and, singing a song, made a grim resolve to share life and death on the road of the revolution for the motherland and the nation.
I sat up all that night. I was
too excited and moved to sleep. Frankly speaking, we were elated with excitement
and joy as if we had gained the whole world. How can the pleasure a billionaire
feels when rolling in money be compared to our pleasure? In the communist
movement at that time there were many organizations with eye-catching slogans.
Ours was a new organization which could scarcely be compared with those
organizations in terms of scale. The public did not even know about the
existence of the
Nevertheless, we were feverishly
excited because we were proud of the fact that ours was a communist
revolutionary organization of a new type that was totally different from the
conventional organizations. The
Its members were not insignificant people. They were virile, young talented people; they could make speeches, write treatises, compose songs and were good at self-defence. They could “match one hundred or one thousand” as we say nowadays. With such young men gathered together to blaze a trail, their gallant spirit was unimaginable.
Whenever the revolutionary cause
we had launched was in a predicament in later years, the members of the
I have now lost all those
comrades who worked hand in hand with me in the days of the
In the history of our Party the
DIU is recognized as the root of the Party, and the formation of the
I think the ideal of the DIU and our mettle at that time have been described in part in “The DIU and Kim Il Sung” in the book A Short History of the Korean Revolutionary Movement Overseas written by Choe Il Chon (alias Choe Hyong U) immediately after liberation.
When the Revolutionary Army was formed a few years later and the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland was founded, calling upon the 20 million Korean people to rise up in one body, and when the revolution was at its height with tens of thousands of supporters and sympathizers surrounding us, I would look back with deep emotion on the day when we formed the DIU in Huadian.
There were less than 100 students at the school. But given the circumstances of the Independence Army at the time it was not easy to provide for even this number of students.
Although Jongui-bu was in charge of the school, it was unable to provide sufficient money. Jongui-bu had three departments, in charge of the administration, the military and civil affairs and was barely maintaining its existence with funds collected from the people penny by penny. Therefore, it was in no position to provide large sums of money for the school.
In order to solve the
difficulties caused by lack of funds, the authorities of
The money they collected in this
way was all used up within a few months. So they again had to go to
Once headmaster Choe Tong O sent the school superintendent to the headquarters of Jongui-bu to obtain the money that would be needed for the winter.
However, the school
superintendent returned empty-handed cursing the commander of the third company.
He said that the third company commander had taken the money intended for
I could not repress my indignation when I heard this.
The money in the coffers of Jongui-bu had not fallen from the sky. It was money contributed as war funds by the people in tiny amounts to regain their lost country even though they themselves lived on gruel and sometimes missed meals. If they had no money, our people contributed to the war fund even by making straw sandals and selling them. Only then could they feel at ease.
The commander of the third company seemed to think nothing of this. He must have been completely blinded by self-interest to have, as a company commander, resorted to such mean deception.
The fact that a commander whose mission it was to fight a bloody battle against the enemy, felt no compunction in committing such misappropriation was proof that the highest circles of the Independence Army were degenerating.
It is said that, following the
“Ulsa Treaty,” a commander of the Volunteers’ Army, upon hearing of the
defeat of the volunteers under
the command of Choe Ik Hyon in Sunchang, gathered hundreds of volunteers and
conducted vigorous activities in
The misdeed of the commander of the third company could be considered, in the final analysis, to be an encroachment on the interests of the people.
When I was living in Linjiang
some soldiers of the Independence Army became me talk of the town because they
had gone to
In those days, when soldiers of the Independence Army appeared in areas where Koreans were living in order to collect funds, those in charge of the districts had a document circulated around the settlement in which they had written the amount of money or rice which each household was to contribute. The residents had to contribute funds as was noted in the document. This was a heavy burden on the poor farmers.
Nevertheless, the soldiers of the Independence Army disregarded the people’s poverty and simply tried every possible means to exact as much as possible. Groups with different districts under their control fought to expand them. Some soldiers of the Independence Army forced men from other armed units into giving them the money they had collected and then taking to their heels.
Members of large and small armed units vied with one another to squeeze money from the people. They regarded the people as mere taxpayers and attendants who should provide them with money, grain and bedding.
Such misdeeds were no better than those of the bureaucrats in the former feudal society.
Sitting in palaces with jewelled
crowns on their heads, the feudal rulers of
At one time the feudal
government used colossal sums to build the
The progressive young people at
True, there was an organization under Jongui-bu in charge of civil cases. However, it only existed in name. Before it they brought only those people who could not contribute sufficient funds, and they were beaten on the hips. They connived at such illegal acts as that committed by the company commander. Their law had a loophole through which the higher circles could slip.
With this event as the impetus I resolved to give a serious warning to the soldiers of the Independence Army and to all the fighters for independence. However, the problem was how to do so.
Choe Chang Gol proposed that we select representatives of the students and protest against it by visiting all the companies, from the first to the sixth.
Some people suggested that they should expose the bureaucratic acts of the soldiers of the Independence Army by having an article published in a periodical such as Taedong Minbo issued by Jongui-bu. It would have been good to do so. The problem was, however, whether the headquarters of Jongui-bu, the commanders of other companies and the members of the editorial department of the said publication who were little different from the commander of the third company would accept the article.
I proposed that we write a letter of protest to all the companies of the Independence Army instead of attempting methods about which we were undecided. The others supported my proposal and asked me to write the letter of protest.
That letter of protest was the
first criticism we offered of the nationalists following the formation of the
It was the first time for me to write a letter of protest. It seemed to me that in it I failed to include everything I wanted to say. However, my comrades told me it was good, so I gave it to Kim Si U and asked him to convey it to the correspondent from Jongui-bu when he came. The letter of protest was quickly conveyed to all the companies by the correspondent.
There was a big response to the letter. Even O Tong Jin who was intolerant of anything that hurt his pride or censured Jongui-bu, not to mention the man who had used the war funds for his wedding, appeared to have been shocked by the letter.
At the beginning of the
following year when I was studying in
He said: “Having read your letter of protest, I sharply reproved the third company commander. I even thought of removing him from his post. Such people bring shame on the Independence Army.” Although he frankly admitted that the highest circles of the Independence Army were degenerating, O Tong Jin was indignant and irritated over the fact that he was unable to save the situation.
I wonder how O Tong Jin managed to appease his fiery temper when he had to remain an on-looker to the corruption of the Independence Army, unable to check even what he saw with his own eyes and felt keenly.
As I listened to O Tong Jin I realized that the depravity of the Independence Army was a source of anguish not only for us younger generation but also for conscientious nationalists.
However, it was scarcely possible to arrest the political and moral depravity of the Independence Army with one letter of protest.
The Independence Army was heading towards irretrievable decline. The fate of the Independence Army, nationalist army to defend and represent the interests of the propertied class, could not be otherwise.
The students of
Those families who did not readily contribute were forced to give them animals such as pigs or chickens. With these families they either claimed that they lacked patriotism or found fault with them without good reason by saying, for instance, that they did not support the Independence Army.
