KIM IL SUNG
With the Century
THE ANTI-JAPANESE REVOLUTION
Belief in the people at all times, maintenance of revolutionary convictions in all conditions and the unification of broad anti-Japanese forces, with a consistent adherence to the line of independence: these constituted major factors behind the victory of the anti-Japanese revolution.
Kim Il Sung
days of trial passed as in a dream. The ranges of snow-covered mountains that
had obstructed our way were now far behind, and the expedition to north
Party members. Young Communist League and Women’s Association members, who just a few months before were working in the Wangqing valley in the cause of the revolution, had scattered, abandoning the guerrilla base that had been built and defended at the cost of their blood, hurling curses upon the authors of the murderous scheme and its executors.
I shuddered, my heart chilled. A crushing despair, frustration took over my senses: the Universe seemed to have come to a standstill in one instant, and everything in the world to be crushed under the weight of a glacier.
This tragic event dwarfed the trial we had
experienced on the heights of Luozigou. Crossing the
We had broken through the enemy siege with the help of a kind old man, Kim, and, thanks to the old man Jo Thaek Ju, my benefactor, we had escaped death of hunger, cold and disease. The people had opened the way out of our crisis.
The revolution was demolishing itself through the tragic events taking place at the guerrilla bases in Jiandao. There should not have been any contradiction or antagonism between those who were demolishing people and those who were being demolished. Nevertheless, the former defined the latter as their enemy and removed them mercilessly from the revolutionary ranks. The overwhelming majority of those who were being tried for the “purge” were tested fighters, ready unhesitatingly to lay down their lives for the revolution.
By what criterion were we to distinguish
between friend and foe in the monstrous “sweeping campaign” in which the
revolution was demolishing the revolution? Who was our enemy and who our
friend? The “purge” headquarters labelled the hundreds and thousands they had
executed as their enemy. Was this judgement to be regarded a sound one? Or
then, how were the people directing the “purge” to be defined? Whom were we to
support and whom to oppose? These were questions put to all communists by the
events in east
I was tormented both in mind and body.
But there was neither a renowned doctor nor any effective medicine to cure my illness in Yaoyinggou. Only several of my men, who had a meagre knowledge of folk remedies, sat at my bedside by turns, solicitously applying cold clothes on my forehead.
The people of the Xiaobeigou village sent me honey and roe-deer blood, trying to help cure my illness. Old Chinese men brought tea and brewed it, inquiring about me. They bade the guerrillas to take good care of me, saying that my health was essential for the defence of the guerrilla zone and for the anti-Japanese struggle.
Honey, tea and roe-deer blood were all good remedies, but I sent them on to my comrades-in-arms who were ailing on their return from the expedition. Some of them were suffering from a bad cold, some from frostbite, and some from colitis or bronchitis.
One day, though ill myself, with Song Kap Ryong’s help, I went to visit my sick comrades. The sight of their ragged clothes pained me. They were still in their battle dress that had been stained with the smoke of powder and were ripped by bullets.
The desire to provide them with abundant food and clothing took firm hold of me, those comrades-in-arms who had endured the severe winter cold with me in the shadow of death.
I sent my orderly to the sewing unit. At the
time of our leaving for north
In those days the sewing unit was located
in a forest at Solbatgol, far from Dahuangwai; it consisted of only several
people including Jon Mun Jin and Han Song Hui. Jon was a veteran who had joined
the guerrillas after some training in dressmaking in
It was not Jon Mun Jin but Han Song Hui who
arrived with the orderly, bringing the uniforms to Yaoyinggou. Han had been
taking care of Jon, who was pregnant, in the
After seeing that the men had changed into the new uniforms, I sent Han Song Hui back to the sewing unit.
But the next morning Han, whom I had thought to be back at Solbatgol, appeared before me as if that was how it should be, holding a tray with some pine-nut porridge on it.
“Comrade Ok Bong, how come you’re here again? Has something happened?” I asked in perplexity.
Ok Bong was her childhood name. She had another nickname, too, Yong Suk. She bowed her head, as if guilty of some crime.
“General, forgive me... I didn’t go back to Solbatgol yesterday.”
I just couldn’t believe her, for both in her Children’s Corps days and since her enlistment in the army she had never disobeyed orders. She was a very loyal, innocent and obedient woman. The fact that she had disobeyed me could be a serious matter.
“My feet refused to take me back. Even if I had gone back leaving you, General, bedridden, would sister Mun Jin have been glad to see me?”
I was, of course, grateful to her for such profound concern.
While stuffing packets of foxtail millet and oarweed into her knapsack, I tried to convince her, “Many comrades here can take care of me, so don’t worry about me. You must return quickly to Solbatgol today. What would happen to Jon Mun Jin if you weren’t with her? I’ve heard that she’s expecting this month, and she can’t take care of herself.”
“General, I’ll obey all your instructions but not this one... Sister Mun Jin said she would never forgive me if I returned without having nursed you,” the girl argued earnestly. “Please understand me. General. Is it right that no woman guerrilla takes care of you when you’re in such a bad state?”
“Comrade Song Hui, go back and take care of Comrade Mun Jin, for mercy’s sake.”
At this moment, the company commander Ri Hyo Sok got her out of her predicament.
“Comrade Commander, Han Song Hui is not a midwife. How can a girl who has never given birth help a woman in childbirth?”
They persuaded me. The company commander promised to find an experienced woman to send to Solbatgol.
From that day on, Han Song Hui solicitously nursed me day and night. She brought me pine-nut porridge on a tray at every meal. Probably on her order, men of the 4th Company had gathered pine-nut cones, digging them out of the snow in the forest near Yaoyinggou. The company commander himself went out with a pole every morning to pick the cones.
Han Song Hui took excellent care of me, sometimes sitting up the whole night through. She said she would not be worthy of being called a Korean if she failed to bring me back to health through her nursing. One day she cut off her hair and made pads and soles for my shoes. Just this one single deed was enough to convince me that she was a woman of great sympathy, that she would rejoice over her friends’ happiness or cry over their misfortunes, or even would offer pieces of her own flesh to the needy without flinching.
Blood is thicker than water. The whole of her family were revolutionaries of strong sympathy and humanity. Her father Han Chang Sop was one of the forerunners, like Ri Kwang, Kim Chol and Kim Un Sik, who had worked for the anti-Japanese revolution at Beihamatang and in the surrounding area from the outset of the struggle. In charge of an organization of the Anti-Japanese Association in Dafangzi, he had worked hard to obtain provisions for Ri Kwang’s special detachment, and in the spring of 1932 he fell, stabbed to death by a soldier of the Japanese “punitive” troops. Her elder sister, Han Ok Son, was burned at the stake. Her elder brother, Han Song U, perished in battle.
My comrade-in-arms Han Hung Gwon, who
mostly operated with us in the enemy-held areas from Wangqing until the
guerrilla base was dissolved and later distinguished himself as the commander
of a detachment of the allied anti-Japanese forces in north
Han Song Hui and her elder sister had resolved to join the guerrilla army in order to be revenged on the enemy who had killed their father.
When about to leave their home, the question arose as to who would remain to take care of their mother and the house. The sisters discussed the matter heatedly. Han Song Hui was as yet too young to join the army, so she was on the defensive the whole time during the argument.
“Don’t look down at me because I’m younger,” she retorted. “I do all the work you do and I’m as tall as you are, sister.”
“You’re tall enough, but you still smell of your mother’s milk,” the elder sister calmly counterattacked. “You mustn’t look up at a tree you can’t climb, as the saying goes. Be a good Children’s Corps member and take care of Mother at home.”
Neither of them would give up the honour of joining the army.
While her daughters were arguing about their future lying in bed, their mother had heard scraps of their conversation. She sewed two knapsacks all night long of exactly the same size and shape out of the one cotton skirt she had. The next day she filled the knapsacks with parched rice flour. Only then did the daughters realize that the two knapsacks had been prepared for them just like a dowry that a mother would offer to her daughters who were to take leave of their mother.
That day the mother summoned her daughters and said:
“Your mother does not want to be looked after by you, my daughters. We have not yet won our country back, so you need not think of taking care of me as your filial duty. I can get along without your support. You may join the guerrilla army right now.”
“Mother!” The daughters exclaimed, throwing themselves into her arms. From the bottom of their hearts they pledged loyalty and left their mother in tears. In the spring of 1934 we recalled Han Song Hui to the sewing unit which was directly under headquarters supervision.
We expected a great deal from her.
If there was any weakness in her character, it lay in her cheerful attitude towards everything. She was too soft a woman and surprisingly good-natured, but she lacked the alertness needed by a soldier. This lack was the cause of her being captured by the enemy and ended in her giving up the revolution half-way.
One day, having received my instruction to
come to the main body from a detachment, she, with other soldiers, was moving
north, and in the
There was a conscientious Korean among the
guards keeping, watch over the prisoners, who secretly sympathized with her. He
had been working for the revolution before his capture. He had signed a letter
of surrender and was now living in disgrace. When he knew that the hangmen
were going to execute Han Song Hui, he advised her to escape. He said he would
discard his rifle and run away with her to
We all lamented at the news of her capture. Some women guerrillas felt so bad that they lost their appetite. That was natural because they had lost a comrade-in-arms whom they had loved as if she were their own younger sister. The veterans who fought in Wangqing and knew her worth still recollect her lovingly.
It is said that Han Song Hui’s children regretted their mother’s past immensely, saying that it would have been good if their mother had stayed with the guerrillas until the country was liberated as other women fighters had.
Of course, it would have been much better if she had not been captured by the enemy and had continued to fight.
But a revolution is not travelling on a highway, still less a 100-metre race in which the athletes make off at the starting signal and rush on without meeting any obstacle on the way until they reach their goal.
A revolution can be said to be an endless journey of people who forge ahead towards victory through success and failure, through advance and retreat, upsurge and setback, which one may repeat or which come in the wake of the other, whatever the turns and twists that can take place in the course of these long endeavours.
It is said that whenever her sons and daughters blamed her, Han Song Hui would reply:
“You needn’t worry about the stains in the records of your parents. The Workers’ Party of Korea does not lay the blame for the parents’ mistakes on their children. Our leader does not consider the children responsible for the crimes committed by their parents. That is his policy. Everything depends on you yourselves. Therefore, don’t worry, only be loyal to the leader.”
I believe she was right. She was honest and pure and preserved her firm faith in the Party until the last moment other life.
Thanks to the pine-nut porridge, the venison and foxtail millet gruel cooked by Han Song Hui I managed to leave my sickbed in three days’ time.
Company commander Ri Hyo Sok informed me in detail then of the whirlwind of the anti-“Minsaengdan” campaign in the guerrilla zone.
He enumerated which cadres had been
murdered in which counties, and which commanding officers had been executed in
which counties on charges of involvement in the “Minsaengdan” case. If his
account was accurate, it could be easily assumed that most of the senior cadres
of the counties and districts and most of the company and higher rating commanding
officers of the guerrilla army had been purged. The Koreans who could write and
make speeches had all been eliminated. All the hard-core elite of men and
officers of my unit, who had remained in Wangqing when I went on the expedition
The “Minsaengdan” was the product of the
intellectual development of the Japanese imperialists’ colonial rule of
Greatly alarmed by the rapid development of the revolutionary situation in Manchuria after the September 18 incident (in 1931—Tr.), Governor-General Saito saw to it that the “Minsaengdan” was formed in Yanji in February 1932 by instigating pro-Japanese nationalists, such as Pak Sok Yun, who had been sent to east Manchuria as a member of the Jiandao inspection team, Jon Song Ho, an influential man in the Yanbian Autonomy Promotion Association, Pak Tu Yong, advisor to the Manchukuo army in Yanji, and Kim Tong Han, a first-rate anti-communist agent.
The “Minsaengdan” clamoured ostensibly for the “right to national survival”, the “building of a paradise of freedom” and for the “Koreans’ autonomy in Jiandao” as if it were its highest aim to solve the problem of the Koreans’ livelihood. But, in effect, it was a spy organization for stratagem manufactured by the Japanese imperialists to paralyse the anti-Japanese spirit of the Korean people, isolating Korean communists by harming them through trickery and disrupting the revolutionary ranks from within by driving a wedge between the Korean and Chinese peoples.
The reactionary nature of the “Minsaengdan”
was clear from its “organizational policy” or its “programme” and other
documents preaching the “industrialization of life” under Japanese imperialist
colonial rule, that it was the “only way for the Korean nation to survive”. The
enemy described the period of his colonial rule over Korea and Manchuria as the
optimum, “absolute period” for “securing the right to survival and its
expansion”; he depicted Korea and Manchuria, which had been turned into a land
of gloom under his colonial rule, as a “land’”‘ of “freedom” and “autonomy”,
while clamouring for a “paradise of freedom to be built” in Jiandao by the Koreans.
The Japanese imperialists tried to break the good-neighbourly relations between
the Korean and Chinese peoples and communists and their revolutionary ties by
creating the impression that the Koreans had welcomed imperialist
The real nature of the “Minsaengdan” as an organization of dyed-in-the-wool anti-communist stooges can be easily seen from the records of its projectors and those who became the head, deputy head and director of the organization after its formation.
Jo Pyong Sang, director of the Kyongsong Kapja Club, Pak Sok Yun, vice-president of the Maeil Sinbo (Daily News —Tr.), Jon Song Ho of the Yanbian Autonomy Promotion Association and Kim Tong Han projected the scheme of the organization and exerted all their efforts for its formation. They advocated patriotism and love of the people, professing themselves nationalists and revolutionaries, but they were, without exception, traitors who had long been converted by the Japanese imperialists.
Pak Sok Yun, for instance, at the age of
sixteen, took the first step towards his pro-Japanese career when he went to
Japan to study, and then continued his studies in comfortable circumstances at
first-rate universities, such as the faculty of law and the postgraduate
course of the
After his studies abroad he was installed
in prominent posts. He worked as a journalist of the Tong-A Ilbo, the
vice-president of the Maeil Sinbo, part-time councillor of the Foreign
Ministry of Manchukuo commissioned by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, and then
as Consul General of Manchukuo to Poland. Later, he was a member of the
Japanese delegation, led by Matsuoka Yosuke, the Japanese Foreign Minister, who
afterwards signed the neutrality treaty between the Soviet Union and
Immediately after liberation, while living in hiding in Yangdok under the assumed name of Pak Tae U, he was arrested and tried severely as a traitor to the nation. At the court of justice he confessed that his political idea had been to effect the Koreans’ “national autonomy” under the Japanese imperialist rule, that he had believed that Korea should take a course of political development like Canada had or the Union of South Africa, the British colonies, and that he had been on intimate terms with Governor-General Saito and had worshipped Ishihara Kanji, a Japanese renowned for his theory of a world conquest and one of the inspirers of the idea of an East Asia Union, precisely because of this political idea.
He doggedly denied that the aim of the formation of the “Minsaengdan” was to destroy the Communist Party and the guerrilla army. He stated that the initial purpose of the “Minsaengdan” was only to “secure the right to survival”, that the organization had become a spy organization of stooges directed by imperialist Japan after he had left Jiandao, that he had been surprised at the news of the havoc caused during the anti-“Mmsaengdan” struggle, and that he had been a mere puppet controlled by the Japanese.
History will be the only judge of the degree of authenticity of Pak Sok Yun’s confession. However, the fact that he was a faithful dog and stooge of Japanese imperialism can never be protested, regardless of his confession.
While Pak Sok Yun, who played the role of
midwife in the birth of the “Minsaengdan”, was influenced mostly by the
Japanese, the Russians had the greatest effect on Kim Tong Han, a minion who
carried out the “Minsaengdan” scheme in the field. He began his career with the
communist movement. He was admitted to the Communist Party in
After the “Minsaengdan” was dissolved, he, with the permission of the Kwantung Army, organized the “Jiandao Cooperative Association” as its successor and with a hundred reactionaries even formed what he called righteous home guards. As the commander he resorted to every conceivable action to “mop up” the revolutionary army. He assimilated himself to the Japanese to such an extent that he was taken for a Japanese who had been born in Korea, He was a dyed-in-the-wool traitor who went so far as to clamour for the Korean nation to regard Japan as their motherland and to serve it devotedly. According to a report of the Manson Ilbo, he succeeded in forcing as many as 3,800 communists to surrender.
After his death, the Japanese imperialists erected a bronze statue to him and a monument to the “Jiandao Cooperative Association” in the park in the west of Yanji.
It is necessary to delve briefly here into the “Minsaengdan strategy” which was advertised as a “successful” ideological trickery campaign derived from the Japanese imperialists’ “strategy of peace maintenance in Jiandao”, as a success “in exposing the entire number of revolutionary organizations in Jiandao Province, in arresting 4,000 people involved in them and in undermining the social footholds that supported the organizations”.
Although it was clear from the outset that the aim of the “Minsaengdan” was not for the nationalists to solve the problem of the people’s livelihood in Jiandao, the Japanese imperialist aggressors made every effort in those days to present it under the mask of nationalism.
The Japanese spared no effort in
advertising the “Minsaengdan” as an organization designed to save the people
from poverty; however, the revolutionary organizations in east
The “Minsaengdan” was dissolved soon after its inauguration. The Japanese imperialists had hardly managed to implant anything of its organization into our ranks.
But if that were so, how was it possible that the anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle continued when there was no “Minsaengdan”, and that the massacre of innocent people on the false charge of involvement in the “Minsaengdan” case continued for three years in the guerrilla zones of Jiandao where there was the Party and a government of people? The Japanese imperialists’ stratagem was fundamentally responsible for that.
The “Minsaengdan” which had sprung up under
Governor-General Saito’s full support and with the active backing of the
Japanese consulate in Longjing was dissolved in accordance with the will of the
newly-appointed Governor-General Ugaki at the time of a troop dispatch in April
1932 to Jiandao of the Japanese army in
In the spring of 1934 Kato Hakujiro, the provost-marshal of Yanji (the commander of special security forces in north China at the time of Japan’s defeat), and Takamori Yoshi, commanding officer of the Independent 7th Infantry Garrison Battalion, discussed the matter of peace maintenance in Jiandao again with Pak Tu Yong and other pro-Japanese elements and agreed to revive the “Minsaengdan”. That was the second stage of the “Minsaengdan” stratagem.
They made it clear that the operations of the “Minsaengdan” were an ideological stratagem directed against the East Manchuria Special District Committee under the Manchurian Provincial Party Committee and defined the basic direction of its activities to be to pursue—firstly, a “policy of undermining and disrupting the Korean guerrilla army by strong actions”; secondly, a “policy of blocking the supply of provisions to the Korean guerrilla army”; thirdly, a “policy of instigating Korean guerrillas to surrender or to defect”; fourthly, a “policy of protection, settlement and surveillance of those who have surrendered or defected”; and, fifthly, the “vocational training of those who have surrendered or defected and the arrangement of their jobs”. All the operations for the stratagem were to be supervised by the gendarmerie in Yanji.
The “Jiandao Cooperative Association” was set up in September 1934. This was a special organization which was to “deal with all the people who would become renegades” as the activities of the “Minsaengdan” were stepped up, to “confirm their backgrounds and assumed surrender, and undertake their brainwashing”. The “Minsaengdan” was merged at the time into this organization.
The “Jiandao Cooperative Association”, headed by Kim Tong Han, took sly advantage of the anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle conducted by the East Manchuria Special District Committee and resorted to all manner of deceit.
After the dissolution of the “Minsaengdan”, the Japanese imperialists inspired their special agents and stooges to spread the rumours that a large number of “Minsaengdan” members had wormed their way into the guerrilla zones. They intrigued against stalwart cadres and revolutionaries to make them suspect each other and to guard one against the other. The enemy himself said in his “experiences of undermining the Communist Party in Jiandao”, a secret letter, that although they had first sent groups, each consisting of ten “Minsaengdan” members, into the guerrilla army, they had all been captured and executed so that it was impossible to infiltrate into it; therefore, they had employed tactics of brewing distrust between the Koreans and Chinese, workers and peasants, superiors and subordinates in order that the communists would begin to fight among themselves.
The Japanese schemers were surprisingly skilful in their machinations to disrupt the revolutionary ranks from within. Take one of the methods they employed for an example. When a cadre of the East Manchuria Special District Committee was on a local inspection tour, they dropped a letter along the inspector’s route, a letter addressed to a cadre of county or district level who had been to the place on a guidance mission.
What would the inspector, therefore, think of the addressee? The ultra-Leftist development of the struggle against the “Minsaengdan” can also be explained by the vile political ambitions of some Left opportunists and factional flunkeyists of all description at the helm of the Manchurian Provincial Party Committee, the East Manchuria Special District Committee and the county and district Party organizations of different levels.
While the Left opportunists, who had a monopoly of the leadership among the communists, attempted to subordinate the advancing revolutionary struggle of the Korean communists to the scheme of realizing their political ambition, the factionalist sycophants who were still in the habit of factional strife, tried, with the support and connivance of the Left opportunists, to mercilessly dispose of all those who obstructed the achievement of their factional aim in order to expand their forces by taking advantage of the struggle against the “Minsaengdan”.
It was the “Minsaengdan” that supplied the pretext for snatching the post somebody else was already occupying. The opportunists and factionalist sycophants declared, “You belong to the ‘Minsaengdan’, therefore you have to resign your post or die”. There could be no appeal against such a sentence, nor would it have had any effect even if it had been made.
The rumour about the “Minsaengdan” infiltration spread by the Japanese imperialists added fuel to the flames of greed for hegemony and promotion of those who wanted to replace all the senior cadres of the Party, mass organizations and army with people of their own faction. The soaring number of the results of the “purge” that had been undertaken in the name of the “Minsaengdan” were of enormous benefit to the schemers who were working to destroy all the revolutionary forces in the guerrilla zones.
In the final run, the enemy and friends joined in with the crushing of the guerrilla zones. Such a monstrous alliance had never taken place in the history of revolutionary war in any part of the world.
The brutal, absurd and crude way of combatting the “Minsaengdan”, which dwarfed the martial laws of fascist states and religious punishments in the Middle Ages, was attributable to the vicious Japanese imperialists’ stratagem and the political imbecility and despicable aim of some of the cadres of the East Manchuria Special District Committee.
The indications for identifying “Minsaengdan” members in those days were almost limitless and could be classified into hundreds of categories.
If a cook of the guerrilla army had failed to boil rice well enough, that was a reason for charging her with involvement in the “Minsaengdan”. If a grain of sand was found in the cooked rice, or if a man ate rice with water, the cook who had prepared the meal or the man who ate it with water was condemned as “evidence of having attempted to cause diseases to the people in the guerrilla zone” and as an “action of the ‘Minsaengdan’”.
A person with loose bowels was charged with an act of the “Minsaengdan” because it would weaken combat power; an instance of moaning was considered to be an indication of “Minsaengdan” because it would paralyse the revolutionary spirit; an accidental shot was condemned as an act of the “Minsaengdan” because it would let the enemy know the location of the guerrillas; a verbal expression of homesickness was called an act of “Minsaengdan” because it would encourage nationalism; a hard-working attitude was denounced as a sign of “Minsaengdan” to hide its identity, and so on. Everything was used to incriminate people no matter how an excuse was made. By this criterion no one could be free from a charge of involvement in the “Minsaengdan”.
The man at the head of the Helong County Committee of the Anti-Imperialist Union, nicknamed Kodo, was arrested by self-defence corps men while conducting political work among the people at Changren-jiang. He was dragged to an execution site with over 30 other patriots.
The self-defence corps men stood them in single file and cut their throats one by one. Naturally, Kodo’s also. But, strangely, his head did not fall off. The skin and flesh of his nape slipped onto his back, with his whole body drenched in blood. It was a fatal wound, more painful than death. The executioners left while Kodo lay unconscious. Coming to at night, Kodo pulled the skin and flesh back to his nape, enduring the terrible pain, and bandaged it with a strip torn off his clothes. He then crawled fifteen miles on all fours through steep mountains and reached the Yulangcun guerrilla zone.
However, the Leftists took him to a tribunal of the masses when he was still suffering from the wound. They said that he was an enemy agent who had injured his neck on purpose and had come to the guerrilla zone to worm his way deep into the revolutionary ranks. The Leftists read out a lengthy accusation, but none of the masses approved it. The men who had arranged the trial decided to refrain from passing the death sentence on him until he was identified through a period of examination, but they assassinated him anyway.
The ultra-Leftist wave of the
anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle was the roughest of all the counties in the
The spearhead of the “purge” was directed at stalwart people who were exemplary in revolutionary practice, who enjoyed a high reputation among the masses, who did not flatter or compromise with injustice.
Kim Song Do, of all the Korean cadres, combatted
the “Minsaengdan” in an extremely ultra-Leftist manner. While the East
Manchuria Special District Committee was located in Wangqing, he led a loose
life there. Taking his wife along, he organized drinking bouts and played cards
frequently with cadres of the special district committee and
It was preposterous that Kim Song Do, who led such a scandalous life, “purged” true revolutionaries by charging them with involvement in the “Minsaengdan” case. He even went to the length of forcing Children’s Corps members to write confessions that they had joined the “Minsaengdan”.
Kim Kun Su, as the head of an agitation station at Dongxingcun, Longjing, had rendered distinguished services by his political work, was caught in the meshes of the political intrigue hatched by the Leftists and was dragged to an execution site.
At the last moment of his life, he announced at the execution site, “I am not a ‘Minsaengdan’ member. If I am really under suspicion, cut off my ankles instead of killing me. If my ankles are cut off, I won’t, be able to run away. If you only cut off my ankles instead of killing me, I’ll be able to weave mats with my hands and thus contribute to the revolution. I lament dying without working any further for the revolution,”
“Look, that fellow is acting like a ‘Minsaengdan’ member even when he’s going to be executed,” the men who directed the “purge” said and beat him to death with heavy sticks.
The iron hammer of the “purge” fell also on the heads of guerrillas beyond the bounds of the Party and mass organizations.
Yang Thae Ok, with the peasant-like nickname of “Scraping Hoe”, was an exemplary guerrilla. He, too, was labelled as a “Minsaengdan” member and was tried by a mass tribunal on the charge of having deliberately damaged the lock of his rifle.
He had received the nickname when, in company with the head of his organization, he had captured a weapon from a member of the anti-contraband squad at a restaurant in Sanpudong. At that time two men of the squad had been smoking opium in the restaurant, and another stood guard at the entrance. Yang Thae Ok grappled with the guard, now one, now the other on top, but the guard was stronger. Yang Thae Ok, therefore, pulled his hoe out of his waistband and scraped the guard’s face with it. While the guard held his face in his hands in agony, Yang snatched the rifle from the enemy and ran up to the mountain near San-pudong. As he ran up the mountain, he was tempted to try shooting it. He pulled the trigger softly, but there was no sound. The rifle was on its safety catch. He unlocked it with a blow of his hoe. The damage he had done to the lock of the rifle with his hoe became the cause of his discharge from the guerrilla army and his deportation from the guerrilla zone in later days.
Most of the people stigmatized as “Minsaengdan” members and subjected to capital punishment or deported from the guerrilla zone by the Leftists and factionalist sycophants were brave, stalwart fighters like “Scraping Hoe”. Could it be possible that these fighters had captured weapons from armed policemen in broad daylight by threatening them with sham pistols or scraping their faces with hoes at the risk of their own lives in order to work for the “Minsaengdan”? Were the organizers of the tribunal and judges who declared them guilty such idiots that they could not discern that these fearless fighters had no reason or need to involve .themselves in the “Minsaengdan” or in counterre volution? No, they were no idiots. This was not a question of the power of reason. Could there be such idiots among the revolutionaries who lacked the power of judging even such cases? According to the testimony of fighters from Antu, hundreds of Koreans in Chechangzi alone had been murdered on false charges of involvement in the “Minsaengdan” case.
Zhou Bao-zhong, who was deeply involved with the east Manchuria Party organization and was well-informed of the state of affairs in Jian-dao, testified in his reminiscences that 2,000 people had been killed, labelled as “Minsaengdan” members.
In order to exaggerate the results of the “purge” the masterminds of the anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle tormented the “Minsaengdan” suspects beyond endurance—members of Party organizations, mass organizations and even activists in the Children’s Corps—with cruelties inconceivable to communists.
Kim Song Do,
Pak Hyon Suk was one of five excellent modern women in Wangqing. She had sparkling eyes, so that the people of Xiaowangqing called her the “woman with morning-star eyes”. Well-informed in art, she worked as the head of the children’s department in Wangqing for some time. She was still young, but was relatively well experienced in underground work. Her father-in-law Choe Chang Won (Choe Laotour) was in charge of the Anti-Imperialist Union in his county.
When Pak Hyon Suk was still Choe Hyong Jun’s fiancee. Children’s Corps members in Mudanchuan, who were under her guidance, frequently delivered messages between her and her fiance. When she gave them money the children would buy things to be sent to the guerrilla army. She would send the gifts to underground guerrillas and to the fighters who were hurrying with organizational preparations of a special detachment.
The enemy, who was secretly keeping watch over Pak Hyon Suk. ordered her arrest. One day the “woman with morning-star eyes” had gone to her colleague’s house to congratulate her friend at her wedding ceremony. The policemen had followed her there. They molested the master of the house, demanding that she be handed over. The “woman with morning-star eyes”, who was hiding in the garret, appeared, announcing her presence to the policemen, lest the master of the house should get into trouble. She was imprisoned and brutally tortured, but did not yield to the enemy. When villagers had come to see her, she had written revolutionary songs and sent them on to her comrades, hiding them in a rice cake container, in order to encourage the villagers and her comrades. The police released her later.
On the day Pak Hyon Suk married Choe Hyong Jun, three policemen from Baicaogou had come to her house to spy on her. They said they wanted to see how a communist girl was going to be married. They watched the wedding ceremony, drinking and eating, and even asked the bride to sing. She sang a revolutionary song. Listening to her singing, the drunken policemen, not knowing that the song was intended to agitate people to rise in revolution, said that she was an excellent singer and even demanded that she sing some more.
Her husband, Choe Hyong Jun, was also loyal to the revolution. He was a good husband at home and a good revolutionary fighter, but unfortunately a bullet pierced his leg and he became lame. From then on, he was not as successful in his work among the local people as he had been before. He had no horse to ride, still less a vehicle. Nevertheless, he limped many miles to perform his duties. It was obvious, therefore, that he was unable to do as much as the others did. The “purge” headquarters labelled him as a “lethargic element”, suspected him to be involved in the “Minsaengdan”, persecuted him and kept watch over him. Pak Hyon Suk was dismissed from the office of the leadership on the excuse that she was the wife of a “Minsaengdan” member.
I heard the rumour in this context that she was going to divorce him.
I persuaded her not to. I said that the issue of the “Minsaengdan” was a passing one, that it would be settled sooner or later, and that Choe Hyong Jun had been excellent at underground work from the outset, had been a good fighter ever since he came to the guerrilla zone, a revolutionary with considerable theoretical knowledge. I asked her why she was going to divorce him, and even criticized her.
Later we sent her to the
Everyone in the guerrilla zone, men and women, young and old, vacillated. The bitter thought prevailed: “A revolution is a puzzling thing. They kill each other for no special reason, even inventing crimes against each other. That’s what they do. The Koreans have reclaimed the barren land in Jiandao and have pioneered the revolution. But now these pioneers are being murdered and ousted. What’s the real intention of those who do these things? What is this, if not a purge to snatch hegemony? If a revolution is a way to seize power through killing one’s friends without hesitation against moral obligations and breaking the ties of friendship, what’s the use of working for such a revolution? I’d rather take my family back to my hometown and follow the plough, or go to a temple in a mountain to become a monk and travel around, tapping a wood block than play the fool.” The mad wind of the anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle rusted the people’s outlook on life and the revolution.
The people who had not been awakened to political awareness, naturally, abandoned the revolution and ran away to the enemy-held area or to uninhabited lands. Since they were maltreated by the revolution for which they had come to work, and since they were displaced from their homes, where else could they find a place to settle down? A revolution is an undertaking for survival, not for death. It is a cause for living a life worthy of human beings; it is a just cause for which one would lay down one’s life gladly and honourably, if necessary, on the battlefield in order to remain immortal.
But how could one expect immortality here? Revolutionaries were being slaughtered indiscriminately by the people with whom they had shared bread and board only yesterday.
That was why, after liberation, I declared
that the people, who had been forced to flee to the enemy-held area and to
“surrender” because of the anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle, were innocent. How
could they be guilty when they had left the guerrilla zone because, though
wanting to work for the revolution, they were forced to flee from dishonourable
death by those who prevented them from fighting for the revolution? The water
of the rivers in Wangqing and the River Gudong became thick with blood because
of the indiscriminate manslaughter, and the people’s wailing continued
incessantly in every
Disillusioned by this state of affairs, Shi
Zhong-heng, too, left Jian-dao. On leaving for north
Sensing the gravity of the anti-“Minsaengdan” campaign, I met many people to obtain details of the true state of affairs.
The people of Yaoyinggou lived in dugouts
in the forests because of the enemy’s intensive “punitive” attacks in those
days, while soldiers of the revolutionary army lived in barracks built along
the edges of the guerrilla zone and protected the people. The barracks of the
guerrillas were approximately at a distance of four miles from the village.
Accompanied by my orderly I went to the village and, while talking with the
elders. Hong Hye Song had arrived to see me. After chatting with the old
people, I met her; “The people at headquarters are too harsh,” she told me. “I
cannot bear the wrongs any longer. I’ve endured all the hardships here in
Wangqing gritting my teeth, but I cannot endure mental torments. I’d rather go
to the homeland and fight underground there than work for the revolution in
Jiandao, being maltreated in this way. Let’s go there. We won’t be able to set
up a guerrilla zone as we did here, but we’ll be able to fight underground,
won’t we? Let’s go to
She bit her lip, looking at me with tear-filled eyes. With a wave of my hand I warned her to lower her voice. “Comrade Hye Song, how can you say a thing like that at such a time?”
“I said it because I believe in you. General.” “Walls have ears. So please don’t say things like that.” I was very sorry to have heard her confession. If even Hong Hye Song had made up her mind to leave the guerrilla zone, how many people would remain in Wangqing to carry out the revolution? The thought made me gloomy. She loved the guerrilla zone more ardently than anybody else. And the people in the guerrilla zone, too, were so fond of her. She was a daring underground operative, a vivacious, enthusiastic children’s teacher, and also a part-time doctor who, though not licensed, was efficient in both diagnosis and treatment.
Some cadres of the east Manchuria Party organization and the Wangqing county Party organization had cured three-year-old scabies thanks to her treatment. The people she had cured of this ailment were grateful to her and never failed to greet her. The cadres praised her, saying she was a gifted woman.
Hong Hye Song regarded herself as a necessary and even as an indispensable person to the guerrilla zone. And here she was suggesting that I desert. This single fact was enough to incriminate her as a “Minsaengdan” member and to subject her to capital punishment. I was grateful for her trust in me, to have confessed what lay hidden in her heart. What horrible atmosphere had enveloped the guerrilla zone to make this girl, who was so full of ardour and fighting spirit, consider running away! Jiandao, now strewn with her dead comrades, was no longer a land of promise or the sweet home she had loved with unstinted devotion.
Because of all this, I refused to comply with her suggestion.
“Comrade Hye Song, we cannot. It’s not only one life that is at stake. If we’re unable to endure the sufferings and choose to take an easy way out at a time when the revolution is at stake, how can we consider ourselves true communists? Though it is painful and disgusting, we have to stay here to settle the issue of the ‘Minsaengdan’ and continue the struggle. This is the only way for revolutionaries to take to save the revolution.”
She gazed at me while I spoke, wiping away her tears.
“Please forgive me. I said it all because
the prospects are so bleak. I’ve been waiting anxiously for your return from
“People in the ‘Minsaengdan’ gaol have been
waiting for you, Comrade Commander. ‘When will Commander Kim return? Is there
no news from Commander Kim? Is there no way to let Commander Kim know the situation
Hong Hye Song pressed her hands to her breast, trying to curb her bitter feelings.
Remorse rent my heart at the sight of the tear-drops forming in her eyes, just as if they were drops of blood.
Her words made me ponder over my responsibility of a man fighting for the Korean revolution. If I could not stop the reckless, blind manslaughter being perpetrated in the name of a “purge”, threatening thousands and thousands of lives at a juncture when the revolution was about to be crushed in this way, or it might revive and rise again, then I was not entitled to call myself a son of Korea, and there was no need for me to remain alive.
I proposed to the leadership of the east Manchuria Party organization to convene a meeting to rectify the mistake in the anti-“Minsaengdan” campaign. An inspector from the Manchurian Provincial Party Committee, almost at the same time, also suggested the convocation of such a meeting.
A few days later, I received a letter
informing me of a joint meeting of the military and political cadres of east
Prior to my departure I called in at the
barracks of the cooks. I went there to see Hong In Suk, a woman who they said
had been depressed for several months because of being suspected as a
“Minsaengdan” member. I had obtained some fabric in north
would be incorrect if someone were to think that I had started a polemic about
the “Minsaengdan” issue at the Dahuangwai meeting with the people at the helm
of the east Manchuria Party organization. The argument had begun already as
early as October 1932. My unit, which had started moving towards north
During my first days in Wangqing, I guided the Party work in district No. 1 (Yaoyinggou). There I saw that the anti-“Minsaengdan” campaign was being conducted haphazardly, in an ultra-Leftist manner, by officials of the county and district Party organizations, contrary to revolutionary principles.
One morning I was looking around the village, accompanied by Ri Ung Gol, head of the organizational department of the district Party committee. Someone screamed in the office of the district Party committee. I stopped.
“Who’s that?” I asked.
For some reason Ri Ung Gol looked embarrassed.
“People from the
“Why? Is he a ‘Minsaengdan’ suspect?”
“It seems so. The man has denied it for three days, but they keep on torturing him to squeeze a confession from him. I’m so distressed at the sound that I can’t work properly all day long. Let’s go by quickly.”
“Why is he suspected?”
“He worked in the enemy-held area and returned a few days later than expected. That must be the reason.”
“Can that be a reason?”
“Comrade Commander, be careful of what you say. One word like that can be the cause of being labelled a ‘Minsaengdan’ member. The whirlwind of the ‘Minsaengdan’ has made it very hard to live here.”
I walked into the office in spite of Ri Ung Gol’s advice.
A man from the
Ri Jong Jin had been a servant of a Chinese landowner for more than ten years. His wife had been killed during the enemy’s “punitive” atrocities, and he had left his two children in the care of other people to join the revolution. After he came to the guerrilla zone he had worked as Party secretary of a branch of the district. The masses had held him in high esteem. There could be no reason for such a man to involve himself in the hostile organization and counterrevolution. How could his delayed return from work, an inadvertent mistake in work, be the cause of suspecting him for involvement in the “Minsaengdan”? I gave the cadres from the county and district Party committees some needed advice and made them stop the questioning.
“Comrades, as far as I understand there’s no reason for dealing with Ri Jong Jin as a ‘Minsaengdan’ member. It isn’t right to whip him without exact evidence simply because he made a mistake in his work. The ‘Minsaengdan’ should be combatted prudently on the basis of scientific evidence,” I said.
The questioning was suspended, but after I
left Yaoyinggou and went to
The incident occasioned the spreading of
the news that Commander Kim Il Sung from Antu had stopped the
What I said and did in the office of the district Party committee was, in effect, the beginning of my arguments with the Leftist elements on the issue of the “Minsaengdan”.
The polemic intensified from the beginning
of the year 1933 when the purge in connection with the “Minsaengdan” issue was
most scandalous in the guerrilla zones of east
I also was nearly caught in the “Minsaengdan” intrigue. The chauvinists and factionalist sycophants, who were swaying the “purge” to an ultra-Leftist mess, tenaciously attempted to connect me with the “Minsaengdan”.
The evidence they advanced was ridiculous, including what they called the case of a kidnapped landowner from Tumen.
A Chinese anti-Japanese nationalist army unit of over a hundred soldiers, stationed in Liushuhezi in those days, had requested me to help them obtain clothing. We had persuaded a landowner to help us in this matter, a landowner whom the nationalist army had captured for obtaining economic aid, but failed. With the help of the escaping landowner we had procured cloth and cotton enough for 500 uniforms. The event was called the “case of the kidnapped landowner” from Tumen. We had provided all the nationalist army soldiers in the Wangqing area with clothing from the aid goods.
Judging from the situation at the time, it was quite probable that, if they were not properly clothed in the severe winter cold, the soldiers of the nationalist army would defect or surrender to the enemy. By itself, without cooperation of a friendly army like the national salvation army, the revolutionary army would have found it difficult to maintain the guerrilla zone.