They even complained about the meals served at the school saying that they were continually given cooked millet and that the non-staple foods were not good enough, and so on. Once at supper a student complained that only cooked millet and soup made of dried vegetable leaves were served in the dormitory’s dining-room. In the end, he even quarrelled with Hwang Se Il, the inspector of the dining-room. Hwang Se H took his duties very seriously. However, the students said that the inspector was not doing his job properly even if the quality of the meals was only a little below standard.
Following the country’s
liberation I once met Hwang Se II who was working as the vice-chairman of the
Uiju County People’s Committee and we recollected our days at
I believed that those who complained about cooked millet at Hwasong Uisuk School would also complain about the meals when they returned to the Independence Army after graduating. I also thought that such people would, in the end, be reduced to despicable creatures who knew nothing but money and power.
The problem was that, in two years, such people were to command the companies and platoons of the Independence Army. Nothing could be expected from soldiers who were not ready even to live on cooked millet, let alone die of starvation.
Disappointment at the
nationalist movement as a whole centring around the
Independence Army, as well as disillusion in education at
The more I loved the progressive idea of Marxism-Leninism, the more I shunned the education provided at Hwasong Uisuk School, and the more I rejected the education of this school, the more I felt in agony, I feared that staying away from the school would mean betraying the trust of those who had sent me there and going against the will of my father who had asked them to look after me. I felt terribly sorry at the thought of 0 Tong Jin who had quickly covered hundreds of miles to attend my father’s funeral and consoled me and urged me to go to the school, even pushing travel money into my pocket, as well as of Kim Si U who had poured me liquor to welcome me on my arrival at the school, of Choe Tong O and of Kang Je Ha.
If I was to remain loyal to
them, I had to take an interest in the education provided at
The trouble was not that I would
be unable to study the new current of thought or solidify the foundation of the
It was inconceivable for me, however, for the sake of saving my face, to get along politely and diplomatically, being given education which I considered to be conservative. I did not want to compromise with the outdated education in such a manner.
So, what should I do? Should I return home as head of the household, taking over the
surgery from my uncle? Or should I go to a city—
I wanted to break out of the
narrow enclosure of Huadian and step into a broader arena, launching the
communist movement which had taken its first step with the formation of the
Even now I think that it was
right for me at that time to make the courageous decision to leave
The members of the
Down-with-Imperialism Union were surprised to hear of my intention to leave the
school and go to
I had already discussed with Kim Si U the matter of leaving Hwasong Uisuk School.
I confessed to him: “I will
consult with my family, too. However, I don’t find Hwasong Uisuk School much to
my liking.... Although I have no money, I would like to go to
He said: “If this is your
intention, I will talk over the matter with my friends and use my good offices
on your behalf. Each man has a favourite cart. If you don’t like the
Winning Kim Si U’s consent was easier than I had expected.
However, parting with headmaster Choe Tong O was accompanied by unbearable agony. At first he was angry and criticized me for a good while. He stormed at me, saying: “Once you, a man, have resolved to do something, you must see it through. It is unreasonable for you to leave the school in mid-course. You say you are leaving because you do not like the education here. Where is there in this uncertain world a school that can be to everybody’s liking?” Then he turned his back on me and looked out of the window.
Thus he stood looking vacantly at the sky from which snow was falling.
“If this school is not to the liking of such talented students as you, Song Ju, I, too, will leave.” At these words spat out by the headmaster, I was nonplussed, not knowing what to do with myself. I wondered if I had been too cruel in criticizing the education being given at the school in front of its headmaster.
After a while Choe Tong O calmed down and approached me, placing his hand on my shoulder.
He said: “I will not oppose any
ism, be it nationalism or communism, if it aims at winning the independence of
Afterwards, whenever I recollected how the headmaster had seen me off in the heavy snow, I repented of my failure to brush the snow off his shoulders.
Thirty years later Choe Tong O
and I had a chance, emotional meeting in
“So, Premier Song Ju, you were
right at that time!” As he smilingly spoke my childhood name, my mind travelled
back to the playground at
The old teacher, who had spent his whole life amid complicated political upheavals, appreciated my leaving Hwasong Uisuk School 30 years ago with this short remark, with no explanation or commentary.
My mother also supported me in
She said: “You are always worried about your school fees. A man can do nothing if a lack of money deprives him of his vitality. I will provide your school fees by all means. I only want you to achieve your aim. Now that you have resolved to follow a new path, be bold.” What my mother said was a great encouragement to me in my fresh ambition.
In Fusong, I discovered that many of my schoolmates were still there, having been unable to go on to higher school because of their straitened family circumstances and that they were at a loss, not knowing what course to take. I decided to awaken them ideologically and lead them along the road of revolution.
I was impatient to do something,
I formed the Saenal Children’s
The formation of the Saenal
Children’s Union marked an important event in extending the activities of the
I defined the organizational
principles and a work system for it to carry out its tasks, as well as a daily
routine for its members, and I gave them guidance in their union life before I
I helped my mother to form the
Anti-Japanese Women’s Association on December 26, 1926, on the basis of the
experience I had gained in forming the DIU and the Saenal Children’s
After my father’s death my
mother embarked on an energetic revolutionary struggle. In those days my mother
organized evening classes in the
I visited Kim Si U in Huadian as
I had promised, on my way to
Kim Si U gave me a letter addressed to Kim Sa Hon, saying that Kim Sa Hon had been a close friend of my father. It was a letter of introduction in which he asked him to have me accepted at a school when I arrived there. That was my last meeting with Kim Si U.
Kim Si U was someone whom I shall always remember and who left a deep impression on me. He was taciturn, but did much work for national liberation. He took part in the enlightenment of people, the education of the younger generation, the purchase of weapons, fund raising, guiding political workers to and from the homeland, the conveyance of secret materials and information, and the amalgamation of the armed organizations and their cooperation; there were almost no fields in which he had no hand.
He not only helped my father in
his work but also gave me sincere support in my work. It was Kim Si U who kept
watch on the day when we formed the
After our parting he continued to supply the Independence Army with
food grain and aided Korean students enthusiastically, while continuing to run
the Yongphung Rice Mill. During the civil war in
He returned to the homeland in 1958. Although he had worked hard for the nation all his life, he never mentioned the fact. So, I did not discover his whereabouts.
He became seriously ill in Jonchon, and only when he had just a few days to live did he tell his children about his relations with my father and me.
His children were surprised to hear his story. They said to him: Why did you never visit the General if you knew him so well? How glad the General would be to meet you, father! The General is currently giving field guidance in Jonchon. Even now it is not too late. We must invite him to our house as you cannot move.
It was true that at that time I
was giving field guidance in
Having listened to them, he chided them. “It is not for your benefit that I tell you this old story just before I die. It is the history of our family, and you should be faithful to him and fully support him. We should not keep him away from state affairs even for a moment, should we?” The old man had been stout-hearted in this way for many years. If he had acted as his children had told him, I would have met him. I was very sorry. My failure to meet him again is one of the greatest regrets of my life.
Whenever I recall my days at
Bearing the hope of these people
in mind, I left for
When I was back in Fusong after
The house was quiet and lonely, whereas it had been alive with people day and night before.
One strong impression I got in Fusong concerned Ri Kwan Rin. After the death of my father, she came to stay with us. I am told that O Tong Jin said to her, as he sent her to our home, “You are greatly indebted to Mr. Kim. In view of this, go to Fusong and help Song Ju’s mother.” Ri Kwan Rin kept my mother company while working for the South Manchurian Women’s Education Federation.
She was a bold woman with an
optimistic disposition. She was attractive, bold and of firm character and had
both literary and military accomplishments. The like of her was rarely found in
When, dressed in man’s uniform, she rode about on horseback, people she passed would look at her with curiosity as if she came from another world, because in those days women used to go about with their faces veiled in accordance with feudal custom.
But back in Fusong I found her looking less lively than before.
She was surprised to learn that
I had left
When I told her why I had left
the school and how, she said that I had made a courageous decision, and she gave
her support to me in my determination to leave for
The fact that I had rejected and broken away ideologically from a school that was under nationalist influence seemed to make quite an impact on her. On seeing the change in my life, the sensitive Ri Kwan Rin seemed to have felt more keenly the demise of the Independence Army and nationalism. Mother said that she had changed greatly and had recently become more taciturn and subdued.
At first I simply attributed this to the mental agony that was usual for unmarried women of her age. She was then 28 years old. In those days early marriage prevailed, so the ladies 14 or 15 years old married wearing their hair done up. In those days if a girl was said to be 28 years old, people would shake their heads and say that she was too old to marry. It was very likely that old maidens like Ri Kwan Rin would suffer mental agony over the question of marriage.
She often looked moody, so one day I asked her why she was looking so thin and gloomy.
Heaving a sigh, she said, “The years pass, but things are no better. That’s why I am gloomy. When your father was alive I could easily walk 25, even 50, miles a day. Whatever I do since your father’s death, I don’t feel elated; even the pistol I carry is likely to rust. The trouble is that I can find no mental support anywhere. The Independence Army no longer seems effective. Its situation is utterly wretched. The old leaders only put on airs and do not report for work. I can’t understand what they are thinking about. Strong fighting men enjoy a family life and the unmarried men chase women. One agile man with fighting spirit married a few days ago and left the Independence Army to go to Jiandao. They all copy one another and flee. It is inevitable that when men reach a certain age they get married. However, if they throw away their rifles to get married, who will fight for national independence? I don’t know why they behave so shamelessly.” Then I understood her mental agony and indignation. She, without marrying, was making strenuous efforts for the independence movement, whereas able-bodied men were fleeing for safety, throwing away their rifles. This had aroused her resentment.
When educated girls acted like modern women following the trend of civilization, Ri Kwan Rin, carrying a pistol, fought bravely against the Japanese soldiers and police, crossing and recrossing the River Amnok.
I think that the instances of a
woman, dressed in man’s uniform and carrying a pistol,
becoming a professional soldier and fighting the foreign enemy, are few in the
Our women’s resistance to a foreign enemy has differed historically in its style and method, but what has always been true is that their resistance in most cases has assumed a passive form based on the feudal Confucian view on chastity.
Whenever a foreign enemy invaded
the country and murdered and harassed our people, the women would conceal
themselves deep in the mountains or in temples so as to avoid violation. Those
women who failed to hide would resist by killing themselves. During the Japanese
When Choe Ik Hyon died for his
country by fasting on
From a moral point of view her act should be regarded as the act of someone loyal to her country and faithful to her husband.
But a problem arises. If all choose to die, who will defend the country against the enemy? With the progress of civilization in our country a change took place in the way of thinking of our women and in their view of life. Rejecting the passive form of resistance to the enemy such as escape and suicide, our women, together with the men, demonstrated in the face of the bayonets of the Japanese troops and police and threw bombs into the enemy’s government offices and other public buildings.
However, it was perhaps only Ri Kwan Rin who took part in the armed resistance as a woman soldier of the Independence Army. This she did for over ten years in a foreign country.
She was beautiful, so wherever she went it was a problem for her to get rid of the men who chased her. In the light of her looks, scholarly attainments and family background she was fully qualified to teach at a school, find a good match and live well as others did, but she devoted herself entirely to the independence movement.
Her father was a landed farmer belonging to the middle class who had a ten-roomed house, though it was straw-thatched, and several hectares of land and forest in Sakju. When Ri Kwan Rin was 12 years old she lost her mother and two years later her father took a 16-year-old girl as his wife.
Ri Kwan Rin could not call a woman only two years older than herself her mother. On top of that, her father, who believed strongly in feudal custom, gave no thought to sending her to school; when she was 15 years old he began looking for a suitable match for her.
She had always begged her father to send her to school, envying those who did attend, but as her father refused, she left home at the age of 15.
While her father was away from
home she went to the River Amnok. There she placed some of her clothes and shoes
beside an ice hole before setting out for Uiju. There she entered
Her father had been spending his time in tears, thinking that his daughter had drowned in the river. On receiving a letter from his daughter he was so glad that he went immediately to Uiju. He told his daughter that he would now allow her to study and that if she had anything to ask of him she should write to him at any time.
From then on she studied hard without any worries about her school fees. As she had a fine school record, the school authorities recommended her for the art course at Pyongyang Girls’ High School.
She attended the school for a
year or two and in that time came to know the world; she was admitted to the
Korean National Association with my father vouching for her. From then on she
became a fully-fledged member of the revolutionary organization and took part in
underground activities. It was around this time that she learned about the idea
of “Aim High!” from my father. She secretly worked to absorb comrades from among
the pupils of Pyongyang Girls’ High School,
One day she came to Mangyongdae on an excursion. At our home, she had a talk with my father and helped my mother in her work.
At that time it was difficult to
get to Mangyongdae, but in spring many pupils from
When the March First Popular
Uprising broke out in
She shot two Japanese policemen
to death in the homeland and threw their bodies into an ice hole in the River
Amnok before going over to
When she had returned to the homeland to raise funds after Joining the Independence Army, she had been stopped and examined by the police. She had had a pistol in the bundle on her head, so the situation was critical.
A policeman urged her to undo the bundle. Pretending to unfasten it, she whipped out the pistol and, pointing it at the policeman, took him to the forest where she disposed of him.
As she frequented the homeland
to raise funds, many things happened to her on her journeys. Once she received
the task from 0 Tong Jin of touring
There were many women soldiers
among the guerrilla troops when we waged the anti-Japanese armed struggle, but
up to the time of Ri Kwan Rin there had been no such women in
Ri Kwan Rin was upright and faithful to her principles.