Kim Kwon Il, who was promoted to the office of Wangqing county Party secretary as a successor to Ri Yong Guk, denounced, in league with some cadres of the East Manchuria Special District Committee, the guerrilla army’s procurement of winter clothing for the national salvation army with the help of a landowner as an act of Rightist capitulation; he said that
Kim Il Sung, who was in command of the army and connived at and encouraged the work of the “Minsaengdan”, must be held responsible.
The fact that they fussed about
responsibility even by mentioning my name showed that they had, in fact, schemed
to do away to the last man with the Korean cadres with any authority to speak
They went so far as to make the ridiculous allegation that a large number of “Minsaengdan” members had wormed their way into the Wangqing guerrilla army because Kim Il Sung had neglected the anti-“Minsaeng-dan” campaign. They tried to bring me to the “purge” tribunal by hook or by crook.
Their intrigues led to a frontal clash between them and me.
I refuted them with a strong argument that the procurement of clothing for the national salvation army with the help of the landowner could never be a Rightist act, still less the work of the “Minsaengdan”, and then I unhesitatingly expressed my opinion about the anti-“Minsaengdan” campaign:
“Since combatting the ‘Minsaengdan1’ means combatting spies, nobody has the right to be indifferent to it. I do not wish to see the ‘Minsaengdan’ infiltrate into our ranks, either. But I cannot remain an onlooker at the murder of innocent people perpetrated on the excuse of purging the ‘Minsaengdan’. Such an act of murder undermines the revolution and benefits the enemy. Can we remain silent? Take a look—what kind of people are they, whom you’ve labelled ‘Minsaengdan’ members? Aren’t they indomitable fighters who have shared all our hardships in the guerrilla zone with death hovering? Why would fighters like that join the ‘Minsaengdan’ which is against the revolution? Your arguments are untenable.”
The Leftist elements became angry at my statement and shouted, “Do you object then to the line of the anti-‘Minsaengdan’ struggle?”
‘Tf your line of and-‘Minsaengdan’ struggle is for killing your friends who are loyal to the revolution, I cannot support it. If you’re selecting ‘Minsaengdan’ members, you have to truly identify them on the basis of scientific evidence. Why are you disposing of people one by one who are working for the revolution, enduring hunger and hardships in this mountain? Isn’t this strange?” I refuted.
I criticized them incisively and brought the matter to a critical point. The Leftist elements on the East Manchuria Special District Committee said that I lacked knowledge of the “Minsaengdan”.
“Well, if you say so, I myself will see the people you’ve defined as ‘Minsaengdan’ members”, I said. “If you want to hear what the prisoners say, you may be present at the hearing.”
A company commander nicknamed Hunter Jang (his real name was Jang Ryong San) was among the “Minsaengdan” prisoners kept in the gaol at Lishugou. His father was a renowned hunter in the Wangqing area.
Jang Ryong San had learned marksmanship by frequently accompanying his father when hunting. He was such a crack shot that once he had prepared dough and then hunted eight roe deers to cook dough-flake soup. During the battle to defend Xiaowangqing he had sniped at least 100 of the enemy. He was one of my dearest commanding officers.
This man had suddenly been labelled as a “Minsaengdan” member and was locked up in a gaol no better than an animal shed. What did I feel on seeing him there? “Hunter Jang, speak up clearly! Are you really a ‘Minsaengdan’ member?” I asked him point-blank.
“Yes, I am,” he admitted dully.
“If that is so, why did you shoot so many Japanese?”
The Leftists who had followed me to the gaol to listen were looking at me triumphantly.
I calmed down and reasoned with Jang Ryong San.
“Look here. Hunter Jang. The ‘Minsaengdan’ is a reactionary organization formed by the Japanese and serves them. And you’ve killed more than a hundred of them. Isn’t that strange? Speak the truth even though you’ re threatened with a sword at your neck. Speak frankly.”
Only then did he burst out sobbing, grasping my hand. He spoke appealingly, in a hoarse voice:
“Comrade Commander, why would I join the ‘Minsaengdan’? I’ve denied it, but they wouldn’t believe me, only flogged me. I had no alternative but to say I’m a ‘Minsaengdan’. I’m sorry to have thrown mud at you.”
“It isn’t important whether you throw mud or black ink at me. The point is that you’re a dishonest man—you say you’re a ‘Minsaengdan’ to the tyrants who torture you, and deny it in front of me. I don’t need a coward who says two things with one mouth.”
I was so infuriated when I left the gaol that the Leftists did not dare to speak to me.
That day I met Tong Chang-rong and lodged a strong protest against him.
“I see that your work is questionable. The ‘Minsaengdan’ must not be combatted in this way. How come you arrest and lock up innocent people on a charge of involvement in the ‘Minsaengdan’? The ‘Minsaengdan’ must be combatted in a democratic way, not by a few high-ranking authorities, but through mass discussion to identify friend from foe. A ‘Minsaengdan’ must not be produced through torture and intimidation. Nobody in Wangqing but you regards Hunter Jang a ‘Minsaengdan’ member. I stand surety for him on my life. You must release him at once.”
I told the Leftists that the so-called “Minsaengdan” suspects in the guerrilla army must not be touched without the political department’s permission. On my return to the unit, I punished the commanding officer who had turned over Jang Ryong San to the “purge” headquarters at his discretion.
That day the East Manchuria Special District Committee released Jang Ryong San as I had demanded.
Later Jang was sent to Zhoujiatun,
The Pak Chang Gil incident, widely known to the public, was also a sort of trial. It occurred while we were stationed at Gayahe.
One day we brought a cow of the “People’s Association” from a village near Tumen and had it slaughtered for the soldiers and the local people. Many of the people, who had eaten the beef, suffered a bowel complaint.
My comrades-in-arms crowded into my lodgings, saying that all the comrades were ailing after drinking the water from a well poisoned by the “Minsaengdan”, and that they were afraid many may die. If that had been true, the whole company would have perished.
I ordered the company to climb the hill at the back of the village and alerted them against a possible enemy attack.
Strange as it may be, I myself did not feel any stomach-ache until a long time had passed, nor was there any sign of the enemy attack I had anticipated.
I summoned the company commander, the political instructor, the Young Communist League secretary, the youth worker and other officers of the company and asked them if they, too, believed that the well had really been poisoned.
“Yes, probably,” the officers answered unanimously, without considering the matter.
“But I have no stomach-ache although I ate the beef late in the evening and early this morning,” I said. “If other people suffer from stomach-ache, the company commander and I should also suffer, but we don’t. How can this be explained?”
“The commanders may not suffer probably because they were served with clean soup,” the company commander hazarded.
“That’s not true. The commanders and the men ate the soup from the same pot, and there’s no law that the poison doesn’t foul up the portion for the officers.”
Meanwhile, a platoon leader who was patrolling the village brought a boy as tall as a rifle to me, saying that the boy was a “Minsaengdan” member and that he had poisoned the well. The boy was Pak Chang Gil now under suspicion. The platoon leader said that the boy had frankly admitted his crime before the villagers.
Hearing the news that the culprit had been arrested, the village was astir. Some people cursed him as a good-for-nothing, and some hurled abuse at his mother, that she deserved to be flogged to death.
Chang Gil had grown up in hardship, herding pigs for a Chinese landowner. One of his brothers was serving as a company supply officer of the guerrilla army, and another was working in a branch Party organization. I could hardly believe that the boy with such a family background could do such a harmful thing that might destroy a company of the guerrilla army.
I talked with the boy for hours. At first he admitted his “crime” to me. But in the end he denied it, crying. His admission of the “crime” in front of me villagers had been motivated by his repulsion towards the village women who had shifted the blame for the accident upon him even though he had denied it.
I immediately brought the company down from the hill and declared the boy innocent at a mass meeting:
“This boy did not poison the well. Then, who has poisoned it? None of you, villagers, has poisoned it. No one has been poisoned. There are, of course, the people who suffered from a stomach complaint for a day or two. But that was because they had eaten too much beef for the first time in many months. So there is no question of the ‘Minsaengdan’ here, and there cannot be such a question. I declare here and now that the boy, whom you accused of being a ‘Minsaengdan’ member, is enlisted in the guerrilla army.”
The village women listening to me began to sob, even those who had accused the boy.
The Leftists took issue with me about the Pak Chang Gil incident, saying that I had settled it from a Rightist point of view.
After his enlistment in the guerrilla army, Pak Chang Gil fought courageously in the battle to defend Xiaowangqing.
Thus, I ran a few big risks against the Leftists around me. The rescue of Hunter Jang and Ryang Song Ryong from the “Minsaengdan” gaol was one risk, and the declaration of Pak Chang Gil’s innocence and his enlistment in the guerrilla army was another.
To be candid, it was very dangerous to implement the politics of trust and benevolence, which means seeing people as they are, treating comrades as comrades, and serving the people as such, at a time when shallow-minded, bigoted people, mad for power, were judging everyone from their prejudiced opinion and behaving like prosecutors, judges or executioners. But it was imperative for me to combat them at the risk of my own life.
The best self-protection under the surveillance of distrust, which suspected everything as the work of the “Minsaengdan”, was to refrain from meddling and shutting one’s eyes to everything. But I raised the banner of revolt against everything that I considered unjust with courage and my belief that if a man lacked the resoluteness to condemn injustice as he saw it, he was as good as dead and had no need to live. If one cared for only one’s own comfort, how could one be a revolutionary? I was convinced that, no matter how violent the whirlwind of “purge” was, it was a passing phenomenon, that if we dedicated ourselves to the struggle against it we could ward it off.
The Left chauvinists and factionalist sycophants who had become addicted to an abuse of power through the purge of what they called the “Minsaengdan”, had even cooked up and published a “Minsaengdan” structure of the east Manchuria Party organization and a “Minsaengdan” structure of the people’s revolutionary army—exact copies of the organizational systems of the Party and the guerrilla army in the east Manchurian guerrilla zones.
The Leftists schemed to give us the impression that the “Minsaengdan” had sent many of its agents into the guerrilla army and to drive a wedge between my men and me to prevent me from stopping their campaign against the “Minsaengdan”.
One day a cadre came to my unit with a letter from the head of the organizational department of the east Manchuria Party committee. I was amazed after reading it. It did not mention the source of information, but it said that one of my men, named Han Pong Son, was plotting a “Minsaengdan” action in a big way and was going to kill me, and that in view of the seriousness of his crime he must be arrested without delay.
Han Pong Son’s “crime” was awful, but somehow it was difficult for me to believe the letter. In the first place, the attempt for a big “Minsaengdan” action seemed unfounded. Han Pong Son had been fighting courageously, at the risk of his life, and what devil could have caught him and made him a “Minsaengdan” member? Judging from his character, he was not violent or wicked, and was incapable of harming or killing his commander. He was so good-natured, handsome and well-mannered that he was jealously envied by others. He was very close to me in everyday life. It was hardly probable that such a man would harm his commander who heartily loved him.
But it was impossible to brush off the letter. Was the head of the organizational department able to tell such a lie? I was very displeased, I told the messenger to return without worry, saying that I myself would test the man and then deal with him.
“An undesirable situation may break out any minute... You’re really a strange man,” the messenger said and left reluctantly.
Thoughts crowded in on me: Has Han Pong Son really attempted to take my life? Why is he trying to kill me? I can’t see any reason for him to do so. It’s good that I haven’t turned him over to the special district committee. But what if he sows seeds of trouble? A few days after, I called Han Pong Son to headquarters.
Beaming, as usual, he asked me, “Comrade Commander, what do you want me for? Are you going to send me to the enemy area on a mission?”
“You’ve guessed it. Go to Sanchakou and capture a secret agent and bring him to me today. You have a good sense of smell.”
“Is that so? Last night in my dream I went sight-seeing to Tumen, and my comrades in the company read that as an omen of a mission to the enemy area. They interpreted the dream excellently.”
“I’ll give you a pistol to protect yourself. Take it with you.”
“No, I won’t; it’s cumbersome. I’ll lure him by words. Don’t worry, please.”
“All right, hide the pistol in the ground and retrieve it on your way back.”
Han Pong Son buried the Mauser on the way as he was told, and walked on to the town of Sanchakou. He found the named secret agent, and said, “Wouldn’t you like to go and see the communist zone? I’ll guarantee your safety.” That is how he coaxed the agent and brought him to the guerrilla zone.
I questioned the secret agent myself.
“I know that you’re a dog of the Japanese. But I won’t kill you. In return you must do something for us. Since you’ve taken an oath of allegiance at the gendarmerie, you may continue to do as you’re told by the Japanese. Only inform us in advance of coming ‘punitive’ attacks on us. I won’t give you any other mission. If you acquit yourself well, you’ll be recognized as a revolutionary. Can you do that?”
The spy said that he would do whatever I told him to, and begged for ensurance that the members of the revolutionary organizations would not kill him.
I saw to it that Han Pong Son escorted the spy back to Sanchakou. Needless to say, he performed the mission with credit.
After this assignment was fulfilled, I said to the cadres of the East Manchuria Special District Committee:
“I gave Han Pong Son a pistol to test him, but he didn’t run away. I told him to capture a dog of the Japanese and he did. As I gave him both a pistol and cartridges, he could have harmed me easily if he had wanted to. But he didn’t. Can such a man join the ‘Minsaengdan’?”
“A ‘Minsaengdan’ member can imitate this sort of an act. He didn’t run away or harm you to win the confidence of the cadres, to worm his way deeper into our ranks, and launch a big ‘Minsaengdan’ venture. So we cannot trust him.”
I gave Han Pong Son a second assignment. It was to bury an explosive in the Tumen-Jiamusi railway line.
He again smiled and left for his destination without delay. When I had mentioned that he was too adventurous and warned him to be careful lest he should be captured, he answered, “I’m not afraid of being captured. Trust me. I wouldn’t turn coat even if I were. The worst thing that might happen to me would be being shot.”
A third assignment I gave him was to lead a storm troop. A fierce battle was being fought during our raid on a concentration village near Wangqing. While leading the storm troop in the attack of a fort, he lost a hand unfortunately. But, in return for the sacrifice, this peerless courageous optimist was completely rid of any charge of involvement in the “Minsaengdan”.
I proved his innocence through these three test missions. If I had sent him to the head of the organizational department without testing him, he would no doubt have been executed as a reactionary. My suspension of the execution of the Leftists’ orders to save Han Pong Son through testing was, in effect, a hair-raising adventure on which I had to stake my own life. If he had killed a cadre with the pistol or had run away to the enemy area, there would have been no escape from my being held responsible for trusting him.
That was my third adventure, so to speak. This type of adventure was repeated in subsequent days.
In the whirlpool of a monstrous “class struggle” in which the fates of tens and hundreds of people were decided by the shout of an order or a single gesture of individuals, I had to meet the challenges of blockheads every minute who lacked every human feeling, and still less sober revolutionary reasoning and discretion. But I was able to fight openly and squarely with my conviction, without yielding to any pressure, on the strength of my unsullied reputation, my successes in battle as a man in command of the guerrilla army, and my theoretical support.
Besides, many of the Chinese cadres in the leadership of Jiandao had been greatly influenced by me during my days in Jilin, and they did not dare attempt to connect me with the “Minsaengdan” and dispose of me.
When the raging wind of the anti-“Minsaengdan” campaign was sweeping the guerrilla zones in east Manchuria, I rose from my sickbed and prepared for my trip to Dahuangwai.
I was not strong enough to attend the meeting after weeks of illness, but I had to participate in it in spite of everything as I had proposed holding it. Nevertheless, the 4th Company commander, its political instructor and many other comrades in the army objected to my departure for Dahuangwai.
“Comrade Commander, it’s said that representatives from both the Manchurian Provincial Party Committee and the Manchurian Provincial Committee of the Young Communist League have arrived. That isn’t a good sign. No matter how well justice is behind you. Comrade Commander, you’re alone and they have the majority,” the political instructor of the 4th Company tried to convince me.
Even my orderly O Tae Song was apprehensive about my trip to Dahuangwai. There was not a single optimist to encourage me with smiling prospects and blessings that one would like to expect from the meeting at Dahuangwai.
It was not without reason that they were worried about my trip.
It was February 1935. By that time the Party headquarters at all levels and Party members in east Manchuria had been secretly alerted by the Manchurian Provincial Party Committee to step up the purge operations and the campaign on two fronts against the Left and Right trends to remove all the counterrevolutionaries lurking in the Party and wipe out factional strife, nationalism and social reformism, in order to make the entire Party Bolshevik. After receipt of these instructions, all the Party organizations in east Manchuria were mercilessly conducting the anti-“Minsaengdan” campaign in a more ultra-Leftist manner.
Before that my arguments with the Leftists about the “Minsaengdan” had been. made spontaneously at informal places. By contrast, at Dahuangwai where all the important people from the Party, the army and the Young Communist League were to meet, a formal, heated polemic was expected. While I was alone in opposition to the Leftist tendency, ten or twenty or more people might rise against me, as it had become a practice for most people to keep as silent as dumb animals when it came to the issue of “Minsaengdan” although they had something to say about it. That meant I had to fight against heavy odds, surrounded by people of the Leftist trend. Their arguments might condemn me as a “criminal” or the meeting hall might become a tribunal that would ostracize me. If the worse came to the worst, they might attempt to label me a “Minsaengdan” and bury me politically and physically.
This was precisely the reason for the great apprehension of my comrades-in-arms. They were well aware how cold-hearted the manipulators of the “purge” were.
That was why they were worried, begging me not to go to Dahuangwai.
And yet, I did go, saying:
“Comrades, I must tread this path, whatever the future may hold for me, life or death. If I do not go to Dahuangwai, I shall only invite self-destruction. A critical moment has arrived for us to save the destiny of the Korean communists, and the Korean revolution from crisis. A confrontation cannot be avoided, and black and white has to be cleared.”
With the help of O Tae Song and another orderly, I walked to Dahuangwai and arrived there when the meeting was in its second day of session.
In the office of the peasant committee of district No. 8, which was guarded strictly by men of the people’s revolutionary army, I was received by Wei Zheng-min, the representative from the Manchurian Provincial Party Committee, Wang Run-cheng, Zhou Shu-dong, Cao Ya-fan, Wang De-tai, Wang Zhong-shan and other cadres of the East Manchuria Party and League Special District Committees. In this spacious office building the meeting, which the Chinese termed the joint meeting of the East Manchuria Party and League Special District Committees, was in session. In Korea the meeting is called the Dahuangwai meeting. At one time some historians called it the meeting of military and political cadres of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. This cannot be considered accurate.
The meeting went on for about ten days. Attendance was irregular as some people kept coming in and leaving. Most of those present were Chinese, and I remember, there were only several Korean cadres including Song Il, Rim Su San, Jo Tong Uk and me. Jo Tong Uk was a translator throughout the meeting for the Korean cadres who did not know Chinese well. I attended the meeting in the capacity of a member of the East Manchuria Special District Party Committee.
The Dahuangwai meeting was convened because Zhong Zi-yun (alias Little Zhong), in the capacity of an inspector from the Manchurian Provincial Committee of the Young Communist League, while visiting Jiandao to become acquainted with the work there, had made the absurd report to the provincial Party committee that 70 per cent of the Koreans in east Manchuria were “Minsaengdan” members. If his report had been true, what would have happened to the revolution in east Manchuria? It was natural that the Manchurian Provincial Party Committee dispatched its representative to east Manchuria to take measures in dealing with the situation. Arguments continued day and night.
The argument began to grow heated when Zhong Zi-yun repeated his view expressed in that report that 70 per cent of the Koreans in east Manchuria and 80 to 90 per cent of the Korean revolutionaries were “Minsaengdan” members or suspects, and that the guerrilla zones were “Minsaengdan” training centres.
The atmosphere of the meeting was swayed towards supporting his report. Some people said that the purge committee should be strengthened, others uttered high-sounding phrases, insisting that the purge of the “Minsaengdan” was a special revolutionary measure to surround and destroy the counterrevolutionaries lurking in the ranks, and still others clamoured for the seeds sown by the “Minsaengdan” to be rooted up mercilessly and more thoroughly.
I put a few questions to them:
“If most of the Korean revolutionaries active in east Manchuria are ‘Minsaengdan’ members, it means that I and other Korean comrades present here are members of it. If so, are you holding this meeting with the ‘Minsaengdan’? If we belong to the ‘Minsaengdan’, why have you called us here to discuss politics with us, instead of locking us up in a gaol or killing us? “Do the statistics you have compiled include the revolutionaries who laid down their lives on the battlefield? If the statistics include them, how can their death in the war against the Japanese be explained? It follows that the Japanese have killed a large number of their own people. Was it necessary for the Japanese to kill these ‘Minsaengdan’ members whom they had tried so hard to train? “Do you consider 80 to 90 per cent of the 1st Company, now guarding the conference hall, as ‘Minsaengdan’ members?”
As I posed these questions, an icy silence fell suddenly over the conference hall which had been in a state of excitement. The silence seemed strange even to me. The audience simply stared at Wei Zheng-min’s face on the platform who made no reply.
“As you know, if heterogeneous elements occupy 80 to 90 per cent of something, that thing changes into something else. That is science.
“The allegation that 70 per cent of the Koreans in east Manchuria belong to the ‘Minsaengdan’ implies that all the Koreans except aged people, children and women are ‘Minsaengdan’ members. If so, is the ‘Minsaengdan’ fighting for the revolution in east Manchuria, in a bloody war against their masters? “Some people openly say that most of the Korean communists active in east Manchuria are ‘Minsaengdan’ members. This is also illogical. If they were, what have they been fighting a hard battle for in the guerrilla zones which have been in a state of constant blockade over the past three years, without housing, clothing and being fed properly even in the severe winter cold? “If 8 to 9 per cent of the Korean revolutionaries, let alone 80 to 90 per cent, were ‘Minsaengdan’ members, it would be impossible for us to safely hold this meeting, because this conference hall is guarded by the 1st Company of fully armed Koreans. All the renowned revolutionaries and cadres from east Manchuria, whom the enemy has been trying to destroy for years, are present here. If your statements were true, most of the 1st Company must belong to the ‘Minsaengdan’. So, isn’t it strange that they don’t attack us with their efficient weapons and make a clean sweep of us?”
The people who had declared that we were all “Minsaengdan” members were likewise unable to answer this question.
“The 1st Company was miserable when you declared it to be a ‘Minsaengdan’ company. According to the investigation which I myself conducted in the company for about 20 days, there was no evidence that proved any of the company belonging to the ‘Minsaengdan’. On the contrary, it has become a model company during my guidance and inspection, and has given birth to another company, the 7th Company. The results of testing people in the practical struggle have also eloquently proved your statement to be unfounded, the statement that most of the Koreans and Korean revolutionaries in the guerrilla zones in east Manchuria were ‘Minsaengdan’ members.
“The report says that the guerrilla zone is a ‘Minsaengdan’ training centre, that the Party and the League are also ‘Minsaengdan’ organizations, and that Ri Yong Guk is the head of the Wangqing county Party ‘Minsaengdan’, that Kim Myong Gyun is in charge of organizational and military affairs of the ‘Minsaengdan’ in Wangqing County, that Ri Sang Muk is in charge of organizational affairs of the east Manchuria Party ‘Minsaengdan’, that Ju Jin is in charge of the ‘Minsaengdan’ in the 1st Division of the people’s revolutionary army, and that Pak Chun is the chief of staff of the ‘Minsaengdan’ in the people’s revolutionary army. If so, can the east Manchuria Party organization, the Wangqing county Party organization and the 1st Division of the people’s revolutionary army be considered to belong to the ‘Minsaengdan’? Am I to regard the cadres of the east Manchuria Party organization as me controllers and leaders of the ‘Minsaengdan’?”
The audience still kept silent.
Only Wei Zheng-min, the representative from the provincial Party committee, who was on a mission to analyze, sum up and evaluate the developments of the struggle correctly and objectively, eased the tension slightly by expressing his view that it was a mistake to identify the Party and League organizations themselves as the “Minsaengdan”, and that the whole and a part should be distinguished.
I emphatically declared that the labelling of most of the east Manchurian people as “Minsaengdan” members was an insult to the Korean people, and that such a view must be rectified immediately at this meeting.
My assertion met with an instant rebuff from Cao Ya-fan. He said:
“You’re flatly denying the existence of the ‘Minsaengdan’; however, that is your subjective view. There are now hundreds of ‘Minsaengdan’ suspects in gaols. They have confessed with their own mouths that they have joined the ‘Minsaengdan’ and have written confessions with their own hands. What do their oral and written confessions mean? Does it mean that you don’t recognize material proof?”
“I don’t recognize what you call oral and written confessions because most of your material evidence has been squeezed out through torture. I have been to your gaols and interviewed dozens of your suspects, and none of them admitted to his confession. I trust their loyalty more that has been displayed in their life and work than your material evidence. Tell me frankly, how did you wrest those confessions... Most of your ‘Minsaengdan’ suspects have made false confessions, unable to endure the painful tortures by the ‘purgers’.
“You are now manufacturing a ‘Minsaengdan’ which is not a ‘Minsaengdan’.”
At that moment, Cao Ya-fan shouted, “Budui!” (No!)
The word “budui” grated on me to the point of anger. Cao Ya-fan, of all people, dared to say “No!”?
My fist banged on the floor as I retorted, “What do you mean by ‘no’? The Koreans in Jiandao are now watching you, because you have hunted people at random by abusing your authority.
“Who killed Kim Jong Ryong, political commissar of the Antu guerrilla unit? Who killed Kim Il Hwan, secretary of the Helong County Party Committee? Answer me frankly here and now! Cao Ya-fan in the days of Jilin was neither brutal nor covetous of position. I cried in indignance at the news of Kim n Hwan’s death. He was your senior in the revolution. How could you murder him, you who should have saved him?”
As Kim Il Hwan’s comrade-in-arms, I had bitterly moaned over his death. I criticized them scathingly.
Kim Il Hwan was one of those whom we had won over to the revolution when we were initially raising the revolution in east Manchuria. He and O Jung Hwa were the two prominent figures of those days. I don’t remember clearly now whether it was at Cao Ya-fan’s or at Ri Chong San’s that I first met Kim Il Hwan. But I still have a vivid memory of the heart-to-heart talk I had with him through the night at the time of the Mingyuegou meeting. It was a very impressive talk. He was my senior by many years, but he treated me modestly, on an equal footing, without putting on airs or behaving haughtily. Kim Jun and Chae Su Hang, who moved about together like twins in the streets of Jilin and Longjing, introduced Kim Il Hwan to me just as they had O Jung Hwa.
“The man who has won an ox at a football game,” was always an introductory remark Chae Su Hang used to explain Kim Il Hwan to me. This epithet was also used when he introduced him to those attending the Mingyuegou meeting. Chae Su Hang, a noted sportsman, was in the habit of judging a man by his skill in a football game. In a way it was an interesting criterion.
Thanks to Chae Su Hang’s introductory epithet, Kim Il Hwan was widely known as an able sportsman to many of the revolutionaries in east Manchuria.
Kim Il Hwan was a seasoned, experienced political worker. Like O Jung Hwa, he was one of those who set the first example for the rest of the communists in the Jiandao area to follow in revolutionizing his family. His whole family were remarkable revolutionaries and ardent patriots, who laid down their lives for the revolution.
His mother, O Ok Kyong, was a veteran Communist, who dedicated her life to the care of revolutionaries. His wife, Ri Kye Sun, was a laudable daughter of the Korean nation who fought bravely and preserved her honour as a revolutionary until the last moment of her life. His younger brother, Kim Tong San, was an underground operative and was killed by the enemy in a “punitive” action. Kim Jong Sik, of the Helong guerrilla unit, was a cousin of Kim Il Hwan’s. His relations on his wife’s side, too, dedicated their lives to the revolution. His wife’s brother, Ri Ji Chun, was one of those who paid a visit to us in Jilin and received directions for struggle from us.
In short, Kim Il Hwan was a ripe seed. He was well-informed. Kim Il and Pak Yong Sun, who had done underground work with Kim Il Hwan in Helong for many years, often recollected that his method and style of work was seasoned and that he was popular among the masses. Kim Il and Pak Yong Sun developed as Party workers under his influence. I think it was because of these merits that Kim Il Hwan was sent now and then on missions to work among the men of the national salvation army. In those days, the soldiers of this army in Helong all respected him and treated him cordially.
Once Ri To Son’s unit from Antu suddenly crowded into Chechangzi in order to “mop up” the national salvation army. The soldiers of the Jingan army searched the village for the national salvation army. They thus discovered a bundle of leaflets at Kim Il Hwan’s house, a bundle of important leaflets which his mother was to deliver to another local organization.
Saying that he had discovered the Communist Party, Ri To Son began questioning the whole of Kim Il Hwan’s family. Kim’s mother said that a stranger had left the bundle, but the interrogator did not believe her. Ri To Son’s eyes glared maliciously. While Kim’s family was being threatened, their neighbour, a landowner, begged the interrogator to be merciful, saying that they were not Communist Party members, but innocent peasants, and that he was standing surety for them on his honour. Thus the crisis was warded off. This was because Kim Il Hwan had had such a good influence on the landowner in everyday life.
What was most characteristic of Kim Il Hwan was his uncompromising attitude towards injustice and unshakable revolutionary principle. Because of these qualities Kim Il Hwan was stigmatized as a “Minsaengdan” member later and persecuted and finally murdered by the Leftists. The Left chauvinists and factionalist sycophants hated those most who lived to their own convictions, guided by principles, without kowtowing to power or dancing to the tune of others, because injustice could not hold sway and there was no room for the devil to set foot or act freely where there were principles.
There was a man in Kim Il Hwan’s village named Ri Ok Man, who was in charge of the local Party organization. The man had accidentally found a place in the revolutionary ranks. He was an opium addict and was leading a dissipated life. He flirted with many women by abusing his official authority. Kim Il Hwan advised him comradely to refrain from such behaviour and to give up opium smoking. If Ri Ok Man had been a reasonable man, he would have accepted the criticism with thanks. But, by way of retaliation, he instigated his Leftist superiors to stigmatize Kim Il Hwan as a “Minsaengdan” member and to oust him from the office of county Party secretary.
Even after his dismissal, Kim Il Hwan worked loyally. In order to test him the Leftists sent him to a coal-mine owned by a capitalist with an assignment to work among the miners.
Kim Il Hwan and his family could have fled to the enemy area during his test period in order not to be persecuted by the Leftists. But he did not want to be disgraced as a defector from the revolutionary ranks, even if he were to be killed in the presence of the people in the guerrilla zone on the false charge of involvement in the “Minsaengdan”.
“I shall be arrested and killed.
“It cannot be that I am a member of the ‘Minsaengdan’, an organization of Japanese stooges, nor have I ever thought of being one. However, it would be appropriate for me to uphold the honour of a revolutionary even if it means being killed here on a false charge of involvement in the ‘Minsaengdan’, for if I surrendered to the enemy and turned coat to save my life, it would mean a greater loss to the revolution.
“Then the crime of betraying the revolution would not be atoned for ever.
“My last wish is that my whole family should fight staunchly until our country is liberated and becomes independent.”
That was what he had said to his mother and wife when he had had a premonition that his days were numbered.
One day in November 1934 the Leftists brought him to trial. Ri Ok Man’s malicious charge against him was absolutely false:
“This man is the worst of reactionaries. He has not confessed a single word in spite of long questionings. There is no knowing whether a serpent or a viper is coiling inside him. If this fellow were kept alive, our revolution could be shattered to shreds in less than ten years. Should he be allowed to live or should he be killed?”
None of the audience answered the question.
Some people whispered: how could a communist revolution be carried out if such people were all killed? But nobody spoke out openly against the charge.
The people of Chechangzi knew that the charge was unfounded, but could not speak against those in power, for if they had they, too, would have been accused of being “Minsaengdan” members.
The Leftists sentenced him, one of the founders of the Helong guerrilla unit, to death.
“Wait and see who is a real ‘Minsaengdan’ member and who is a true communist... History will make black and white clear,” Kim Il Hwan shouted, glaring at them, on his being sentenced to death.
Hearing this, the men of the national salvation army unit under me command of Sun Zhang-xiang shouted angrily, wielding their rifles:
“Why are you killing Kim Il Hwan? He is our teacher and benefactor. If such a revolutionary is a ‘Minsaengdan’ member, is there anyone who is not a ‘Minsaengdan’ member? We stand surety for him. If you do not repeal the death sentence, we’ll molest you,”
Under the pressure of the men of the national salvation army, the Leftists withdrew the sentence and released him; however, they murdered him that night.
“I ask you,” I shouted hoarsely, glaring at Cao Ya-fan, “did you really believe that Kim Il Hwan was a ‘Minsaengdan’ member? Didn’t you shoot him with an ulterior purpose because you knew that he was not a ‘Minsaengdan’ member? If he was a ‘Minsaengdan’ member, who on earth is not a ‘Minsaengdan’ member in this land of Jiandao?”
I continued in a calmer voice: “Comrades, stop gambling on people’s destinies. Treat human beings as humans, treat comrades as comrades, and treat the people as people. Aren’t we fighting to change and transform the world with the weapon of human love, love for our comrades, love for the people? If we lack this love, how do we differ from the bourgeoisie or the bandits? If we mock at people in the name of ‘purge9 any further, the people will turn against us for ever, and our posterity will not forgive us. The only way to redress me murder of thousands of martyrs on a false charge of involvement in the ‘Minsaengdan’ is to stop this pointless murder and concentrate all our efforts on the struggle against the Japanese on the strength of the politics of love and trust and unity. Spit out the bait of the ‘Minsaengdan’ thrown by the enemy and don’t yield to factionalism, chauvinism and adventurism having any room in our ranks. This alone will pave the way to healing the wounds caused by the ‘Minsaengdan’ for years, will save the people, save the revolution and strengthen the internationalist ties between the Korean and Chinese communists on a new higher level. The real harmony of the revolutionaries of our two countries must be based on mutual respect, mutual understanding, class confidence and fraternity. We must guard against the pursuit of hegemony more vigilantly than anything else in our joint struggle. If one side pursues a selfish purpose or sacrifices the other for this purpose, such cooperation will not be a durable one. In short, our harmony will last only if it is motivated by trust and love.”
At the Dahuangwai meeting, there was a heated argument on the matter of personnel. The argument started when some of those at the helm of the special district committee made the assertion that only the people of the majority nation, not the minority nation, could be cadres, that it was inappropriate and irrational that the minority nation should guide the majority nation. They pointed out that the Koreans of the minority nation were not in a position to lead the majority nation, and that, worse still, the Korean revolutionaries could not become cadres for they were given to factional strife, were vacillating and liable to turn reactionary.
It was a known fact that the Manchurian Provincial Party Committee had issued a secret directive that the policy of selecting and appointing mainly Koreans as cadres of the east Manchuria Party leadership should be switched over to the policy of centring on the Chinese. The import of this directive was that in the light of the Koreans’ failure in both the nationalist and communist movements in the past, their being liable to vacillate or to turn reactionary, the difference in language and customs, the “revolutionary basis of the minority nation” was not durable, “success in independence and the communist movements under the leadership of the minority nation was impossible” and that, therefore, the “Korean basis in east Manchuria should be replaced by the Chinese basis”.
The directive demanded that the secretary of the East Manchuria Special District Committee and other major cadres should be appointed by the Manchurian Provincial Party Committee, and that Koreans should not be promoted, except in special cases, to company commanders and higher ranks.
I did not believe at that time and still do not believe that the directive was motivated by the will of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. When the directive was issued, the leadership of the Chinese Party was on a long march of 25,000 li, breaking out of me Jiang Jie-shi’s army encirclement. In the vortex of civil war, the Central Committee of the Chinese Party, treading a thorny path and shouldering the heavy burdens of revolutionary war, was in no state to give attention to developments in the northeastern frontier of the country.
Many of the measures taken by the Manchurian Provincial Party Committee were copies of the directives issued by the Comintern’s oriental department which was under the direction of Wang Ming and Kang Sheng or were adopted in line with its directives. The distance from Harbin, where the Manchurian Provincial Party Committee was situated, to Irkutsk, Vladivostok or to Khabarovsk, where the offices of Comintern’s oriental department were, was much shorter than to Jinggang Mountains or Yanan.
The contention that a minority nation was not in a position to lead a majority nation seriously affected our dignity. It was a fallacy that contradicted the communist principle of selection and appointment of cadres and ignored the composition of the cadres in east Manchuria.
I again started on new arguments:
“The Korean and Chinese communists have the noble task of fighting the Japanese imperialists, their common enemy, until the day of victory. The matter of personnel must, therefore, be settled in a way to strengthen the militant solidarity of the Korean and Chinese peoples and their common struggle against the Japanese, and the principle of selecting and appointing cadres loyal to the revolution and competent from the point of view of Marxism-Leninism must be maintained.
“As you know the Koreans pioneered the communist movement in east Manchuria. The Korean people make up the overwhelming majority of the cadres and Party members in east Manchuria. Why do you shut your eyes to this fact and claim the guidance of the minority nation by the majority nation or the replacement of cadres from the minority nation by those from the majority nation now after several years of joint struggle? “We’re not advocating the theory of the Korean nation’s superiority or of the inferiority of any other nation from a nationalist point of view. But the tendency must be rectified of promoting incompetent and unqualified people indiscriminately simply because they come from the majority nation.
“The nationality or political affiliation or the magnitude of the population should not be the criterion for a selection of cadres. Whether a person belongs to a minority or to a majority nation, he can be a cadre if he is qualified, and cannot be one if he is not.”
Then somebody spoke up, saying that most of the Korean revolutionaries had been involved in the nationalist movement or in factions and, therefore, they were not qualified to be cadres.
I refuted him then and there:
“The overwhelming majority of the Korean revolutionaries working in east Manchuria are from the unsullied new generation who have never been involved in any factions. You well know that the young communists from the main class, whom we have trained stinting no efforts, make up the main force of the people’s revolutionary army. These young people are also working as cadres of the Party, government and mass organizations. There are also people who had participated in the nationalist movement or who were involved in factions in the past, but they have all been transformed on revolutionary lines.”
Scarcely had I finished when another man counterattacked me on another subject. He said that the “Minsaengdan” was the son of factionalism, that factionalism was the son of nationalism and that nationalism was the son of Japanese imperialism. This absurd allegation stunned everyone. To put it in a reverse order, he meant that Japanese imperialism had supported the people who participated in the nationalist movement and those who were involved in factions in the past. It was an absurd allegation which had no theoretical justification; it was a display of distrust in the ranks of the Korean communist movement which embraced the former nationalists and factionalists who had been re-educated.
I felt the need to attack the sophistry.
“People’s ideologies are not immutable. Those who had a nationalist ideology in the past can become communists through their firm efforts to make themselves over. It would be preposterous to regard people who participated in the nationalist movement in the past as the fathers of factionalism or as the sons of Japanese imperialism.
“Fundamentally speaking, nationalism has its ideological basis in the love for one’s country and nation. To regard it as reactionary, therefore, is tantamount to regarding patriotism as reactionary. Don’t indiscriminately consider nationalism to be heretical. So long as nationalism is not used as an ideological instrument of the bourgeoisie, there is no need to casually reject it. Nationalism can only be reactionary to history when it represents the interests of the bourgeoisie alone, and not the interests of the whole nation.
“If anybody said that Sun Yat-sen, who authored the Three Principles of the People, namely, nationalism, rights of the people, and people’s livelihood, was the son of imperialism, how would you accept such nonsense? Opposition to nationalism itself is an expression of extreme nationalist prejudice.
“Some of the Korean factionalists and nationalists did go over to the enemy camp, but you must remember that they were few in number.
“Some people believe that factional strife is an innate quality of the Korean nation, and perceive the Korean communists with prejudice as though they had connections with a faction. That is absolutely ridiculous.
“To be candid, factions existed not only in the ranks of the Korean communist movement, they also existed in Germany and in the Soviet Union, they also exist in China and Japan and were also in the International. Why, then, should the Korean people alone be considered to have an ingrained factional habit, and why should the name of a Korean communist be synonymous for factionalist? “Some people argue that Koreans are not entitled to be cadres, saying that they, as a minority nation who were unsuccessful in the past independence and communist movements, will not be successful in these movements, or that they are very unsteady in the revolutionary struggle and are liable to turn reactionary. All this is but an excuse aimed at ejecting the Korean cadres.
“You have disposed of dozens and even hundreds of Korean communists in east Manchuria by this chauvinistic point of view or murdered them on the false charge of involvement in the ‘Minsaengdan’, of military and political cadres who had loyally fought side by side with you in the same trench for several years.
“So many hard-core elements of the leadership have been removed from their office simply because they came from the minority nation. And are you still hankering for removing more Koreans? “If you persist in your chauvinistic attitude towards the Koreans further and maltreat them, we will not share the same room with you any longer.”