After the March First Popular
Uprising the work to merge the organizations of the independence movement went
ahead vigorously in south
My father decided to draw the
veterans of the independence movement into the merger work to tide over the
difficulties. The first person he marked out for this was Ryang Ki Thak. It
would not be easy to remove him from under the enemy’s surveillance and escort
Ryang Ki Thak had great
influence among the nationalists. Born into the family of a scholar of Chinese
When she got to Seoul Ri Kwan Rin was arrested by detectives and thrown into the
detention room at the Jongno police station. She was put to terrible torture
every day. They tortured her by pouring chilli powder up her nose, pricking her
flesh around her fingernails with a bamboo needle and hanging her from the
ceiling with her arms tied behind her back. Some days they stamped on a wooden
board placed across her face after making her lie on her back on the floor. They
kicked, beat and trampled on her while asking her, “Did you come from
But she did not yield; she
shouted at them, “I am a jobless wanderer. I came to
She was in so bad a condition that she could hardly move, but she brought Ryang Ki Thak to Xingjing. On her arrival in Xingjing she was confined to bed because of the aftereffects of the torture. Her colleagues nursed her but her condition did not improve, so they found an old doctor to treat her. Taking her pulse, he made the absurd diagnosis that she had conceived. It must have been a silly joke the old doctor played on her, a noted beauty, out of caprice.
Dismayed at this, she asked him what he meant. He said that it meant she was pregnant. No sooner had he uttered this than she shouted at him, throwing a wooden pillow at him, “You scoundrel, why do you mock me, a young unmarried woman who is fighting arms in hand for national independence? What do you want to gain by slandering me? Say it again.” Frightened at this, the doctor fled without even putting on his shoes.
She was so brave that my father
frequently entrusted her with important tasks. She did whatever my father asked
of her. If she was told to go to
When my father conducted
political work in the homeland, she often went with him to ensure his personal
safety and help him in his work. She went to Uiju, Sakju, Chosan, Kanggye,
Pyoktong, Hoeryong and other northern border areas, the Jiandao area, Sunan,
Kang-dong, Unryul, Jaeryong, Haeju and other areas in west
Ri Kwan Rin was the only girl in
our country to cross and
She led a soldier’s life that was so hard for a woman, roaming the dew-sprinkled fields of a foreign country in the golden years of her youth which she should have spent in the warmest happiness.
My heart ached at the sight of her agony over the declining independence movement, the agony of a woman who, carrying two pistols with her, was active throughout the length and breadth of the stormy world with a single-hearted patriotic spirit.
When I began my preparations for
my journey to
When I was attending school in
I was sorry to see Ri Kwan Rin
agonizing over the decline of the nationalist movement. In the nationalist camp
there were many patriotic-minded people such as Ri Kwan Rin who were devoted to
the independence movement with no concern for their personal lives. But, having
no proper leader, Ri Kwan Rin, a plucky woman who was faithful to her
principles, did not know what to do. As the Down-with-Imperialism
When I saw Ri Kwan Rin who was
agonizing with no mental support to rely on, although my father had believed in
her and brought her up with affection, I lamented over the lack of a genuine
leading force for our national liberation movement which was capable of uniting
and leading all the patriotic forces of
Her mental agony made me think that our new generation should work harder for the revolution. I made up my mind to open up as early as possible a new path for enlisting the support of all, including the patriots like Ri Kwan Rin who were groping about without a proper leader and usher in a new era of revolution in which all the people who desired national independence could advance, riding the same current.
With this determination I
speeded up my preparations for my trip to
I sought her for half a century
since seeing her in
When we formed active guerrilla
units in east
After national liberation I searched Sakju, her birthplace, for her but failed to find her.
It was in the early 1970s that I
discovered where she was. After making many enquiries, our comrades from the
Party History Institute discovered that she was living in
From among the people who fought
alongside Ri Kwan Rin, Kong Yong, Pak Jin Yong and other people who had embraced
communism under the influence of the
But Ri Kwan Rin had to abandon the struggle halfway due to the lack of a proper leader for her to follow.
When 0 Tong Jin was alive, however, she took great pains and walked long distances to implement the line of the proletarian revolution laid down at the Kuandian Meeting. In the summer of 1927 when I left for Jilin Ri Kwan Rin and Jang Chol Ho, along with other members of the Independence Army, were engaged in enlightening the people in Naidaoshan, where they lived in straw-thatched huts and grew potatoes. It seemed that 0 Tong Jin had made Naidaoshan the base for the activities of the Independence Army.
But after 0 Tong Jin was arrested, these activities were abandoned. Among the Leftist forces of the nationalist movement 0 Tong Jin was the person most inclined towards communism. After the arrest of such a central figure no one came forward to risk his life to implement the line of the Kuandian Meeting. Some people within Jongui-bu sympathized with communism, but they were powerless.
After the birth of Kukmin-bu with the amalgamation of the three organizations the highest levels of the nationalists rapidly became reactionary and it became difficult even to utter the word communism. The leaders of Kukmin-bu did not scruple to commit treachery by informing the Japanese police of people from the Left wing of the nationalist movement who sympathized with communism, or even assassinating them.
Ri Kwan Rin had to roam about in search of a refuge, subjected to persistent pursuit and threats by the terrorists of Kukmin-bu. Finally she married a Chinese man and settled down. She was unfortunate in marriage, too, because she could not marry a man who she wanted to marry.
Thus the “flower of the Independence Army” and the “red flower among the green,” she who caught the attention of the public, “appearing like a lodestar in the desolate land of Manchuria,” and struck terror into the enemy, withered away.
Figuratively speaking, she was an independence champion who set sail on a lengthy voyage in a wooden boat called nationalism.
It was too frail a boat to sail the vast expanse of the rough sea of the anti-Japanese resistance movement for independence, a voyage beset with manifold trials and hardships. Such a boat could not reach the destination of national liberation.
Many people set sail on the boat, but most of them gave up without reaching their destination. After that they looked out for an opening to earn a living or to lead an easy life pretending to be patriots. Some from the upper levels who allegedly “represented” the nation became petty bourgeoisie producing ointments, and others became monks and escaped to the mountains.
Those who settled down to a family life or simply earned their living without turning traitor were not so bad. Some independence champions who sailed on the nationalist voyage with Ri Kwan Rin betrayed their country and nation and became the stooges of the Japanese imperialists.
It was several years before Ri Kwan Rin returned to the homeland having spent more than half a century in a foreign country since our last meeting.
I was told that she became more
anxious to return to the homeland after learning that I was Song Ju, the son of
Mr. Kim Hyong Jik to whom she had been attached in her Independence Army days.
If Song Ju was leading the country, Mr. Kim Hyong Jik’s idea of building a
society where all are equal must have been made the reality, she thought. So she
wanted to witness that reality. She wanted to have her body buried in the
homeland in which she was born and grew up, the homeland which she used to
picture in tears whenever she looked up at the stars in the sky, lying on her
back in the vast fields of
But, unknown to others, she suffered a mental agony for many years before deciding to return to the homeland. She had a son, a daughter and many grandsons and granddaughters. It was not an easy matter for an old woman in her twilight years to decide to return to her homeland alone, leaving her dear family in the distant foreign country which it would be difficult for her to visit again once she had left it.
However, Ri Kwan Rin made up her mind to return to the homeland even if it meant leaving her family for ever. It was a courageous decision no woman can make except a plucky woman like Ri Kwan Rin. If she had not devoted the prime of her life to the country, she could not have made such a courageous decision.
Only those who have devoted themselves body and soul to the country, weeping, laughing and bleeding, can truly realize how dear their homeland is to them.
When I met Ri Kwan Rin after her return to the homeland alone with her grey hair flying, leaving her family in a foreign land, I admired her burning patriotic spirit and her noble view of life.
Ri Kwan Rin, who was in her 20s when she parted from me in Fusong, appeared before me as an 80-year-old grey-haired woman. Of her rosy face which had attracted everyone there was no sign.
When grey-haired Ri Kwan Rin, who had not told us of her whereabouts although we had taken such pains to find her, appeared before me, I was seized with sadness about the cruel world which had kept us apart for more than half a century.
We provided her with a house in
a scenic spot in the heart of
Though infirm with age, she made a kitchen garden in front of her house and planted some maize there. She wanted to prepare food from maize with her own hands and treat me to it since I had very much enjoyed corn on the cob in my childhood. Even after half a century’s time she still remembered my likes and dislikes. When she was living in Fusong, in summer she used to buy and cook corn on the cob as a treat for my brothers.
In consideration of the service
she had rendered to the homeland and nation in her youth, after her death we
held a grand funeral for her and buried her remains in the
Wherever they may live in the world, those who truly love their country and nation will visit their homeland where they were born and where their forefathers’ graves lie. Even those with different views when parting will some day meet again and share their feelings with each other.
remained at home for about a month to celebrate New Year’s Day. Then in
mid-January I left Fusong. When I arrived in
After leaving the station I
could hardly move because of my great excitement. I stood looking for a long
time at this lively new scene which represented a new life for me. The most
memorable thing I saw in the streets of the city that day was that there were
many water vendors. I heard some passers-by grumble that there was not enough
drinking water so that only the number of water vendors was increasing in a
place once known as a city of water, even called a quay, and that life in the
Having walked some distance
Although I was a stranger to the
place, the city did not seem so unfamiliar to me. This was probably because I
had long wished to see it and there were many friends of my late father in the
city. In my pocket-book I had the addresses of more than ten friends and
acquaintances of my father to whom I would have to pay courtesy calls. Old
friends of my late father 0 Tong Jin, Jang Chol Ho, Son Jong Do, Kim Sa Hon, Hyon Muk Kwan (Hyon Ik Chol), Ko Won Am, Pak Ki Baek,
and Hwang Paek Ha were all living in
O Tong Jin was the first person I
decided to visit. I called at his house which was located between
That afternoon, 0 Tong Jin took
me to the Sanfeng Hotel and presented me to some independence fighters. Among
them were Kim Sa Hon to whom Kim Si U had written a
letter of introduction for me and Jang Chol Ho who commanded the Jongui-bu
guards. Besides these two men there were many independence fighters staying at
the hotel whose names I did not know. Along with the Taifenghe Rice Mill, this
hotel was one of the two nests for independence fighters in
After reading the letter of
introduction from Kim Si U, Kim Sa Hon asked me if I
would like to go to
The next day Kim Sa Hon introduced me to teacher Kim Kang of
Li Guang-han asked me what I was going to do after finishing at school. When I answered without hesitation that I would like to devote myself to the cause of winning back my motherland, he said approvingly that my intention was highly praiseworthy. It seemed that because I had opened my heart to him, he readily granted my request that I join the second year without going through the first year.
Later, when I was engaged in the youth and student movement and underground activities, I was given assistance on many occasions by Mr. Li. Even when he learned that I missed classes frequently on account of my revolutionary work, he ignored the fact and shielded me so that the reactionary teachers bribed by the warlord authorities should not touch me. When the warlords or consulate police came to arrest me, he informed me of their attempt before I escaped out of the fence. Because the headmaster was a conscientious intellectual, many people with progressive ideas were able to conduct their activities under his wing.
When I returned after
Most of the prominent figures in
As a provincial capital in
The greater part of the Koreans
resident in Manchuria lived in
In the latter half of the 1920s
It was also
It was here that I unfolded my
revolutionary activities under the banner of communism. When I came to
Those members of the
Down-with-Imperialism Union who had remained in Huadian had left for areas in
Manchuria inhabited by Koreans such as Fusong, Panshi, Xingjing, Liuhe, Antu,
In a confusing city like
I began my activities in
In those days
The admission fee for the
In my childhood my father would give me books to read and then make me put down in writing the gist of the books and what lessons I had learned from them. This habit of mine cultivated by my father proved of great value. If you read a book carefully without losing sight of its essential point, you can seize its substance clearly no matter how complicated it may be and you can read many books in a short time.
It was not simply out of academic interest or from a spirit of inquiry that I spent night after night reading in my secondary school days. I did not delve into the books with the object of becoming a scholar or for the purposes of a career. How could we expel the Japanese imperialists and win back our country? How could we do away with social inequality and make the working people prosperous? These were the questions the answers to which I wanted to discover in the books. No matter what book I was reading and where, I was always seeking the answers to these questions. I am sure it was in the course of this that my position was established of approaching Marxism-Leninism not as a dogma but as a practical weapon and of searching for the truth not in an abstract theory but always in the practice of the Korean revolution. In those days I read The Communist Manifesto, The Capital, The State and Revolution, Wage Labour and Capital and other Marxist-Leninist classics and books expounding them which I came across.
In addition to political books,
I read many works of revolutionary literature. I found the works of Gorky and Lu
Xun the most interesting. When I was in Fusong and Badaogou I used to read many
old tales such as The Tale of Chun Hyang, The Tale of Sim Chong, The Tale of
Ri Sun Sin, and Monkey, but after coming to Jilin I read many
revolutionary novels and stories and progressive books which described the real
life of the time, including Mother, The Iron Flood, Blessing, An Authorized
Life of Ah-Q, On the River Amnok, and A Boy Wanderer. Later, when we
ran up against severe trials like the “arduous march” during the anti-Japanese
armed struggle, I recalled the revolutionary stories such as The Iron
Flood I had read when I was in
We became politically aware also
through seeing at first hand the absurd social phenomena and the miserable
living conditions of the people at the time. Many of the Koreans coming from
One day I went to the theatre with my friends to see a Chinese opera. After the performance the actress who had recited the poem came to us and asked us if a man with the name of Choe so-and-so was living in the city. He was her fiance. We were all surprised to hear her speak Korean. In Korea Chinese opera was not known.
The actress, whose name was Ok
Pun, hailed from
That day the actress Ok Pun had
a dramatic reunion with her intended husband from
Life in the large city where hundreds of thousands of humans were locked desperately in a struggle for existence gave off the stink of a class society. One summer day when the sun was beating down, I was returning from Beishan with my friends. On our way we witnessed a roadside scene in which a rickshaw driver was bickering with a rich man. It appeared that the rich man who had ridden in the rickshaw had not paid enough. Insisting that, since the Three Principles of the People was in force the gentry should duly pay heed to the matter of the “people’s livelihood,” the rickshaw driver asked for a little more money. But the rich man, far from giving him more money, countered the Three Principles of the People with the Five-Right Constitution and hit the poor man with his cane. Scandalized at this scene, we students swooped down on the rich fellow and made him pay some more money.