As I made this bombshell declaration, the entire audience raised their heads, staring at me.
The conference hall was tensed to such an extent that the gurgling of throats was audible, If somebody had refuted me or had uttered a single word to wound my dignity to the slightest degree, the argument would have leapt out of control. Fortunately, the discussion on the personnel stirred no further vehemence.
As the meeting proceeded, the battle of words between the Leftists and me grew fiercer. Several other Korean cadres were present, but they kept silent the whole time.
Nevertheless, I sensed their mental support. Even Song Il, who had been an agent of the Leftists and who had left many scars in my heart, came to see me and encouraged me, saying that I had single-handed done what nobody else could have done. Wei Zheng-min and Wang Run-cheng, too, showed understanding of my idea, although they did not express their opinions officially. Wei Zheng-min’s sober judgement and fair attitude in particular were of considerable help to me.
I continued the battle of words day and night, eating three meals of bean gruel a day. Only skin and bone remained of me. I had to argue against them all day until late at night, and was sick when I got into bed, and when morning came I had to go back again to the argument. As I had to fight alone against many of them, it was inconceivable for me to stay away from the meeting or to abstain from the exercise of my rights. I had to involve myself in the polemic, whether I liked it or not, for the destiny of the thousands and even tens of thousands of Korean communists and Korean people in Jiandao.
Another point of argument at the meeting was how to appreciate the slogan of national liberation which had been raised by the Korean communists. In other words, the argument was whether the struggle of the Korean communists in China under the slogan of national liberation agreed with the Comintern’s principle of one Party for one country or not, and whether the slogan was essentially identical with the reactionary slogan of “Koreans’ autonomy in Jiandao “ professed by the “Minsaengdan” or not.
Certain individuals said that the Korean communists’ slogan of national liberation was identical with the slogan of “Koreans’ autonomy in Jiandao” rigged up by the “Minsaengdan”, that it contradicted the Comintern’s principle of one Party for one country.
This view was shared by a considerable number of cadres. This was a dangerous point of view diametrically opposed to ours. According to their opinion, we would have to serve them for the revolution in a foreign country or play the role of a small unit of the international force, instead of fighting for the Korean revolution.
I could not agree with their opinion in considering the Korean revolution to be an appendage of the revolution in a large country.
“The Japanese imperialists have granted the slogan of ‘Koreans’ autonomy in Jiandao’ to the ‘Minsaengdan’ for driving a wedge between the Korean and Chinese peoples and for disrupting the communist ranks from within in order to create favourable conditions for their colonial rule. There’s no need for an argument to prove that it has nothing in common with the slogan of national liberation raised by the Korean communists in Jiandao.
“Our national liberation slogan is aimed at liberating our country by overthrowing Japanese imperialist rule and at providing our people with an opportunity to enjoy genuine freedom and to exercise their rights in an independent new society without any exploitation and oppression.
“Should the Korean communists relinquish their sacred right to liberate their country and to provide their people with freedom and happiness just because they are sharing the same room with you in a foreign country? If we were to carry out only the revolution of a foreign country, and not the Korean revolution, why have we organized and trained the Korean people, without feeding and clothing ourselves properly in this land of Manchuria for several years? Some people say that if the Chinese revolution emerges victorious, the Korean revolution will triumph automatically. That’s nonsense. A revolution in a country has its own path and its own timetable. If the forces of one’s own country are not prepared, one’s revolution will not win of its own accord, no matter how the revolution in a neighbouring country may triumph. The communists of all countries must, therefore, struggle to effect revolutions in their own countries through their own efforts, instead of waiting for somebody else to help them. This is precisely the attitude one should maintain towards revolution, an attitude worthy of masters.
“Certain persons allege that me Korean communists should not raise me national liberation slogan, using the Comintern’s principle of one Party for one country as an excuse. This is, in effect, an attempt to make the Korean communists take their hands off the revolution in their own country. I cannot say otherwise.
“If the French communists had asked the Chinese communists, who were working in France, not to raise the slogan for the Chinese revolution, would the Chinese communists have agreed to the demand? “No matter where they’re working, the communists must fight under the slogan for the revolution in their own country, and through the struggle, they must help the revolution in the country where they are working and also contribute to the world revolution. It is a right to independence as well as a sacred duty for Korean communists to fight for the liberation of their country, a right which nobody can ever prevent from being fulfilled or perform in place of the masters.”
The polemic that started at the Dahuangwai meeting was resumed at the Yaoyinggou meeting, held in March the same year. Many of those attending supported our contention and admitted their mistakes. But the difference was not resolved completely at that meeting, either.
We decided to present a number of key points of the argument to the Comintern. We sent Wei Zheng-min and Yun Pyong Do, a cadre of the East Manchuria Special District Committee of the Young Communist League, to Moscow to receive the Comintern’s answer to them.
The disorder in the Jiandao area was a nightmare, coming as a side effect of the “Minsaengdan” issue.
The Leftists’ blind “purge” campaign had demolished nearly all the foundations for the revolution which the Korean communists had built up through their arduous struggle. Were all those who had been “purged” “Minsaengdan” members? No. There is a record in an enemy document stating there were only seven or eight “Minsaengdan” members. In order to ferret out those seven or eight, the “purge” campaign had massacred more than two thousand friends on the false charge of involvement in the “Minsaengdan”. This was a tragedy unprecedented in the history of the world communist movement. It was an abyss of stupidity, ignorance and tomfoolery.
All the strong, solid people, who had come to Jiandao with a noble aim from Korea and from many other parts of the world, fell victim to the “purge” in two to three years. There were a variety of talents among the unfortunate victims, to whom nothing seemed impossible. The icy wind of “purge” swept away laudable sons and daughters of Korea, produced by our revolution against the Japanese.
If I say that the number of the people killed in the aftermath of the “Minsaengdan” hullabaloo exceeded the number of the people who fell on the battlefield, our posterity will not believe me. But it is the truth. The history of the war against the Japanese keeps records of innumerable battles, but it does not give data of 20 to 30 deaths in a single battle. By contrast, it was frequent in the guerrilla zones of east Manchuria that 20 to 30 revolutionaries were massacred in a single day on a false charge of involvement in the “Minsaengdan”. We could not even erect tombstones at their graves. What would be the use of moaning over and praying for the souls of the departed? They will curse the murderers even in their graves.
Was the “Minsaengdan” really in Jiandao where it had been dissolved? I do not even feel the need to answer this question.
There were no “Minsaengdan” members even among the people who, afraid of the “purge”, had fled from the guerrilla zones.
Was Ju Jin a “Minsaengdan” member? No.
Was Pak Kil a “Minsaengdan” member? No. He had worked in the Independence Army movement and then plunged into the sacred anti-Japanese war of national salvation. He had been to the Maritime Province, where he had imbibed the communist ideology, and then arrived in Jiandao where the sacred war of national liberation was raging most fiercely, and engaged in underground political work and took part in the armed struggle. By the time we were organizing a small guerrilla unit, which went by the name of a secret guerrilla army, he had already won a high reputation as a political instructor; after the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army was formally founded, he worked as the political commissar of the Yanji Battalion.
Pak Kil had pioneered the revolution in the Yanji area. He was an able political worker and agitator, who knew how to move the hearts of the masses, as well as a prominent military commander.
His was a patriotic family that had produced five or six anti-Japanese revolutionary martyrs. His father, Pak Jung Won (alias Tiger), was a loyal peasant who set a remarkable example of support to the revolutionary army. Originally, as a sharecropper, he had dedicated himself to the independence movement. He had raised a calf received for his hired labour, and when the calf grew up into a cow, he contributed it to the guerrilla army. He was a very enthusiastic supporter of the revolutionary army.
It was literally unreasonable to charge him with involvement in the “Minsaengdan” with such a family background. Nevertheless, the Leftists took issue with him about his service in the Independence Army in former days and about his sister, who had been forced to become a policeman’s concubine and had run away from him. In the end, they murdered him.
Was Kim Myong Gyun a “Minsaengdan” member? No. He was one of the founders of the Wangqing guerrilla unit. He was the head of the military department of the county Party committee. Why would a man like him join the “Minsaengdan”? The Japanese record of his public trial stated that by the time he was imprisoned in the “Minsaengdan” gaol he had shot Japanese on more than 20 occasions, had raided Japanese and Manchurian authorities over 20 times, and had captured weapons from the enemy on eight occasions. If he were a “Minsaengdan” member, how could he have performed such exploits? How could he, after his escape from the guerrilla zone, teach children to inspire them with a national spirit? How could he have been shot to death by the enemy? What about Ri Ung Gol? He was not a “Minsaengdan” member, either. I knew him well. He was the head of the organizational department of the district No. 1 Party committee. He was the first to come to Xiaobeigou with two war-horses to meet me in October 1932 when we first marched into Wangqing. He narrowly escaped from being executed on a charge of involvement in the “Minsaengdan”. That day I gained an unforgettable impression from the hearty, courteous welcome accorded me, a young guerrilla commander, by this large man who had brought me two war-horses.
Ri Ung Gol was a revolutionary with an alert political responsiveness and a rich experience of struggle. He was the secretary of a Young Communist League organization in Helong County and served his terms of imprisonment at Longjing and Seoul; he also worked as political commissar of the special detachment under the command of Ri Kwang. I used to give guidance to district Party work through Ri Ung Gol, and by generalizing this example I delved deep into Party work in the Wangqing area.
In the summer of 1933 Ri Ung Gol was arrested by the Leftists on a charge of involvement in the “Minsaengdan”; then he fled from the guerrilla zone to the homeland, leaving a letter behind him which said, “The charge of my involvement in the ‘Minsaengdan’ is unfounded.” He established the base of his activity in the Puryong area, formed a communist union by rallying young and middle-aged patriots in North and South Hamgyong Provinces, and organized the struggle against the Japanese, against their construction of military roads, against forced rice delivery, and forced labour drafting. In the course of this struggle, he was arrested by the Japanese police and was imprisoned at Seoul. He was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment. The Japanese court knew who he was.
Should such a man have been executed as a “Minsaengdan” member? The polemic at the Dahuangwai meeting was significant in that it removed the stigma of the “Minsaengdan” from people like Ri Ung Gol. The polemic at the meeting and the subsequent conclusion given by the Comintern absolved the executed people from disgrace. Their physical lives could not be revived, but their political integrity was rehabilitated. Another significant point of the meeting was that it exposed the wicked and brutal Japanese imperialists’ scheme and the political absurdness of those who had been deceived by their scheme, and also that, by so doing, it arrested the political coup by the Leftists, binding them hand and foot. Indeed, the Leftist deviation of the “purge” was a political violence and a coup against the lower echelons, a coup that was staged overtly by those in power in order to physically destroy their subordinates.
Our activities were widely known to the Koreans living in east Manchuria after the Dahuangwai meeting. In this written effort, I have given a tedious account of the “Minsaengdan” incident as I recollect it. However, this is not aimed at particularly accusing the authors of the tragic event to the whole world or at settling my account with the criminals. These reminiscences are intended to give the younger generation a clear picture of the enemy’s scheme and stratagem to divide and disrupt the revolutionary ranks from within, to show that they were made not only yesterday, but are still being made today, and will continue tomorrow, and that chauvinism and the political clumsiness of Leftist elements is still hovering like a spectre around us, and to give the younger generation a lesson about the establishment of Juche of the Korean revolution and about the national spirit of independence.
I keenly sensed in my heart, through the anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle and the Dahuangwai meeting, the summary of the-struggle, that independence is the lifeblood of the nation, and that in order to uphold and maintain this independence every member of the nation, pioneer elements in particular, must fight with self-sacrifice.
Just as independence is the primary quality of the man, so it is the primary source of vitality that guarantees the nation’s survival. It can be said that independence is the basic factor that affects the lives of individuals as well as a nation, a large community. We describe the anti-Japanese revolution as a sacred war for winning back national sovereignty, because the first and foremost desire of the Korean people for decades had been to win back their sovereignty, which had held the highest place in the programme of the Korean communists. In short, it was the final aim of the national liberation struggle.
All the activities of the Korean communists, therefore, had to be subordinated to this goal. We had to regard the defence of independence as vital in our way of thinking and in practice. We became ferocious tigers and thunderbolts in all battles for independence.
No one will present us with independence, nor will it come about of its own accord with the lapse of time. We must win it by our own struggle. Only those who fight in an indefatigable, self-sacrificing spirit can win independence and maintain it for ever, because there are too many thieves on this earth who trample upon the sovereignty of other nations. There are also many people who regard their independence to be natural for them, but other people’s efforts to live in independence get on their nerves, and they interfere with these efforts. Considering independence to be one’s own monopoly is an expression of anachronistic, imperialistic and dominationist arrogance.
The fact that in the ranks of the struggle for a common goal there was a force trampling on independence was a historical whim going beyond common sense. The Korean revolution suffered severe pain and frustration because of this whim. In order to assume the offensive from the setback, we fought self-sacrificingly like ferocious tigers against those who were trampling upon the Korean nation’s and communists’ right to independence. The Dahuangwai meeting was a great ideological battle which the Korean communists fought, under the banner of independence, in order to maintain the Juche line of the Korean revolution and to defend their right to independence.
If we had been frightened by the ruthless iron fists of the brutal Leftists or had even been slightly afraid of sacrifice, we would have been unable to save the revolution from being crushed under the caterpillars of the madly-rushing Leftist vehicle. It was the staunch, self-sacrificing spirit of the Korean communists who jump into fire and water in defence of justice, their communist principles and their immutable faith in the validity of their cause that saved the revolution from crisis.
Today when the imperialists are clamouring about the collapse of socialism and are enhancing the political war of nerves in an attempt to sidetrack our Republic from the Juche orbit, it is vital to our nation and our Republic that we continue to champion and uphold independence. The Korean communists will emerge victorious also in their confrontation with the imperialists, in defence of our own style of people-centred socialism and independence.
I felt to the marrow of my bones during the struggle against the “Minsaengdan” the destructive intrigues and underhand dealings both in everyday life and in the revolutionary struggle. I learned the serious lesson of how impossible it was to work together with factionalists for the revolution. Suffice it to say that one should read the 500-year history of the Ri dynasty to fully understand the harm and reactionary nature of intrigues, underhand dealings and factional strife. A rattling of sabres between parents and children, between brothers to satisfy their greed for power, is the nature of reactionary people, and the bad habit of factionalists.
After liberation, our enemy used the Japanese imperialists’ method of the “Minsaengdan” in an attempt to disrupt our ranks. They once sent forged letters to Paek Nam Un2, Kang Yong Chang3 and Choe Ung Sok, cadres from south Korea who were loyal to the Party, to harm them surreptitiously. We were not fooled by the enemy because we had had the experience of combatting the “Minsaengdan” in the guerrilla zones. Had it not been for this experience, we might have committed a Leftist error in dealing with the people who were involved in the “peace maintenance corps”4 and their associates. We dealt with their political destiny leniently in a way to promote the interests of the revolution.
Whenever I appoint a new Minister of Public Security, I warn him not to commit a Leftist error, to say nothing of a Rightist mistake, and not to forget the lesson of the “Minsaengdan” incident.
The Leftist tendency is a hotbed where political impostors and schemers can brew a new type of “Minsaengdan” hullabaloo. The owners of this hotbed talk about the Party, the revolution and loyalty in a voice that is ten times and even twenty times louder than that of other people. What difference is there between such ultra-revolutionary utterances and the behaviour of the Leftists who played with the people’s political integrity with such impunity in the guerrilla zones?
The Leftist deviation is a covert counterrevolution, whereas the Rightist deviation is an overt counterrevolution; the Leftist deviation is a poisonous mushroom as harmful as the Rightist deviation which is a malignant tumour. The Rightists and Leftists seem to be dreaming different dreams while living on the same giant tree of revolution, but, in effect, they are linked with the same vein. Bear in mind that an individual’s Leftist mistake would harm a collective, but a government party’s Leftist error would lose the people and bring the revolution to ruin. If we forget that, we shall be unable to preserve socialism. This is the lesson we learned from the history of the anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle; it is an appeal to the communists of the whole world from the countries which have gone through the painful experience of enormous bloodshed caused by a Leftist error.
To oppose and guard against me Leftist tendency, which poses under the mask of super-party words and acts, and to protect the people’s political destiny from Leftist encroachment—this is the eternal principle which the communists of government parties must adhere to, without neglecting it even for a moment.
Youth work is an important activity to which I have been devoting painstaking efforts throughout my life. My days in Jilin are an illustration of the fact that my revolutionary activities began with the youth and student movement. Before my imprisonment in the Jilin prison I worked among young people and students, and after my release, too, I continued to do so, but now in the form of underground work. In the summer of 1930 when I contacted workers of the Comintern liaison office for the first time, I was appointed chief secretary of the Young Communist League in the eastern region of Jilin Province and from then on I worked in the YCL.
Needless to say, youth work was part and parcel of my military and political activities while in Wangqing. To direct the work of the YCL in the guerrilla army was a natural part of my duty as the commander responsible for political affairs in the army. In addition, at the request of the leadership of the east Manchuria Party organization and the workers of the Wangqing County Party Committee, I devoted much time to YCL work outside the army.
In those days the Party, the Young Communist League and the Children’s Corps were called the Alliance of Three Generations. In this alliance the YCL occupied an important place next to the Party. People called the YCL the relief of the Party, the reserve of the Party or the reservoir of the Party; and in order to emphasize the importance of its mission and role, they named it the second Party.
The Party meetings discussing strategic and tactical questions that were important in the development of the revolution and the measures to implement them were always attended by the YCL secretaries together with the Party members. The east Manchuria Party organization called a meeting like this a joint Party-League meeting. At the joint meetings the YCL secretaries and the Party members had equal rights to speak and to vote. In places where there were no Party members or the Party was weak, the YCL activists had the major role of guiding the mass movement.
On my arrival in Jiandao from my expeditions in north and south Manchuria, I became fully acquainted with the real state of YCL work in east Manchuria through Jo Tong Uk, YCL secretary of the special detachment under the command of Ri Kwang, Han Jae Chun, Wangqing county YCL secretary, Kim Jung Gwon, head of the organizational department of the YCL in Wangqing County, and others.
In those days serious Leftist and Rightist deviations were being exposed in YCL work in east Manchuria, deviations which hindered the building of the YCL organizations and the revolutionary development.
The greatest difficulty in YCL work in the Wangqing area was the shortage of capable leaders. YCL cadres were badly needed for skilfully organizing and dealing with work to meet the requirements of the situation in those days when the Korean revolution as a whole was rapidly advancing in an upward spiral, centring on the armed struggle. Most of the Young Communist Leaguers were illiterate or could scarcely read and write the Korean alphabet, and only a few attained the intellectual level of middle-school leavers.
The factionalists confined the youth movement to the narrow guerrilla zones and conducted youth work mostly among me young workers and peasants, claiming that only a few special well-informed people of good family background could do the YCL work. This tendency resulted in neglecting to recruit new members for the YCL. Under the pretext of ensuring the purity of the composition and secret of the YCL organizations, the factionalists closed the doors of these organizations and indiscriminately rejected the applicants for various reasons. They refused to admit students on the pretext that they were too young and that their family backgrounds were undesirable; they also rejected simple young workers and peasants on the grounds that they were ignorant.
The applicants were required to master at least The Fundamentals of Socialism and read and interpret The Communist Manifesto, Wage Labour and Capital and some other classics. If some applicants were found not to have read The Communist Manifesto during the deliberation of their admission, the examiners used to find fault with them saying, “How could you lead YCL life without a knowledge of The Communist Manifesto ?”
A young applicant in Dawangqing was rejected because his cow had been confiscated by the Soviet government. He was told that if his draught animal was confiscated, then his family must belong to the propertied class, and therefore, he, whose property had been confiscated by the Soviets, was not qualified for YCL membership.
The Leftists who shut the YCL’s door to applicants were reluctant to admit even the young people who had loyally worked in the Peasants’ Association, the Anti-Imperialist Union, the Revolutionary Mutual Aid Society and the Children’s Vanguard. In the district where the Leftists barred the way for recruiting new members, a mass organization with a hundred members contained only three to four YCL members. There were many similar instances. The recruiting of new YCL members in the Wangqing area was strictly restricted, probably because the headquarters of the east Manchuria Party organization was located in that area. No matter how loyal they had been in the organizational life in other counties, the young people who came to Wangqing from other areas were not permitted to join the YCL unless they had certificates of transfer or references from the organizations they had belonged to.
Jon Mun Jin was engaged in underground revolutionary activities in the Dongning county town and arrived in Wangqing, having escaped from wholesale arrest by the warlord authorities. However, she was not registered as a YCL member because she did not have a certificate of transfer, although she was a loyal worker in the sewing unit of the guerrilla army.
One day I went to the sewing unit to express my thanks to them for my uniform, and found her despondent for some reason. I went there on several occasions in subsequent months, but she was just as depressed as before. I talked to her. She was a timid woman, but she spoke frankly about her troubles. Although she had joined the guerrilla army as she had wished to do in the new place, she had not been admitted to the Young Communist League. That was why she was in as low spirits as a solitary wild goose. Having learned why she was troubled, I discussed it with the workers concerned and saw to it that she resumed her life in the YCL.
Some YCL organizations allowed heterogeneous, faithless, chance and unsteady elements to find their way into their ranks with the help of their fellow townsmen, schoolmates, relations, friends, acquaintances and through other unprincipled channels. Other YCL workers, who regarded family backgrounds as absolute, accepted even spies, who had wormed their way into the guerrilla zone, fooled by their statements of having been servants for landowners. Some YCL members, who lacked revolutionary training, defected to the enemy area in these circumstances, unable to endure the hardships.
The deviations disclosed in the work of the Young Communist League gave rise to distrust in communism among a considerable number of young people and resulted in their not taking any part in the revolutionary movement led by the communists. As a consequence, these deviations badly affected the work of the YCL in the guerrilla army and the united front movement that rallied young people, students and patriotic people from all walks of life under the banner of the anti-Japanese struggle.
These Leftist and Rightist deviations in YCL work in the guerrilla zones were due to the fact that the leaders of the YCL did not have a proper organizational line suited to the real state and interests of the Korean revolution, and either dogmatically applied the propositions of the classics or copied foreign experience.
In March 1933 when the leaders of the guerrilla zones were intent on finding ways and means to correct the mistakes in YCL work and to renovate youth work, a meeting of YCL workers was held at Macun, Xiaowangqing. The meeting was attended by approximately 30 people involved in youth work, including YCL committee members and heads of children’s departments in the Wangqing area, delegates of young people from Yanji, and student delegates (underground workers) from Longjing. Comrades there whose names I still remember were Kim Jung Gwon, Pak Hyon Suk, Jo Tong Uk, Pak Kil Song, Ri Song Il, Kim Pom Su, and Choe Pong Song.
Whenever I look back on the meeting I, for some reason, vividly remember Pak Kil Song’s unusually sparkling eyes which were fixed on me all through the meeting. I probably recollect his eyes especially because he lost one eye later in an encounter with a Kwantung Army unit. He laid down his life as a remarkable guerrilla commander in north Manchuria at the young age of 26. But in 1933 he attended the meeting merely as an exemplary YCL member, with no special office in the YCL.
On the closing day of the meeting, the county YCL workers and the delegates requested me to speak. They seemed to have discussed the fact that Kim Il Sung had done a great deal of YCL work in Jilin, and in the capacity of chief secretary of the Young Communist League in the eastern region of Jilin Province had worked among many young people in Jian-dao, he, therefore, must have valuable experience to offer, so that they wanted to hear my opinion. In compliance with their request I made a long speech about the tasks facing the YCL organizations. The major part of my speech was recollected in detail by Jo Tong Uk a few decades ago.
Historically, philosophers, statesmen, and educationists in the East and the West had expressed valuable opinions about the place and mission of the younger generation in the struggle for social changes and transformation. Classic Marxists unanimously regarded young people as a bridgeway to the revolution or as the reserve force of the revolution. Even Aristotle, that ancient philosopher, said that the future of a country depended on how its younger generation was brought up and educated. Both materialist and idealist philosophers and both Eastern and Western scholars had expressed much the same views about the importance of the younger generation, who would shoulder the destiny of the future.
My opinion did not differ from theirs in appreciating the younger generation as the pillar of the future. But I did not rest content with limiting the young people’s position to a bridgeway to the revolution or to a reserve force of the revolution, I did not agree with the authors of the classics and theoreticians in the previous age defining the younger generation as an auxiliary stratum in the revolution, relying upon the older generation and receiving the latter’s guidance and education. Considering the process and events of the Korean revolution, I did not think the view of the young people being no more than an auxiliary force a correct one.
I have always regarded the young people as the vanguard of the revolution. They were the vanguard, the main force, the backbone force which took the brunt of the revolutionary struggle and the social movement and shouldered the destiny of the future. This was fully verified in reality. Even today, in my eighties, I do not change this view about the position and role of young people as the vanguard of the revolution. Had we not pioneered the revolutionary movement independently, relying on the older generation and spending time doing just what they told us to do and following them passively, it would have been impossible for us to break with the trend of outmoded way of thinking in the darkest period of Japanese imperialist colonial rule, to blaze the trail for the Korean revolution, in the van of the nation united under the banner of the Juche idea, to found the anti-Japanese guerrilla army, and develop the anti-Japanese revolution on all fronts, centring on the armed struggle, in order to meet the requirements of the new age.
The history of the national liberation struggle in our country clearly shows that young people were always in the forefront of the struggle. They fought courageously, fearing neither prisons, death nor the gallows. The young people of Korea were in the van of the March First Popular Uprising (1919—Tr.) risking their lives, and shouted patriotic slogans as the main force of the June Tenth Independence Movement (1926—Tr.) that swept the streets of Seoul. The young people and students were also the motive force of the student incident in Kwangju in November 1929:
though not directed by anybody, they rose in revolt, closed ranks and swept through the streets to the open square of struggle like angry waves at the point of a bayonet. The young communists of the new generation had emerged as the motive force of the national liberation struggle from the middle of the 1920s and marked a new chapter in the history of the anti-Japanese revolution.
The fact that my youth had begun with Young Communist League activities was written in detail in the previous volumes. The whole period of the revolutionary struggle against the Japanese coincided with my youth. At that age I commanded regiments, divisions and corps. At one time some of our people had imagined me to be a grey-haired general. But I was scarcely 34 years of age when I made a speech at the Pyongyang Public Stadium on my triumphal return home.
Guerrilla warfare was not like wars of old where generals of the opposing forces had single combats on horseback, wielding spears, while their men beat drums in encampments fortified with palisades, or in which soldiers shot arrows from high walls, nor was it like a modern war in which sophisticated weapons are employed and commands are given by telephone or radio. Generals in their fifties and even in their seventies can give commands in such battles. In guerrilla war, by contrast, both men and their commanders must fight in the biting cold and icy snow.
Commanders, too, had to shoot machine-guns at times and charge into a bayonet attack when the situation demanded it. A man without the physical health and strength, possessing a sound mental power could not withstand a burden like that.
Most of the fighters were in their twenties who fought in the anti-Japanese revolution. Yang Jing-yu became the commander of the 1st Route Corps of the Northeast Anti-Japanese Allied Army at the age of 32, and Chen Han-zhang commanded the 3rd Directional Corps from the age of 27. O Jung Hup died at the flowery age of 29 while discharging his strenuous duty of a regimental commander.
Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the anti-Japanese armed struggle was conducted by the young people on their full responsibility. How can we regard the younger generation in this context as a mere bridgeway to the revolution or as a reserve force of the revolution? This standpoint of mine was reflected in my speech and talks that day:
“Young people are the backbone of the main force that propels our revolution. The history of any country in the world shows that young people were always in the forefront of the struggle for social transformation. They have the strength to level mountains and to wall off the sea. It is precisely work with the youth that will awaken them to political consciousness, organize and encourage them to stand in the front line of the revolution.
“How deplorable it is, however, that the Young Communist League is shutting out the masses of the young people! Some YCL organizations are not recruiting fine young people on the pretext that they are too young. That’s a typical example of closed-doorism, so to speak. Is Ryu Kwan Sun remembered as a heroine, a product of the March First Movement, in the history of our nation because she was old at the time? “General Nam I said, ‘Should a man at twenty fail to subdue the land, who will in later years call him a man of calibre?’ “If we reject or ignore young enthusiasts in their teens, on the excuse of their being too young, the Young Communist League will become a middle-aged people’s organization, not that of young people. If the YCL admits sages and wise men, who have had ten or twenty years of training, how can it then be an organization of young people?”
The next subject that interested the delegates was on the method and style of work.
I spoke lengthily on this subject, also:
“The YCL workers must acquire a proper method and style of work in order to organize broad sections of young people. Supposing a YCL member failed to kill an enemy soldier though shooting five rounds of ammunition. The guerrilla army has a motto that a single shot must kill an enemy. Therefore, if all five shots missed the target, something was obviously wrong.
“If the YCL member who made that mistake was criticized and disciplinary measures were taken against him by his organization, are such dealings to be considered appropriate? You, comrades, must not deal with such a matter in any old way. You must first study the nature of the mistake from various angles, from the sides and from behind, whether the weapon worked properly or not, whether the front and rear sights were at a good level, whether the rifleman had the butt against his shoulder securely and pulled the trigger softly, whether he breathed properly while pulling the trigger or not. You must closely examine everything. And you must also find out whether he has any physiological weakness or not, whether he is short-sighted or far-sighted, or astigmatic, and whether he is a coward or not.
“Such a case should be discussed after studying it from various angles, instead of being attributed to an unsound ideology and subjected to an ideological struggle without discrimination.
“Criticism must always be made to save comrades. Shortcomings must not be connived at, but be criticized in a scientific manner, so that the criticism would be acceptable to the man concerned. Criticism must not be made in a way to expose his mistakes, to abuse or insult him.”
I talked about all the aspects of YCL work at the meeting that day, ranging from the matter of strengthening the YCL’s organizational and ideological basis, improving propaganda, agitation, and education, about criticizing oneself and each other honestly, training the Children’s Corps into the reserve of the YCL, and up to the work of assimilating the good points of the young patriots’ struggle in the previous age.
In the subsequent days, too, I took every opportunity to emphasize that YCL workers must become the standard-bearers in work, mixing with the masses at all times, and that they must behave like their own mothers in dealing with them.
After the meeting, an innovation occurred in the work attitude of the YCL officials. The YCL organizations broke the outmoded pattern of bureaucracy, closed-doorism and formalism, became vivacious, living organizations mixing closely with the young masses.
One day I went to the county YCL committee to see Kim Jung Gwon. But the county committee was empty except for a messenger. I asked him where everyone else was, and he answered that they had all gone to visit district and branch organizations. I was unable to hide my satisfaction on learning this.
Previously, the officials of the county YCL committee had worked in a leisurely manner, cooped up in the office, summoning district and branch secretaries to them, giving assignments or receiving reports of the fulfilment of their assignments from them, instead of going to visit the YCL members. The county YCL committee had been so ignorant of situations at its subordinate organizations that it would have believed it if anybody had told them that a stallion had given birth to a foal. And yet, it had been in the habit of holding meetings for an ideological struggle and shouting hurrah as if everything had been settled. The YCL organizations had considered meetings and criticisms to be solutions to all problems.
But this conventional method of work began to disappear from the attitude of the YCL officials. YCL workers now started to visit branch organizations in the guerrilla army and local areas and to help them in their work in a responsible manner. The people who had been spending time on empty talk and paper work in the office of the county YCL committee were now going out to their subordinate organizations, were mixing in with YCL members, attending meetings of groups and branch organizations and helping their secretaries in drafting work plans. Cadres of the YCL gathered in the office of the county YCL committee only on the day designated for a meeting.
Many able workers emerged from the ranks of YCL activists capable of skilfully dealing with every situation and condition as well as many seasoned leaders who gained a good method and style of work.
Kim Pom Su, head of the YCL’s organizational department of district No. 8 of Yanji County, was a man who had participated in the meeting at Mingyuegou; his parents, however, did not even know that their son was an able YCL worker who was loved by the young people.
When Kim Pom Su was a primary schoolboy, his mother was so proud of her only son that she used to carry him to school on her back. He grew up, thus basking in his parents’ love, and when he reached adolescence he was already married, much earlier than usual.
Even after his marriage, his parents controlled his outings strictly in order to keep their son from participating in the social movement.
Nevertheless, Kim Pom Su made the back-room of his house a meeting hall and secretly made a doghole in his fence, a hole large enough for a man to pass through, and then would summon young people to the meeting hall. His parents were glad that their son, staying away from outings, was making a “good” husband of himself. Their son, however, was inviting young people to the back-room to do YCL work every night, with no time to even glance at his wife. He trained dozens of YCL activists in this back-room.
The secretary of the county YCL committee worked mainly with the young people of the YCL organizations in the guerrilla army, and the heads of organizational and propaganda departments directed the youth movement through contact with the YCL organizations in the guerrilla zones and in the enemy area, When necessary, the secretary of the county YCL committee joined the guerrillas in battle, guiding the masses.
One day during Operation Macun, a company branch of the YCL, which was manned on a hill in front of Macun, held an extraordinary meeting, attended by the secretary of the county YCL committee. Anticipating a decisive battle, each of the YCL members made an oath, speaking vehemently:
“Let the hearts of the Young Communist Leaguers defend me land which has been won at the cost of our blood!”
The YCL members opened a barrage of fire and destroyed the attacking enemy and revenged him. The enemy suffered hundreds of casualties in that battle alone.
When attacking the Dongning county town and Luozigou, in cooperation with the national salvation army, the secretary was in the forefront of the guerrilla formation.
In the months subsequent to the YCL workers’ meeting, I frequently met YCL officials, discussing matters relating to YCL activity. In connection with YCL work in those days I stressed above all the need to strengthen education in patriotism, revolutionary and class education, anti-imperialist and communist education and also education in optimism among the young men and women, to intensify military training, to establish a correct outlook on the masses among the YCL officials and members and for them to attain a communist method and style of work.
We directed the YCL organizations to pay preferential attention to political, military and economic questions on hand and to exert all their efforts to finding solutions to those problems. The Young Communist League was not an academic or enlightenment organization, nor was it a club. It was an organization to educate and to unite the masses of young people for the victory of the revolution. Therefore, all its activities were always subordinated to the political, military and economic practice at the time. That was the way to make each of the YCL organizations a living, working organization and a source of strong motive power.
In those days the people, including the youth, in the guerrilla zones were neglecting economic problems, namely, the problems of food, clothing and housing. The food needed by the people in the guerrilla zones was met mostly with provisions captured from the enemy. The arid land in the guerrilla zones could not yield enough food for the people for the year. Whenever they ran out of food, the people turned to the army. In this way the tendency to depend on the guerrilla army developed among many officials and inhabitants of the guerrilla zones. Some people even neglected preparations for farming in the hope that, when their food ran out, the army would naturally attack the enemy and capture provisions for them.
In the spring of 1934 I celebrated May Day with comrades of the 3rd Company at Dahuangwai. In addition to giving guidance to the company, I asked about the farming preparations and found them deplorable. Even though it was the ploughing season, the people in that place were idling the time away leisurely, without making any preparations for spring sowing. What were they going to do then? I was not alone in my surprise. The secretary of the county YCL committee, who was there, did not hide his dissatisfaction either, saying, “How is it these people are so lazy?”
A few days later, we held an enlarged meeting of the county YCL committee at a secret meeting place in Yaoyinggou and discussed the young people’s task in spring sowing. Just as harvesting teams were formed to ensure the reaping of crops in the no-man’s land in the autumn of 1932, young people’s production shock brigades were organized throughout Jiandao. They launched a campaign for spring sowing in the guerrilla zones. These shock brigades comprised YCL activists and all other hard-core young men and women in the guerrilla zones. They took upon themselves not only the ploughing, but also obtaining the seeds and putting the farm implements into order. Broken-down tools were repaired at smithies through the joint efforts of the young people. In places where there was a shortage of work cattle, the fields were ploughed with picks and shovels and sowing was done properly. In the spring of 1934 the sowing was finished successfully.
Thanks to the efforts of the shock brigades, the Young Communist League in the guerrilla zones was held in high prestige, and the social position of the young people rose immensely. The Party organizations supported whatever the YCL wanted to do and planned, and encouraged its officials to boldly push ahead with youth work. The people’s revolutionary government, the peasants’ association, the women’s association and other mass organizations also backed YCL work in every possible way.
The anniversary functions of the September Youth Day in 1934 could well illustrate the importance the people in the guerrilla zones attached to YCL work. The September Youth Day is the International Young Proletarians’ Day.
The world’s young proletarians had marked their day for the first time in 1915. Since then they have observed the day every year. The anniversary functions were held in China also and in our country.
The Wangqing people prepared for the celebration of the September Youth Day of 1934 on a large scale. Anticipating the function, we sent operatives to the enemy area and invited groups of visitors from different villages on the one hand, and, on the other, we obtained rice, flour, meat and other supplies needed to treat the visitors on the anniversary day, Some supply officers even brought tea with them. The guerrilla army attacked the enemy, capturing the essential products needed for the festival.
An arch decorated with pine needles was set up in the square of Yaoyinggou, and an array of pictures describing the battle results of the guerrilla army were on display around the square. Propaganda slogans were also put up in the spaces between the pictures. There was an excellent painter in the 5th Company in those days. He had come from the Soviet Union and was also surprisingly good at calligraphy. He even drew a sketch-map showing the achievements of the people’s revolutionary army and exhibited it on the outskirt of the square. The pictures he had drawn were so vivid that they seemed to be alive and moving, We emptied the government building to arrange lodgings for the guests and also set up posters to show to the visitors.
Prior to the September Youth Day, Jiguanlazi, Yingbilazi, Tianqiaoling, Zhuanjiaolou and other villages in the guerrilla zones and in their vicinities had selected delegates and sent them to Yaoyinggou. Because the enemy had set up concentration villages and strictly controlled people passing through the wall gates, the delegates from the enemy area were unable to arrive in groups; they came singly, in work clothes with sickles in their hands or baskets on top of their heads, as if they had been coming to do field work.
On the day of the function the young men and women and other people in the guerrilla zone, dressed up in new silk and serge suites made from trophies captured at Beisanchakou, gathered in the square. The county YCL officials, too, came to the square in new suits and supervised the start of the celebrations. The sturdy appearances of the guerrillas marching into the square in new uniforms won the admiration of the delegates from the enemy area.
The opening of the gathering was marked by the sound of a Yongil bomb. The visitors became wide-eyed at the sight of the fluttering of dozens of red flags in the square, shouting of slogans, hand clapping and beating of drums, sounds which reverberated up into the sky over the square.
A report was made about September Youth Day, which was followed by militant speeches by delegates of different sections praising the achievements of the Young Communist League and calling on the people to fight against the Japanese. In those days speeches of this type were termed expressions of feelings. At the end of the function, a grand welcoming party was given in honour of the visitors from the enemy area. At the request of the officials of the county Party committee and the county YCL committee, I made a speech during the welcoming gathering, appealing to them to give active support to political and military activities of the people’s revolutionary army. A delegate from the enemy area asked that he be allowed to speak in reply to my speech; however, his strong emotions prevented him from uttering a single word; he only bowed to all sides of the audience.
Hearing my speech, the delegates to the anniversary function from the enemy area volunteered to join the guerrilla army. We had to dissuade many as they all volunteered. Taking into consideration their family and work, we accepted only some to the revolutionary army.
The programme staged by the 5th Company was the most spectacular of the welcome performance of that day. A Russian dance, performed by a guerrilla who had been an underground worker in Laoheishan before joining the army and had learnt it when he had been in the Maritime Province, was really splendid.
When the visitors were leaving the guerrilla zone, we gave them the share of the trophies which we had kept for the people from the enemy area.
I have gone into great details here about the September Youth Day function of 1934 because it was the largest and most impressive of the young people’s festivals in the guerrilla zones.
In those days we considered international anniversaries very important and attached great significance to the Comintern, the Communist Youth International, the International Labour Union, the International Peasant Union and other international organizations. Just as the Comintern was the international centre of the Communist Parties throughout the world, the KIM was the international centre of the Young Communist Leagues of all countries. KIM is the Russian abbreviation of the Communist Youth International. The organization which we were in touch with while working in Harbin was an organization under the KIM, and the organization which recommended us to study in Moscow was a KIM organization which was functioning as the youth department of the Comintern.