Such experiences made us skeptical and disaffected; we asked ourselves how it was that there were people who rode in a rickshaw while there were others who had to pull it, and, why it was that certain people were living in luxury in palatial mansions while others had to wander the streets begging.
A man can be said to have established his revolutionary world view when he becomes aware of his class position and interests, hates the exploiting classes, is prepared to safeguard the interests of his class and then embarks on the path of revolution with a determination to build a new society. I began to realize my class position through reading the Marxist-Leninist classics and other revolutionary books, became aware of many inequalities by observing social phenomena, conceived a growing hatred for the exploiting classes and exploiter society and, in the end, embarked on the road of struggle with a resolve to reform and rebuild the world.
The more I read the works of Marx and Lenin and the deeper I became absorbed in them, the greater the urge I felt to disseminate their revolutionary theories among the young people and students as soon as possible.
The first student I made friends
Marxism-Leninism was still no
more than an object of admiration among the young people and students of
Drawing on my experience in
Huadian, I organized a secret reading circle at
Today libraries can be found everywhere, and if we choose to, we can build large palatial libraries like the Grand People’s Study House. But it was not an easy task furnishing a library in those days when we had nothing but our bare hands. We needed to lay in a stock of books, set up bookshelves, and install desks and chairs, but we had no money. Every Sunday, therefore, we worked to earn money, carrying sleepers on our shoulders at the railway construction site or gravel on our backs at the riverside. The girl students went and sorted rice at the rice mills. We purchased books with the money we earned penny by penny with so much pain. We installed a secret bookshelf to keep revolutionary books. After we had finished equipping the library we put up notices with brief yet interesting book reviews throughout the city. Then a great many students hastened to call at our library.
We even had love stories
prepared to attract students. Young people often came to the library to read the
love stories. After we had thus given them a taste of reading, we started
offering them books on social science. When the students were awakened gradually
through reading social science literature, we offered them the Marxist-Leninist
classics and revolutionary stories and novels from our secret stock. We provided
the young people and students with novels by Ri Kwang Su such as
Resurrection, Heartlessness and Trailblazer. Ri Kwang Su drafted
the “February 8th Declaration of Independence” in
Of a Saturday or a Sunday we
“Story-telling” was another method we used in widely propagating the revolutionary thought among the young people and students and the masses. One day I had a sore throat, and because a poultice had been applied, I could not attend a class. On my way home from school, I dropped in at Beishan, where I saw a large crowd of people sitting around a blind man who was telling an old tale. As I approached, I found that the blind man was reciting a passage from the Three Warring Kingdoms, in the manner of a shaman narrating a spiritual message. When he came to the scene in which Zhu-ge Liang takes an enemy position through trickery, he even beat a drum to add to the fun. Then, when the narration reached a climax in an interesting scene, he abruptly stopped and held out his hands to the listeners for money. In those days this was called “story-telling” by the Chinese, and it was a good way of drawing the masses.
After that we adopted this method in popularizing revolutionary thoughts. Among our companions there was a man who was a real jester and quick of tongue. He had been given the assignment of working with men of religion, and he was more clever and accurate than the pastors in offering up a prayer and reciting from the Bible. I told him to take up “story-telling” and found him to be better at this than at reciting from the Bible. He would go to a guest room in a village or a park where people flocked and narrate good stories in an interesting manner; he enjoyed great popularity. The blind man did his “story-telling” for money, but our friend did not ask for a penny. Instead, he would stop his narration at an interesting point and make an inflammatory speech for a while before telling his audience to come at a certain hour the next day when he would resume the story. So the next day the people would come to the appointed place to listen to the rest of the story.
Of the people I got to know through books in
those days, Pak So Sim impressed me deeply. In the busy quarters of
He had lived in
He would sit up until late reading The Capital in Japanese. He was an enthusiastic reader; when he ran out of money, he would pawn his clothes to buy books. He was not a pedant who would pretend to be a Marxist-Leninist theoretician after reading a few primers, yet he was someone with a thorough knowledge of the major works of Marx and Lenin. He was a memorable teacher who initiated me into The Capital and explained it to me. As was the case with Marx’s works in general, The Capital had many points that were difficult to understand. So, Pak So Sim gave me explanatory lectures on The Capital. To grasp the substance of the classics, one needs a primer or a guide. Pak So Sim acted as a faithful guide for me. He was extremely well-read.
Once I asked him about the Marxist-Leninist propositions on the dictatorship of the proletariat. He explained to me the propositions of the Marxist-Leninist classics which interpreted the proletarian dictatorship from different angles at different stages of historical development. For his theoretical attainments and learning, he could be called a master of Marxism. But there was something that was beyond the reach of his knowledge, something he found it hard to answer. I asked him the question: Although the Marxist-Leninist classics say that the class emancipation of the working class comes before national liberation, is it not true that in our country the yoke of Japanese imperialism should be thrown off first before the class emancipation of the workers and peasants? This question was argued about a great deal among our comrades. We found that the Marxist-Leninist classics fell short of providing a theoretical explanation of the interrelations between the emancipation of the working class and national liberation. As for the national liberation struggle in colonial countries, there were many problems which required scientific elucidation. Pak So Sim answered my question only vaguely.
I asked him another question:
The Marxist-Leninist classics generally say that the revolution in the suzerain
state and that in a colonial country are organically linked with each other and
stress the importance of the victory of the revolution in the suzerain state.
That means that our country will be able to attain its independence only after
the working class of
Pak So Sim was at a loss what to
say in reply to this. He gazed at me in surprise. He said it was an
internationally-accepted line of the international communist movement that, as
was pointed out in the classics, the emancipation of the working class came
before national liberation and that the struggle of the working class in the
suzerain state was considered more important than the national liberation
struggle in a colonial country. When I tilted my head in doubt, he became
annoyed and said frankly that he had only studied Marxism-Leninism as a science
and that he had not viewed it in the light of concrete revolutionary practice
related to the independence of
The greatest anguish my friends
and I felt in studying the progressive thoughts of Marxism-Leninism was that
while we were anxious to reform society by means of a revolution as the Russians
had done and thus liberate our country, the situation in
Pak So Sim became intimate with
me and was drawn deeply into my revolutionary aspiration in the days of my
pursuit of Marxist-Leninist studies. He joined the Anti-Imperialist Youth League
and then the Young Communist League and worked selflessly with us to educate and
enlighten the young people and children. Although he had been a bookworm, he
displayed an amazing passion for work once he had made up his mind and jumped
into the arena of practical activity. We sent him to the Kalun area to receive
treatment for his tuberculosis. He built a hut on the banks of the River Wukai
some two kilometres from Jiajiatun and lived a lonely life there cooking for
himself. Once when I was working in the areas of Kalun and Wujiazi, I found time
to pay him a visit. He was delighted to see me. We had a hearty talk and
discussed many things. He showed me a picture of his wife. I was surprised
because I had thought his wife was dead, or they were divorced. Her picture
showed her to be beautiful and intelligent, a modern woman. Pak told me that a
letter had come from his wife in
“I’ll do so because it’s your advice. But my life is already on the decline. I lead a frustrated life, I mean.” He had no children, and no estate or mental legacy to be left behind should he have any. He wanted to devote his whole life to the study of Marxism-Leninism and write books which could help the working class. But, he said, he could not attain his objective. He said that when he had been fit and strong, he could not write because he was ignorant, and that now that he was awakened to the truth, his health would not allow him to do so.
His remark grieved me. He was a devoted
scholar, tireless and inquiring. If he had not buried himself in books but
plunged into practical activities a little earlier, he might have hit upon some
valuable theories helpful to the revolutionary cause of the working class and
made some practical achievements. A theory is born of practice and its accuracy
is verified through practice. The practice we are not allowed to lose sight of
even for a moment consists of the independence of
The ancients said that if a man learns the way in the morning, he may die in the evening without regret. It was a pity that a man like Pak So Sim who could have accomplished many useful things should have died as soon as he awoke to the truth.
I spent a little more than three
In the days I spent in
Study is a basic process for the
self-culture of revolutionaries and represents an essential mental endeavour
that must never be suspended even for a single day in laying the groundwork for
achieving social progress and reform. Proceeding from the lesson learned in the
process of pursuing progressive ideologies in
While Pak So
Sim was my teacher and introduced The Capital to me, Shang Yue was my
teacher and introduced Mother by Gorky and the Dream at the Red
Mansion to me. Shang Yue taught philology and literature at
Shortly after his appointment to the school, we heard that a new teacher of philology and literature, a graduate of the English faculty at Beijing University, had arrived at the school, and we all looked forward to his lecture.
However, we were somewhat
anxious about the new teacher. We wondered if he had been appointed by the
Office of Education as its agent. There were several undesirable elements bribed
by the warlord authorities among the teachers at
The teacher dispelled the students’ suspicion and won their popularity after only one lesson. He explained the long story of the 120-part Dream at the Red Mansion in an hour. He was so proficient in explaining the essentials, weaving the plot with important details of life, that we were able to digest instantly all the messages carried in the novel and the process of the decline of a noble family in which the patriarchal tradition held sway.
As he left the classroom after
the lecture, the students exclaimed joyfully that the new teacher at
He had spoken a great deal about the content of the novel, but only a little about its author. So the next day I stopped him as he strolled around the playground and asked him to tell me about Cao Xue-qin, the writer of the novel. He said that he had omitted a biography of the writer because of a lack of time, and that it was natural for me to ask about him. He went into the details of the writer’s life and his family background.
After his explanation I asked him some questions about the corelations between the class origin of a writer and the class character of his works.
He gave me clear answers to
those questions, too. Saying that he was giving me his own opinion, he explained
that while it was true that the class origin of a writer might influence the
character of his works, the dominating factor defining the character was not the
author’s class origin but his outlook on the world. He took Cao Xue-qin as an
example. He said: Cao was born to a noble family that received the favour of the
Emperor Kangxi and grew up in comfortable circumstances but, because he had a
progressive outlook on the world, he was able to give an artistic description of
He went on to tell me: “You were
right to come to see me today, Song Ju. If a student has a question, something
he wants made clear, he should immediately receive help from his teacher. That
is the attitude a student in pursuit of science should adopt. Ask me many
questions at any place and at any time. I am fond of students who ask me many
questions.” I was pleased that he told me to ask many questions. I had been
known as a pupil who asked many questions from my days at primary school. Even
My grandfather would always say that it was not advisable for a pupil to visit his teacher’s house. Not only those from the older generation who had grown up by learning Tongmongsonsub (the first textbook for a boy—Tr.) at village schools, but also many other elders who claimed that they had become civilized thanks to modern eduction were of the same opinion as my grandfather. My grandfather’s opinion was this: If pupils peep into their teacher’s private life frequently, they lose their awe of him; the teacher must give his pupils the firm belief that their teacher neither eats nor urinates; only then can he maintain his authority at school; so a teacher should set up a screen and live behind it.
Grandfather had this opinion at
the time when my father was attending the village school. There was a teacher
named Kim Ji Song at
One day the teacher gave him a
large bottle and sent him on the same errand. But outside the school gate he
threw the bottle at a rock and smashed it to pieces. He told the teacher that,
chased by a tiger, he had tripped over a stone and
broken the bottle. In blank dismay the teacher said, “Oh! Has a tiger from
But before my teacher Shang Yue could set up a screen, I had plunged into his private life.
There were hundreds of books in
his bookcase. It was the richest and most impressive of all the bookcases I had
ever seen. His room was a library. The bookcase contained many English novels
and biographies. I was fascinated by his books. If I were to digest all the
knowledge in these books, wouldn’t that be better than a university education?
It Is fortunate for me that this teacher has come to
After a cursory inspection of the books I asked:
“Excuse me, sir. How many years did it take you to fill this bookcase?”
He came up to the bookcase and, looking into my face, said with a smile:
“Almost 10 years.”
“How many years do you think it would take me to read all these books?”
“If you are diligent, three years, and if not, 100 years.”
“Sir, will you open this bookcase to me if I promise to read all these books in three years?”
“Why not? But there is one condition,”
“If you will lend the books to me, I will accept any condition.”
“The condition is that you become a writer in the future, and that’s all. I have always wanted to train a few writers from among young people who will work for the proletarian revolution. You will be one of them, won’t you?”
‘T am extremely grateful for that. Frankly, I feel a particular attachment to literature and I admire writers. After the liberation of the country I might take up literature; however, sir, we are the sons of a ruined nation. My father fought to liberate the country, braving difficulties all his life, before passing away. I am determined to devote myself to the struggle for national independence in accordance with my father’s will, and that is my highest ideal and ambition. I am set on fighting to liberate my nation.”
The teacher, leaning against the bookcase, nodded continually, a serious look on his face. Then he came to me and placed his hand on my shoulder, saying, “That’s wonderful. Song Ju! If the struggle for independence is your ideal, I will open this bookcase to you on that condition.”
That day I returned home with
the Dream at the
In this way we got on exceptionally well through books and literature. He would lend me any book I wanted to read. If I asked for books he didn’t have in his bookcase, he would go to the trouble of obtaining them for me from other sources. In return for his helping me with my reading, I had to tell him about my impressions of each book I had read.
We swopped our opinions on
The Enemy by
Thus we frequently exchanged our views on literature. The topic of our conversations always focussed on the mission of literature. We talked a great deal about how literature should reflect the reality and promote social progress.
The teacher said that literature was a light that gave men intellect. He said that while machines promoted the development of production, literature perfected the qualities of the men who operated machines.
He would talk about Lu Xun and his works with particular fervour. He was a literary friend of Lu Xun and a member of the literary circle that was led by him. The short story The Axe-head he wrote during his circle activities was highly thought of by Lu Xun. The novel depicted the people in the Luoshan area who were fighting against feudal customs. According to Shang Xiao-yuan, Shang Yue’s daughter, Lu Xun also expressed his dissatisfaction with the story, saying that it lacked literary sharpness.