The practical struggle to implement the programme of the Young Communist League produced a large number of excellent young revolutionaries who adorned a record of the history of the national liberation struggle. The young man nicknamed “13 bullets”5, “Steel Spade” (Kim Pong Uk), Pak Kil Song, Hwang Jong Hae, Kim Thaek Man, Kim Chung Jin, Ju Chun Il, Ri Sin Sun, Kim Pom Su,.Ri Tong Hwa, Ri Sun Hui, Pak Ho Jun and other innumerable anti-Japanese heroes and heroines were trained and educated through life in YCL organizations. Among these renowned heroes and heroines were guerrilla commanders, underground workers and educationists.
The meeting of the Young Communist League held in the secret hall at Yaoyinggou also discussed the matter of extending and intensifying activities in the enemy area, along with other items on the agenda.
There were few hard-core politically and practically qualified YCL leaders in the enemy area. Because of the erroneous policy of the Leftist elements, holding leading positions in Party and YCL organizations at different levels, the YCL’s activities in the enemy-ruled area were neglected. Taking the state of affairs into full consideration, the YCL meeting raised the militant slogan, “Let Us Build a Battery in the Enemy’s Heart!” This was similar to the slogan, “Let Us Build a Revolutionary Battery among the Enemy Soldiers!” The slogan, “Let Us Build a Battery in the Enemy’s Heart!” meant strengthening our organizations in the very heart of the enemy.
According to the decision of the meeting, a large number of YCL cadres undertook the difficult task of working in the enemy area and began to infiltrate into a vast area, including east Manchuria and Korea. Pak Kil Song, who was at the head of the children’s department of the East Manchuria Special District Committee, was sent to Luozigou. Along with competent YCL activists, he enlarged organizations and trained young people through practical struggle. The line of his operatives stretched deep into the Luozigou Distillery, one of the largest of its kind in Jiandao, employing a great number of seasonal child labourers.
Choe Kwang, the head of the Luozigou children’s department, also went to work in the distillery by instruction of the YCL organization.
The distillery owned by a Yu annually employed only child labour between February and May, and between September and October, because child labour was cheap and children worked longer hours. The owner paid a child 30 fen a day, less than half the pay for an adult labourer. Worse still, he paid them not in cash, but in liquor. Thirty fen could only buy a bottle of liquor. And to earn a bottle of this liquor the children had to toil from early morning till late at night. After work they had to peddle the streets all night to sell the liquor they had received as their wages.
Under the guidance of the YCL organization, Choe Kwang stirred up the child labourers to the struggle for higher wages. Mustering a dozen colleagues whom he had admitted into the Children’s Corps organization after being employed in the distillery, he agitated them to go on strike. Posting guards at each entrance of the barrack-type dining-hall, he himself made speeches. He found it hard to rouse the children, who were not accustomed to organized life, to strike. He patiently persuaded them, repeating, “A bottle of liquor isn’t adequate to provide you with enough to live. Let’s unite and get paid as much as we have worked. If we join our efforts we can bring the owner of the distillery to his knees!”
In response to his call, the children refused to go to work for three days. Even the children who were going to work, afraid of losing their jobs, were persuaded to resolutely join the ranks of the strikers. Through two strikes, they defeated their employer and raised their daily wages from 30 fen to 40 fen.
Pak Ho Jun, a member of the Luozigou YCL committee, was very successful in his work in the enemy area, thanks to his great organizational ability and skilful work among the masses. He was the man behind the scenes who guided the work of rallying the child labourers of the distillery behind the anti-Japanese organization and led the strike to victory. But he was arrested in the course of his work.
The enemy rejoiced immensely over his arrest, just as if they had found all the secret organizations in the Luozigou area. But they were mistaken. They did not succeed in bringing Pak Ho Jun to his knees.
In an attempt to placate him although half dead, the enemy said, “You’re still young and have the world before you. You’re too young to die. Have you no pity for your mother living alone with all her hopes pinned on you? If you tell us about the YCL organization and the names of its cadres, you’ll receive a big premium and live in luxury. How about abandoning your fantastic dream about an impossible revolution, and finding the way to survival?”
With a bitter grin, Pak Ho Jun replied:
“I’ll tell you about the YCL organization and the names of its cadres. Write them down. The name of the cadre who directs me is ‘Communist and his surname is ‘Party’.”
Seeing the surprise on the enemy’s face writing down the name “Communist Party”, Pak Ho Jun rose, leaning his hand against the wall, and mocked at the enemy, “What’s the use of jotting down the name of the great cadre who has trained me into your notebook? Now the Communist Party will take revenge on the enemy for me.”
That is how Pak Ho Jun chose death. Just imagine the indomitable image of this Young Communist Leaguer who was striding, with the skirts of his coat flying open, towards the execution site. He looked so imposing that even the enemy soldiers were struck with terror, whispering, “Communists are really great men.”
One man, a heavy smoker, slipped some cigarettes into his hand as he was striding to his execution. Girls threw bunches of flowers in his path.
Thus the first generation of the Young Communist League, who had been trained through the anti-Japanese revolution, fought loyally, and knew how to die honourably.
The YCL members who had been trained in its ranks subordinated all their interests to the interests of their organization and the revolution.
YCL member Rim Chun Ik was this type of fighter, too.
He was the secretary of the Nanxian special branch of the YCL, district No. 8, Yanji County. He was an able political worker who had already formed an underground YCL organization. While guiding the organization he was arrested.
He was also brutally tortured often, but he kept the secret of the organization intact to the end.
Rim Chun Ik stated that the secret operations conducted by other comrades were all his doing. Thanks to his statement, the other comrades who had been arrested were all released. He died heroically at the fine age of eighteen.
It is said that even the enemy bowed their heads before the noble character of the eighteen-year-old YCL member who stood alone on the execution site, after having saved his organization and his comrades by displaying such a beautiful, noble spirit of self-sacrifice.
YCL member Ri Sun Hui was also an indomitable fighter born of the anti-Japanese revolution. I think I met her for the first time in the winter of early 1934.1 met her while visiting the Children’s Corps school to see the children who had lost their parents in the enemy’s “punitive” atrocities. This was shortly after she had come to Wangqing County as the head of the county children’s department, having been transferred there from the office of the head of the Yanji county children’s department.
As I stood in the playground of the Children’s Corps school surrounded by the children, Ri Sun Hui hurried over to me, greeting me. Her large, bright eyes sparkled, she was full of youthful vigour and reminded you of a forget-me-not growing by a riverside.
A dreary, cold wind was blowing there. Among the children clinging joyfully to me were many who were dressed in thin unlined clothes or wearing short tattered skirts and straw sandals on their bare feet. Some had bums on their faces, they probably had escaped from the fire at the time of the enemy’s “punitive” action. Most of the Children’s Corps members, who had been orphaned in the enemy area before they came to the guerrilla zone, were in rags.
Caressing the hand of a child who had a bum on it, I scrutinized each of the Children’s Corps members.
The sparkling, dark eyes of the children seemed to eagerly expect something from me.
The feeling of pain I felt at that time shocked me. I vowed in my mind to destroy all the Japanese who had made them orphans.
I calmed down and, from the bottom of my heart, said, “You are the flower-buds of our country and the pillars of its future. When you’re cheerful, we’re also cheerful. When you grow up well, we feel strong... Grow up quickly and sturdily and become fine pillars of the country.”
“Yes, we will,” the children chorused vigorously and murmured something Joyfully. But tears were trickling down like raindrops from the eyes of the head of the children’s department. Sun Hui.
“Forgive me. General,” she said, “the YCL organization appointed me the head of the children’s department, but the children are in such rags...”
She was embarrassed to see me, just as if she herself were guilty of that. Her face, wet with tears, revealed the remorse she felt.
How could she be held responsible for the ragged children? She had had to work through nights, mending their worn-out clothes and shoes and making notebooks for them.
Her revolutionary, self-critical attitude towards all the shortcomings and mishaps that occurred in the range of her work made a strong impression on me from our first encounter.
A few days after, I attacked the enemy for the sake of the Children’s Corps members. All the goods we captured were sent to the Children’s Corps school to provide the children with cotton quilts, new clothes and shoes and notebooks.
I still remember Ri Sun Hui shedding grateful tears and burying her face in the children’s new clothes that had cost the blood of guerrillas.
Out of gratitude for the gifts, she arranged a performance of the children’s art group she had set up and came to see us.
“General, the children have brought an art group to express their humble thanks to you for the cotton quilts and the new clothes you’ve sent them.”
Her words touched me to the heart.
That day I assembled all the soldiers and me people of the guerrilla base to enjoy the children’s performance and had a very pleasant time with them.
A narrative was one of the numbers on the programme; it moved our hearts deeply.
A little girl in a new dress, with a red scarfaround her neck, appeared on the stage and began her narrative:
‘“My father and mother were killed by the Japanese, but I am growing up sturdily, wearing new clothes and a red scarf. The new clothes I am wearing have cost the blood of our sisters and brothers in the guerrilla army.” And then, she opened her little hand which had a bum on it.
She went on: “Caressing this hand wounded in the Japanese ‘punitive’ atrocities, the General said that when we were cheerful he was also cheerful, and that when we grew up well he, too, felt strong.
“Brothers and sisters of the guerrilla army, we are growing well cheerfully. Please be happy with us and be strong. True to the General’s words, I will grow up quickly and sturdily and take up arms to fight the Japanese just as you, brothers and sisters of the Young Communist League, do....”
The entire audience were in tears, listening to her.
We found implications of Ri Sun Hui’s unremitting efforts on the stage devoted to the children just as one could see large drops of a diligent farmer’s sweat in the well-ripe ears of his crops.
One day Ri Sun Hui came to see me and unexpectedly asked me to send her to work in the enemy area.
I was surprised at her request, for she had been working with such warmth for the Children’s Corps, sensing life’s greatest worth in this task.
Afterwards, she suggested it again to her YCL organization. Finally she was sent to Luozigou with Pak Kil Song.
The numerous ranges of blue mountains surrounding the Luozigou area on three sides and the fertile land were marked with traces of bloody battles against the Japanese invaders and with the revolutionary spirit of the courageous YCL members who had worked behind enemy lines.
I do not wish to go into details here about her work in the enemy-ruled area. The point of emphasis here is the source of the moral power that enabled her unhesitatingly to risk her life at such a young age.
At that time she was working from her base at a grass hut not far from Luozigou. She spent the spring, and then the summer and now greeted the autumn in that grass hut which could hardly keep off the cold wind and rain. In the meantime, the YCL organization was extended, and the Children’s Corps organization grew up in Luozigou. A strong revolutionary battery was built in the enemy’s citadel.
In order to build this battery she had walked day and night in disguise along dangerous lanes in the enemy-held area, braving the bayonets of the army and the police and the surveillance of the secret agents, who incessantly spied on her.
But she was finally arrested, tracked down by a wicked enemy agent named Ri Pong Mun.
In order to ferret out the underground organization in Luozigou, the enemy locked her up in a dismal gaol and tortured her brutally. The fate of the underground organization depended on her. If she had disclosed the secret, the organizational network in the Luozigou area would have been discovered and the revolutionary battery which had cost her so much effort would have crumbled overnight.
The enemy tried to coax Ri Sun Hui with false promises and sugary words. But they could not squeeze any secret out of her except the fact that she was a member of the Young Communist League. Probably she felt the meaning of belonging to the YCL more strongly while in prison.
The Luozigou provost-marshal directing her torture grew angry and ordered her to be shot.
But an incident occurred on the eve of her execution. After giving his order to shoot her, the provost-marshal went to see her in the company of his men in an attempt to coax her for the last time.
Sun Hui was mending her clothes just then. Although her clothes were stained with sweat and streaked with blood and torn to shreds, she probably wanted to appear neat at her execution.
Ri Pong Mun, the running dog of the provost-marshal, came close up to her and said that this was her last opportunity to save herself, that, out of pity for her flowery youth, he advised her to tell at least the name of one member of the underground organization in Luozigou in order to save herself. The girl remained silent. She simply combed her blood-clotted hair with her fingers, and then slipped her hand inside the breast of her torn jacket and produced a grey pouch.
Ri Pong Mun turned pale at this and leapt out of the gaol. The other butchers followed him, screaming. Ri Pong Mun took the pouch for some explosive, like a grenade. It was not an explosive, however. It was a pouch that contained some soil. The pretty pouch had been bequeathed to her by her father when he fell in battle in the guerrilla base.
“Don’t be frightened,” she told them. “This is a pouch that contains the soil of my country. Are your dirty lives so precious that you run away to save them?”
Some people compared the personalities of the YCL member Ri Sun Hui who, cherishing the soil of the country in her bosom, was picturing the day of national liberation, and the turncoat Ri Pong Mun to the Ponghwang (a beautiful legendary bird—Tr.) and to a crow. I think the comparison was not an unreasonable one. Could the traitor Ri Pong Mun ever appreciate the value of that pouch of soil? The next day when she was shot, Ri Sun Hui shouted, “Long live the revolution!” Here is the Song of the Young Communist League she sang during the last moments of her life:
March on towards dawn and morning,
We’ll use bayonets and bullets to clear the way!
Brace up and be courageous Under the banner of youth!
We are the young guards of workers and peasants.
Ri Sun Hui and I had once sung this song, playing the organ at the Children’s Corps school. The song was sung widely not only by Young Communist League members but also by members of the Communist Party, the Children’s Corps and Women’s Association, because it expressed the unanimous desire of the working masses for a new society, their ardent love for the future, and the young people’s unshakable will to hasten the advent of the new world. Many YCL members sang it on the gallows just as Ri Sun Hui had done.
That song did not originate with us. It had been sung by Russian young men and women. The thoughts and feelings that run through the words and melody gripped the hearts of the young people of the whole world who loved freedom and justice. Just as Eugene Pottier’s Internationale became the Party song in many countries, so the Song of the Young Communist League became the international song of young people.
The emergence of a loyal woman like Ri Sun Hui can no doubt be said to be attributable to the efforts of the YCL organization which lent her political integrity light and wings. But for the organization and the process of her development through organizational training, could it have been conceivable for such a young girl as Ri Sun Hui to be so courageous in the face of her executioners and to meet the last moment of her life with such staunch pride and honour? That is why I still say that the organization is a house and a university which gives birth to heroes and heroines. One member of the Young Communist League or of the League of Socialist Working Youth, who has been trained through organizational life, has the strength to defeat a hundred and even a thousand of the enemy. Each one of our people is a match for a hundred foes because every one of them has been hardened through organizational life; each soldier of our People’s Army is a match for a hundred and even a thousand foes because every one of the army has been fully tempered politically and ideologically, militarily and technically in the furnace that is called an organizational life.
Nowadays, young people grow up into fighters, heroes and heroines and revolutionaries through the organization of the League of Socialist Working Youth. It can be said that the Young Communist League in the years of the anti-Japanese war was a school that trained professional revolutionaries, whereas the League of Socialist Working Youth today is the base which trains the vanguard of socialist construction. The young people are still fighting in the main direction of attack on all the fronts of building socialism just as they did in the revolution against the Japanese. The LSWY is a reliable main force which our Party holds very dear and takes loving care of. Wherever this main force advances, great exploits are performed and miracles achieved. The West Sea Barrage, the northern railway, Kwangbok Street, the May Day Stadium, the Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace, the Taekwon-Do Palace and other monumental structures, the lasting wealth of our country, are full of the precious efforts and sweat of young men and women of the age of the Workers’ Party. That is why our people love the Young Speed Campaign Shock Brigades.
The members of the LSWY and other young people in our age display innumerable communist, commendable deeds winning everyone’s admiration. No man can be born twice, but young people in our country lay down their lives without hesitation to save their fellow countrymen. There are innumerable girls who have determined to become the hands and feet for the rest of their lives of honourably disabled soldiers by marrying them. A single woman member of the LSWY in our country has brought up orphans as their own mother would do. At a time when young people in some other countries are exerting themselves to obtain the citizenship of their capital cities, the young people in our country willingly leave their beloved capital and volunteer for work at farms, coal-mines, and reclaimed land. To be candid, I would like to seat these young people on cushions of gold.
Whenever I hear news of the communistic, laudable deeds of the young people of our age, I recollect the efforts of the Korean communists devoted to the youth movement, and think of the LSWY which is excellently continuing the traditions of that movement. The ceaseless, commendable deeds of these young people, which are winning world admiration, can be attributed to the work of the LSWY. A large army of young people trained through organizational life is, in effect, mightier than atomic bombs.
No work in the world is more worthwhile and honourable than work among young men and women. If I were fortunate enough to begin my life anew and if I were given the right to choose a job, I would devote myself to youth work as I readily did when in Jilin.
When the guerrilla zones were dissolved, we sent many political workers to the enemy-ruled area. At that time we decided to send people to Antu, Dunhua, Fusong, Changbai, Linjiang and other places to form a central county YCL committee around Liaoning, Jilin and Jiandao and step up underground youth work in the enemy area. We also made a far-reaching plan to form underground youth organizations in Musan, Kap-san, Phungsan, Hoeryong and other parts of the northern border area of Korea first, and then in Pyongyang, Seoul, Pusan and other parts of central and southern Korea.
In order to put this plan into practice, Jo Tong Uk, secretary of the Wangqing County YCL Committee, was reappointed secretary of the Central County YCL Committee and left for the enemy area.
Jo Tong Uk was an experienced YCL worker. Because of his participation in the May 30 Uprising (1930—Tr.), he had served more than a one-year term in the Harbin prison which was called the third prison in Jilin Province. While in prison, he had studied Chinese and joined the Young Communist League. He was well-informed for a middle-school leaver and was eager for knowledge. He had been sent to a unit of the national salvation army with an assignment from the Ningan County YCL Committee. In that unit he had done YCL work and came to Wangqing in September 1932, in command of more than 40 armed men.
I think I met him for the first time in the autumn of that year. We appointed him the secretary of the YCL committee in Ri Kwang’s special detachment and attached the armed men from Ningan to the special detachment. We sent some of our men to north Manchuria to bring over his family. His stepfather, Chang Ki Sop, was a loyal Party member who was nicknamed “Communist Uncle”.
Jo Tong Uk witnessed my negotiations with Wu Yi-cheng on the spot, and, along with Wang Run-cheng, assisted me in every way in the negotiations. After they had ended, I sent him and Wang Run-cheng to work in the Joint Anti-Japanese Army Coordination Commission in Luozigou.
They swore to be very close friends with the liaison officers who came from various anti-Japanese nationalist army units and formed Communist Party branches and Young Communist League branches among the field- and company-grade officers and men.
Through his work in the Joint Anti-Japanese Army Coordination Commission, Jo Tong Uk’s political activities became still further seasoned. The place in the enemy area he went to for the first time was Liangjiangkou, Antu County. He opened a small shop and, through his skilful dealings with soldiers of the puppet Manchukuo army, swore to be very close friends with 15 field- and company-grade officers and men and won over a company completely. According to Jo Tong Uk’s plan, the company rose in mutiny and then escaped into a mountain.
Jo Tong Uk went to Chechangzi to establish contact between the mutineers assembled in the mountain and the guerrilla army. But the Leftists suspected him as a “Minsaengdan” member and tried to arrest him.
Later he said, recalling the event; “At that time, the Leftists on the East Manchuria Special District Committee questioned me as follows: Song Il was a ‘Minsaengdan’ member and was executed. When he was the secretary of the Wangqing County Party Committee, you worked under him as the county YCL secretary. Since Song Il was a ‘Minsaengdan’ member, you, too, must be a ‘Minsaengdan’ member. You had better speak the truth before we produce evidence. That is how they tried to intimidate me.
“I made up my mind to run away. Comrade Kim Jong Suk, who was serving me meals, supported my decision. She even gave me my travelling expenses. With that money I returned to Liangjiangkou, and then crossed to Korea with my mother.”
He continued to do youth work in subsequent years in many parts of Korea.
Just as Kim Jin’s6 soul was inherited by Ri Su Bok7, Ri Su Bok’s soul by Kim Kwang Chol8 and Han Yong Chol9, the lifeblood of the Young Communist League was carried forward by the Democratic Youth League, and the latter’s lifeblood has been inherited by the League of Socialist Working Youth. At a time when young people and students in some countries have become the cause of social trouble and minions of counterrevolutionaries and are pulling down the towers which their grandfathers’ generation had built, our young men and women are reliably carrying on the revolutionary cause as a bulwark and shield pioneered by their revolutionary forerunners.
Millions of young men and women, who are unfailingly loyal to the leadership of Organizing Secretary Kim Jong Il, are now affiliated with the League of Socialist Working Youth. Our country in the twenty-first century will become a paradise through their efforts and a still better to live in.
While we spent busy days guiding the evacuation of the guerrilla zones, the underground organization in Luozigou had sent a messenger to me in Yaoyinggou with details of the atrocities at Sidaogou. He brought the shattering news that Wen’s battalion had incited a Jingan army unit in the Laoheishan area to bum down the village of Sidaogou and to kill all its people.
The news was authentic, but it mixed me up. I could hardly believe that battalion commander Wen had broken his promise to us, that he had incited the Jingan army unit to a massacre. An alliance, similar to the offensive and defensive alliance of today, had been formed between Wen’s battalion and my unit. It was immediately after the battle at Luozigou that we had joined up with Wen.
We had received a letter from an organization in the enemy-ruled area one day, saying that a cart convoy of the puppet Manchukuo army had left Baicaogou for Luozigou. We attacked the convoy from ambush near Jiguanlazi. The escorts did not offer any serious resistance and were captured. Among the prisoners was a man whose surname was Tie, a company commander of Wen’s battalion. He did not seem to feel uneasy on being taken prisoner by the revolutionary army; he was just as carefree and grinning as if this was nothing unusual.
“You’re an officer,” I said to that strange man, “but why did you surrender instead of resisting?”
“This is an area controlled by the ‘Koryo red army’. So what’s the use of resisting? The best thing to do is to surrender when there’s no chance of winning.” He called the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army the “Koryo red army”, just as the Ningan people had. He went on, “And then, the whole of Manchuria knows that the ‘Koryo red army’ does not kill prisoners.”
Company commander Tie, the son of a poor peasant, had joined the Manchukuo army in order to earn some money for his wedding; he had heard that the army paid considerable salaries. Some of our comrades remarked that “he was too ignorant for the world”, but I thought that, although he was an officer of the puppet Manchukuo army, he could live conscientiously if we taught him befittingly. When we were about to free the POWs after talking to them. Tie said:
“Please, sir, take anything you want from these carts, but be kind enough to return the money and rifles to us. If we go back empty-handed, the soldiers won’t get their salaries. And probably, the battalion commander Wen will shoot us.”
I permitted them to return to Luozigou with their full cart-loads. Our comrades saw them off, commenting jokingly, “Hey, we’ve only lost time for sleep and wasted ammunition.”
Tie asked, handing a whole cartridge box to our company commander, Ri Hyo Sok, “Friend, fire a few shots at the sacks of dried slices of radish, please.” He seemed to be moved by our generous treatment. But since Ri put the ammunition box back onto the cart, the escorts themselves fired a few shots at the sacks, unloaded their rifles, wrapping the cartridges up in a handkerchief and throwing it away into the grass, and only then they left, This event won Tie battalion commander Wen’s special confidence. Whenever he had a supply convoy to send, Wen ordered Tie’s company to escort it, for Tie would return safely each time without being waylaid, whereas the other companies would lose all their supplies.
We would attack other convoys, but no Tie’s. Whenever he was on a convoying mission, Tie would send his men to let us know the date, hour and route of his convoy as well as ways of identifying it. Thus, the battalion commander came to realize that Tie was under the protection and concern of the people’s revolutionary army.
One day Tie, on meeting the battalion commander, said casually, “My company in Luozigou is under the protection of the people’s revolutionary army. How about forming an offensive and defensive -alliance between our battalion and Commander Kim’s unit and living in safety?” Wen pretended to be startled at first as if something serious had taken place, but true to his original intention, he readily agreed, saying that it was a wonderful way of self-protection. Tie conveyed this message to us. Our answer to Wen was that we agreed to his idea of the alliance on the condition that the puppet Manchukuo army unit would not harm the people’s lives and property. It was an unusual “gentlemen’s agreement” reached without any negotiations or signatures.
The terms of our alliance implied maintaining friendly relations, each side refraining from attacking the other, rather than the original meaning of the offensive and defensive alliance—that the two sides cooperate in both offensive and defensive actions. This alliance had worked well in respecting each other’s interests and developing mutual cooperation. As we were faithful to the principle of nonaggression, Wen had sent large amounts of ammunition, food grains and clothing to the revolutionary army on several occasions. He had even delivered important military information to us on the movements of the Japanese army.
Considering the above-mentioned peaceful relations of the alliance, I could not believe that Wen had incited the Jingan army to a “punitive” action at Sidaogou. I sent a messenger to company commander Tie to find out. The messenger confirmed that the atrocities at Sidaogou and Wen’s betrayal were true. Tie sent me word that Wen, under pressure of his Japanese masters, was breaking the alliance.
We had to give an appropriate answer to Wen’s betrayal and the atrocities at Sidaogou in which he had played the role of guide. The headquarters daily resounded with my men’s demands for revenge. The commanders also stirred the men on to make the enemy pay for the blood shed by the people of Sidaogou. A mad dog should be controlled by the stick—this was a motto of the revolutionary army.
I considered their demands to be just. If we left the Jingan army unit in Laoheishan and the puppet Manchukuo army unit in Luozigou as they were, we would be unable to guarantee the safety of the people living in these areas or to support the work of the underground organizations in every village through military means, nor could we then ensure the smooth advance of the people’s revolutionary army to north Manchuria. Worse still, we could expect confusion in the work of dissolving the guerrilla zones. We had also planned to evacuate the inhabitants of Wangqing and Hunchun to Luozigou as the guerrilla zones were being dissolved.
We decided to attack the Jingan army unit and Wen’s battalion simultaneously. We summoned the Yanji 1st Regiment and the Independent Regiment in Chechangzi to Wangqing to reinforce our unit. After about five days of forced march, eating only one bun at every meal, the Independent Regiment reached the sprawling village of Tangshuihezi where we were billeted. Most of the regimental officers, including its commander Yun Chang Bom, had been executed on the false charge of being members of the “Minsaengdan”. Its chief of staff led the companies; the men who had lost their commanders were in the lowest of spirits.
That is when we organized a battle at Zhuanjiaolou, involving detachments from the Independent Regiment, Yanji 1st Regiment and Wangqing 3rd Regiment. It was necessary to clear our way to Luozigou by destroying the puppet Manchukuo army unit and self-defence corps entrenched behind the earthen walls, who were committing horrible atrocities.
After the battle at Zhuanjiaolou the revolutionary army forces drew up a plan of operation for attacking Luozigou and made a daylight march towards Sidaogou, Sandaogou and Taipinggou, intended as attacking positions. The soldiers marched 50 miles, eating only gruel, but their morale was very high.
Sidaogou had been originally developed as an “ideal village” by veterans of the Independence Army, including Ri Thae Gyong, and pioneers from the Righteous Volunteers’ Army. This village, which was also known as Sidaohezi or Shangfangzi, had been later transformed into a revolutionary village by Ri Kwang and myself. We had helped old man Ri Thae Gyong to organize the Anti-Japanese Association, the Peasants’ Association and the Revolutionary Mutual Aid Society in this village. In those days we frequented the village, and the people in Luozigou and its vicinity used to call it the “headquarters of the Communist Party”. The hospitality and affection the villagers had shown to the people’s revolutionary army were admirable. I was often moved by the enthusiasm of the village people who, on hearing of the arrival of the revolutionary army, would come running to greet us, without even stopping to put on their shoes.
Sandaohezi, situated near Sidaogou, was also a well-known revolutionary village under our influence. There was a distillery run by Chinese people at the foot of the hill in the west of the village. I, accompanied by Zhou Bao-zhong, used to meet cadres of the underground revolutionary organizations and others in this distillery.
Our old friendly feelings for the people of Sidaogou remained as unchanged as the River Suifen flowing along this village, but it had been burnt down and the people had been buried in the earth. The eight-kan house (a kan is equivalent to 36 square feet—Tr.) of Ri Thae Gyong beyond a hill had also been burnt and only the foundation stones were left standing. We had held a meeting with Zhou Bao-zhong and other commanders of the NSA units in that house the previous year to discuss operations for attacking Luozigou.
The old man built a school near the site of the house and became absorbed in educating children. He had initiated education with a stout heart even when the shootings and shrieks of the outrages were still ringing in his ears. He had hidden a son of his friend in his house in the days of the Independence Army. The young man fortunately survived the atrocities; he said that he had witnessed the Jingan army soldiers committing the atrocities that day from a hill where he had had a bird’s-eye view of Sidaogou on his way back from a visit.
The brutalities were the result of the unjust interrogation of a Young Communist League member, So Il Nam, who was working as an operative in the town of Luozigou. He had been suspected of being a member of the “Minsaengdan” on a charge of stealing some article in a shop, had been arrested and interrogated by the head of the revolutionary organization in Sidaogou. As no evidence of guilt was found in spite of continuous investigations, he had been released and put under strict surveillance.
On his return home, he had complained that they had arrested the wrong man and yet had tortured him on the false charge of being a member of the “Minsaengdan”, His superiors, on learning this, attempted to arrest him again and to execute him as a “Minsaengdan” member. So Il Nam, realizing this, ran away and surrendered to the enemy. Worse still, wanting to revenge those who had maltreated and tortured him, he exposed the secrets of the underground revolutionary organization in Sidaogou.
These secrets excited the bloodthirsty soldiers of the Jingan army unit who were preparing for the New Year celebrations in Luozigou at the moment. A “punitive” force of 100 stealthily encircled the village of Sidaogou at dawn of 15 January of the lunar calendar, 1935, and mowed down the villagers indiscriminately by a fusillade of heavy and light machine-guns. They went wild, setting fire to every house and bayoneting those running out of the flames, whether man or woman, young or old, and throwing them back into the flames. They reduced the village to ashes in less than an hour.
When the head of the one hundred households of Sandaohezi arrived at the scene of the tragedy, he found eight Korean children who had survived by a miracle, crying in the heaps of corpses. The head discussed the question of raising the children with some of his fellow villagers. They decided that each would rear one child, with the headman also taking a child to his home.
Three young men who had escaped death at Sidaogou joined our unit.
After hearing the details of the outrages, we gnashed our teeth in wrathful indignation. The motive had obviously been the imprudent Leftist conduct of those who had falsely charged So Il Nam as a member of the “Minsaengdan” and molested him, but for all that, first and foremost, we cursed the butchers of the Jingan army who had dipped Sidaogou in a bloodbath.
The massacre at Sidaogou was the pinnacle of savagery, heinousness and brutality that could only be committed under the manipulation and at the instigation of the Japanese imperialists. These offspring of savage marauders were capable of committing any crime, who had intruded into the royal palace of a foreign country, had unhesitatingly murdered the Queen of that country, and burnt her dead body to remove all traces of their crime.
I heard about this Ulmi incident (1895) from my father when I was young, and could not repress my anger. The murdered Queen, whose corpse could not be retrieved, was none other than Queen Min (alias Empress Myongsong) who gave birth to Sunjong, the last King of our country. Queen Min who had seized Korea’s state power in her hands and become the chief of the pro-Russian faction, stood firm against Japan. The Japanese rulers were thrown into consternation; they made Miura, their minister resident in Korea, form a group of murderers by enlisting the Japanese garrison and police forces, and even those of gangsters and hooligans, to storm the Kyongbok Palace. Miura’s henchmen stabbed the Queen wildly with Japanese swords, burnt her dead body and threw her remains into a pond in order to remove all traces of their crime.
The Korean people had not had much respect for Queen Min. They had believed her to be a mastermind who had ruined the country through an open-door policy. Some people did not have a good opinion of her because she, as a daughter-in-law of the royal family, had removed Taewongun, her father-in-law, from Regency in collaboration with foreign forces. Some innocent people even had the idea that our country would not have been reduced to a colony, if Taewongun’s policy of national isolation had been maintained for another 20 or 30 years. This being the case, it would not be difficult to understand the grievous feelings the people had entertained for Queen Min. However, no matter how discredited she had been by the people, politics was one thing and her Queenhood another. She had been a member of our nation, the mistress of the royal family and representative of state power who had ruled the country on behalf of King Kojong. The barbarous act of the Japanese rulers who had provoked the Ulmi incident was, therefore, a piratical encroachment on the sovereignty of our people and on the traditional dignity of the royal family. The Korean people did not tolerate it, having a strong feeling for nationality; they respected their monarch and cherished an exceptionally strong sense of national dignity.
Worse still, the ordinance of keeping one’s hair bobbed was enforced.
National anger burst out into volcanic eruption. Our people’s reply to the Ulmi incident and the bobbed hair ordinance emerged in the resistance of the righteous volunteers.
In the year of Kyongsin (1920—Tr.), which is known as the year of large-scale “mop-up” atrocities in Jiandao, the Japanese army massacred Korean people in Manchuria. It was an explosion of an unprecedented murder-mania of the Japanese who tried to retrieve the great defeat they had suffered at Fengwudong and Qingshanli10 through massacring the unarmed Korean nationals living in Manchuria. A Japanese army force returning southward after giving up the plan for an expedition to Siberia, and another advancing northward to Manchuria from Ranam, turned all the villages en route where Koreans were living to ashes, and shot the young and middle-aged people en masse. By applying the same method used when murdering Queen Min, they sprinkled petroleum on the corpses and burnt them to remove all traces of their crimes.
The great Kanto earthquake in 1923 recorded, along with the natural disaster caused by the crustal movement, the man-made calamity imposed on the Korean nation by the Japanese ultra-nationalists. The gangsters saw the earthquake as a good opportunity for suppressing the Korean nationals and killed them mercilessly throughout Japan with swords and bamboo spears. In order to distinguish the Korean nationals from many other people, they made every man and woman who looked like them in outer appearance pronounce “ju-go-en go-ji-sen “, which means “fifteen yen fifty sen “ in Japanese.
The people who did not pronounce it fluently were regarded as Korean nationals without exception and murdered. During the first 18 days of the earthquake our nation lost 6,000 of its compatriots. This is only a tip of the iceberg of the crimes the Japanese militarists committed against the Korean people and a bit of Japan’s modern history discoloured with massacre and plunder. The atrocities in the village of Sidaogou were only a repetition of that history.
“There was an underground organization in the village—why was vigilance lacking to such an extent?”
That was what I asked old man Ri Thae Gyong out of my wrathful indignation and bitter resentment. And yet, it was a foolish question. Even if they had been watchful, what could they have done? They could not have kept a sentry at the village as there was no standing army. Even if they had kept guard, they could not have done anything against the great number of armed soldiers pouncing stealthily on them at dawn under cover of darkness.
“General, we were too easygoing. We, the old ones, are to blame. Living in comfort under the protection of the revolutionary army, we seemed to have forgotten that we are a ruined nation and a people at war for independence. There was an old man who worshipped Gandhi among the inhabitants of Sidaogou,” the old man said with an awkward smile as if he had said something wrong.
I was surprised to hear that there had been a worshipper of Gandhi in this mountain village. “How come that old man worshipped Gandhi?” I asked.
“I think a gentleman from Korea had told him about Gandhi. He had even shown him Gandhi’s letter published in a newspaper of our country. Since then, that old man had preached the theory of bloodless independence, mentioning something about violence and nonviolence, whenever he came to visit with his neighbours.”
In my days in Jilin I had criticized the doctrine of nonviolence with Pak So Sim after reading the letter from Gandhi carried in Joson Ilbo. The letter read:
26 November, 1926
I have your letter. The message I can send is to hope that Korea will come to her own through ways absolutely truthful and nonviolent.
M. K. Gandhi
As can be seen from the letter, Gandhi preached that the Korean people achieve independence through nonviolent resistance. Apparently an advocate of nonviolence who had been charmed by Gandhi’s way of thinking had sent a letter to Gandhi.
No young Koreans in Jilin accepted Gandhi’s theory. No one was foolish enough to imagine that the outrageous and rapacious Japanese imperialists would hand independence to people on a silver plate, to those who advocated nonviolent disobedience. But Gandhi’s way of thinking won some degree of sympathy and support from a few of the nationalist fighters who had abandoned armed resistance or had withdrawn from the independence movement.
Gandhi’s idea that, although he cursed British rule he had no intention of harming any of the British and that organized nonviolence alone was capable of prevailing over organized violence of the British government, won the sympathy of broad sections of India’s people, the humanitarian spirit running through his idea influencing them. I cannot imagine how far that idea conformed with the realities of India.
Even if it was a reasonable idea, the methods of achieving independence could not be alike for Korea and India, the two colonies whose suzerains were different, one an Asian power and the other a European power. India was India and Korea was Korea.
I could not understand why the theory of bloodless independence had had such a lingering effect on a man in Luozigou where the military and political activities of the people’s revolutionary army were most intensive.
“That man must have realized at the moment of his death that the theory of bloodless independence was illusory. How pathetic it would be if he had died without realizing it! The Japanese are running wild to allay their thirst for blood, and yet he absurdly preached bloodlessness...” Ri Thae Gyong, unable to say anything more, shook his fist.
“You’re right, old man. Blood will flow in the fight with brigands. A mad dog must be controlled with the stick!”
“General, the lives of Koreans are much too cheap. How long must the Korean nation live like this? Please let the enemy pay for the blood shed in Sidaogou. If you revenge the enemy, then I can die in peace.”
When seeing me off, he repeatedly requested that I revenge the enemy. “I will bear your words in mind,” I replied. “If we return without avenging the people of Sidaogou, then don’t permit us to enter the yard of your house.”
We left for Luozigou with the firm determination to take avenge on the cutthroats.
I have fought all my life for the dignity of the nation. I am able to say that I have been fighting all my life to defend the dignity and independence of the nation. I have never shown mercy towards those who harmed our nation and infringed upon the sovereignty of our country, nor have I compromised with those who looked down upon our people or mocked at them. I have maintained friendly relations with those who have been friendly towards us, and broken with those who have been unfriendly or discriminated us. If they struck us, we gave them tit for tat:
if they smiled at us, we smiled at them. A cake for a cake, and a stone for a stone—this is the principle of reciprocity I have adhered to all through my life.
In the past the powerless feudal government of Korea applied extraterritoriality to the Japanese residing in Korea. Just as the south Korean rulers today are conniving at the illegal acts of the US army soldiers, without having the law on them, the feudal government did not punish offenders with the law of Korea even though the Japanese outrageously harmed the lives and property of our people. The Japanese people were to be punished only by Japanese law. However, such an extraterritoriality had no place in the areas of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army activities. We had our own law which did not tolerate any form of offence against the Korean nation and the territory of Korea. The murderers who had committed the outrages in Sidaogou could not pass with impunity under that law.
We planned to occupy the fortress on the west hill and storm into Luozigou on the day of the Tano festival. The Hunchun Regiment had arrived to reinforce us.
As the columns of the revolutionary army were advancing towards Luozigou, men of the Wangqing Regiment who had been to the town on a reconnoitring mission, approached me with company commander Tie. He had suddenly come to tell me about Wen.
Tie said, “The battalion commander is trembling with fear on hearing that the people’s revolutionary army is surrounding Luozigou to attack it. He said that he had only let his man tell the Jingan army unit where Sidaogou was as they had asked, and had had no inkling that such atrocities would take place. He’s sorry that he had made the mistake of guiding the Jingan army unit to Sidaogou under Japanese pressure and letting his soldiers rob the people of their properties. He said further that he had not intentionally broken the promise he had made with Commander Kim and begs for your mercy.”
I thought deeply over Tie’s words. It was obvious that Wen had broken his promise by failing to prevent his men from robbing the people of their property and by letting his man show the Jingan army unit the way to Sidaogou. But this treachery could be dealt with leniently because an officer of the puppet army had to be at the beck and call of his Japanese superiors.
If we destroyed Wen’s battalion, what would be the consequence? The offensive and defensive alliance between us would be ruptured and another unit much more wicked than Wen’s battalion would be sent to Luozigou. The enemy was sure to do that whether we wanted it or not. This would invite further outrages like those perpetrated at Sidaogou. Our planned effort to evacuate the people from the guerrilla zones in Wangqing and Hunchun to the Luozigou area would have difficulties and our intention to maintain this area as a strategic stronghold for the KPRA would meet with a great challenge.
Then, what was I to do? I made up my mind to draw the battalion commander closer to our side instead of punishing him, and to strike at the Jingan army unit based in Laoheishan to demonstrate how those who had harmed the people would be sent to their doom. According to reports of those who had been to the area of Dongning County on reconnoitring missions, a reinforced company of the Jingan army was stationed in Wangbaowan, Laoheishan, and it consisted of the cutthroats who had made havoc of Sidaogou. The scouts even learned that it was a task force detached from the notorious Yoshizaki unit.