By overcoming the immaturity
revealed in his early works, in the 1930s he produced a work with perfect
ideological and artistic qualities, A Plot, which was favourably spoken
of by readers. This novel was carried serially in a magazine published in
In addition to The Axe-head and A Plot he produced the novels, Spear and The Dog Problem and published them. While working as a teacher he never abandoned his creative endeavours as a writer. So it was only natural that he tried to lead me into literary pursuits in those days.
I even borrowed from him the
Selected Works of Chen Du-xiu. Chen was one of the founders of the
Communist Party of China; he had been at the helm of the Chinese party. At
first, he was reluctant to lend the books to me because he was afraid that I
might be corrupted by Chen’s Rightist capitulationist line. He added that Chen
had been the Dean of School of Letters at
“To be frank, I once worshipped Chen. I became fascinated by him while reading the magazine New Youth he published and his early treatises. But now my opinion of Chen has changed.”
According to him, the great popularity Chen had enjoyed at the time of the May 4 Movement and in the early days of the Communist Party had fallen because he had adopted the line of Rightist opportunism.
Chen’s opportunist error was
particularly evident in his attitude towards the peasant question. As early as
1926 Stalin had pointed out that the peasantry was the
main force of the anti-imperialist front in
As he rightly pointed out, the works of Chen contained capitulationist elements which could do great harm to the revolution. After reading the Selected Works of Chen Du-xiu I had a long conversation with him on our views on the peasant question. This talk centred on the following points: What similarities and differences are there concerning the peasant question in the Korean revolution and the Chinese revolution; what are the points we should refer to in Lenin’s strategy on the peasant question; and what should be done to enable the peasantry to play their role as the main force of the revolution?
I said that it must be right to regard the peasantry as the great force of a country since agriculture was the major foundation of a country.
He affirmed my view and went on to say that neglecting the peasantry meant neglecting farming and the land, so the revolution, however noble its ideal, would inevitably fail if the peasantry was neglected. He added that Chen was mistaken because he had forgotten this principle.
This conversation convinced me
that the teacher was a communist. He discovered that I had been working for the
Young Communist League. He had marvellous sensibility and judgement. He joined
the Chinese Communist Party in 1926. He had been arrested by the reactionary
warlords of the Kuomintang while guiding the peasant movement in his home town
and experienced many hardships for over a year in military prison in
After exchanging our views on
the peasant question, we frequently discussed political questions. The young
people and students in
I asked the teacher about his
view on An Jung Gun’s method. He commented that what he had done was certainly
patriotic at the time but his method was unsure. His opinion coincided with
mine. I thought that the struggle against imperialist
We also swapped opinions on the history of imperialist Japan’s aggression in Korea, her colonial policy in Korea, her scheme to invade Manchuria and the warlords’ support for it, and the necessity for solidarity and cooperation between the peoples of Korea and China in the anti-imperialist, anti-aggression struggle.
In those days the students of
In his days in
The reactionary teachers who were bribed by the warlord authorities were unhappy with him and tried to sully his reputation as a teacher. The students who were loved and supported by him were also subject to their jealousy and slander. A certain Fang tried to force the headmaster, Li Guang-han, to expel the Korean students, and Ma, the physical-training teacher, schemed to stir up opinion against me, saying that the Korean students were hostile to the Chinese teachers. Shang Yue always shielded me from their attack.
The English teacher, too, was hostile to the students who aspired to the new trend of thought. He was steeped in flunkeyism. He was so contemptuous of Oriental people that he said it was uncivilized of the Chinese people to smack their lips while eating; Westerners did not, he said. He, a Chinese, behaved like a Westerner.
His frequent show of contempt for Oriental backwardness was seriously offensive to us. So when we were on kitchen duty we prepared noodles and invited the teachers to dinner. As they ate their hot noodles, the hall was loud with sucking sounds. The English teacher, too, was sucking his noodles down. The students roared with laughter at him. Sensing that he was being made fun of he flushed and left. After that he never again spoke ill of Oriental people. As he worshipped the West so much, the students were not interested in his lessons.
The reactionary teachers’ pressure on Shang Yue grew towards the beginning of 1929.
On one occasion he said that it was desirable to encourage as many people as possible, rather than only sportsmen, to take part in physical training. He said that it was undesirable that only basketball players should use the court in the school playground. Some rowdy players who were unhappy with his remark tried to attack him after school when he was returning to his boarding house from school. I saw to it that the members of the Young Communist League and the Anti-Imperialist Youth League prevented them from such misconduct and scolded them severely.
The literature teacher, as he looked at the fleeing attackers, sighed. saying, “Ma has trained some wonderful stooges.”
I said to him with a laugh, “Don’t be afraid, sir. This, too, is a sort of class struggle. We should prepare for a possible clash that may be worse than this one.” To this he replied, “You are right. We are fighting now with the warlords.”
While trying to reinstate the
students who had been expelled without due cause by the Office of Education, he
was dismissed and left
I have not seen him since. I
discovered that he was still alive when I received from him in 1955 his essay,
The Historical Relationship between Marshal Kim Il Sung and I in His Boyhood and in 1980 his book
The Outline of Chinese History. Reading them, I recalled the days at
Whenever Chinese leaders have
visited our country I have inquired after him. To my regret, I have not met him
again. I must say that I have not fulfilled my obligation as one of his pupils.
The border between countries is something strange. He passed away in 1982 while
a professor at Chinese People’s University in
His eldest daughter Shang
Jia-lan, a researcher at the Dynamics Institute of the
He never forgot me throughout
his life and always maintained friendly feelings for the Democratic People’s
He was buried in the Martyrs’
Cemetery in Babaoshan in
A man who has a mentor he can
recollect throughout his life is truly a happy man. In this sense, I am a happy
man. Whenever I miss this man who left a lasting impression on me in my youthful
days, I take a stroll in my heart in the
the rapid dissemination of Marxist-Leninist ideas through the activities of the
members of the
I started my revolutionary activities in the youth and student movement. I attached great importance to this movement partly because I was a student and particularly because it played an important role in and had an important influence on awakening and organizing workers, farmers and other broad sections of the masses.
In Marxist-Leninist theory the youth and student movement is likened to a bridge. In other words, the youth and student movement is a bridge for the dissemination of progressive ideas, the enlightening and awakening of the masses and the encouragement of them to join the revolutionary movement. We supported this theory.
With the revolution progressing and getting into its stride our view on and attitude towards the role of the young people and students changed radically. We defined the young people and students as constituting the fully-fledged main force of the revolution, thus breaking away from the old viewpoint according to which the motive force of the revolution had been defined with the main emphasis on the workers and peasants. This is proved to be correct by the course of the youth and student movement.
Young people and students fought bravely in the van of the March First Popular Uprising, the June 10th Independence Movement, the student incident in Kwangju17 and other historic events which constituted the peaks of the anti-Japanese patriotic struggle in our country before liberation. We opened a new history of the communist movement on the strength of the youth and waged the 15-year-long anti-Japanese armed struggle with young people and students as the backbone. Today, too, young people and students are fulfilling the role of the shock brigade in our revolution.
Young people and students are
the main force of the revolution in