I conveyed my decision to Tie:
“The people’s revolutionary army will suspend its plan of attacking Luozigou. It is true that Wen broke faith with us, but we still place our hopes on him. How can Wen guarantee his re-expressed faithfulness to the offensive and defensive alliance? If his promise holds true, he must guarantee the safety of both army and people during the people’s revolutionary army’s joint athletic meet in the town of Luozigou during the Tano festival. Convey our opinion to the battalion commander. We will wait here for his reply.”
Tie notified us on returning that the battalion commander. Wen, had accepted all our demands.
Our regiments quickly changed their combat formation into a festival one. The officers, who had planned the attack on Luozigou, were now busy drawing up lists of sports events that would be enjoyed by both soldiers and people, and forming teams that would demonstrate the might of the unity between the army and the people. Thus, we organized a grandiose joint athletic meet of the army and the people in the heart of the walled-in town of Luozigou occupied by the enemy, under the protection of his forces, whose mission it was to “clean up” the revolutionary army, an athletic meet unprecedented in the history of war.
Even our underground operatives came out on that day to enjoy the meet. The soldiers of Wen’s battalion were delighted by the unique festival. The people who had been so depressed by the atrocities in Sidaogou were again in high spirits, thanks to the Tano festival. The joint athletic meet clearly demonstrated our consistent stand and will, at home and abroad, that we were always ready to establish friendly relations with an army that did not harm the people, irrespective of the army’s name and affiliation.
In Taipinggou we held a meeting of military and political cadres who were higher than the company political instructor and mapped out a detailed plan of the battle at Laoheishan. Then we held a ceremonial memorial service for those killed in Sidaogou. The service became an excellent forum for inciting the officers and men of the revolutionary army to revenge the enemy.
I think it was mid-June 1935 when we finished off the Hongxiutour at Laoheishan. Hongxiutour is a nickname that the people in Manchuria had given to the Jingan army soldiers, apparently because of their rakishly wearing red arm-bands on their sleeves.
Our soldiers had lured the enemy out of Wangbaowan then in a very clever way. The Jingan army unit, stationed in Wangbaowan, Laoheishan, was the same unit that had dogged our steps, during our first expedition to north Manchuria and the group of savages who had committed the atrocities at Sidaogou.
At first we provoked a fight with them by dispatching a small unit, but they were keen enough to notice that our unit had come. They could not be provoked readily. The villagers told me that the Jingan army soldiers would be going out to “mop up” the guerrilla army only in winter and would avoid engagements with the revolutionary army in summer if possible, striking out only at mountain rebels and bandits.
We had to draw them out of their den in order to attack them. Therefore, we decided to use the alluring tactic. We withdrew our forces to Luozigou in broad daylight so that the enemy could see the movement and believe that we had withdrawn somewhere else. That night we moved the unit back secretly and lay in ambush in the forest near Wangbaowan where the Jingan army unit was stationed. Then we disguised 10 soldiers who spoke Chinese as mountain rebels and sent them to Wangbaowan. They made a great fuss, grabbing donkeys from the villagers, trampling on their furniture and ripping off the fences of their vegetable gardens, before returning to the unit.
But the Jingan army soldiers did not fall into the trap on the first day for some unknown reason. Though uncomfortable, we had a simple dinner of some dry rations at our position and spent a tedious night, irritated by the mosquitoes. I had heard Ri Kwan Rin saying that when she had tilled the land at the foot of Mt. Paektu with Jang Chol Ho, she had weeded the potato fields with a bunch of moxa on her head because of the irritating mosquitoes, but the gnats in Laoheishan were just as bad. The soldiers slapped at their cheeks and napes, complaining that the gnats in Laoheishan took after the Hongxiutour and were stinging them poisonously.
On the next day the decoying group went down to the village in Wangbaowan and behaved like mountain rebels. They caught a few chickens in a somewhat well-to-do house and pretended to take flight. Only then did the Jingan army soldiers begin to chase them en masse. Apparently the villagers had raised a big fuss that day that the mountain rebels had again been in the village.
The Jingan army soldiers were quite well-versed in the tactics of the guerrilla army; they even knew how guerrillas waylaid convoys and attacked walled towns. To deceive them was as difficult as belling the cat. Surely, our decoy had acted out the hooliganism of the mountain rebels to a tee.
What I still cannot forget among the episodes related with this battle is that Kim Thaek Kun’s wife shook me awake as I was dozing from fatigue,, while in ambush on the second day. She and her husband had taken great care to nurse me in the Shiliping valley during some painful days of fever. She had played the role of my aide-de-camp, so to speak. At that time she had picked a broad-leaved grass and asked me what it was called, saying that it looked tasty. It was aster. I had told her to call it “bear aster” since it grew in a place where there were many bears. After liberation, on my visit to Taehongdan, I ate that same bear aster.
The enemy, who had come within the area where the revolutionary army was lying in ambush, gazed anxiously from side to side, saying, “It’d be terrible to be surrounded in this place.” When the enemy were all in the mountain valley, I fired a shot signalling the start of battle. I aimed at a Japanese instructor, and he fell at the first shot. They did not put up any resistance worth mentioning before being subdued. The agitators of the guerrilla army shouted to the enemy in Chinese to surrender before they offered any resistance, relying on the natural conditions. “Down with Japanese Imperialism!” and “Lay down Your Guns, and You’ll Be Saved!” The enemy soldiers gave up and laid down their arms. The battle at Laoheishan was the first typical allurement and ambush battle we had fought. Since that time the Japanese and puppet Manchukuo armies had begun to call this tactic of ours “netting-the- fish”.
We killed about 100 soldiers of the Jingan army in this battle, an arrogant army who had boasted of its “invincibility”. We captured a large amount of the booty that included heavy and light machine-guns, rifles, hand grenades and even mortars and war-horses. The enemy merrily carried the mortars on horses, but lost them before firing a single shell. The white horse I gave to old man Jo Thaek Ju was one of the ten thoroughbreds we had captured in this battle.
We also captured several war dogs. The officers advised me to keep some of the dogs for protection. But I saw to it that all the shepherd dogs were sent to the people in Taipinggou and Shitouhezi. I thought the captured dogs would be of no use to us.
At the time of the Dahuangwai meeting my comrades had brought me a dog captured from the Japanese army to keep as my guard. They probably thought it would be of help to me as it was a shrewd, clever dog. I was grateful for their concern but I did not take it, saying that the dog was tamed by the Japanese and would not feel attached to the commander of the guerrilla army. It ran away, as I had said» to the enemy’s position at the smell of the Japanese when we were fighting the enemy “punitive” forces in later days. I had benefited a great deal from the white war-horse but not from any captured war dog.
The whole course of the battle at Laoheishan, to which we had attached importance as a model of allurement and ambush in the history of the anti-Japanese war, proved that this type of battle was one of the most efficient forms and conformed with the characteristics of guerrilla warfare.
We defeated the Jingan army in succession in subsequent battles by destroying Kuto’s unit in Mengjiang, annihilating the crack unit led by Yoshizaki himself in the Changbai and Linjiang areas, and in the days of the final offensive, by disintegrating and crushing the 1st Division, the successor of the Jingan army.
For the Laoheishan battle the KPRA, which had been directing its main efforts to the defence of the guerrilla zones in fixed areas, advanced to wider areas from the narrow liberated ones and for the first time demonstrated the might of large-unit operations. The gunshots that rumbled in the valley of Laoheishan lauded the correctness of the policy set out at the Yaoyinggou meeting, the policy of relinquishing the guerrilla zones and launching into wider large-scale operation areas, and it was a harbinger of victory in our second expedition to north Manchuria. Thanks to the victory we had won at Laoheishan the KPRA was able to make more satisfactory preparations for a successful second expedition to north Manchuria.
The news of the KPRA’s victory spread quickly like lightning in Manchuria, inspiring confidence in the masses of workers and peasants of Korea and China, who had been groaning under the tyranny of the Jingan army, and arousing them to struggle. As we were returning to Taipinggou with the trophies on the saddles of the captured horses, the people there formed long lines on both sides of the road and greeted us enthusiastically. Ri Thae Gyong, too, arrived all the way from Sandaogou to Xintunzi where we were resting. People came from Jinchang and Huoshaopu to visit the people’s revolutionary army bringing small contributions to us.
On the eve of the second expedition to north Manchuria I planned an operation to win over a company of the puppet Manchukuo army stationed in Dahuanggou, by drawing on some information I had received from the Hunchun guerrilla unit. The man who had brought me the information was Hwang Jong Hae, serving as an orderly of the Hunchun guerrilla unit. His father, Hwang Pyong Gil, was a renowned patriotic martyr who had taken an active part in planning the shooting of Ito Hirobumi by An Jung Gun.
Hwang told me that there was a sergeant in the company who sympathized with communism, who had a good influence on his fellow soldiers, but that he did not dare to persuade the whole company, only thinking about coming over to the guerrilla army with some of his fellows. He further asked for my advice as he thought it probable mat the whole company could be won over if things went well.
My attention had already been drawn to this company in Dahuanggou. It hindered the activities of the guerrilla army in one way or another as it was located along our route. We knew that the company commander was a Chinese man and that the Korean serving in the company as an interpreter was a very wicked fellow.
The sergeant played the main part in the operation for the mutiny. He was masterminded by Hwang Jong Hae and our other operatives. The sergeant was neither an operative we had planted nor a member of the Communist Party. He was just an ordinary young man who had been recruited while working in Dalian. His “punitive” force had originally been in Jehol. As his unit moved to Jiandao, he automatically came to Hunchun. The sergeant had heard in Jehol that there were many communists in Jiandao, and paid serious attention to the activities of the communists around him in Hunchun. He even had had the bold idea of joining up with them in order to reshape his destiny.
One day while talking to his fellow soldiers in a restaurant, he complained, “Damn it! What’s the use of righting the communists? I’d do better to shoot someone on our side and desert.” Hwang had witnessed this and reported it to his superiors. The sergeant soon became a man we had to win over to our side.
At about this time an incident took place, in which one of our comrades, who had gone to Hunchun for a small-unit operation, was arrested by the police. He was a Korean, but he spoke fluent Chinese. When the police had tied him up, then kicked, hit and abused him, the sergeant, who was passing by, saw what was happening and interfered, saying, “Hey! He’s in the same state of being oppressed as you are, though he’s a communist. How on earth can you beat him so cruelly?” He hit the policeman and sent him away. He then took our operative to his barracks. On the way the sergeant said to him, “I can set you free here now. But you’ve got to go with me to our barracks. If you’re courageous, then please tell about the communist army to my company commander and to others, spending the night in our unit. We’re eager to know. There are a Japanese instructor and a Korean interpreter in our company, both wicked men. I’ll make an excuse to send them to me town, so you may rest easy.”
Our operative did not know why the sergeant was making such a suggestion, but he followed him to the barracks, thinking to die an honourable death if need be.
At the barracks, he took our man to the company commander who was his friend. As the three were talking at a tea table behind closed doors, the Japanese instructor entered the company headquarters and looked curiously at our man. In order not to incur the instructor’s suspicion, the sergeant said to the company commander, “This is a friend of mine. He came to collect the money for the wine I drank, but I haven’t any. Would you kindly lend me some, sir?” The company commander was also a wily man. He replied, “I’ll pay for the wine, so don’t worry about it. Your friend is my friend so we must treat him well. You may talk here at ease over tea, before parting.”
After the Japanese instructor had left for the town, the three men continued their talk. At the sergeant’s request, our man conducted some communist propaganda, saying, ‘The guerrilla army is an allied army of Koreans and Chinese. I’m a Korean. The Korean people, too, are against the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. There are patriots in the Manchukuo army and we’re ready to join hands with them.” He further explained our policy on the puppet Manchukuo army and sang some songs in Chinese for them about that army.
Moved by his talk, the company commander told our man to inform his superiors on his return the next day that he had no intention of fighting the guerrilla army and, even though his company had to go on a “punitive” mission, they would fire a few shots in the direction of the forest as a signal so that the guerrillas could escape.
Seeing our man off, the sergeant said that he wanted to keep in touch with our man in the future, and that it would be good for our man to be in contact with him. He requested that he report to his political commissar what they had discussed that day.
In this way we could keep in touch with the company; we increased our activities still further to encourage them to revolt. I gave Hwang Jong Hae a detailed assignment and sent him back to Dahuanggou. Hwang got in touch with the sergeant again and worked to help the whole company to revolt. The sergeant made the following earnest request to Hwang, “We do what we are doing against our will. There’s nothing more shameful for a man than playing the role of a puppet of others. We envy you. The whole company’s ready to revolt, so please raid my company.”
We dispatched a force of two or three companies to the vicinity of their barracks. The companies surrounded the barracks and, at the time the soldiers of the puppet Manchukuo army were doing their morning exercise, they fired warning shots and shouted at them. The puppet Manchukuo army company sent a representative for negotiations; he was none other than the sergeant from Dalian whom we had influenced. The sergeant demanded ceasefire and told our man about their intention to revolt. True to their determination, about 150 officers and men of the puppet Manchukuo army killed the Japanese instructor and Korean interpreter, loaded all the enemy’s belongings in the town onto horse carts and arrived in our guerrilla zone, blowing their trumpets.
The commanding officers of the Hunchun Regiment had a long discussion on how this company should be admitted into the people’s revolutionary army. Some suggested dissolving the company and appointing them to the new companies of the people’s revolutionary army while others proposed enrolling the company whole, instead of dissolving it. The former was predominant among the two proposals.
Regimental headquarters repeated the talks on this issue with the officers of the company that had revolted. However, the officers would not agree to the dissolution of their company. Choe Pong Ho, political commissar of the Hunchun Regiment, brought the matter to me for my decision.
In order to acquire a clear understanding of the wishes of the soldiers of the company, I went over to converse with them. They were strongly against dissolving their company and were disturbed by the rumour about it. Frankly speaking, it was against all morals to dissolve it and to scatter its men over different companies against their will, men who had come over of their own accord, not having been taken prisoner. The most reasonable solution was to respect their wishes as far as possible.
I made a compromise proposal that the company would not be dissolved but enrolled as three new companies to suit the organizational structure of the people’s revolutionary army, and that the commanding officers of the companies would be elected by a democratic method at the meeting of the soldiers who had come over. I advanced the idea for discussion. The company accepted the compromise proposal with satisfaction. Regimental commander Hou Guo-zhong and political commissar Choe Pong Ho also supported the idea.
The sergeant who had played the major role in the mutiny was elected company commander. It was decided to send the former company commander to the Soviet Union for studies.
Some of the men who wanted to go to China proper were sent there via the Soviet Union, and others who wanted to remain and fight on our side joined the Hunchun guerrilla unit. Later, when we were in north Manchuria, they were transferred to the unit of Li Yan-lu.
The enemy mobilized enormous forces of the Kwantung Army, the puppet Manchukuo army, police, home guards and railway guards in order to encircle and annihilate the large forces of the people’s revolutionary army who were fighting and doing political work in and around Luozigou and Taipinggou. The main force of the “punitive” troops pressed on Taipinggou from the direction of Luozigou and some were deployed between Yaoyinggou and Baicaogou with the plan of encircling and annihilating the people’s revolutionary army in this narrow area if it retreated to the southwest.
On June 20, 1935, the enemy began its attack at last on Taipinggou. We deployed our units on the mountain behind Taipinggou and set up the command post near the mortar battery. There was a natural cave below the C.P.
The enemy began crossing the River Dahuoshaopu on boats. Our mortar battery opened fire. One of the mortars blew up an enemy boat in the middle of the river. The enemy gave up the crossing and fled in terror to their positions. The marksmanship of the mortar gunners was really amazing. The mortar battery, which had been formed with part of the defectors from the puppet Manchukuo army, proved its worth. Those who had been sceptical and unhappy with the defectors’ participation in the battle only now realized how they had erred.
I embraced the commander of the battery and congratulated him on the victory. Some of the commanding officers of the revolutionary army, who had been sceptical of those who had come over to our side, were so pleased that they came running to the mortar emplacement. The rumbling of the mortars on the River Dahuoshaopu was a historical cry, heralding the birth of our artillery. The enemy trembled with fear at the boom and the people danced with joy. We now celebrate that day as the day of the artillery.
Battalion commander Wen, who had fled to Luozigou in terror at our mortar fire after attempting to cross the River Dahuoshaopu said, “The people’s revolutionary army is really something mysterious. It captured mortars only yesterday and today has the skill of hitting a target with only the second shell. Who can rival such an army? It’s a fool’s job to do that. I will never fight Kim Il Sung’s army even if it means a Japanese sword on my neck.” Needless to say, this information was delivered to us by company commander Tie.
As the people’s revolutionary army displayed its might by defeating the enemy in succession at Laoheishan and Taipinggou, our revolutionary organizations worked energetically in many places. The head of the Anti-Japanese Association in Luozigou said proudly that after the people’s revolutionary army had crushed the Jingan army unit at Laoheishan, the people living in the town had come to him, not to the village government, to register marriages and to report childbirths.
We do not forgive anybody who harms the people! We demonstrated this will of the Korean communists once again powerfully in practice at Laoheishan and Taipinggou. But those who harmed the people were extremely wicked. “We will exist only when we stamp out communism!”—this was the belief of the people’s enemy. We still had to fight many a battle against those with this belief.
The blood shed by the enemy in the battle at Taipinggou stained the River Dahuoshaopu for over a week. It was said that an unprecedented number of daces swam up this river in shoals that year, probably because of the blood.
When the whole of east Manchuria was groping for a way out, shedding tears of grief over the catastrophic consequences of the whirlwind of the “purge”, we advanced a new line of dissolving the narrow guerrilla bases in the form of liberated areas and launching into wider areas for active large-scale operations; we brought this line up for discussion at the Yaoyinggou meeting in March 1935. The overwhelming majority of the military and political cadres attending the meeting supported it fully.
Nevertheless, not all expressed an understanding of and sympathy with it; some of the cadres of the Party and Young Communist League were against dissolving the guerrilla zones. They attacked us, arguing:
“What’s all this silly talk about dissolving the guerrilla bases? Why did we build them in the first place if we’re to abandon them? Why did we shed our blood for three to four years defending them and starving in rags? This is a Rightist deviation, capitulationism and defeatism.” The academic circles now call their idea the theory of defending the guerrilla zones to the last man.
The strongest proponent of this theory at the Yaoyinggou meeting was Ri Kwang Rim, one of the founders of the Ningan guerrilla unit. Ri had conducted work mostly among the youth at the Ningan County YCL Committee and at the eastern area bureau of Jilin Province of the YCL. He was later sent to the Wangqing area to make preparations for the formation of the Anti-Japanese Allied Army with Chai Shi-rong, Fu Xianming and other commanders of the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese armed units. I think he attended the Yaoyinggou meeting as an acting secretary of the East Manchuria Special District Committee of the YCL.
He attacked those who insisted on evacuating the guerrilla zones, arguing: “If we quit the guerrilla zones and move over vast areas, what will become of the people? You say that the people will be evacuated to the enemy area from the guerrilla zones, but doesn’t this mean throwing the people right into the jaws of death, the people who had shared life in the shadow of death, forming an integral whole with the army? Can the revolutionary army conduct guerrilla warfare without relying on the military and political stronghold called the guerrilla zones? If the revolutionary people tempered in the guerrilla zones go to enemy-held areas, doesn’t it mean that we’d be losing tens of thousands of revolutionary masses whom we have trained with so much effort? Won’t the dissolving of the guerrilla zones result, finally, in the revolution retreating to the point where it started in 1932?”
The discussion which seemed to come to a conclusion without a hitch gradually assumed complicated aspects with Ri Kwang Rim’s long harangue. Even some of the supporters of the line began to nod their heads at his argument. The participants of the meeting were divided into two groups, one for dissolving the guerrilla zones and the other against it, and bickered with each other. When the argument reached a climax, some badly-trained people tried to forcibly overpower their opponents, resorting to personalities. One man disproved Ri’s insistence while finding faults with his private life.
He said that Ri had carried a torch for a girl when he had been working as the head of a district YCL committee in Ningan County. He had been earnest in his love, but the girl did not accept it. What he had received though, were the love-letters he had sent to her but which had come back without replies, and the girl’s heartless, cold response, turning away each time she had seen him. Love could not be won by the subjective desire and zeal of one side alone. Ri had expelled the girl who had broken his heart to Muling County and had had a love affair with another woman before coming to Wangqing. That was the inside story of Ri’s life the people narrated to refute his argument, so that it was impossible to draw a hasty conclusion about its authenticity.
They attacked Ri by resorting to such a low-down method of referring to his personal life just to prove that he would do anything to beat his opponents in argument, as he was a man with such a retaliatory spirit as expelling the woman he had loved to a strange land.
Another man reminded the meeting of the fact that Ri was a “remnant of the Tuesday group” who had zealously followed certain officials of the Manchurian general bureau of the Communist Party of Korea. He even disparaged Ri by saying that it would not be unreasonable to view his opposition to closing the guerrilla zones as a relapse of the disease of factionalism.
It was mean in all respects to pick holes in one’s opponent’s argument by telling a love story that had ended in failure or by labelling him as a remnant of factionalism. But Ri Kwang Rim was also to blame, for while describing himself as the most faithful defender of the people and the most thoroughgoing spokesman of the people’s opinions and interests, he did not hesitate to label others preposterously as Right opportunists, betrayers of people and as those inviting unpardonable suicides.
We could understand why Ri Kwang Rim was dead set against the evacuation of the guerrilla zones. Dissolving them was painful also for us. Where on earth could such people be found who would be cold-hearted enough to abandon without regret and affection the home bases which they had built with their own hands, tended with their hearts and defended like an impregnable fortress, regarding them as “heaven”? We had anguished over this with boundless reluctance and attachment before coming to the tearful decision to evacuate them.
Needless to say, Ri Kwang Rim must have felt no less attachment to the guerrilla zones than we. Nevertheless, in view of the prevailing situation at the time the long frontal confrontation with a powerful enemy having enormous military potentials while confining ourselves in fixed guerrilla zones—the liberated areas—could be called pure adventurism by the measure of all fair yardsticks. It would lead to self-destruction.
In 1933 or in 1934, when the vitality of the guerrilla zones was at its height, we did not dare mention it. At that time we had regarded them as an oasis or an earthly paradise.
Why, then, did we decide to relinquish them now, in 1935? Was it a whim? No, it was not. It was neither a whim, nor a vacillation nor a retreat. It was a bold, strategic measure which could be called “one step forward”.
We were determined in 1935 to close down the guerrilla zones because it was a requirement of the objective and subjective circumstances prevailing in those days.
We could say that the guerrilla zones set up along the Tuman River had fulfilled their mission and tasks. The greatest task of the guerrilla zones had been to protect and train the revolutionary forces and, at the same time, to lay firm political, military, material and technical foundations for further expansion and development of the anti-Japanese armed struggle. But, at that time we had not defined the period of the fulfilment of the task as three or four years. We had only thought that the shorter the period, the better it would be.
In the heat of the armed struggle the army and people had become unconquerable fighters. The guerrilla army which had had several dozens of soldiers at the outset had now developed into a people’s revolutionary army with enormous strength that was capable of large-scale battles to defend the guerrilla bases and of attacking cities. The people’s revolutionary army accumulated a wealth of political and military experience, the experience of fresh, original guerrilla warfare.
The guerrilla war was a blast furnace and a political and military academy that produced fighters. And this blast furnace produced only pure steel. Those who had tilled stony fields or raised cattle and horses in the landlords’ stables had become competent fighters after having been tempered in this blast furnace. The anti-Japanese political and military academy made fighters of even those rustic dunces and casual labourers who had thought that wealth and poverty depended on the lines of their palms, or on what the fortune tellers and sorceresses had to say.
I once had been convulsed with laughter by Kim Ja Rin’s story about the days when he was a manservant, for that story had been tinted with such comedy that no one could listen to it without laughing.
One day Kim Ja Rin had driven an ox of the landlord, his master, to the field at dawn as usual. While he was cutting the grass edible for the ox with a sickle, a train had suddenly appeared at a mountain bend, running at full speed. He had stopped working and had sat down on the ridge of the field to gaze for a while at the train. By chance his eyes had caught a glimpse of a smart gentleman smoking at the entrance of one carriage. For no reason he had thought the man’s smart appearance detestable, so he had shaken his fist at the gentleman, which had been a sort of provocation at those who ate their fill and were well-clad. The gentleman, too, had shouted back and shaken his fist, glaring fiercely at him. His straw hat had blown away during his tirade. He had waved his hands a few times in the air in dismay trying to catch it, but after a short while he had disappeared with the speeding train. And his hat had fallen to a swamp along the railway.
Kim had run to the marsh to pick up the hat. He put it on his head and climbed up the railway dike, thinking that now he had become a rich man. As luck would have it, he had found a five-fen silver coin wrapped in a handkerchief on the dike. The handkerchief had flown along with the straw hat from the head of the gentleman.
Kim in his teens had pondered for a whole day on what to buy with that frve fen ; he had gone to a casino that night with the hat of that gentleman on his head, a casino where the young folk of well-to-do families gathered at night to enjoy themselves. With that five fen as capital, he had fortunately won a great sum of money from them in one night.
Kim had cleared off his debts to the landlord with the money and given some of it to a poor old neighbour who had lived his whole life in poverty and tears. Though the remainder was small, this young servant had reckoned that the money was still enough for him to live fairly well for some years.
However, in less than a year he had again begun to suffer from debts. He had worked like a horse to earn as much money as possible. He had had the idea that if he worked hard he could become well-off, improve his lot and even rise in the world. But labour had not given him wealth nor improved his standard of living. The harder he had worked, the more wretched he had become and the more ill-treated. He was a clever man with great strength, however, he had not been treated as a human being, but as a beast, because he was poor.
Kim Ja Rin resisted point-blank those who ill-treated and molested him. If he was in a bad temper, he would grab those who had annoyed him by their throats and give them a good punch. But he was unable to eke out a livelihood. Later he had come to the guerrilla zone in Wangyu-gou and had joined the guerrilla army; he became one of the five best machine-gunners in Jiandao.
Ri Tu Su, the hero of the battle at Hongtoushan, widely known among our people as an undying man, was once a beggar.
The guerrilla zone was a cradle that nurtured tens of thousands of anti-Japanese heroes, heroines and martyrs. Even toothless old women became agitators who cried for an anti-Japanese struggle once they came to a guerrilla zone. Every person was a hard worker there, a guard, a combatant, an efficient organizer, propagandist or man of action. Jo Tong Uk, Jon Mun Jin, O Jin U, Pak Kil Song and Kim Thaek Kun were all prominent revolutionaries who were trained in the Wangqing guerrilla zone. The anti-Japanese heroes and heroines shed sweat and blood to forge an unprecedented history of resistance that won the world’s admiration.
The revolutionary ranks became united into a great family that no force could ever break through arduous struggle against factionalism and Left and Right opportunism. A firm mass basis for the armed struggle and Party building was laid and the anti-Japanese allied front with the Chinese people became unbreakable—all these successes were won in the three to four years after the guerrilla zones were established. Would it have been possible for the Korean and Chinese communists to register all of them without a strategic base, without the guerrilla zones? Would it have been possible for them to carry out in such a thoroughgoing, wonderful way the strategic tasks facing the first stage of the anti-Japanese revolution without the launching base, supply base and rear base of the guerrilla zone? Kim Myong Hwa had been a woman in the lowest rung of society who had eked out her living by making hats out of horsehair. She now lived a life worthy of a human being in the guerrilla zone and grew to be a soldier of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army in the heat of the anti-Japanese war. She could not have trodden this amazing path of development if she had not been in the guerrilla zone. She would not have been able to exist, not to speak of developing.
Among the revolutionary fighters born of the anti-Japanese war were former hunters, butchers, schoolteachers, raftsmen, smiths, a drugstore keeper like Rim Chun Chu, and a physician like So Chol. There were young men and women who came from the General Federation of Korean Youth in East Manchuria, the General Federation of Korean Youth in South Manchuria and the General Federation of Korean Youth in China or fresh from schooling in urban communities as well as simple young men from the countryside. The guerrilla zones reared people with different family backgrounds and from all walks of life into faithful soldiers who acted strictly to command, into beloved men and women of the time who fought for their fatherland and nation at the risk of their lives in the forefront of the anti-Japanese, national salvation struggle.
Our decision to set up guerrilla zones in the form of liberated areas in the mountainous sites in Jiandao was proved right and timely through practice. But, at the time when the vitality of the guerrilla zones was still being demonstrated, we emphasized in Yaoyinggou the urgency of the dissolution of the guerrilla zones. Why? Because there was no need to defend the guerrilla zones any longer as they had fulfilled their mission and tasks.
The revolutionary situation in the Jiandao area in the mid-1930s required the Korean and Chinese communists to change their line to cope with the developments in the new age, To defend the guerrilla zones in the same way as we had done while shouting for a do-or-die battle while entrenched in them, was, strictly speaking, tantamount to maintaining the status quo without any will to develop the revolution any further. If the revolution could be likened to flooding water, their contention was nothing but arguing for it to stay in a lake or in a reservoir, instead of flowing out to the sea.
Revolution can be likened to a large, long river, which, breaking against steep rocks and roaring, whirling and eddying through gorges, meanders towards the sea, taking billions of tiny drops of spray with it. Have you ever seen a long river flowing back towards mountains, instead of flowing into the sea? A backward flow or standing still is not for rivers. The river flows forward all the time. It runs ceaselessly to the distant sea, its destination, while overcoming obstacles and embracing its tributaries. The river does not become stale because it moves without stopping or rest. If it stops its flow even for a moment, decay will set in some comer and all sorts of plankton will reproduce in it to build their kingdoms.
If the revolution excludes innovation and regards existing policies as absolute, it will be like a river that has stopped flowing. The revolution must renovate its tactics steadily as required by new circumstances and conditions to attain the strategic goals it has set. Without such renovation, the revolution cannot escape stagnation and standstill. If there is a man who thinks that a method will be valid 50 years later and will keep its value absolute even after 100 years, then where on earth could an illusory man more foolish than he be found? We cannot call it otherwise than a stand that neglects the independence, creativity and consciousness of the human being.
Tactics are always of relative significance. They can represent a moment, a day, a month, a quarter or a period. In the process of leading a strategy to success, there can be ten or a hundred tactics. Emphasizing one prescription of tactics for a strategy is not a creative attitude towards the revolution; this is a dogma. A dogma means a foolish suicide of binding oneself hand and foot. Where dogmatism prevails, one can expect neither fresh, vital politics nor a vigorous revolution.
Creativity and innovation are the sources of power that make revolution as dynamic as a long river because they really represent the essential demands of the popular masses who desire indefinite progress and prosperity in order to live a life of independence. In this sense, creativity and innovation can be called an engine propelling the revolution. It will not be exaggerating to say that the speed of the development of a nation depends on the horsepower of this engine.
The Korean revolution has reached the threshold of the 21st century, driven by this engine.
What is the most important political subject our Party is discussing today when we are within a stone’s throw of the 21st century? This is the methods by which we should defend and develop the socialism of our own style centred on the masses still further, confronted with the strong blockade imposed by allied imperialism.
Even a century ago the Korean peninsula was surrounded by the Great Powers. Their warships were always on the sea off Inchon. Whenever the feudal government took a stand of rejecting Westerners and the Japanese, sticking to the policy of national isolation, they would fire several shells and demand open-door policy. The Japanese imperialists fabricated a pro-Japanese cabinet and manipulated it to enforce the reform of the nation’s politics. The Japanese advisers, ministers and emissaries they had sent hovered around the King and Queen. This was also a form of encirclement.
Encirclement and blockade have been trials imposed upon the Korean nation historically by foreign aggressors and imperialists. I, along with my nation, have lived my whole life in this encirclement and blockade, Is this a fate brought about by the country’s geopolitical characteristics? Needless to say, these could be the reason. If the Korean peninsula was situated at a comer of a glacier in Alaska or in the Arctic, the predilection of the Great Powers for our country might possibly be changed, isn’t that so? But such an “if does not exist. It does not matter where a country is situated. The nations following an independent road without kowtowing to the Great Powers must always be prepared to become targets of the Green Berets or victims of many Torricelli Bills wherever they are situated on Earth. Therefore, those who are determined to live independently must always be ready throughout their lives to break the siege imposed by the imperialists.
The anti-Japanese guerrilla bases in Jiandao were in a tight siege in 1935, too. That year the enemy’s siege reached its apex. While we had decided to come to a finale in the revolution by changing our lines, the enemy attempted to achieve a decisive victory in their purge of “communist bandits” by tightening the siege to the maximum. The Japanese imperialists mobilized hundreds of thousands of their crack troops, encircled the guerrilla zones in double and triple rings and launched a “punitive” attack every day to stamp all the living creatures there off the face of the earth.
The enemy’s main scheme to break the relations between the revolutionary army and the people lay in its policy of the concentration village. In accordance with this policy the people living in all the administrative districts outside the jurisdiction of the people’s revolutionary government were driven into the concentration villages surrounded by earthen walls and forts whether they liked it or not to lead a mole’s life under such immoral laws as the five-household joint surveillance system and the ten-household joint responsibility system, subject to the medieval order.
The enemy set fire to tens of thousands of houses and villages that were scattered all over Manchuria, issued ultimatum-like orders for people to evacuate; they mercilessly moved them to earthen-walled villages in the flat areas in order to easily rule them by relying on the “peaceful villages” guarded by their army, police and armed self-defence corps. But the main purpose was to break the blood-sealed ties of unity between the army and the people once and for all, that great obstacle in their “purge of communist bandits”, by means of such man-made barriers as earthen walls, forts, moats, fences, searchlights and wire entanglements. The enemy knew that the guerrilla army was the protector of the people and that the latter was a rear base and an important information source of the former.
Once they had confined the people within the earthen walls, they could mobilize them en masse for various kinds of compulsory labour such as the construction of road and other military facilities, keep such projects in strict secret, and easily requisition manpower, funds and materials whenever necessary.
The enemy intensified anti-communist propaganda with the building of the concentration villages. They said that it was because of the Communist Party and the revolutionary army that the people were forced to leave their beloved homes and go to live in concentration villages and that because the Communist Party and the revolutionary army, in collusion with the people, were disturbing the peace, the authorities had been compelled to do away with all the scattered villages and build “peaceful villages” in which the people could live free from the troubles the “communist bandits” and mounted rebels caused.
The enemy built square earthen walls and drove 100 or 200 households into each of the walled villages. Houses were built in rows like the residential quarters in a modern industrial centre in order to facilitate police surveillance. The people from one village, once they were in the concentration villages, were separated in a way that they could not become neighbours; even the people who were relatives or intimate friends could not be neighbours as they had been dispersed in different directions. This measure was for preventing like-minded people from conspiring for a disturbance of the peace and from an attempt to form secret societies.
How they schemed to sow the seeds of dissension and estrangement between the residents of the concentration villages can be seen from the five-household joint surveillance system alone. They formed a group of five households and, if one of them was found to be communicating with the guerrilla army, they punished all the households in that group; in the worst eases, they killed all the people of the five households. This was the notorious five-household joint surveillance system.
The administrative officials, armed police and army strictly controlled food grains to prevent even a pound of rice from getting out to the people’s revolutionary army. When the people went to work beyond the earthen walls, the police searched their lunchboxes to see if they had extra rice for the “communist bandits”, and indiscriminately deprived them of their lunchboxes if they had more than their share. The peasants living in the concentration villages were not allowed to go beyond the walls before dawn even though they wanted to begin work earlier to deal with the arrears of field work, and they had to be back before dusk. It was almost impossible for the revolutionary army to expect any food supplies from the people in the concentration villages.
The farm products from the guerrilla zones could not satisfy the food demands of the soldiers and the inhabitants. Worse still, the enemy incessantly hampered their farm work. The crops as well as the people became objects of their scorched-earth operations. They trampled sprouting crops, burnt growing crops, harvested and carried away ripe crops by mobilizing armed men. This was a mean hunger operation and strangling siege for starving the army and people to death in the guerrilla zones whom they were unable to annihilate through arms.
The “Minsaengdan” had been dissolved, but the enemy’s scheme to divide and disintegrate the revolutionary ranks from within and without was more vicious than ever. The leaflets enticing our men to surrender carried pictures of pretty nude girls and pornographic pictures of intimate relations. Beautiful women, bribed by money, wormed their way into our ranks under the guise of a Rosa Luxemburg or Joan of Arc and became absorbed in corrosive schemes to benumb the military and political cadres and to hand them over to the police or the gendarmerie.
All this was a great murderous farce used to reduce the guerrilla zones in Jiandao into a solitary island totally isolated from the world of humanity, to raze them to the ground and strangle them.
If we had failed to comprehend the developments and become engrossed in defending the exposed guerrilla zones, the revolutionary army would have ended up in a loss of military initiative and in being drawn into an endless war of attrition. Then, the revolutionary forces trained for several years would have broken up. To have become preoccupied with the defence of the narrow guerrilla zones would have resulted in playing into the hands of the enemy frenziedly trying to crush all the soldiers and people in the Red territory through three-dimensional warfare.
It was justifiable that the majority of those attending the meeting criticized the argument of defending the guerrilla zones to the last man as adventurism. What I still think strange is that most of those who insisted on the defence of the guerrilla zones at the Yaoyinggou meeting were self-important men extremely dogmatic and Leftish in their everyday life. Strangely enough, they gave wide berth to people who had a creative and innovative attitude and belittled those with dreams and imagination.
Nevertheless, we managed to persuade these radical, self-opinionated people at long last at the Yaoyinggou meeting. The issue on relinquishing the guerrilla zones, unlike the issue on the anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle which had been decided to be submitted to the Comintern, was settled by the meeting’s decision. This was yet another success achieved in our fight against Leftist adventurism.
The Yaoyinggou meeting marked a turning-point for the people’s revolutionary army to switch over from strategic defence of the guerrilla zones to a new stage of strategic offensive. Thanks to the decision of the meeting, we were able to leave the narrow guerrilla zones to greet a new age in which we could energetically conduct active guerrilla warfare with large units in the vast area of northeast China and Korea. The arena of the people’s revolutionary army activities, which had been confined to the five counties in Jiandao, would expand dozens of times. Needless to say, the wider the scope of our activities became, the deeper the quandary the enemy, blockading the narrow area, would find itself in. It would be comparatively easy for them to surround the five counties, but it was quite a different matter with the several provinces in northeast China. So far they had had an easy time of it, cooped up in fixed areas after encircling the guerrilla zones, but from that time on they were forced to fight battles which had been unprecedented and had not been dealt with in military manuals, treading on the heels of the people’s revolutionary army.
The enemy described our evacuation of the guerrilla zones as “signifying the decline of the communist bandits in Jiandao” as a “result of the thoroughgoing punitive operation of the Imperial Army through dispersed disposition”, but they had to recognize it as a voluntary act based on new tactics for switching over to large-scale guerrilla actions and as an offensive measure. This new strategic measure made the enemy uneasy, striking terror into them.
Knowing that we were evacuating the guerrilla zones, the enemy interfered with our efforts in every possible way. They further tightened the military blockade, on the one hand, to prevent the army and people from slipping out of the guerrilla zones and, on the other, conducted an ideological offensive in every way to confuse the minds of the people by misleading public opinion. They said that the abandoning of Red territories meant the end of the armed struggle and that the communists’ quitting of guerrilla zones signified abandoning the guerrilla movement. These manoeuvres of the enemy were the major obstacle to our efforts to evacuate the guerrilla zones.
In addition, the people did not welcome the evacuation and this more than anything else troubled us. It was no wonder that they did not accept the new line without mental agony which even a political and military cadre like Ri Kwang Rim had not readily agreed to. Some people entreated us not to do away with the guerrilla zones, asking, “Why are you so eager to suddenly abandon the guerrilla zones today, zones which you publicized as ‘heaven’ until yesterday? What is it all about?” The old man, O Thae Hui, submitted a petition to us on behalf of the people in Shiliping entreating us not to relinquish these zones.
Various conjectures and judgements were made by the people in the guerrilla zones. Each day one or two ominous rumours of doubtful origin spread, confusing the people. Rumour had it that the revolutionary army was evacuating the Red territories to lighten its burden of protecting the people or that the guerrilla army was leaving Jiandao to fight in the homeland by basing itself on the Rangrim Mountains in Korea. Some people said that the revolutionary army might be going deep into the Soviet Union or China proper to recover from its state of exhaustion and to expand its forces on a large scale before coming back to Jiandao. On top of these conjectures, misleading rumours set afloat by the enemy’s appeasement squads were rife, plunging the public opinion of the guerrilla zones into chaos.
We held a joint meeting of the army and the people in Yaoyinggou and patiently explained the urgency and correctness of dissolving the guerrilla zones. The delegates dispatched to various counties and revolutionary organizational districts in east Manchuria convened meetings of like nature and enlightened the army and people. The people understood very well that not to dissolve the guerrilla zones meant death, and accepted the policy as a justifiable strategic measure.
However, the majority of the people backed out at the practical stage of dissolution, refusing to go to the enemy-controlled area. They pleaded, saying, “It’s alright if we have to live on grass and water boiled with animal hides in the guerrilla zone. We’d rather die of hunger here than go to the enemy-ruled area. How can we live there under the harassment of the Japs? We’ll die here if we have to, but don’t send us there.”
Under the slogan, “Let us persuade the people repeatedly!” we called at their houses every day. We held meetings of districts and organizations to persuade them, but quite a few of the people stuck to their opinion that they would not move to the enemy area.
I am one of those who well know what great strength the propaganda and agitation of the communists produce. Some comrades say that it is an infinite strength. But you can’t say that it works in all circumstances. This can be proved by the fact that many people did not move to the enemy area, but went deep into the mountain valleys instead.
Some people volunteered to join the army to escape from having to live under enemy rule. Even the Children’s Corps and Children’s Vanguard members who were not old enough to join the army irritated us with their requests to follow the revolutionary army. At that time Hwang Sun Hui clung to the sleeves of the guerrillas and insisted that if they would not take her with them, they had to shoot her. So the Yanji guerrilla unit accepted her into the guerrilla army. It probably was due to her persistence that she, as a small and fragile woman, surmounted the difficulties of armed struggle, risking her life thousands of times, and is still adding glory to herself as a revolutionary fighter today. Thae Pyong Ryol and Choe Sun San are also veterans who joined the revolutionary army when the guerrilla zones were being evacuated.
At that time we recruited many young men and women and even children into the guerrilla army. Officials of the Party, the YCL and the people’s revolutionary government, who had braved all sorts of hardships with the people for years in the guerrilla zones, took up arms and joined our ranks. Some people volunteered to work in the sewing units, arsenals and hospitals of the revolutionary army. In the course of evacuating the guerrilla zones, the ranks of the people’s revolutionary army expanded rapidly in this manner.
The units of the people’s revolutionary army, with the people’s warm support and encouragement, tried their best to make preparations, obtain supplies and improve the arms needed for guerrilla warfare in extensive areas. In those days the Women’s Association members worked with full devotion, emptying the drawers of chests to make uniforms, knapsacks, handkerchiefs, puttees and tobacco pouches for the soldiers of the revolutionary army who were leaving the guerrilla zones.
We, in turn, gave of our best for their evacuation. The main thing was to expedite the preparations for the people’s evacuation, to meet their demands and the actual situation. How detailed and substantial the preparations for moving them were at that time can be seen from the census, taken in the guerrilla zones in Jiandao shortly before the evacuation of the people. The census contained the names of the people who were to leave the guerrilla zones for other places, their ages, occupations, the names and addresses of their relatives and friends, their official duties, their levels of education, technical skills, destinations, the amount of food grain they had, and so on,
In accordance with this list, the officials of the guerrilla zones classified the people to be sent to the enemy area, to the homeland, and to deep mountains where they would be able to farm. They also grouped separately the people who could go to their relatives and those who could not, children without any support and patients, and evacuated them in a trustworthy manner with an armed escort.
Each of the families evacuated to the enemy area, homeland or to mountainous areas was granted about 30 to 50 yuan of aid money, and was also supplied with fabrics, footwear, vessels, and a variety of other necessities and kitchen utensils. We fought several battles to obtain the money and materials to be distributed among the people. Of these battles I still vividly remember the dramatic raid on the concentration village in Dawangqing, an unusual battle in which O Paek Ryong taught his uncle a lesson. It was also a kind of tragi-comedy in the history of the suffering of our nation that O Paek Ryong slapped his uncle’s face.
We had captured a large amount of weapons and supplies in the battle of the village—20 Model 38 rifles, 40 cattle and horses, dozens of sacks of rice and wheat flour, tens of thousands of yuan of money and so on and so forth. These trophies were too much for the soldiers to carry themselves. The officers fetched people from the village 500 to 600 metres away from the battle site. An important tactical principle of guerrilla warfare was swiftness in the attack and withdrawal; unless the trophies were disposed of quickly, the withdrawal of our unit would be delayed and it would give the enemy a chance to counterattack.
At this urgent moment a moustached peasant would not carry a load and only grumbled. He even prevented others from carrying loads, saying, “Hey, you’ll get into trouble for carrying loads for the guerrilla army. Don’t be rash for the sake of the future!”
Unable to bear with him, O Pack Ryong said, “If you don’t feel like carrying loads, sir, then go home.”
But the man, instead of going home, continued fussing about their meeting with disaster if they carried the loads, O Paek Ryong lost his self-control and slapped his face. Then, he asked a distant relative, “Isn’t that fellow a reactionary’?”
“Why? That’s O Chun Sam, your uncle.”
O Paek Ryong was very surprised. It surprised him that his uncle was behaving like a fool, not as a Korean would do, and what was even more surprising, he had not seen his uncle until he was over 20 years old. When he was still a baby, his uncle had left his family and wandered from place to place. So he did not know his uncle and vice versa. While he had grown up to be a revolutionary, his uncle had turned into a weak man who feared the revolution, and was so feeble-minded and cowardly that he not only shunned the revolutionary struggle himself but also hated to see his children take part in it.
O Paek Ryong was sorry that he had slapped his uncle’s face, but did not know how to apologize. Instead, he sent him a letter through a distant relative, which read:
I behaved badly to you because I didn’t know you, so please forgive me.
If you don’t want to be treated badly by the young people, join the revolution.
As his nephew had advised, O Chun Sam did revolutionize his family later on. He not only became a revolutionary himself but led his wife and children to participate in the anti-Japanese struggle. His son, O Kyu Nam, sacrificed his youth on the road of struggle.
It was said that whenever he had the opportunity, O Chun Sam would say to his friends, “After all, my nephew’s hand reformed me.”
O Paek Ryong was, of course, severely criticized for having harmed the relations between the army and people. An uncle is the nearest relation to a man after his parents, but from the point of view of the people’s revolutionary army, O Chun Sam was one of the people. Although he had played a part in the tragi-comedy, the trophies he had carried through the enlisting of the people were of great help to the evacuees in their future lives.
The correctness of the measures for dissolving the guerrilla zones was verified in life by the process of the overall development of the history of the anti-Japanese, national liberation struggle, which glorified the anti-Japanese revolution that was on the upswing in the latter half of the 1930s and which was waged dynamically for the finale of the country’s liberation.
The units of the people’s revolutionary army, after dissolving the guerrilla zones on their initiative, launched into wider areas, frustrating the enemy’s attempt to comer our resistance forces into the narrow mountainous area in Jiandao and to stifle them. The large and small units of the people’s revolutionary army undauntedly defeated the enemy’s numerical and technical superiority in the vast areas of south and north Manchuria and the northern region of Korea. The people’s revolutionary army’s dissolution of the guerrilla zones in the form of liberated areas and advancing into wider areas was a great event of launching out onto a vast plain from a valley.
With the armed struggle as a powerful background, the people who had left the guerrilla zones struck root in the vast plain and expanded their organizations; they began to sow seeds of the revolution in that vast land. Each of the people, except a few who had signed notes of submission, became a kindling and a match that set the continent on fire. Our political operatives churned up the enemy area.
The dissolution of the guerrilla zones started in May 1935 and ended in early November of that year when the Chechangzi guerrilla zone was evacuated.
The evacuation of the guerrilla zone in Chechangzi was finished about half a year later than in the others, primarily because of the tenacious siege by the enemy who had surrounded it in double and triple rings and waited for the people to starve to death, and also because of the irresponsible attitude and inefficiency of the officials in charge of the people’s lives in this district.
When choosing the sites for the guerrilla zones at the Mingyuegou meeting, the people from Helong had strongly insisted that Chechangzi was a suitable place, Kim Jong Ryong, a delegate from Antu County, had also said that Chechangzi was ideal. This area with its fertile land, thick forests and steep mountains was an ideal natural fortress on which both we and the enemy had set eyes. It was a desolate, mountainous area, no different from any other areas in Jiandao, but it was very highly evaluated by the modern geomancers who had acquired a knowledge of military affairs in the course of guerrilla warfare.
This place, in view of its name, had nothing mysterious in the military sense. The natives had said that Chechangzi meant a place where carts were made. In order to prove the military importance of Chechangzi for the guerrilla army the people from Helong had asserted that the unit of Hong Pom Do had allured the Japanese army to the banks of the River Gudong and annihilated it in Qingshanli probably because of the unique features of this place.
We had dispatched the Independent Regiment to the area of Antu in the spring of 1934 to give armed support to the construction of a guerrilla zone in Chechangzi. Kim Il Hwan, Kim Il and other political workers had also gone to Chechangzi. The Independent Regiment chased a company of the puppet Manchukuo army out without great difficulty, which had been stationed in the vicinity of Chechangzi, and became the new master of the place. With the backing of this regiment, the people in the Yularigcun guerrilla zone swarmed into Chechangzi and established the Helong county people’s revolutionary government across the River Gudong; later the people from Wangyugou and Sandaowan arrived one after another via Shenxiandong to this place and hoisted the flag of the Yanji county people’s revolutionary government at the entrance of the Dongnancha valley. In this way, the people’s revolutionary governments from two different counties existed side by side for one year—a strange phenomenon.
The Chechangzi guerrilla zone had advanced in high spirits just like a vehicle with two engines, or like a carriage pulled by a pair of white horses with bluish manes. The food situation had not been so bad in the early stage.
The members of the Party leadership who had been dispatched from Antu, according to the decision of the Yaoyinggou meeting, were to guide the work of evacuating the Chechangzi guerrilla zone. But they did not even inform the army and people of the policy of dissolving the zone; worse still, they attempted to kill the special representative we had sent there, under the charge of being a “Minsaengdan” suspect. When I heard about it later, I was very surprised.
Chechangzi was the last stronghold on which the revolutionary masses in Jiandao, particularly in Yanji, Helong and Antu, relied. Probably it was because this was the last stronghold that the officials in charge of the evacuation of this zone had taken such an irresolute stand.
I must say that it was indeed admirable how the people of Chechangzi, shoulder to shoulder with the army, had defended the guerrilla zone in the suffocating blockade until November 1935. As I briefly mentioned above, the atmosphere in Chechangzi at that time was not a tranquil one. The Leftists caused anarchy in the zone on the pretext of the struggle against the “Minsaengdan”; worse still, a great number of the revolutionary people suffered severely from famine.
When we started large-unit combined operations in the area of Mt. Paektu, Kim Phyong, Ryu Kyong Su, O Paek Ryong and Pak Yong Sun often recalled the hunger they had suffered in Chechangzi. Even after liberation, Kim Myong Hwa, Kim Jong Suk, Hwang Sun Hui, Kim Chol Ho, Jon Hui and other women veterans, whenever they sat down to a meal, would cry on remembering the days in Chechangzi. Kim Myong Hwa and Kim Jong Suk had been cooks for the corps headquarters at that time.
The situation of the guerrilla zone was reflected on me headquarters’ dining-table. The cooks climbed the mountains every morning to bark the pine-trees for Wang De-tai and other commanders at headquarters. They had to prepare two bundles of pine-tree bark as large as the bundles of bean stalks for a day’s meal of the headquarters. They boiled the bark in a water of strong ashes of oak for over three hours, scooped it out after it had become soft, rinsed it in the river before pounding it with a paddle and then washed it again in fresh water. They repeated these processes several times until suppertime and then mixed it with rice bran to make gruel or cakes. This was the best food in Chechangzi.
If one ate these cakes, one had clogged anuses. Children had a hard time of it in those days to make their bowels move. Their mothers would dig out the clogs in their anuses with sticks, with tears stinging their eyes. Even grown-ups suffered a great deal from clogged anuses. And yet, they again ate the food made of pine-tree bark the next day.
They had to eat food without salt. They could eat saltless gruel and cakes, but it was difficult to eat salad or soup made of edible herbs without salt. Sometimes the messengers who would come there gave them a few grains of salt from the small pouches they carried at their waists. Several people would touch a grain of it with their tongues lightly by turns before handing it over to others. It was indeed tantalizing.
When the pine-tree bark ran out, they would go to the rice mill and collect rice bran and make gruel. That gruel was much better for eating than the gruel made from old herbs. Herb gruel was so coarse and hard that they felt pain in their throats each time they ate it. Even such gruel was not sufficient, and many people died of hunger.
All the people waited for spring. They believed that in spring the merciful, plentiful land would deliver their pitiful lives from starvation. But even spring could not prevent death of hunger, either. What spring gave them were weak, negligible new sprouts that had emerged from under the snow. These sprouts were not enough to sustain them.
The people began to catch snakes that had not yet awoken from their winter sleep. And then they caught rats. Rodents were extinguished in Chechangzi. Frogs and their spawn became the people’s foodstuff. When Kim Chol Ho was recalling how tasty boiled frog spawn had been as they were glutinous and soft like boiled millet, I, on the contrary, shuddered as if that sticky stuff was in my throat. Even though I had partaken of a variety of food with the guerrillas, I could hardly have any reasonable imagination of the taste of boiled frog spawn.
The fur-lined shoes11 which they had used while ploughing, were also put into- the pots. After drinking a bowl of tasteless water boiled with these shoes, the people of the guerrilla zone sowed seeds, crawling just as the soldiers do. They dug out the seeds after two or three days of sowing to eat them. The people’s revolutionary government and mass organizations kept sentries at the fields sown with seeds to prevent the seeds from being dug out. But even the guards, unable to endure the hunger, ate them stealthily.
At night children would creep into the kitchen of corps headquarters, thinking that they would find leftovers in the mess hall where important persons, like the commander of the army corps, had their meals. But that was an absurd dream. They did not know that, as they were starving, Wang De-tai, the commander of the army corps, too, was starving. Nevertheless, the children would have died of despair if they had not expected to find some scorched rice at the bottom of the pots in the kitchen of headquarters. When the cooks gave them the scorched rice, they would weep and gulp it down, saying for shame that they would not come again. But the cooks found them prowling around the kitchen the next day, too.
In this famine the people crawled along the furrows of the crop fields to weed them. They scraped the field with their fingers before collapsing; they would rise again and scrape it until the tips of their fingernails became worn out. After a second weeding, the ears of barley came out. The people stripped off the grains of barley which were only juicy without seeds and ate them. They were so weak that they were unable to rise; they reached their hands out with great difficulty for the ears and chewed on a few grains.
The people of Chechangzi were able to remain pure human beings even though they were nearly dying of hunger, thanks to the fact that the communist ideal which had influenced their way of thinking and conduct for years and the communist ethics of sacrificing themselves for the collective had transformed all the revolutionary masses in Jiandao into saintlike, virtuous men and women. The inhumane idea of a man eating another man’s limb dared not assert itself in Chechangzi.
In the famine that came before the harvesting of barley, the children, before anybody else, began to die one after another, unable to stand the hunger, followed by the men. A greater misfortune fell upon the women who had been born with the obligation to help their husbands and children until the last moment of their lives even though they, too, were starving; they had to suffer a still worst agony—of covering their husbands and children who had died of hunger with fallen leaves without coffins and not being able to shed tears for a lack of energy, even though they wanted to weep, until they became insensible in front of each corpse, The famine in Chechangzi was the result of none other than the Japanese aggressor army which had blockaded this zone and of its repeated brutal “punitive” attacks on it.
The officials in charge of the guerrilla zone did not make every effort to provide food to the people, either. The reactionaries and wicked elements, who had wormed their way into the leadership, fooled the people with such super-revolutionary speeches as “We must endure hunger. Never give in! To die is to surrender!”
The people of Chechangzi defended the guerrilla zone to the last, refusing to go to the enemy-ruled area, even though they were murdered on a false charge of being a “Minsaengdan” suspect or died from hunger. Their fortitude and their unbreakable revolutionary spirit still move our hearts today after half a century has elapsed.
In October 1935, when the evacuation of the guerrilla zone was on the order of the day, 20 people of “Minsaengdan” suspect families, including those of Kim Il, Nam Chang Su, Ri Kye Sun and Kwon Il Su, formed a solidarity household in the deep valley of Dongnancha and continued their struggle to cast off the stigma of “Minsaengdan” even in this way until the summer of 1936. This was a unique way of living by which several families joined into one household to eke out a living and to fight in unity. They pooled their household goods into a log-cabin, and elected their head; he would give appropriate assignments to every one by the day, week and month, and review the results of their work; in this way they led an organized life. They were the last defenders of Chechangzi.
The enemy sent in thousands of their troops to effect a tight siege; they changed the previous scorched-earth tactics of “punitive” attack by the army and police into a comprehensive, great siege tactic in military, political, economic and other fields, and repeated the “punitive” operations to crush Chechangzi once and for all, only to be defeated every time.
In October 1935 they committed thousands of their troops for a large “punitive” operation. The brave defenders of Chechangzi repulsed the enemy’s attack heroically this time, too. They even brought down an enemy plane with small arms that was bombing me guerrilla zone.
In November of that year most of the people of Chechangzi evacuated from the guerrilla zone towards Naitoushan, together with the army.
One of the defenders of Chechangzi Paek Hak Rim who also suffered hunger, fell ill and fought for a long time shoulder to shoulder with the people during the siege, still says, “If you don’t know the extreme misery the people in Chechangzi suffered in the days of the anti-Japanese war, don’t dare to utter a word about a hard life! If you don’t know how the soldiers and people of Chechangzi endured hunger and cold and survived the enemy’s ‘punitive’ atrocities even during the siege, don’t dare to pride yourself on overcoming some difficulty!”
While organizing and conducting the evacuation of the guerrilla zones we appreciated our people’s sense of organization and steel-like discipline and their faithfulness to the revolution and indefatigability, and became confident that we would emerge victorious in any difficult circumstance if we mobilized such people and guided them properly.
Once a people rise as a single unity to combat injustice at the risk of their lives, no blockade or scorched-earth operation will succeed against such a people. This is a convincing lesson demonstrated by the history of the international communist movement. The people all over the world still clearly remember how the international blockade the armed interventionists of 14 countries imposed on the new Russia ended. Germany under Hitler’s rule did not succeed in blockading Leningrad, either. Even under the rain of bombs, the defenders of Leningrad continued to bake bread, manufacture tanks and promote production. In 1943 when the world bourgeoisie was noisily claiming that Leningrad would fall, the working people of this city wrought a miracle by attaining a higher productivity than that of 1942.
The blockade and the “punitive” attacks the army of Jiang Jie-shi launched on several occasions against the anti-Japanese bases in China ended in repeated failures. The United States has been blockading Cuba for 30 years, but has not succeeded. She is spending enormous energy to blockade this small island country, but her scheme has not worked out. Recently the draft resolution proposed by Cuba, in opposition to the Torricelli Bill, was passed at the UN General Assembly. The international community cast a cold glance at the United States’ anachronistic policy of blockade. Fidel Castro said, “When a man finds himself in a dangerous situation, a great amount of adrenalin is secreted in his body.” Adrenalin is a hormone which strengthens the function of the heart. This adrenalin symbolizes the optimism of the Cuban communists.
The United States, Japan and other modern imperialist states are now blockading our country in the political, economic and military spheres. But the Korean communists have a sufficient amount of vitamins of the Juche type with which to frustrate that blockade. The attempt to conquer the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Korean people by military means or to stifle them politically and economically is a wild daydream, like an attempt to break a rock with an egg-After the evacuation of the guerrilla zones, small units and political workers actively infiltrated into the homeland. The seeds of the revolution were sown in the vast lands of Manchuria and Korea.
I never forgot Wangqing after the evacuation of the guerrilla zones nor slighted Jiandao. Even though they were evacuated, the five counties in Jiandao were a major theatre of war against the Japanese, which we regarded just as important in subsequent years. The large and small units of the people’s revolutionary army, including the unit led by Choe Hyon, fought many battles in Wangqing and its vicinity—raids on the concentration village of Shangcun in Beihamatang, on Sidaohezi, on Zhong-pingcun in Baicaogou, on Dahshugou, an ambush at Zhangjiadian, raids on Shangbarengou, on Taiyangcun, and on Dahuangwai, an ambush at Jiapigou, raids on Yongqiucun in Xiaobaicaogou, and on the felling station in Shiliping, the battle of Shitouhe in Chunfangcun, a raid on Shanglaomuzhuhe in Luozigou* Thus, they dealt a telling blow to the enemy.
The enemy diligently tried to check the elusive attacks of the anti-Japanese guerrilla army. The military and passenger trains running along major trunk lines in Jiandao, were always escorted by a heavily equipped armoured car for their safety. Whenever a passenger train passed mountainous areas at nights, the shades at all the windows were drawn down for a total blackout, and the military police, plainclothes men and railway guards supervised and controlled the passengers of every carriage. If a man looked outside, drawing up a shade, he was abused as an associate with the bandits and his face was slapped.
The enemy tightened the guarding of the concentration villages and mobilized the people by force for guard duty. In some settlements they distributed wooden rifles and an explosive with an ignition device to the residents in order to counter the raiding revolutionary army. How frightened they had been at the energetic activities of the people’s revolutionary army can be seen from the fact that the Japanese policemen posted only Chinese and Korean guards of the self-defence corps in the concentration villages at night and they themselves moved from one bedroom to another every night.
Among the Japanese policemen and the members of the self-defence corps of Manchukuo, drug addicts appeared one after another who were weary of war and of armed service.
The “Matsumura incident”, which took place in the Shixian area, illustrates what inglorious defeats the Japanese imperialists suffered in the mid-1930s. Matsumura was an intellectual who had been a teacher in Japan before taking refuge in Manchuria; he had been suspected of having become involved in a Red teachers’ union. He took 2,000 yen as an advance payment and promised to work as a superintendent at the felling station of Mt. Paektu, a station run by a Japanese. A few months after his appointment, we attacked that felling station. Matsumura carried the trophies for the revolutionary army, and had a talk with me. He enjoyed our concert performance. Then he said that he now clearly understood how strong the revolutionary army was. He submitted his resignation to the head of the felling station on his return and went back to his native village. He was sure that Japan’s defeat was just a matter of time.
The lumberjacks who had been under the influence of the guerrilla zones derailed one train after another in Wangqing and in its vicinity. Although the guerrilla zones had been evacuated, the spirit of these zones remained in Jiandao, striking terror into the hearts of the enemy.
The people’s revolutionary army completed preparations for the second expedition to north Manchuria at the battles on Laoheishan and at Taipinggou. The expeditionary force, which was made up of several companies from the Wangqing and Hunchun Regiments and the young volunteers’ corps, left Taipinggou in late June 1935, enjoying a cordial send-off from the people. The expeditionary force reached Barengou via Shitouhezi and Sidaohezi, and then tackled the tricky task of scaling the Laoyeling Mountains. Some of the guerrillas from the Independent Regiment from Antu were in the long, marching columns. Of all the veterans still alive, O Jin U, who belonged to the Wangqing 4th Company at the time, might well have been the only one capable of recalling the second expedition to north Manchuria. Han Hung Gwon, Jon Man Song, Pak Thae Hwa, Kim Thae Jun, Kim Ryo Jung, Ji Pyong Hak, Hwang Jong Hae, Hyon Chol, Ri Tu Chan, O Jun Ok, Jon Chol San and others were also on that expedition, but they have passed away.
At the time of the first expedition, the Laoyeling Mountains were covered with deep snow, but on our second expedition the mountains were green with summer foliage. Whereas in October 1934 we ploughed through a snowstorm across these mountains, in June 1935 we had to climb them under a scorching sun, fighting off attacking swarms of mosquitoes. Although the biting cold and heavy snow had been sheer torture, the burning sun and sweat were no less unbearable.
The horses, laden with a mortar and heavy machine-guns, struggled along the steep paths, intertwined with vines and trees. Whenever the horses balked, we would forge ahead by cutting away the thornbush with our bayonets and sawing away fallen trees.
While scaling the Laoyeling Mountains, the Chinese Worker-Peasant Red Army, under the command of Mao Ze-dong and Zhu De, was successfully stepping up the historic 25,000-li Long March in China proper, breaking through the surrounding rings formed by Jiang Jie-shi’s army. After reaching River Dadu on May 30, 1935, the Red Army occupied an ancient chain bridge, called Luding Bridge, after a fierce battle, and opened the road for tens of thousands of soldiers on the Long March. May 30 marked the day Shi Da-kai, leader of the Taiping Rebellion, attempted to cross the river, it was also the 10th anniversary of the May 30 atrocities in Shanghai. It should be noted that a daring, death-defying corps of the Red Army had crossed the Luding Bridge on this fateful day.
We were greatly encouraged by the news that they had crossed River Dadu, which arrived at Jiandao, following information on their campaign in Guizhou, After the battle at Luding Bridge, the Red Army successfully crossed Mt. Daxue, one of the most difficult obstacles in its march, and Mt. Jiajin and entered the Gansu Plain.
In those days we were more interested in heartening news such as the international fair, held in Brussels, the opening of the underground railway in Moscow, and the Chinese Red Army’s progress on its Long March and occupation of a certain place, rather than the tragic news that the Yangtze River had overflowed, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and an earthquake in Taiwan had laid waste to thousands of houses.
Our crossing of the Laoyeling Mountains constituted as great an event as the Red Army’s crossing of Mt. Daxue on the Long March. Whenever orders were given for a break in the march, most of the exhausted men on the expedition would drop wherever they were and rest. Snoring would break out here and there. It was no easier to endure drowsiness than hunger. But no one complained at the high speed of the march or requested a slower pace. Everyone moved exactly as their commanders ordered. As everything about the campaign had been explained beforehand, the men knew all about the purpose of the march and were ready to surmount whatever difficulties lay ahead.
The people’s revolutionary army could have fought anywhere in east Manchuria, south of the Laoyeling Mountains, or in south Manchuria. Why, then did we tackle a rough march across the steep Laoyeling Mountains, for the first campaign in north Manchuria after evacuating our cradle and home base in east Manchuria? What were the political and military factors leading us to decide to go to north Manchuria, where the Japanese and puppet Manchukuo army forces were concentrated? The principal motive was to strengthen solidarity with Korean communists active in north Manchuria and pave the way for full-scale cooperation, joint, coordinated action with them.
Just as most of the pioneers, leaders and standard-bearers of the communist movement in east Manchuria were Koreans, so the prime movers behind the communist movement in north Manchuria were Koreans. The core of the guerrilla movement in north Manchuria had also been made up of Korean communists.
Zhou Bao-zhong used every opportunity to speak highly of the Koreans’ painstaking efforts and exploits for the revolution in northeast China. He said:
“In 1930 most of the secretaries of the county and district Party committees in the northeast were Koreans. In Ningan, Boli, Tangyuan, Raohe, Baoqing, Hulin, Yilan and other counties in north Manchuria, to say nothing of many counties in Yanbian, most of the secretaries and members of the county Party committees were Koreans.”
One spring day, when the anti-Japanese revolution had reached its final stage, I strolled with Zhou along a sandy track near the north secret camp in the vicinity of Khabarovsk, within a hailing distance of the Amur River. Recalling with deep emotion the joint struggle we had waged in the days of the Anti-Japanese Allied Army, he said:
“One could not possibly talk about the development of the Anti-Japanese Allied Army separately from the exploits of the Korean comrades. It’s a well-known fact that more than 90 per cent of the 2nd Corps are Koreans.... The protagonists of the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th Corps are Koreans—Ri Hong Gwang, Ri Tong Gwang, Choe Yong Gon, Kim Chaek, Ho Hyong Sik and Ri Hak Man. Ever since Wei Zheng-min and Yang Jing-yu died, you. Commander Kim Il Sung, have been fighting the Japanese for several years, as head of the 1st and 2nd Corps. Those of us, who are responsible for the revolution in northeast China, often feel like bowing to you. We will erect a monument to the Korean martyrs in northeast China when this war is over.”
True to his words, a decision was adopted after the war by the Jilin Provincial Party Committee to build a monument in Jilin and Yanbian area to the Korean martyrs.
The Korean people were forced to lead a dog’s life by the Japanese and Manchurian government authorities and landlords even in north Manchuria. The vast Song-Liao Plain and other plains connected by wasteland in north and south Manchuria constituted one of the world’s largest granaries, yielding tens of millions of tons of grain annually. But the poor Korean expatriates and pioneers in this place had to suffer a shortage of food, clothing and housing the whole year round.
At a modest party held immediately after the armistice, I saw Ri Yong Ho cry as he recalled the hunger he had suffered during his childhood in north Manchuria. He said it was experienced by his family when living in Wurenban, Sanchakou or in Raohe, so it must have been around 1915. The family had existed one whole autumn on cabbage stems because they had no food grain. He said that it had been as sweet as honey at first, but that after three days it made him feel nauseous. Yong Ho, then a little boy, used to spit the tasteless stuff out under his knees, avoiding his parents’ eyes, and drink only thin soup; his mother would cover her face with her skirt and weep.
A pair of trousers made out of a rice sack was all that their poverty could afford to give him. “Paekmi” (Cleaned Rice—Tr.) had been stamped in large blue letters in the middle of the sack. The sack had been cut, with little attention paid to its inside or outside, so that the letters had remained on the outside of the right trouser leg. But that didn’t bother him at all, as he did not understand the meaning of those letters. He had perceived them as a mysterious symbol of maternal love and became attached to them. Although he put on his only pair of trousers with those mysterious letters every day, he did not taste rice throughout his boyhood, the rice signified by the letters inscribed on his trousers.
This is only one aspect of the poverty suffered by Korean expatriates in north Manchuria in those days.
In his Travelogue to South Manchuria, carried in the magazine Kae-byok (Creation—Tr.), Ri Ton Hwa had said that there were mounted bandits everywhere in Manchuria and that they were extremely dangerous. But the mounted bandits in north Manchuria were more violent than the ones in east and south Manchuria. They provided another source of trouble in addition to the “punitive” atrocities ceaselessly perpetrated by the Japanese and puppet Manchukuo armies. The wild bandits regarded murder as a hobby. Every time hundreds of these bandits, armed with daggers and shotguns, would pounce on them in packs and commit murder, arson and plunder, so that our compatriots had to move from place to place from fear and anxiety. The bandits would take innocent people hostages and then claim ransoms. They would take the hostages to deep mountain valleys, cut off an ear. a finger or a toe from each one, and send them to the hostages’ parents, attaching notes, which explained that these were parts of their sons and that they would kill them, if the demanded money was not sent by the required date. The families were thus forced to sell their property to save their sons. Or else, in most cases, the hostages were returned home dead.
North Manchuria was never a “paradise of righteous government” or a world where the “concord of five nations” flourished. Social evils and the law of the jungle ruled the land. There, too, Koreans were no better than servants or work animals toiling in the interests of Japanese high-ranking officials, warlords, big business, bankers and merchants. Their cursed lot stirred the Koreans in north Manchuria in the early days to fight against the Japanese for the freedom and independence of their fatherland.
Progressive Koreans in north Manchuria, like those in east Manchuria, initiated the communist movement all on their own. Every Korean, who was knowledgeable, clever and sensitive, joined the communist movement. All wise Koreans believed in communism and were totally devoted to the revolution, shouting, “Down with Japanese imperialism!” and “Down with the landlords and capitalists!”
The pioneers of the communist movement in north Manchuria had started preparations for armed resistance in the early 1930s against the Japanese imperialists. A training course for 200 young Koreans was organized in Baoqing County led by Choe Yong Gon; this partly laid the foundations for the anti-Japanese guerrilla army. The training course, as indicated by its name, was a military academy, offering political and military training to the young, who would constitute the backbone of the future revolutionary army. As I myself had done at Hwasong Uisuk School, the trainees studied history and military tactics and practised shooting. The course comprised 10 companies and Choe Yong Gon was the commander and, concurrently, the chief of general staff, and Pak Jin U (his real name is Kim Jin U), the political commissar.
Kim Ryong Hwa, who authored the 250-mile March and was also called “Approved Moustache”, had also worked at this course as a company commander. I think he was nicknamed “Approved Moustache” in the mid-1950s, when the anti-US war came to an end in our country. Some changes took place in our people’s life-styles following the laying of the foundations of socialism. Most notably people with moustaches, beards, long hair, shaved heads and shorts disappeared from the streets. The state did not pass any law, stipulating a rigid style of trousers, beards, moustaches or hair, but such wonderful changes happened naturally.
However, only Major-General Kim Ryong Hwa, an anti-Japanese veteran and Director of the People’s Army Arsenal, sported a moustache similar to that of An Chang Ho. Some of his comrades-in-arms advised him to shave it off. His wife and children, and even his superiors, ‘‘‘persuaded” him tenaciously, but it all fell on deaf ears. Instead he merely trimmed his moustache in front of a mirror even more enthusiastically every morning.
One day he asked me, “Premier, what do you think of my moustache?”
“I think it’s a masterpiece. How can you be Kim Ryong Hwa without it, no matter how handsome you are? I can’t picture Kim Ryong Hwa without a moustache.”
“Then you approve of my moustache?”
“Approve? It’s true that the people gave me, the Premier, great authority, but they still haven’t given me the right to rule on other people’s beards and moustaches. It’s up to you what to do with it If you like it, keep it, if not, shave it off.”
“Then, Premier, everything’s fine. Frankly speaking, I’ve been harassed a great deal because of my moustache. From now on, I shall feel strong.”
He was all smiles as he left my office. However, a few months later, he was stopped, by an officer guarding the Cabinet building as he came to visit me, because of that moustache. The duty officers would not let anyone enter my office if their appearance was not clean and hygienic. Hearing the bickering from the entrance, I opened a window and asked the officer what the matter was.
“I told the Major-General that he couldn’t enter, until he shaves off his moustache, but he insists that it’s an ‘approved moustache’. Is it true that you. Comrade Supreme Commander, approved his moustache?” the officer asked, casting a dubious glance at Kim Ryong Hwa.
“If that’s the trouble, don’t annoy the Major-General any longer. His moustache is inviolable.”
Since then, he has been called by his nickname, “Approved Moustache” in the army, instead of his real name.
He was married at nine, and followed the plough at the age of eleven, playing the role of a householder; at the age of 13, as an orderly of Hong Pom Do, he had taken part in the famous battle of Iman, where tens of thousands of enemy soldiers were killed or wounded. That is the kind of brilliant record this veteran soldier had.
The training course at Baoqing was organized with only young Koreans at the beginning owing to the prevailing opinion that Korean independence could only be achieved by an army of pure Koreans, and that chaos would reign if foreigners were in the army. However, the view that a purely Korean army would not facilitate an allied front with the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese armed units and that worse still they might be isolated from the Chinese people, gradually gained weight. Consequently the organizers of the course recruited two Chinese young men. But these two men turned coat during the training and supplied secrets of the training course to the enemy.
The training course transferred to a place 75 miles away from Baoqing to take shelter from the enemy’s whirlwind arrests and built a new building there. But it was unable to survive the enemy’s “punitive” attacks and broke up.
Choe Yong Gon moved the base of his activities to Raohe and organized with Pak Jin U, Hwang Kye Hong, Kim Ryong Hwa, Kim Ji Myong and other comrades-in-arms, another training course at a primary school in Sanyitun, involving 70 young men, and selected the best trainees who were well prepared politically and militarily to organize a special red corps (or red terrorist group). Its main mission was to liquidate the enemy’s lackeys, guard the military and political cadres and obtain arms. Using them as a backbone, Choe subsequently formed the Raohe Worker-Peasant Guerrilla Army.
Before and after the organization of the guerrilla units in Tangyuan and Raohe, armed units led by Kim Chaek, Ho Hyong Sik, Ri Hak Man, and Kim Hae San were formed successively in Ningan, Mishan, Boli, Zhuhe and Weihe. This marked the start of the protracted resistance against Japan.
Kim Hae San and Ri Kwang Rim laid the foundations of the 5th Corps with Zhou Bao-zhong, and Kim Chaek and Ho Hyong Sik, together with Zhang Shou-jian and Zhao Shang-zhi, organized the 3rd Corps; Choe Yong Gon, Ri Hak Man, Ri Yong Ho, An Yong and Choe Il, together with Li Yan-lu, rendered meritorious service as standard-bearers, by forming the 4th and 7th Corps.
The army song of the Korean communists could be heard almost everywhere in vast north Manchuria, covering hundreds of thousands of square kilometres from the Laoyeling Mountains in the south to the Amur River in the north and from the Ussuri River in the east to the Daxingan Mountains in the west.
While Kim Chaek led the guerrilla activities, centring on the Binjiang area covering the east and northeast of Harbin, Choe Yong Gon and Ri Hak Man constantly raided, from their bases on the Wanda Mountains, the enemy’s concentration villages and supply bases.
In the second half of the 1930s, Ho Hyong Sik, in cooperation with Kim Chaek and Ma Tok San, organized a northwest expeditionary force and advanced to Hailun and several other counties to establish contacts with the guerrilla units in their flank, and made energetic attempts in this area. Kang Kon, using the Laoling Mountains as a base for his activities, attacked the enemy tactfully, operating continually in mountainous and open areas on both sides of the River Mudan. Although young, he was quick-witted and tireless; he rapidly developed into a promising military commander.
The fighters from Jiandao played a great role in the development of the guerrilla movement in north Manchuria. Kim Chaek, Han Hung Gwon, Pak Kil Song, An Yong, Choe Il, Jon Chang Chol and others, who had been fully tested and tempered in the practical struggle in east Manchuria, became active organizers, propagandists and leaders in north Manchuria and achieved a breakthrough in the difficult anti-Japanese war.
The Korean communists in north Manchuria always paid serious attention to the overall development of the revolution in east Manchuria and engaged in unremitting efforts to establish contacts with Korean communists, active in east Manchuria. They regularly received news through various channels about east Manchuria.
Zhou Bao-zhong delivered most of the news to the comrades in north Manchuria. The messengers, who frequented Wangqing from the 5th Corps, led by Zhou Bao-zhong and using Ningan as its base, and the fighters who had been sent from the 2nd Corps to 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Corps, active in north Manchuria, widely publicized developments in east Manchuria.
The eastern area bureau of Jilin Province (the Eastern Area Party Committee of Jilin Province) also acted as an important propaganda centre of east Manchuria. Comrades-in-arms in north Manchuria obtained Red publications through this bureau, published in east Manchuria and even such confidential documents as the Ten-Point Programme of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland, In those days the bureau operated as a switchboard, connecting east and south Manchuria to north Manchuria and vice versa.
Ri Yong Ho said that while head of the propaganda department of the Raohe County Party Committee, he had been to the bureau and officially received the ten-point programme. On his return, he forwarded to his comrades all the information he had obtained at the bureau. He was extremely upset that he lost the original document during the anti-Japanese war.
More than any other comrades-in-arms in north Manchuria, Kim Chaek and Choe Yong Gon, widely publicized our activities. They enthusiastically explained to the soldiers of the people’s revolutionary army, to the workers and peasants, the general line, strategy and tactics, and the immediate tasks I had advanced to achieve victory in the Korean revolution and always stressed that one should learn from our battle results and moral traits.
When organizing the Raohe guerrilla army, Choe Yong Gon said to the guerrillas:
“I’ve heard that the revolutionary struggle in east Manchuria is now progressing in accordance with the strategy of Commander Kim Il Sung. They say that Commander Kim is a young leader and a favourite of the people. This is very fortunate for the white-clad nation (Korean nation— Tr.), which had suffered from a lack of leader. I’d like to take some time off to see him, but I don’t know how I can make my wish come true.”
He had written to me on four occasions. However, all the messengers, who left north Manchuria to convey the letters to me, had been killed on the way. Only one of them, despite great difficulties, miraculously managed to get near Dunhua, the arena of our unit’s activities, but he was also killed, before fulfilling his assignment. If he had not been arrested by the enemy and had resisted for one or two more days, he would have met me. Then, I could have met Choe Yong Gon in some place in Jiandao or somewhere else in north Manchuria or in south Manchuria, the places of our activities, in the mid-1930s, and not in 1941.
When I met Kim Chaek and Choe Yong Gon in 1941 in Khabarovsk, I was very surprised to discover that they knew my personal history and family background in detail. They even knew that the dimples on my cheeks and bucktooth were targeted as distinguishing marks by Japanese secret agents, who had been hunting me for 10 years, and that tens of thousands of yuan had been set as a reward for my head.
Just as they knew so much about me, I had also learnt a lot about them through various channels. Kim Chaek knew full well that I had received a great deal of assistance from the Rev. Son Jong Do, while imprisoned in Jilin. And I knew that Kim owed a lot to Ho Hon12 when behind bars in Sodaemun prison in Seoul. Such revolutionaries had experienced all sorts of hardships; their personal histories and experiences were replete with moving, tearful stories and fantastic episodes, The stories of the hard-working and most courageous individuals were the most interesting to hear. What kind of topics can we expect from loafers who eat the bread of idleness? On his return from north Manchuria, one messenger of our unit made his comrades-in-arms laugh, by recounting the absurd tale that Ri Hak Man, commander of the 7th Corps, had grown up on milk to the age of eleven. All of us were convulsed with laughter. The guerrillas rebuffed the tale saying that when you turned eleven, you could get married, that it was mere invention and lie that he had taken breast milk at that age. I also considered the tale mere exaggeration.
Later on when I first met Ri Yong Ho, Ri Hak Man’s nephew, at the north secret camp in Khabarovsk, I asked him whether it was true that his uncle had been reared on the milk of his elder brother’s wife until the age of eleven. He replied in the affirmative.
“If your uncle had been reared on the milk of his elder brother’s wife, that means that he took the breast of your mother. Didn’t your uncle, a bulky man, imbibe all the milk intended for you?”
When I said this, he hastily shielded his uncle, “Not at all. I wasn’t left without. My uncle sucked only one breast. The other was mine.”
“You see: half of your food was therefore exploited by your uncle. That plunder was not a 2:8 or 3:7 system; and yet you speak in his favour.”
Ri laughed at my joke till the tears flowed.
“Milk from one breast was enough for me. My mother had plenty of milk. After my birth, her breasts were so swollen that she squeezed out the remaining milk after I had eaten my fill. It was painful to milk by hand and she couldn’t squeeze all the milk out. Consequently one day my grandmother told my uncle to suck my mother’s breast. He did as he had been told. At first, he spat out what he had sucked, but he swallowed a mouthful once just for fun, and then said that her milk was as delicious as his mother’s. He subsequently took her breast every day.”
“Your uncle had plenty of guts.”
“Yes, he was special. When my grandmother said, ‘You take all of Sok Song’s milk’, he would reply, ‘I’ll take only one breast.’ Sok Song was what I was called as a baby. He stopped taking the milk when I was two or three years old. But he would sit in front of my mother with saliva in his mouth, whenever I drew on her breasts.”
That day Ri Yong Ho told some more anecdotes about his uncle.
I was totally fascinated by Ri Hak Man’s personality. But to my regret, he was then already dead. By the 1940s when I first met Ri Yong Ho, many people in the anti-Japanese forces in north Manchuria had been buried in the wilderness. An Yong, who had fought in several units of the Anti-Japanese Allied Army in north Manchuria, shed tears when calling out the names of his comrades-in-arms who had been buried in the wilderness of north Manchuria.
But when we scaled the Laoyeling Mountains after the battle at Taip-inggou, most of them were still alive and freely roaming the plains and mountains in north Manchuria, destroying the enemy like an angry tiger. These comrades-in-arms were so keen to meet us. They had many unsolved problems and had to overcome many difficulties to ensure cooperation with us. They also had to settle problems in their relations with the Comintern, Chinese communists and people and with the Chinese nationalist armed units. We, too, had many things we wanted to tackle with them. While in east Manchuria our heads ached, owing to the problems caused by the “Minsaengdan”. In north Manchuria they had their own problems.
This state of affairs compelled us to hasten our second march to north Manchuria. We awaited from our comrades-in-arms in north Manchuria only the tender feelings of our compatriots. The anti-“Minsaengdan” hassle had transformed the guerrilla zones in Jiandao, where the ethics of love and trust prevailed, into a land devoid of all tenderness. We had felt the absence of human feelings and had longed for them for ages in that wasteland, the human feelings which resembled an oasis. No matter how steep the Laoyeling Mountains were, they could not stop our feelings from flowing like clouds to our friends in north Manchuria.
We also effected the second expedition to north Manchuria to consolidate the militant alliance with the Chinese communists there, an alliance established during our first expedition, and wage a more efficient joint struggle with them as the new times required. In the mid-1930s, the imperialists, alarmed at the advance of progressive people and socialist forces, opposed to imperialism and war, were strengthening their international alliance against the independent forces of the world. Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and Japan, bent on plunging humanity into the holocaust of a world war, were hastening the formation of an anti-communist, anti-peace alliance.
In this situation, consolidation of international solidarity with the communists of all countries, especially the Chinese communists, became a matter of urgency in order to develop the anti-Japanese revolution, as demanded by the new era. It was also me Comintern’s consistent demand that the units of the Anti-Japanese Allied Army strengthen their relations in many places of Manchuria and destroy the enemy by combined effort and thereby overcome the tendency for individual, isolated activities.
At that time the forces of several army corps organized in northeast China were not uniform. There were some differences in the fighting efficiency and preparedness of all the army corps, owing to disparities in the abilities and qualifications of their commanding officers. Every corps fought alone, unconnected to the corps in its flanks, entrenched mostly in fixed areas. This dispersed state made it impossible for the guerrilla units operating all over Manchuria to make comprehensive use of their forces to meet the changing military and political situation. This weakness could have engendered a piecemeal defeat of the guerrilla units operating in isolation in their fixed areas.
The guerrilla units in east, north and south Manchuria consequently sought to establish mutual contacts. All the guerrilla units in Manchuria had to correct the outmoded method of operating in isolation, defending limited areas in fixed guerrilla zones in the form of liberated areas and courageously develop their military and political activities on a broader scale, in close cooperation with one another. If they had not performed these strategic tasks, it would have proved impossible to raise the guerrilla movement in Manchuria to a higher level or promote its unification.
The anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle had caused discord and mistrust, which could have impeded the common struggle of Korean and Chinese communists. If we went to north Manchuria and cooperated efficiently with the Chinese communists, we could thoroughly dispel this awkward atmosphere.
If we continued fighting in north Manchuria for some months, Wei Zheng-min and Yun Pyong Do, who had gone to Moscow to receive an answer from the Comintern, would return. The meeting with Wei Zheng-min and Yun Pyong Do was another important aim we had set for the expedition, While crossing the Laoyeling Mountains, the soldiers of the companies, which had switched from the puppet Manchukuo army, now operating under the Hunchun Regiment, suffered many hardships. As they were not accustomed to marching in mountains, they were already exhausted after the first two hours. On my orders Jang Ryong San from the Wangqing Regiment took charge of the three companies and helped them through the march. Jang had worked mostly between Zhuanjiaolou and Sanchakou as a raftsman and was a very strong man. Each time he wielded a bayonet, the surrounding bushes were slashed into heaps. He climbed up the steep mountain path at full speed with two or three soldiers’ rifles and knapsacks on his back.
And he would jokingly encourage his fellow soldiers: “Hey, all of you who can’t climb this mountain, change out of your pants into skirts and cut off your masculinity! Immediately!”
We scaled the mountains, undergoing all kinds of hardships. But it was only in July that we managed to find with much difficulty the place near Shandongtun, where Zhou Bao-zhong was staying. He had previously been the head of the military department of the Suining Central County Party Committee, but now the new post of commander of the 5th Corps of the Anti-Japanese Allied Army weighed on his shoulders. Several months earlier he had bent over on a stick to greet us but this time he was without a stick and came out to Laoquangou 2.5 miles from his secret camp and embraced me, Before I even asked, he excitedly told me about the situation in Ningan, “My wound has healed up completely. We’ve organized a new corps since the departure of the expeditionary force from east Manchuria. The Party and mass organizations in Ningan have been working energetically ever since. All thanks to your expeditionary force, Commander Kim, which helped us so much last year.”
“I’m relieved to hear that your wound has healed. Apparently the previous months have acted in your favour, Zhou. You’re the commander of the 5th Corps and many other actions of yours deserve congratulations.”
That is how I congratulated him and asked after Ping Nan-yang. As I trudged along the land of north Manchuria, I felt the feelings of friendship we had sealed in the flames of battle the previous year rise to the surface. It was indeed strange that the image of that coarse soldier had been so vividly engraved in my memory, as if he were a childhood friend of mine.
On our arrival at the camp of the 5th Corps, we discussed joint actions with Zhou Bao-zhong, and here there was a slight friction. For Zhou had attempted to impose a course of action for the expeditionary force from east Manchuria on Hou Guo-zhong, commander of the Hunchun Regiment, as if he was giving the orders. Consequently the conversation between the two sides ended in deadlock. At that time, Hu Ren, political commissar of the 5th Corps, was operating in the area of Muling with his corps. Zhou wanted our expeditionary force to go to Muling and help out Hu Ren in the fighting, and then advance to Wuhe-lin to take control of that area.
It was not difficult to comply with that request. However, Hou, a man with a strong sense of dignity, flatly refused. He apparently took it for an order, rather than a request. An Kit and Kim Ryo Jung held the same opinion. They became angry and said, “We have our own objectives on the course we have to follow. You have no right to order us to do this or that. The 5th Corps is the 5th Corps and the 2nd Corps is the 2nd Corps.” They quite rightly lost their temper. As we had come to north Manchuria representing the 2nd Corps, we could not afford to act without discretion on the orders of other peoples even if it was all for the joint struggle.
Zhou called it a mere adventure saying that it did not typify guerrilla warfare for a guerrilla army to carry such heavy weapons as mortars and heavy machine-guns.
I agreed that his remark made some sense, but thought that we should wait and see if the heavy weapons were beneficial or not in guerrilla warfare. When we embarked on the anti-Japanese war, we defined the principle that the guerrilla army should on the whole use light weapons. However, after firing mortars and recognizing their might in the battle of Taipinggou, I came to believe that we should not necessarily rule out the use of heavy weapons in guerrilla warfare, and that they would be very effective in the existing situation if used properly. In fact, the partisans of the Soviet Union had used big guns and Maxim machine-guns during their Civil War. Even though it was a partial phenomenon, some of the Chinese guerrillas were already using big guns by that time. We could see that Zhou Bao-zhong had gone a bit too far, when he had called it a mere adventure for the expeditionary force from east Manchuria to carry mortars and heavy machine-guns.
To ease the tense atmosphere, I proposed another talk, after giving deeper thought to the plans for joint action, and then the adoption of measures acceptable to both sides. Zhou Bao-zhong agreed. We would therefore have sufficient time to study the detailed plans for joint action and enable the expeditionary force, exhausted from the march, to have a rest.
Shandongtun village was home to about 100 Chinese peasant households. The name of the place originated from the settlement of people from Shandong there. To blockade this village, the enemy had kept a “punitive” force of about 200-300 soldiers almost four miles from the village. I made contacts there with the secretary of Ningan County Party Committee and the Party organization in Shandongtun.
Around this time I met Li Yan-lu, the army corps commander, in Shandongtun village. At that time we were billeted on a landlord. Altliough a landowner, the host was a kind-hearted man, and this made his guests try harder to help out with the household.
One day, while helping the host harvest the wheat, we were caught outside in the rain. We carefully stacked the wheat, so that the crop would not get wet from the rain, and went back to the house. Liu Han-xing said that we had better rest after lunch as it was raining; he himself prepared a variety of dishes for our lunch. I knew that Liu Han-xing was an exceptionally good cook from the time Li Yan-lu’s unit was in Wangqing. It was amazing that Liu, a middle-school leaver, was so skilled that he could have dwarfed professional cooks. As well as a skilled cook, he was also, however, a heavy drinker, drinking three cups to our one. We drank wine with his dishes and ate hand-cut wheat noodles. That day I probably drank some wine, because the side-dishes were so delicious.
While eating the noodles, there was a sudden explosion outside. We went out to find dozens of snakes killed in front of the piles of threshed wheat straw. The master of the house had looked after the snakes, believing that they brought luck, but they had been killed en masse by a grenade. The master had not touched them, even though they had crawled into the rooms and under his dining-table. It was a superstitious custom in that area to regard a snake as a kind of sacred guardian.
That day members of the young volunteers” corps, who had followed our unit to north Manchuria, stood sentry in the yard. While taking sentry in turns, it stopped raining and the sun came out. That is when the snakes, which had been in the straw piles, had poked their heads out. The guard, who did not know that people there believed snakes were sacred, had been so scared that he had picked up a hand grenade without thinking and had flung it at the snakes.
The host and hostess were very offended at the death of the snakes. They turned pale as if they were confronting an omen, which spelled misfortune. Zhou Bao-zhong and Liu Han-xing tried to comfort them, but all to no avail. This compelled us to leave the house without even finishing our lunch.
In late July 1935, a composite cavalry unit, comprising hundreds of puppet Manchukuo army soldiers and policemen, flocked to Shandong-tun, on hearing of the arrival of the “Koryo red army” from east Manchuria. They numbered several hundred at a rough estimate.
The main force of the 5th Corps was in Muling and in the northwestern area of Ningan County in those days. The force of the 4th Corps headquarters was not great, either. The enemy troops were twice as large as ours.
Should we fight or avoid them? Zhou and Liu asked me. I decided to fight. Our joint operation with the 4th and 5th Corps was agreed upon, not around a conference table, but in the face of the enemy’s cavalry, which was galloping in battle formation in rising dust, to attack us. According to the teachings of ancient sages, and the rules of guerrilla warfare, one should strike a weak enemy and avoid a strong opponent, but we could not apply these tactics indiscriminately. One demonstration of our power in north Manchuria could possibly have proved indispensable to enable us to attain our expedition aims. Moreover, the odds were then on our side, given the situation and the terrain. Consequently, after a brief consultation, we decided to fight a close battle and began manoeuvring.
We took up positions, where we could meet the attacking enemy and prevent him from pouncing on the village of Shandongtun and harming the villagers, and then gave each unit appropriate combat orders. The gunners of the mortar battery, who had distinguished themselves in the Taipinggou battle, and the crack shots of the heavy machine-gun company calculated the firing data required to counter the enemy’s potential approach and awaited my orders.
The enemy, approaching at a terrifying speed on the mountain path along the River Liangshuilingzicun, climbed the mountain to occupy the area, northwest of Shandongtun. We allowed them to close in as near as 150-200 metres from us, and then opened fire. The enemy’s survivors retreated and then attempted to attack us along the southern ridge of the mountain across the River Liangshuilingzicun. But our men, who lay in ambush, checked their attack. The battle continued for some time in this way.
The enemy commanders then regrouped their forces to turn the tide of battle in their favour. When they were concentrated around their command post, our mortar battery commander ordered fire. The shells flew whistling in the air one after another and exploded among the packed enemy. The survivors mounted horses to flee in the direction of Ningan. Our mortars fired at the fleeing enemy. Driven to a dead end, they shouted that they had never dreamt that the communist army would have mortar, and ran helter-skelter amid the gunsmoke, before taking flight in all directions under the cover of darkness.
Our mortar barrage in that battle had major repercussions. The enemy claimed that we were carrying mortars provided as aid by the Soviet Union, and trembled with fear at the mere mention of the “Koryo red army”. During the battle of Shandongtun, we fired all the shells we had captured in the Laoheishan battle, and then buried the mortars in the ground.
The enemy soldiers had paid so dearly in the battle of Shandongtun that they did not dare provoke us afterwards. They closed the wall gates tight and did not venture out. Moreover, when we sent them a letter the enemy even sent us military supplies like grain, edible oil and footwear.
The Shandongtun battle, another victory in north Manchuria, along with the fantastic episode of the snakes we had killed with a grenade, remains in my memory as one of the most impressive battles of my life.
The enemy trembled at the rumbling of the mortars, but the people bubbled over with joy. The joint operations with the Chinese communists in north Manchuria yielded good results from the very start. This served as a reliable basis for consolidating the military alliance between the communists of the two countries. From then on, Zhou Bao-zhong never again remarked on the unsuitableness of heavy weapons.
After leaving Shandongtun, we moved onto Dougouzi and debated again at the house of a Fang our joint anti-Japanese struggle with the communists in north Manchuria. At our initiative and in agreement with Zhou Bao-zhong, the expeditionary force from east Manchuria decided to split into several detachments to wage a joint struggle in areas, where the 5th Corps was active. It sent some of its force to Muling, where Hu Ren, the political commissar of the 5th Corps, was operating and to the area where Ping Nan-yang was active.
Zhou Bao-zhong attached some men from his corps to our detachments leaving for Machang, Tuanshanzi, Wolianghe and Shitouhezi. These areas were fertile lands we had cultivated with so much effort during the first expedition. We relied to a great extent on the revolutionary organizations in these areas and conducted brisk, political and military activities.
The underground organization in Wolianghe controlled village vicinities as well as places as far away as Dongjingcheng; we received a great deal of help from this organization. When I recall Wolianghe, I am reminded of one old Chinese woman. On our first expedition to north Manchuria she had been working in the women’s association. Looking at this grandmother, who was nearly sixty and yet was attending to the expeditionary force, making uniforms for them, missing her sleep at nights, we were all reminded of our own mothers and grandmothers in our native homes. If she did not see me even for one night, she would ask my orderlies, “Where is Commander Kim?” The orderlies told me that she only went to bed, when she heard that I was all right.
On hearing that the “Koryo red army” had come from Jiandao, this same grandmother came to Dougouzi, bringing a cock pheasant and noodles wrapped in a vessel. At that time we prepared to leave the place.
Handing the noodles over to our comrades, she said, “I regretted not treating Commander Kim properly last autumn, so now I brought some noodles. I’ll be pleased if you accept my sincerity.”
She had cajoled my orderlies and found out that I liked noodles.
That day, together with Zhou, I ate with relish the food containing the sincerity of the grandmother. The noodles with pheasant soup and pheasant-and-vegetable garnish were exceptionally tasty. After eating two bowlfuls, Zhou asked, half jokingly, half seriously, “When did you win over that Chinese granny in north Manchuria, Commander Kim? I have always been impressed by your way of winning over the masses; I want you to teach our companies, attached to your unit, what political work methods you used.”
While we were operating in the Emu area in September that year, Hu Ren, the political commissar of the 5th Corps, formally proposed a joint operation. But we avoided replying for some time, as we had to work with Kim Chaek, whose unit was advancing southward to Weihe at the time. For inevitable reasons in later days, we could not accept his proposal. However, throughout the anti-Japanese war, I recalled with gratitude the confidence he had placed in us.
Developing our struggle in north Manchuria, we regarded Emu as the most important after Ningan. We had no access to most of this area, and even the Chinese units failed to inspire it with a revolutionary influence.
Nevertheless, we had to enter that area if we were to effect a joint struggle with the 3rd Corps Kim Chaek belonged to. Emu bordered Zhuhe and Weihe on the northwest, the 3rd Corps area, and on the west it was the 1st and 2nd Corps area. This mysterious land was coveted by both friend and foe.
Several armed units in north Manchuria failed to establish themselves in Emu, because an anti-communist trend prevailed among the people there. The and-communist wind had been strong in Ningan, but was nothing compared to the anti-communist trend in this area. The faction-alists of the M-L group were in part to blame for the anti-communist contamination of the area, as they had disgraced communism through reckless Leftist ventures, such as the August 1 revolt which they had instigated. In the wake of the revolt, the people of Emu suffered enormous atrocities at the hands of the Japanese imperialists and the reactionary warlords. Subsequently the people there turned away in disgust from the communists. The Japanese imperialists dispatched the so-called appeasement squads there to drive a wedge between the people and the communists.
The account of the experience of a young man, who had joined the guerrilla army, after doing the work of a charcoal-burner in the forests of Qinggouzi, Emu County, eloquently proves the extent to which the people in this area had been poisoned by anti-communist propaganda. He had lost his parents and brothers in an epidemic in his early years and lived alone through all hardships, begging for help. He had drifted to Emu and was forced to work at a road construction site. There he had learnt a revolutionary song from a labourer; it had been the first song he had leamt since his birth.
He subsequently worked as a seasonal labourer at a farmhouse near Renjiagou. One day a marriage ceremony was held at a house in the village. The young man followed his employer to the house, congratulated the couple, and sang the song at the request of the officiator at the wedding, the revolutionary song he had learnt at the road construction site. His song caused a disturbance in the wedding ceremony. An old man of the village, who was more or less knowledgeable, had denounced the young man as a communist for his song. Pointing his finger at the middle-class peasant, who had employed the young man, the old man said, “Hey, if you need to employ a farmhand, you should employ a sound man. That guy is a communist, who advocates common ownership of property and wife.” The disgraced peasant chased him out of his house that very day. Tragically, the young man had sung the communist revolutionary song, totally unaware that the song propagandized communism. Some listeners said that this was the consequence of ignorance, but this was not true; it was due to the anti-communist wind.
The Japanese imperialists propagandized the crimes, committed by local bandits or mounted bandits as ones committed by communists.
In this situation, it was quite adventurous, frankly speaking, that we decided to operate in Emu. As expected, we were given the cold shoulder from the inhabitants, as soon as we set foot on Emu soil across Lake Jingbo. The village could be called the eastern gate to Emu; it was a cosy village inhabited only by Chinese. When we arrived, the villagers took their children and left the village, saying that Honghuzi (the Red-bearded—”Red bandits”—Tr.) had come. Only the old and weak remained in the village, but they, too, refused to come out, hiding instead in the houses.
I ordered the pitching of tents in the forest some distance from the village and told them to take a rest there; then I walked round the village. I went to a primary school only to find that the teaching staff and pupils were all hiding. It was too cold a treatment for guests, who had come all the way from east Manchuria to kindle the fire of revolution.
I brought a foot organ out into the yard of the school and began to play it, singing the Song of Su Wu and a song about Yang Kuei-fei together with men from the young volunteers’ corps company. My comrades were all good singers of folk songs of Han nationality. Those two songs were famous ones which the Chinese working masses were especially fond of. The Song of Su Wu was a patriotic song I had learnt during my days in Jilin; its original title is Su Wu Tends Sheep.
Su Wu had lived in the 2nd century BC and was famous as a loyal subject of the Han dynasty. He went to the Xiongnus in the north as a messenger of the Emperor of Han. The Xiongnus detained him as a hostage and threatened not to release him unless he surrendered, adding that he would not be sent back until a male sheep bore a lamb. Consequently Su Wu was held in custody by the Xiongnus for 19 years, but he never yielded. In short, the song truthfully reflected the patriotic ideas and feelings of the Chinese people.
When we sang those songs to the accompaniment of the organ, the senior pupils of the primary school were the first to come out of hiding, to approach us with curiosity and wonder. They sang to the accompaniment of the organ I was playing. Then the teachers and village elders hesitatingly came out. It probably surprised them to have the “Koryo red army” singing Chinese songs so fluently, or perhaps they had felt a vague community between the red army and themselves owing to our song. The people, who had acted coldly to the expeditionary force, began to turn kind and envious glances at us.
When all the people in hiding had gathered in the yard, I made an anti-Japanese speech in Chinese. Only then did they open their hearts to us. They praised us lavishly, saying that the “Koryo red army” was neither a gang of bandits nor a group of mounted bandits, and that it was really a patriotic, revolutionary and gentlemanly army.
I can justly say that we influenced the Chinese people in north Manchuria at that time by singing the Song of Su Wu. I personally experienced the great role played by literature and music in moving the people and bringing them to their senses from that day. I can also say that this experience led us to attach extreme importance to literature and art as a weapon of the revolution.
My experience at the Chinese village on Lake Jingbo was so emotional that I tried in various ways after liberation to find the text of the Song of Su Wu. It was only recently that I was able to obtain the text in Chinese, thanks to the aid of our officials.
I was so pleased that I sang the song, forgetting that I was in my eighties. How well could a man of eighty sing? A lump formed in my throat. Consequently I could not sing properly, but the fresh memory of my youthful days, which had vanished far beyond the clouds, welled up in my mind, together with my deep attachment to the soil of north Manchuria where we had pioneered the revolution with such difficulty.
Whenever I yearn for the days, when I was blazing the trail of the joint struggle with the Chinese communists, I often play this song on the organ. Sometimes I whistle it, but the sound is not as fresh as when I was in my twenties and thirties.
Here is the text of the Song of Su Wu.
Su Wu Tends Sheep
1. Su Wu was a prisoner in a land
Which is barbarously wild and dull,
But he did not betray his home even here.
For 19 years he has been shepherding others’ sheep,
In the austere land of Xiongnus, covered with ice and snow.
He suffered year after year,
Grazing sheep at the north sea,
Eating snow when he is thirsty
And biting on his blanket when he is hungry.
But his soul was in the land of Han,
He has grown old but did not escape from his prison.
But the suffering and privations in the alien land
Have not broken his will.
In the dead of night a flute sang sadly in the outskirts,
Touching his heart and calling him back to his homeland.
2. Su Wu was a prisoner in a land
Which is barbarously wild and dull,
But he did not betray his home even here.
The time has come and the cold north wind blew,
The wild geese are flying to the land of Han,
Where the grey-haired mother is waiting for her son
And the young wife is sitting alone by the wall.
Only when they sleep do they see
The face which is better than anyone’s.
The ocean will run dry
And the mountain will crumble in dust
But the son will remain loyal to his homeland,
Causing the admiration of even the heartless Xiongnus.
I still cannot forget among the impressions of Emu the meeting at Sankesong with the old man, Kim, from JonJu. Whereas Liukesong meant six pine-trees, Sankesong meant three pine-trees. When we were in Sankesong, my headquarters was billeted on the house of a landlord, not far from the county town. A small-built old man lived about 500 metres away from the landlord’s house. He was cultivating a small rice field plot. According to my orderly, he was apparently a Korean. He spoke Chinese badly, and behaved like a Chinese.
One evening I went to visit him. We introduced each other, and I discovered that he was clearly a Korean and that his surname of Kim originated from Jonju just like mine. He had taken part in the Qing-shanli battle led by Hong Pom Do, He told me that when the unit had scattered after the battle, he went to Emu, got married and lived there in retirement. When I told him that my surname was Kim and that my ancestral home was Jonju, he did not hide his pleasure at meeting a man in this remote foreign land with the same surname and from the same ancestral place. He told his wife to hull rice in the treadmill and boil some rice for me. It was the first boiled rice I had eaten in north Manchuria.
“We, too, set ourselves high aims at the outset. When I fought in the battle at Fengwudong led by General Hong Pom Do, I thought that Korea would soon become independent. In those days, I dreamt of entering the walled city of Seoul through an arch of independence. How depressing it is to get old doing nothing, just like a grain of sand or stone in the wilderness! I only feel real happiness in this corner of north Manchuria, virtually the world of the Han race, when I meet Korean compatriots, even though it is like seeing a star in a rainy season. How happy I would be if your unit, Commander Kim, stayed in Emu for ever rather than returning to Jiandao!” Saying this, the old man sighed longingly.
I inevitably felt sad that the great ambition inspiring him to take up arms and win back the country, was fading just as the wrinkles on his face deepened relentlessly. I decided more resolutely than ever that we, young people, must continue fighting in any adversity to defeat the enemy once and for all to make sure that the old man’s original aim was not wasted.
The old man had only one ear. While chatting about various things after the meal, I asked him what had happened to his ear. He smiled bitterly, saying that he had lost it, while fishing via a hole he had made on the ice of the River Mudan; he had caught a big carp and clasped it in his arms, but it had shaken so violently that it had lashed off his frozen ear. I was very sorry to hear that. I called at his house every night during my week in Sankesong, and heard about Hong Pom Do from him.
Once we were on speaking terms, I found that the people of Emu were no less anti-Japanese-minded than the people of Jiandao. They had opposed communism, because they had not received any guidance from any organization. Working among the people, I made friends with Liu Yong-sheng, a head of one hundred households in village No. 4 at Qing-gouzi and, some time later on, moved my headquarters to his house.
On seeing that my unit refrained from imposing any burdens on the people, and instead gathered together, men and women, around bonfires at night to hold recreation parties, dance and study, Liu considered us an exceptional army. The soldiers he had seen before had all been hordes of men who had lorded it over and yelled at the people, regardless of the names of their armies. But when he saw the “Koryo red army” from Jiandao fetch water and sweep the yards for the people, cut the children’s hair and behave in a friendly way, without any distinctions between superiors and subordinates, the whole village whispered that it was an unusual army.
One night Liu informed me that the Japanese garrison and puppet Manchukuo army stationed in village No. 6 were preparing to assault his village. When I heard about this, I ordered the whole unit of soldiers to go to bed earlier than usual.
Liu found this strange. He thought: other armies might have taken to flight to avoid the enemy. Instead the “Koryo red army” planned to sleep in the village, rather than run away. He could not understand it. He could not sleep all night, obsessed with the fear of the enemy’s attack on the village at any minute. He kept going in and out of the house.
I made him sit down beside me and said, “Our unit is defending the village like a fortress, so don’t worry so much; please go to bed.”
But Liu was still anxious, all in a flutter. He said, “But, how can the soldiers defend the village like a fortress, when they go to sleep so early?”
“We’ve posted sentries. The ‘Koryo red army’ does not make wild claims. So you can have a sound sleep tonight. And tomorrow morning, after we’ve left the village go to the enemy and report that the ‘Koryo red army’ has been to your village. Tell them all you have seen.”
“You mean report? I’ve no intention of filing a complaint against such a wonderful army as yours.”
“Please, sir. This is my earnest request. Do as you’re told and don’t refuse. This is the only way for us, you and the village to survive. Just wait and you’ll understand why.”
I told the head of one hundred households to report the movements of the “Koryo red army” to the police as they were, in a bid to lure the enemy out of the concentration village. Next morning we left the village and marched along the road to Emu. In the middle of the march, I commanded the force of one company to lie in ambush on the southwestern ridge of a mountain. On receiving the report from Liu, the enemy sent hundreds of “punitive” troops to chase our main unit on the march, That is how the expeditionary force fought a battle of baiting and ambush for the first time, since it had entered the land of Emu. The Japanese garrison (also called military police), committed to this battle, was annihilated. Only one man narrowly escaped death under the barrage of the people’s revolutionary army. A plane came to his rescue, but it accidentally crashed on landing and I was told the man also went to “heaven”. When a group of visitors from our country went to Emu in 1959, a “monument to the loyal souls”, set up by the Japanese imperialists, was still standing in village No. 6 in Qinggouzi.
In December 1935 we fought another battle near Guandi, which is also called the battle at Liucaigou. We killed nearly 200 enemy soldiers in this battle. The story of an enemy officer who in despair hid in a coffin in the field instead of a corpse concerned this battle. It would be difficult to enumerate all the battles we fought in north Manchuria.
In autumn 1935, when we were fighting in Emu County, the Comintern informed, through Zhou Bao-zhong, that it had organized a joint headquarters for cooperation between the 2nd and 5th Corps and that it had appointed me political commissar of the joint headquarters and commander of the Weihe unit. My record as political commissar in the battalion, regiment and division no doubt prompted the Comintern to appoint me to that post. This was not what I had wanted. I was not ambitious for a high post; I was eager to meet the hard-core Korean communists active in north Manchuria. But the unexpected post of political commissar of the joint headquarters overpowered that desire. I was overweighed by the heavy responsibility of taking care of the political work of the other army corps, as well as the operations of the expeditionary force. Assuming this heavy responsibility, I was kept busy travelling about Ningan and its neighbouring counties to continue the political work of the two army corps until the meeting at Nanhutou and after it, postponing a meeting with Korean comrades-in-arms in north Manchuria.
However, we were able to put our friendship with the Chinese communists on a more solid footing. The result was far more positive than we had expected when embarking on the expedition.
I was sorry that I could not meet Kim Chaek and Choe Yong Gon in person, which I had set as top priority objective for the expedition; I had to leave it as a matter for the remote future. Even in the days, when we maintained contacts with the Chinese communists, we always recalled the Korean communists and patriots, who were fighting bloody battles in the wilderness of north Manchuria, braving all manner of hardships. The more our meeting with them was delayed, the more intense and warmer became our feelings for them.
Only in early 1941 did the Korean communists in east Manchuria and south and north Manchuria meet for the first time, introducing themselves and hugging each other with deep emotion and affection. Then we all prepared for the final campaign to liberate the country, sharing bed and board in one secret camp, until we returned to the liberated homeland and embarked in nation-building. They are all faithful veterans, who fought against the Japanese and US imperialists and tirelessly carried out the arduous tasks of democratic reform and socialist construction together with me during the most dramatic decades of the 20th century.
The veterans, who had fought in north Manchuria, still share weal and woe with me to add a sparkle to the socialism of our own style. I hope that pure, beautiful memories, as well as the happiness of a bright future, lie in store for all these faithful people, who have consistently supported me and our cause for over half a century.
The Emu area in north Manchuria was connected to me from my days in Jilin. Up till then Jiaohe, Xinzhan and Shansong, where I formed the Ryosin Youth Association, a revolutionary organization, in touch with Kang Myong Gun and worked among its members, belonged to Emu County. Apparently this county was renamed Jiaohe County in the late 1930s.
We marched thousands of miles in the Emu area during our second expedition to north Manchuria. Qinggouzi, Pipadingzi, Nantianmen, Sandaogou, Malugou, Xinxingtun, Guandi, Liucaigou, Sankesong, Mudanjiangcun, Heishixiang, and Tuoyaozi were all developed as the theatre of our operations at that time. They constituted unforgettable battle sites, where the expeditionary force to north Manchuria performed military feats.
I experienced many interesting events and met a number of impressive people during that period. Until our second expedition, many parts of this area had been beyond revolutionary influence. It was not accidental that Zhou Bao-zhong was so worried about our campaign in Emu when we debated the matter. He said: “Commander Kim, I don’t think it necessary to worry about you, since you won over that bigoted Wu Yi-cheng in a single day, but we were shut out at every door, when we were there this spring. They abused us, calling us Honghuzi”
The word Honghuzi that Zhou mentioned is the Chinese word for “bandits”. Wu Yi-cheng, who did not like communists, once abused Zhou Bao-zhong, calling him Honghuzi. From then on, this epithet was applied to the communist army in general.
True to Zhou’s warning, we were treated as Honghuzi, as soon as we set foot in Emu. The immediate desertion by the people of Emu of their village, at the sight of the expeditionary force, calling it the “Koryo red army”, means that they were steering clear of us as much as of the Honghuzi. Evidently, the word Hong (Red) was synonymous for them with immorality and cruelty.
Taking this situation into consideration, we devoted a great deal of time to working among the masses during the expedition. It was not a waste of time, as our efforts led the people who had shunned the people’s revolutionary army to become its close friends and supporters. When these efforts brought former enemies into an alliance and alignment with the communists, we felt the greatest delight which could not ever be compared with the joy one would feel in winning a windfall.
At a time when the faces of people, who abandoned the guerrilla zones in tears after the Yaoyinggou meeting, still flashed before our eyes, and when anxiety over the revolution weighed heavily on our minds and body, it was marvellous for us to win such a big success in Emu. The greatest pleasure for a revolutionary is to gain comrades and friends, his greatest misery to lose them.
Before entering Emu County, we had already made friends with Chai He, a naive Chinese fisherman, on Lake Jingbo at Xiaoshanzuizi, and crossed the lake with ease. Chai had shunned the revolutionary army before meeting us. A fisherman, he had lived by the lake for 30 years since the age of nineteen; he had been fooled by the Japanese propaganda that the “Koryo red army” was a group of “bandits”. However, after seeing the stately, orderly appearance of the expeditionary force and won over by the men’s simple, open-hearted personalities, he changed his stand and treated the revolutionary army cordially.
An army finds it as hard to cross a river as to march hundreds of miles. So I shall never forget the trouble Chai took to help enthusiastically the expeditionary force cross Lake Jingbo, behind the enemy’s back. A group of Korean visitors to China returned in 1959, bringing his photograph with them. In the picture Chai was an old man, who was past seventy, with a wrinkled face. But I felt deep emotion on seeing his old figure with his great stature and long neck.
We gained many friends and won over a large number of people in Emu, including Liu Yong-sheng, the head of one hundred households, who supplied us with some necessities at the risk of his life during the battle at Qinggouzi and an old man, Liu Chun-fa, who sent his son to the guerrilla army in the vicinity of Heishixiang.
While working among people of various strata, we achieved friendly relations with a regimental commander of the puppet Manchukuo army.
The event happened one day, when the expeditionary force was engaged on a forced march for a whole night, to attack a lumber station in Dunhua County, so it must have been the beginning of 1936. In the grey light of dawn, we stopped and billeted on a landlord’s house by a roadside. It was no ordinary house; it was surrounded by earthen walls with forts. But he had no guards, as it occurred after the formation of the puppet Manchukuo army and the Japanese did not allow anyone to keep private soldiers.
The landlord’s house consisted of two wings. The rank and file occupied one wing, while the headquarters and supply officers were located in the other. We posted three men at the gate in the guise of farmhands to guard the house by turns, while the others rested.
At about 4 p.m. the sentry reported that a carriage was approaching the house we were staying at. Soon it pulled up in front of the house and a lady stepped out with the help of a soldier; she entered the yard, saying that she would like to warm herself for a while. I looked out of the window to glimpse a beautiful lady wrapped in two fox-fur overcoats standing in the snow-drifted yard. My comrades struck by the luxurious coats, had already swarmed out to the yard and surrounded the strange lady in her dazzling outfit. They were questioning her.
When I inquired as to her presence, a young guard, in high spirits, as if he had captured a top-rate secret agent, responded, “She’s a suspicious woman. Comrade Commander.” He maintained his sharp gaze on the lady.
The young Chinese lady turned pale, trembling in silence. I sternly rebuked the guard, who was trying to search her, and ordered, “Let her come inside so that she can warm herself.”
In the room she still trembled slightly. She kept her head lowered. I spoke in Chinese to calm her, “Please, madam, don’t be afraid. Make warm yourself. The young guard may have taken you for someone else and treated you impolitely. Please forgive him.”
I offered her a cup of tea and pushed the brazier closer to her, so that she could keep warm.
“I don’t know what you think of us, but we’re the people’s revolutionary army. The people here call us the ‘Koryo red army’. Have you ever heard about the ‘Koryo red army’, madam?”
“Yes, but only a little,” she answered almost in a whisper, still with her head lowered.
“Then, we’re fortunate. The “Koryo red army’ is not a gang of ‘bandits’, which harms people’s lives and property, as the Japanese allege. Our revolutionary army is a people’s armed force, which aims to secure national salvation. We only fight against the Japanese imperialists and their lackeys who trample on Korea and China; we never do any harm to people’s lives and property. Consequently, please set your mind at rest, madam.”
She clasped her hands together as a token of gratitude. But her gaze still indicated mixed feelings of uneasiness, fear and uncertainty.
“We won’t blame or punish you for taking a soldier of the puppet Manchukuo army with you. Nor will I ask you why he is escorting you. Why should we humiliate and harass travellers, if they don’t harm the people and the revolutionary army? We are also travellers, enjoying a moment’s rest in this house with the host’s permission, so don’t think otherwise; please warm yourself before leaving,” I continued, until she looked more relaxed.
It was only then that she breathed a sigh of relief and raised her head cautiously. As she glanced at me, there was a hint of surprise in her eyes. She lifted her clasped hands to her breast and bit her lips.
“What’s worrying you? Do you still not believe me?”
“No, it’s not that... Frankly speaking, your face... I know that you are a kind-hearted man by nature...” she murmured incoherently and again gazed at me.
Then O Paek Ryong, who had been interrogating the escort, appeared at the door like a hunter who had just caught a tiger. He said in Korean, a language the Chinese lady could never understand, “General, the escort told me that the woman is the wife of the commander of the 12th Regiment of the puppet Manchukuo army. A big fish has entered the mesh of its own accord.”
“Comrade O Pack Ryong, don’t talk so big. Let’s wait and see whether it is a big fish or small fry.”
To be candid, although I rebuked him, I was surprised to hear that she was the wife of a regimental commander of the puppet Manchukuo army. A regimental commander was not small fry. In the hierarchy of the puppet Manchukuo army it was the fourth rank down from the top which could only be occupied after rising 13 rungs from the bottom. In some cases a regiment in that army had a few counties under its jurisdiction, so that there was no need to go to the length of explaining the authority of a commander, who controlled those counties. In those days the 12th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Composite Brigade of the puppet Manchukuo army based in Jiaohe was stationed in Emu.
I found it interesting to meet the wife of a regimental commander of the puppet Manchukuo army, as we conducted a major strategic psychological warfare against the enemy armies. The knowledge of her identity made no change in my countenance at all.
“Well, madam, did you think we would inflict some severe punishment on you, because you’re the wife of a regimental commander of the puppet Manchukuo army?”
She rubbed her palms in confusion, saying, “Not at all. Perhaps I am wrong, Mr. Commander... excuse me, but aren’t you Kim Song Ju?”
I was indeed surprised at the unexpected question. This was something unusual. I could not disregard the fact that the wife of a regimental commander of the puppet Manchukuo army, whom I had met by chance in north Manchuria far away from Jiandao, knew my childhood name. How could this lady I had never seen or met before know my name? I was astonished and, at the same time, curious to solve the puzzle.
“It’s indeed strange to hear my childhood name in this land of Emu. I am Kim Song Ju or Kim Il Sung. But how on earth do you know me, madam?”
She blushed deeply. I guessed from her looks that she wanted to say something, but was hesitating.
“When you led the student and youth movement in Jilin, I attended a girls’ middle school there. I have known you ever since then.”
“Oh, is that so? I am very glad to meet you.”
I only now realized what her sparkling eyes meant when she glanced at me before, with her head raised. But still, it was rare to see a former student of a girls’ middle school in Jilin in this strange land of Emu. The word Jilin evoked in me a tingling feeling tantamount to nostalgia. As is the case now, I cherished a strong attachment at that time for the city where I had lived for years.
When she saw that I was recalling those bygone days, she asked in a somewhat calmer voice, “Surely you haven’t forgotten autumn 1928, when the campaign against the projected railway between Jilin and Hoeryong was launched? How violently Jilin seethed that autumn! You may not believe me, but I also took part in the students’ demonstration. I still remember seeing you making a speech in the square in front of the provincial assembly building.”
A student of Jilin Girls’ Middle School who had shouted slogans among the demonstrators, was now the wife of a regimental commander travelling to her parent’s home in fox-fur coats, escorted by a guard. Tears were trickling down her cheeks. Feeling as if ages had passed since her school days, I looked at her in a different light. This woman, who had opposed the Japanese until only yesterday, was now living the life of a pro-Japanese. I gave deep thought to the reasons beyond her transformation. Did it reflect a degeneration, caused by the hopeless destiny of her nation? Looking at the earnest gaze of the woman, now recalling her days in Jilin, however, I realized that the bygone days, when she had fought against the Japanese imperialists, still lingered in her mind. Moreover, she had repented of her folly, here in front of me, with tears in her eyes, and recalled her school days. What made her start and tremble so much on seeing me? It must have been the prick of her conscience.
“Why are you silent, Mr. Song Ju? Please forgive me, a girl, who responded to you, by shaking her fists when you made a speech... I am deeply moved to see you going through hardships in military uniform and feel so ashamed.”
Tears streamed down her cheeks again.
“Calm yourself, madam. Don’t feel too mean. The days are too grim for us to be driven to despair and self-abandon. The situation at home and abroad calls on all the sons, daughters and intellectuals of the Chinese nation, who love their motherland and fellow countrymen, to fight the Japanese and save the country. There’s no reason to think that you shouldn’t fight the Japanese imperialists, because you’re a regimental commander’s wife.”
As I said this, she wiped away her tears and raised her head.
“You mean that there’s a way for me to fight the Japanese?”
“Of course! If you influence your husband positively and make sure that he doesn’t carry out ‘punitive’ operations against the revolutionary army, then you will be contributing to the anti-Japanese struggle. Frankly speaking, a regimental commander is an important person. But I don’t think his rank is the moot point. Most importantly, he shouldn’t forget that he’s Chinese.”
“Although a regimental commander, my husband is not doing it, because he wants to. He remains true to the national conscience. I will prevail on him as you say, Mr. Song Ju, so that he won’t mobilize his men in ‘punitive’ action. Please believe me.”
“How good it would be, if you do! If you managed to convert a regimental commander from pro-Japanese to anti-Japanese it would mean that his subordinates become patriotic. Madam, this will lead to your revival and that of your husband.”
To make her feel more confident, I enumerated the instances in Jian-dao of puppet Manchukuo army officers, who had converted from the pro-Japanese to the anti-Japanese struggle.
She replied that it was like a godsend to meet me that day; she had many things to think over after hearing my words. She said I had revived her days in Jilin, and had now led her and her husband along the path of renewal. She decided to remember it for the rest of her life and live like a daughter of the Chinese nation.
I showed her the propaganda materials we had made and the six-point anti-Japanese national salvation programme published by Song Qing-ling, Zhang Nai-qi and others in Shanghai. It was the programme Wu Ping had shown us in Zhou Bao-zhong’s hut in Ningan during the first expedition.
After glancing at her watch, she fumbled in her inside pocket and produced something wrapped up in a sheet of white paper. They were Chinese banknotes. Saying that she had obtained them by selling opium, she requested that I use the money as war funds.
I was thankful, but declined.
“Keep it. Today I regained my anti-Japanese schoolmate who had been lost, and this is my great fortune.”
My words induced her tears.
Before parting, we prepared a rich dinner for her. On leaving she told me her full name, but I only remember her surname Chi. To my regret, I have forgotten her name.
Some days later we received a letter from the regimental commander of the puppet Manchukuo army. It was a long letter, written in bold strokes, which stated that we were the noblest people in the world, and that he would help us with all his will, as we had protected his wife and saved him from a quagmire of crimes to follow the path of patriotism. His name was Zhang so-and-so, but my memory fails me in this matter.
In later days we sent our supply officer to the vicinity of Emu county town, to prepare for New Year’s Day celebrations, according to the lunar calendar. To obtain various produce, such as frozen pork used to make New Year festive dishes, he went as far as the town, but was caught by the county police before he had fulfilled his mission. This fact became known to the regimental commander of the puppet Manchukuo army through a certain channel. He demanded that the police hand over the supply officer, as the army dealt with matters related to the people’s revolutionary army.
At first the supply officer believed that the regimental commander was going to kill him. But the commander allowed his wife to prepare a feast for our supply officer and treated him as an honoured guest. Then, he said: “I am extremely grateful to Commander Kim’s unit for the great assistance it accorded my wife; I will never carry out a ‘punitive’ mission against you whatever the circumstances; I swear on my life, so please believe me; if we come across your unit, we’ll fire three shots in the air; at these moments, remember that it is my unit and that you can pass; I’ll never forget Commander Kim’s kindness; please convey my heartfelt greetings to him.”
He kept his promise faithfully in the subsequent years, exactly as he had told our quartermaster.
When we were billeted in the village of Sankesong, a Japanese army unit was stationed in the village of Guandi and the puppet Manchukuo army regiment was located near Emu. The two units travelled from place to place to carry out “punitive” operations, but the 12th Regiment avoided engagements with us, whenever it came upon our unit. We also attacked only Japanese soldiers. The Japanese army could be distinguished from the puppet Manchukuo army at that time by the helmets. All guerrilla units knew that soldiers with helmets were Japanese and that those without were puppet Manchukuo army soldiers. But in later days, the puppet Manchukuo army soldiers also wore helmets when they were on the battlefield. Consequently we told them we would shoot any one wearing a helmet, taking him for a Japanese, and that all those soldiers, who refused to fight against the guerrilla army, had to remove their helmets. In response to this warning, the puppet Manchukuo army soldiers indicated who they were by removing the helmets when they approached us.
When the soldiers with helmets on their heads headed their columns, the guerrilla army attacked the front ranks; when they were in the rear, we attacked only the last ranks. The Japanese shouted; “The guerrillas only strike us!” We demanded that the puppet Manchukuo army unit give a signal, by firing chance shots when they were conducting “punitive” mission, and they agreed. When they were unable to fire the shots, they would gather in one place in hundreds or thousands and raise a clamour thereby letting us know their position.
The regimental commander, Zhang, sent us many supplies. He would often leave his barracks with pork and frozen dumplings on carts, saying that he intended to carry out a “punitive” mission, and then ordered his subordinates to bring them to the place agreed upon with our unit. He would then take his men somewhere far from the guerrilla army and wander around there for hours, before returning to the barracks.
One day when our unit was billeted on a village near Guandi, some commanding officers came to me and reported on the soldiers’ state of mind on New Year’s Eve. They then requested my permission to obtain some buckwheat flour or starch from the villagers, so that they could make noodles on New Year’s Day.
In view of the trouble we would cause the villagers, I refused and ordered the unit out of the village before long. The villagers had been pleased to know that they would be able to celebrate the New Year with Commander Kim’s unit and had been arranging a grand banquet. I feared that the villagers might spend months’ provisions on the banquet to be given in honour of my unit. Consequently my unit suddenly left the village. Although we ordered the withdrawal from the village to avoid harming the interests of the people, all the men were sulky.
The expeditionary force moved to the dead end of the valley of Huangnihezi, mended the huts abandoned by the lumberjacks and celebrated New Year’s Day there. Although it was a festive meal, a bowl of boiled foxtail millet was everything that was accorded to each of us. The men had already swallowed their shares, when the pork and dumplings sent by the regimental commander of the puppet Manchukuo army arrived, much to our delight.
As our friendship deepened, the regimental commander even sent weapons and military information to the expeditionary force. The kindness we had accorded a woman was lavishly rewarded with tied grass—as the Chinese legend goes. Although he remained commander of a regiment appointed by Manchukuo, he bravely atoned for this before history and the people via his alliance with the communists.
Our policy of demoralizing the enemy forces, by winning over the rank and file, the overwhelming majority of the puppet Manchukuo army preferentially, and also middle- and low-ranking officers and some of the conscientious high-ranking officers, and thereby isolating and striking at a handful of evil officers, proved very effective in our work with the regimental commander. This enormous gain went beyond our expectations. The regimental commander, who never met us, was converted from a henchman of the counterrevolution to a patriot and an ally of the communists, influenced by his wife. I think his wife, a former student of Jilin Girls’ Middle School, must have waged quite an active ideological campaign to transform her husband. She was a very wonderful woman.
The regimental commander was subsequently transferred to the Hua-dian area. I turned him over to Wei Zheng-min. Subsequently, I did not hear from him for a long time. It was only in 1941 that I heard about him from Kwak Ji San, who had been an assistant to Wei Zheng-min in Hua-dian. Kwak said that the 12th and 13th Regiments of the puppet Manchukuo army in Huadian would soon transfer to Jehol and that the commanders of the two regiments wished to join the anti-Japanese revolutionary army before moving. But at that time there was no unit in Huadian capable of dealing with two whole regiments at one time and no cadre could give an authoritative answer to their bold decision. He came for my advice. As Wei Zheng-min had fallen in battle, the military and political cadres of the 2nd Corps used to come to obtain my decisions on all matters, big or small, related to the activities of the corps.
I entrusted him with the urgent task of accepting them before their move to Jehol and sent him to Huadian. To our regret, however, it was too late, and their righteous action fell through. Later on, I heard that the regimental commander had been relieved in Huadian by a new commander with the surname of Yang. When he was being relieved, he had persuaded his successor to operate against the Japanese and advised the commander of the 13th Regiment, who had been his friend and neighbour, to help the anti-Japanese revolution.
I heard nothing about the 12th and 13th Regiments, after their move to Jehol. Only recently, when researching the collapse of the puppet Manchukuo army during our final operations against Japan, I found that they had rebelled at a decisive moment against the Japanese imperialists.
One conscientious friend in the enemy forces provided us with tens of thousands of friends. Consequently, ever since the early days of the anti-Japanese armed struggle, we proposed the slogan, “Let Us Build a Revolutionary Battery among the Enemy Soldiers!” which meant creating positions in the enemy forces. In other words, it meant creating our revolutionary forces within the enemy camp in order to demoralize it.
In those days enemy break-up operations were commonly referred to as political work with the enemy. Destroying the enemy by force and disintegrating them through political work constituted, so to speak, the strategic lines of the anti-Japanese struggle. Throughout history, war has always been fought by both belligerents along two lines—one, fights by the force of arms, and the other, by psychological and ideological propaganda.
To maintain public peace and order, the Japanese imperialists established their three policies: the implementation of tentative measures, ideological and radical measures. Generally speaking, these policies had two aspects—one implied the “removal of bandits” through armed forces, and the other “ideological operations” through propaganda and appeasement. The enemy also went to desperate efforts to psychologically break our revolutionary ranks.
However, when we first proposed the idea of forming revolutionary organizations within the enemy camp for political work among enemy soldiers, a number of people were reluctant to agree.
Needless to say, none of them objected to the idea for cowardly reasons. They simply viewed it as a deviation from the class line. They would set the following objections: “We’re an army of workers and peasants and our opponent is an army of the bourgeoisie: they are poles apart. This truth is as clear as daylight, just as water and fire are incompatible. Even a child knows that. It’s ridiculous to form revolutionary organizations inside the enemy camp.”
Proponents of Marxism branded it Rightist deviation, similar to class collaboration. They argued that it implied alignment with the class enemy, who maintained an antagonistic relationship with us, and that the classic Marxist works did not mention the break-up of enemy forces. Our young people may now denounce them for being so stiff-necked, but in those days, when you could not move an inch without referring to the propositions of the classics, such a unilateral view gained the upper hand in many cases.
Few people considered such a stand a serious deviation, as an uncompromising class struggle was under way and everyone in those days maintained a bitter hatred for the class enemy. Many people started the revolution and endured all the hardships on the strength of their hatred for the class enemy, and, consequently refused to admit the slightest compromise on the matter of “class”. Worse still, the dogmatic approach of many communists to the Marxist theory of class struggle led them to feel more hatred than love, and yearn more for relentless punishment and condemnation than admit a generous quality of mind capable of forgiving and winning over the enemy. Pretentious Marxists even claimed that uncompromising behaviours typified in any circumstance revolutionaries, and transformed young people, who were ideologically and mentally immature, into narrow-minded individuals and literally cold-hearted Honghuzi. The Marxist revolution suffered bitterly because of this childish practice and the image of the communists was tarnished. Advocating one-sided class interests, under the slogan that they should defend then-own class and not compromise with the hostile class, the Leftist elements and dogmatists led many people to reject the communist revolution and join the enemy camp. The central issue was not whether there were propositions in the classics on the disintegration of the enemy forces, but that they did not try to formulate lines and policies in the fundamental interests of the revolution.
We believed that we should begin the revolution with a feeling of love for our fellow countrymen; when studying the Marxist classics, we first sought love and unity rather than an uncompromising spirit. We believed that we could build revolutionary forces within the enemy camp, because we were convinced that their high-ranking officers, to say nothing of the overwhelming majority, the rank and file, who were sons of workers and peasants, as well as middle- and low-ranking officers, included conscientious individuals, who sympathized with our revolution and pitied those suffering in an exploitative society. If we won them all over to the side of the revolution and made them our allies, the enemy would be broken up to major extent and our revolutionary forces would expand far more. It would constitute an enormous offensive, annihilating the class enemy without any rifle or gunfire, a great propaganda success which would convince the people of the noble ideals of the communists, devoted to the cause of humanity’s happiness and harmony.
With these ideals and purposes at least, we raised the slogan “Let Us Build a Revolutionary Battery among the Enemy Soldiers!” as the main slogan in political work with the enemy.
The belief that we could build revolutionary fortresses in the enemy camp was based on the Juche-oriented view of man’s essential qualities. Man is the greatest being endowed with independence, creativity and consciousness and, at the same time, a beautiful creature who champions justice. Man, by nature, aspires to virtue and ennobling qualities and detests all that is evil and dirty. These unique features constitute his human traits.
The majority, including the middle and lower strata and some of the upper stratum, apart from a handful of reactionaries, can be encouraged to support the revolution, sympathize and assist it, if we exert a positive influence to them with magnanimity, If a man retains his human nature and loves his country and nation with a humane aroma, although he is a servant of the landlord and capitalist class, then such a quality will be the basis for winning him over to our side. Our policy is derived from this stand, based on the view that we can unite all the members of the nation, excluding a tiny handful of reactionaries and villains, under the banner of great national unity.
After liberation, our people named Kim Ku13 the chief terrorist and identified him with Syngman Rhee, a reactionary. Admittedly, he had been malignant and hostile towards communists nearly all his life. There was a caricature in those days of Kim Ku and Syngman Rhee, crawling into a pigsty with pumpkins on their heads. The caricature indicated how bitter the hatred was. The workers of Kangson Steel Plant wrote “Down with Kim Ku!” on the plant’s chimney. None of our people in those days thought that Kim Ku could ever be transformed. During the April North-South Joint Conference,14 however, he transformed himself from anti-communist to pro-communist and allied himself with the communists under our influence. He did so under our influence, but more importantly he did it, because his love for the country and nation he had devoted his life to had been roused to the highest degree and his humanity had been developed to the fullest extent while witnessing the realities of the northern half of the country.
If we did not consider patriotism and human nature, we would not have joined hands with Choe Tok Sin,15 who had levelled guns at us on the anti-communist front line, and we would not have held dialogues with the present south Korean rulers. We sit at the negotiation table with the south Korean authorities to reunify the country through dialogue, because we place our hopes on their national conscience and human nature, albeit limited, and we also believe that both these traits will come to full bloom one day in the grand flower garden of national harmony.
We had long discussions on which enemy forces we should win over and how. No agreement was reached on the need to do political work to win over the Japanese army in particular. Most comrades admitted that the middle and lower strata of the puppet Manchukuo army could be won over to our side, but they argued that it was impossible to win over the Japanese soldiers who had been steeped in “Yamato-Tamashii” (Japanese spirit—Tr.) since childhood and blindly worshipped their “Emperor”, had been tamed by a coercive discipline and therefore constituted our enemy. They said it was difficult to eradicate anti-communist ideas from the minds of the Independence Army commanders, who had been trained at the Japanese military academy, let alone the Japanese soldiers and officers.
However, an unexpected incident negated this argument. One year typhus spread through some of the villages in Jiandao, and the Japanese soldiers locked the patients up in their houses and burnt them to death. The “punitive” force then came to the village, where Tong Chang-rong was bedridden. When a Japanese officer saw him lying in bed, he commanded his subordinate to lock the door and set fire to the house. As ordered, the Japanese soldier rushed to obey. Tong thought his last moment had come and, determined to die an honourable death by propagandizing for the last time, he condemned the Japanese atrocities, beating the floor of the room with his fist. As he had graduated from a university in Japan, he spoke fluent Japanese. He said, “You must be the son of a worker or a peasant: why on earth did you come here and why are you killing the poor people at random? What do you get for this murder? How can a man be so immoral? How can you kill a sick man in this way?”
The Japanese soldier was touched by his fiery speech, which pricked his conscience. He kicked the back door open and sent Tong out, unbeknownst to his officer, and then set the house on fire. Tong hid in the furrows of the field and thereby narrowly escaped death.
This incident refuted the contention of individuals who had insisted that it was impossible to win over Japanese soldiers. It instilled us with confidence: we picked out stalwart, brave, clever and resourceful men and infiltrated them in the enemy camp.
Thanks to the efforts of a large number of sung and unsung heroes who acted single-handed, engaging in efficient political work among the enemy, without abandoning their principles in hostile surroundings, mutinies occurred almost every day in the puppet Manchukuo army and self-defence corps.
We trained the guerrillas to do political work among the enemy in diverse forms both orally and by circulating publications, influencing public opinion and disseminating songs.
Thanks to our enthusiastic and impressive propaganda offensive, conducted both inside and outside the enemy forces, with both individuals and collectives, many of the puppet Manchukuo army units stopped fighting against the guerrilla army and became faithful “weapons suppliers”.
They would respond to our letters by bringing weapons, ammunition and provisions. When we shouted “Yaoqiang buyaoming !” (We need your guns, not your lives!) on the battlefield, they surrendered and offered their weapons.
The enemy’s “punitive” forces killed our people indiscriminately, while we treated prisoners like human beings, whether they were from the puppet Manchukuo army or from the Japanese army: we benevolently educated them and then set them free, even paying for their travelling expenses. One soldier of the puppet Manchukuo army was taken prisoner by our unit seven times. Each time he would bring a rifle with him. When our soldiers jokingly remarked, “Hey, this chap’s here again!” he would answer with a smile, “I’ve come to give a rifle to the revolutionary army.”
During our operations in east Manchuria, we won many enemy company commanders and higher-ranking officers over to our side, including the company commanders of Wen’s battalion in Luozigou, Wangqing County. “Qian Lianzhang”, who so efficiently broke up Ma Gui-lin’s unit in Nanhamatang in 1934 had been a company commander of the puppet Manchukuo army before we influenced him to switch to the communist cause.
We had some friends assisting us among the Japanese soldiers, whom we shall never forget.
During the defence of Xiaowangqing, O Paek Ryong once brought me a note, addressed to the guerrilla army, which he had found on the body of a driver of the Japanese imperialist aggressor army while searching the battlefield. The writer of the note was of working-class origin and a member of the Japan Communist Party. He had been on the way to us, with 100,000 cartridges loaded on his lorry, but his plan had been discovered by the enemy at the foot of a mountain near the guerrilla zone; he had written the note and stuffed it in his pocket before committing suicide. The profound revolutionary spirit of this proletarian internationalist affected us all. The image of this member of the Japan Communist Party who had surpassed boundless spaces of water and steep mountains to help us, leaving behind his dear parents, wife and children in Japan, and was now buried quietly at the foot of a mountain in a foreign land moves our hearts deeply even now. I heard that the people of Xiaowangqing had named the primary school in their village after him. However, I don’t know if today the school is still called by his name.
Drawing on our experience gained while winning over the regimental commander of the puppet Manchukuo army in Emu, we successfully undermined the enemy forces in Dapuchaihe on the border of the Antu and Dunhua Counties. A battalion of the puppet Manchukuo army, notorious for its “punitive” operations against the guerrilla army was located in that place. It was a vicious battalion with rich combat experience. It was managed very well and used a well-organized command system. Although we wanted to send our operatives, it was impossible to infiltrate them there. We studied the unit from various angles to find some weakness. We thereby learned that the battalion commander was dissatisfied with his superiors, because he was paid such a low salary, and was so hard pressed for money that he had become involved in drug-trafficking through his aide-de-camp. We profited from this fact to make a breakthrough in our break-up efforts.
One day, our operatives lay in ambush by a road and seized the aide-de-camp who was returning with large quantities of opium he had bought. He was afraid that the revolutionary army would take the battalion commander’s opium, which was as valuable as money. However, our comrades did not touch it; they merely educated him well and sent him on his way. Moved by the way he was treated, he reported to his battalion commander on his return that, although he had believed the communist army to be “bandits” as the Japanese stated, he had found them gentle and well-mannered. The battalion commander was also deeply moved.
Later I sent the commander my visiting card and a letter through his aide-de-camp. The letter stated: The guerrilla army doesn’t want to fight you; although you committed many vicious deeds while chasing our unit, we won’t settle accounts with you; we don’t want that much from you; we only want you never to harm the people and the people’s revolutionary army; if you mean to repent your past actions and want to maintain friendly relations with the revolutionary army, then send us Tiejun (Invincible Army —Tr.) and other publications now and then.
In response to my letter, the aide-de-camp brought us the magazine Tiejun, agreed on the secret place, where he could drop the publications and returned. Since then, they sent us on a regular basis, through a certain hollow in an old tree, a variety of papers and periodicals published in and outside the army as well as important military information. When we gave them money to buy some necessities for our unit and military supplies, they fulfilled all our requests.
Touched by our goodwill, the battalion commander voluntarily treated our wounded guerrillas. He would hide them in his barracks and take good care of them; he made sure that they received excellent treatment until their wounds healed. He regarded the people’s revolutionary army as a genuine army of the people and, as our friendly relations intensified, he sent me a passionate letter, entitled “An Appeal to the Comrades-in-Arms on the Mountain”.
Human conscience follows the truth and sings the praises of love. I always stressed to my comrades that, whereas the enemy were trying to demoralize our ranks through deception and fraudulence, threats and blackmail, we communists must imbibe the hearts of the enemy soldiers with truth and love.
The operatives, who took my words to heart and faithfully conducted political work among the enemy included a young girl guerrilla. Her name was Im Un Ha. The well-known play, entitled Sunflower, describes her actual struggle.
I met her for the first time at a secret camp in Mihunzhen in spring 1936. When we debated some important matters on the formation of a new division of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army and the preparations to found the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland, she became extremely excited as she thought that she would follow us to the area of Mt. Paektu in the future. She was a charming, pretty girl, who was not very talkative but, at the same time, very determined. She was then not quite twenty and small in build for her age. Whenever she saw me, she would try to coax me into assigning her to the main unit of the KPRA under my command, saying, “You’ll surely take me with you this time, won’t you General?”
But we left her with Wei Zheng-min who was ill. As her hope of following me to the fatherland had not materialized, tears welled up immediately in her eyes.
I consoled her. “Don’t feel so disappointed”, I said. “When we’ve established ourselves in the area around Mt. Paektu, we’ll take Comrade Wei there for treatment. And you’ll come with him.”
“I see. General. Don’t worry about me.”
Although she said that to comfort me, she was gazing absent-mindedly towards the southernmost sky of the fatherland in low spirits.
A few days later, we left Mihunzhen and billeted on a village near Xiaofuerhe. Unexpected misfortune hit this remote mountain village with its four or five households. The enemy from Dapuchaihe attacked it at dawn. We quickly occupied one vantage-point and fired at the enemy, but those who billeted on a house on the opposite side of the valley did not escape in time. They were Wei Zheng-min, Chairman Li, who had been sent to us on graduation from the Sun Yat-sen University in Moscow, the wife of Cao Ya-fan, and Im Un Ha.
We searched the battle site after repulsing the enemy and found Wei in the attic. His wounded thigh was bleeding. I was told that Wei’s condition had turned for the worse that day and could not be moved. Im Un Ha had managed to hide him in the attic. But she had been wounded in the leg while running up the mountain to escape from enemy fire and had been captured. Cao Ya-fan’s wife and Li had been killed that day.
The enemy took Im Un Ha to a company of the puppet Manchukuo army stationed in the vicinity of Dapuchaihe, and made her laundress and cook. At first the Japanese instructor cruelly tortured her, in a bid to make her talk, but as this proved futile, he changed his method; he tested her by giving her odd jobs. Im, lonely in the enemy camp, thought again and again about how she could be of service to the revolution. She decided on the bold plan of trying to persuade the whole company to switch to the side of the revolutionary army.
She decided to try and stir the men’s hearts by singing some beautiful songs and awaken the hearts which had become so uncouth owing to exhaustive military service. To make contact with the soldiers, she stretched out a clothesline in the yard of the barracks and sang a plaintive, nostalgic song, frequently touching the clothes. We composed a good song for political work with the enemy. We had set revolutionary words to the tune of a mournful old song, sung by a widow over the grave of her husband, killed at the construction site of the Great Wall. She sang this song for rank-and-file soldiers, and other ordinary songs for the officers. The company had previously belonged to the national salvation army, but it had been reassigned to the puppet Manchukuo army when the commander of the NSA had deserted. Consequently the soldiers had a strong anti-Japanese spirit. Her lovely singing captivated the soldiers’ hearts. When they heard her singing that plaintive song, even officers gazed at a distant sky absent-mindedly, deep in thought.
As the prisoner’s good voice became common knowledge, soldiers came up and asked, “Will you sing a song for us, girl guerrilla?” She would reply, smiling, “Of course, as it’s free I can sing hundreds of times.” And she would sing in a sorrowful way, adjusting her voice. The plaintive song carried the grievances of the Chinese people who were bleeding and dying under Japanese oppression.
The labour involved in the construction of the Great Wall
Built the tombs of the Chinese in the past.
Today the bayonets of the Japanese
Dig our graves.
Arise, and advance,
To take vengeance on the enemy of the Chinese.
The uncouth soldiers, as well as the girl would shed tears when she sang. She sang songs for them and also did their needlework and left them the food they liked and later gave them extra portions.
Thereby, a friendship sprang up between Im and the soldiers. A few greenhorns followed her around as they would their own sisters. They had been orphaned in childhood and had roamed about begging, before joining the army for the food. She took loving care of these poor lonely young men. Im soon became as dear to them as their own sister and mother for the soldiers had been so hungry for human warmth.
One day three young soldiers came to her and requested that she swear brotherhood with them. They said, “You’re our eldest sister, Un Ha. We’ll sacrifice our lives for you, sister.”
Their pledge was solemn and earnest. Needless to say, she accepted and grasped their hands warmly, saying, “I’ll sacrifice my life for you, brothers.”
With these three soldiers as the hard core, she expanded brotherhood still further and developed it gradually into an anti-Japanese association. Meanwhile, she decided to approach the company commander to discuss rebellion. The company commander, too, had been in the national salvation army, and had always been aggrieved by the tyranny of the Japanese instructor. Grasping his state of mind at the right moment, she went to see him one day and told him in detail how former puppet Manchukuo army soldiers, who had defected to the guerrilla army lived. Then she ventured, “Why don’t you defect with your soldiers?”
At first the company commander was embarrassed by her unexpected suggestion.
“How long do you plan to carry on being maltreated like a horse? Yesterday Wang, your most cherished man, was beaten by the Japanese instructor until he lost consciousness. However, you didn’t utter a word of protest.”
As the company commander trembled with anger, she continued, “I’ll help you defect. All of your men are my sworn brothers and members of the anti-Japanese association.”
He looked at her glowing eyes in amazement. What had this young girl guerrilla been doing up to that time? The company commander was shocked to find that she had such a big heart for such a small body.
He said, “As a man, I’m ashamed.”
And he left hastily.
The next day the soldiers under her influence lodged a protest, demanding their salary which was now six months overdue. That day, too, the Japanese instructor beat the soldiers’ representative to a pulp, hurling abuse at him. The girl thought this to be a critical moment and faced the soldiers boldly, appealing, “My dear brothers! Get rid of that cruel Japanese instructor! End your shameful service to the puppet Manchukuo army and follow me to the anti-Japanese guerrilla army!”
Responding to her appeal, the soldiers killed the Japanese instructor, swiftly formed ranks and set out in search of the anti-Japanese guerrilla army. They took along three Czech-made machine-guns, 19 rifles, one pistol and 4,700 cartridges.
History hardly knows of a case when a girl, scarcely twenty years of age, persuaded an enemy company to mutiny. A secret document of the Japanese imperialists mentioned this incident as an unprecedented, miraculous event.
Im Un Ha was the flower of the guerrilla army, a daughter of Korea possessing a capacious heart, a girl who, as we had expected, had led the soldiers of the puppet Manchukuo army along the right road with the sincerity, love and magnanimity of a communist.
Our political work among the enemy troops intensified from the latter half of the 1930s onwards and the revolutionary organizations spread their network to the vicious Jingan army units as well. Our organizations held sway in many units of the self-defence corps and puppet Manchukuo army and police. Accordingly, most of the puppet Manchukuo army soldiers turned their guns on the Japanese imperialists or were about to break up during our final anti-Japanese campaign for the liberation of the country.
The inglorious defeat of the Japanese imperialist aggressor army and the puppet Manchukuo army, serving an unjust cause, was inevitable, dictated by the laws of history. Somehow or other, man is bound in the end to take the side of justice and truth by a straight or roundabout path.
I still don’t know what happened to the regimental commander of the puppet Manchukuo army I made friends with in Emu. But Fm certain that if he, his wife and children are alive somewhere, they will devote themselves to their fatherland and the Chinese nation.
The southern shore of Lake Jingbo, an unprecedented scenic beauty-spot in Manchuria, is home to a small village called Nanhutou, which means village on the southern tip of the lake. The village Beihutou is located on its northern shore. Several miles up, River Xiaojiaqi flows into Lake Jingbo: here you used to come across two old log-cabins in a deep valley at the foot of a mountain. We held a meeting in February 1936 in one of them. I was told that it is difficult now to determine the site of the cabin owing to the surrounding thick grass and trees but 50 or 60 years ago a tall ash tree and pine-nut tree stood in front of that cabin, serving as a reference point for all those who were coming to the meeting place. The developments in the latter half of the 1930s can be traced back to this cabin known by our historians as the “log-cabin on River Xiaojiaqi”.
In mid-February 1936, on the eve of Usu (the day of the first rains in the year—Tr.) after Ripchun (the day when spring begins—Tr.) we made our way to this place, after the second expedition to north Manchuria. It marked the beginning of spring according to the calendar, but the biting cold of north Manchuria was still rife and the wild continental wind whipped against us. Now and then the sound of breaking ice rang out on Lake Jingbo, accompanied by the reverberations of oaks and birches cracking from the cold in the thick forests along River Xiaojiaqi. It was so cold there that even our experienced cooks could not boil rice in the open-air kitchen. Whereas the rice at the bottom of the pot burnt to a cinder, the rice in the upper layer would not boil, affected by the biting cold of 40°C below zero. North Manchuria still impinges on me as the one place in my life, where I ate half-cooked food more often than anywhere else.
Almost four years had passed, since we had launched the war against the Japanese imperialists. Our revolutionary force had grown on a large scale in its military and political aspects, and the future looked bright. The anti-Japanese revolution had experienced a thorny path, and was now clearly advancing dynamically towards a fresh turning-point, As I hastened towards Nanhutou to meet Wei Zheng-min, without a rest from the expedition, various thoughts of our revolutionary prospects surged inside me.
I had waited eagerly throughout the expedition in north Manchuria and also during our days in Xiaojiaqihe after the expedition for the envoys who had been sent to Moscow half a year earlier.
The major issue Wei Zheng-min was to bring to the attention of the Comintern by the decision of the Yaoyinggou meeting was apparently about the “Minsaengdan” case in which thousands of Korean communists in east Manchuria had been removed, but, in essence, it was about the independent nature of the Korean revolution. In other words, it was about whether the Korean communists’ struggle under the slogan of the Korean revolution was right or wrong, legitimate or illegitimate, or whether it contradicted the Comintern’s principle of one party for one country. From today’s stand-point, it is natural and does not leave even a shadow of a doubt about its validity, but at that time, when the Comintern existed and the principle of one party for one country was regarded as inviolable, it was a complicated and serious issue, what defied a ready answer, but was vital to our destiny.
The tenacious argument of people, who wielded the principle of one party for one country, the contention that the Korean communists’ struggle for the Korean revolution constituted a heretic act unworthy of a communist, and a factional practice alien to the Party, was terrible. They said, “A communist is an internationalist. How can he be preoccupied with the thought of his country, which lacks a Party of its own and be captivated by a narrow nationalist idea, instead of devoting himself to the revolution of the country whose Party he belongs to? This is the same attitude, expressed by the revisionists who adhered to the ‘defence of the fatherland’ slogan in the days of the Second International. Lenin labelled them traitors and enemies of the cause of socialism and communism and condemned them. If you Korean communists continue to insist on the Korean revolution, you could also be labelled traitors and enemies of the cause of socialism. Consequently, you would be wise not to act rashly.”
Naturally enough, I was not that worried about this matter, and in a sense can say that I already had a rough estimate of the answer Wei Zheng-min would bring, because our opinion was just and Wei had understood it fully. I had no doubt that Comintern officials would approve the appeal we had submitted on the fundamental issues of the Korean revolution.
My conviction that the Comintern would treat our problems fairly was both based on the consistent belief that our appeal to Moscow through Wei conformed in all aspects with the revolution’s principles and interests and related to the situation at that time, when the Comintern was seeking a new line.
Until 1919, when the Communist International was organized by Lenin, the Russian Communist Party was the only political party of the working class in power. The revolutionary left-wing broke with the revisionist Social Democratic Parties of the Second International and formed Communist Parties. However, they were very young in both ideological and organizational aspects and still not strong enough to independently carry out revolution in their own countries.
The victory of the socialist revolution in Russia sparked vigorous struggles to break the chains of capitalism and establish Soviet republics on a world-wide scale, but these efforts were frustrated. Despite the favourable objective situation, created by the emergence of the first socialist state in history, the revolutionary forces of each country were not sufficiently prepared to overcome the enemy and gain a conclusive victory.
In these circumstances, the communists all over the world were compelled to reorganize the international communist movement and unite organizationally with newly-emergent Russia and the Russian Communist Party as the axis. They had to establish the principle of democratic centralism in the form of the Comintern’s organization and mode of its activities to make sure that the parties and revolutionary movements in separate countries obeyed unconditionally the directives of the international centre.
By accepting this requirement in a dogmatic way, some communists revealed a flunkeyistic tendency to blindly follow directives from Moscow, disregarding the revolutionary aims in their own countries and their own national interests; this tendency caused a considerable loss to the revolutionary movement in individual countries.
However, the revolutionary movement developed and revolutionary forces grew in separate countries under the unified guidance of the Comintern. Communists in these countries began to emerge as forces, capable of independently carrying out their revolutions.
From the early 1920s onwards. Communist Parties sprouted in the colonies and semi-colonial countries in Asia and, under their leadership, the national liberation struggles advanced rapidly. The parties of many countries could now have their say and demanded the right to independently define their own lines. It was in actual fact difficult for the Comintern, situated as it was in Moscow at the helm of the world revolution, to formulate policies in good time which would suit the actual situation in many countries of the world’s continents or regulate and guide their revolutionary struggles in such a way, as to meet the ever-changing circumstances and conditions. The Comintern, composed of people from various countries, was restricted somewhat in the formulation of lines and policies and in their dissemination.
The international communist movement was beginning to understand the need for a gradual change in its organization of revolutionary force and guidance of the struggle’s development. Revolution cannot be imported or exported. This fact, coupled with the pressing need to unite the revolutionary efforts of each country into one single force, aroused the communists in every country to the need to establish Juche, formulating and implementing their own line and maintain their party’s independence. This change in the situation constituted an important guarantee, that the Comintern would confirm the independent nature of the Korean revolution.
When he set off for me Soviet Union via Hunchun in summer 1935, Wei Zheng-min promised to return via Harbin or Muling and meet me in Ningan. Consequently we planned to go to Ningan after the Emu campaign.
At around the time when we hurried to Nanhutou, the fascist threat was looming ever larger on the international scene.
The Spanish Civil War was developing into a violent war and was assuming an international character, owing to the fascists’ overt armed intervention.
Japan was to be the hotbed of a new war in the East. She was being precipitated towards militarism. With the formation of the Saito Cabinet in the wake of the “May 15 incident” in 1932, Japan’s party politics came to an end and the country was placed under the rule of a military cabinet. Japan thereby vehemently told the world, without the slightest hesitation, that “war is the father of creation and the mother of culture”.
The fascist trend in Japan culminated in the coup of February 26, 1936, at the time when we planned to convene the meeting at Nanhutou. The incident finally led to the oppressive phase, where the doctrine of overseas aggression, advocated by the junior officers’ group, began to be implemented. The young officers, 1,000 non-commissioned officers and men who took part in the coup, assaulted the residences of the Prime Minister and several of the ministers, killing or seriously wounding important government officials, including the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, the Minister of Finance, the Inspector-General of Military Education and the Grand Chamberlain; they occupied the Metropolitan Police Agency, the Ministry of War, the General Staff Office and the residence of the Minister of War, thereby gaining control of the “heart of Japanese politics”. The coup, staged under the slogan of “respecting the Emperor and eliminating treacherous subjects”, was put down in four days. The political confusion was smoothed over by the execution of the masterminds behind the plot. This, however, constituted a danger signal of the rampage of Japanese militarism.
The incident on February 26, a product of conflicts among Japanese military circles, between the Imperial Way and Control factions, proved the grave stage of Japan’s impending fascism and marked the advent of a military dictatorship. The manoeuvres of the militarist force inside Japan itself implied the danger that they would launch a new war and larger-scale military actions.
Keeping a vigilant eye on the developments in Japan, we re-examined our fighting strategy in a bid to anticipate their consequences. Although the coup failed, it clearly demonstrated the outrageous nature of Japanese militarism in its participation in Japan’s domestic politics and its aggressive intentions towards other countries. In actual fact Japan provoked the Sino-Japanese War less than a year and a half later and precipitated a still greater aggression.
The emergence of fascism in Japan weighed more heavily upon Korea, her colony. A frenzied campaign was launched on the Korean peninsula to wipe out all that was Korean and crush all forms of anti-Japanese struggle and anti-Japanese elements. To use Korean language instead of Japanese, wear white clothes instead of dyed colours and failure to hoist the Hinomaru (the national flag of Japan—Tr.), visit the shrines, learn the “Pledge of the Imperial Subjects”, or put on geta (Japanese wooden sandals—Tr.)—these acts were all termed anti-Japanese, anti-state and treacherous behaviour accompanied by a fine or penalty, arrest or even imprisonment.
Some former proponents of patriotism now abandoned the last vestiges of their conscience in this violent campaign of national extinction, became turncoats and declaimed that “Japan and Korea were one” and that “the Japanese and Koreans came from the same stock”, in order to save their skins. Patriots were murdered while traitors cut a wide swathe. The whole of Korea was being stifled.
This suppressive situation made it imperative for us to move to Mt Paektu and demonstrate that Korea was alive, Korea was fighting and that Korea would survive.
These shocking changes occurred successively at home and abroad around the time when we met at Nanhutou.
These developments were indeed oppressive, but they did not depress us. I was convinced that we could defeat the Japanese imperialists, if we moved the armed struggle deep into the homeland.
The march was arduous and exhausting, but the men’s spirits were high, as they anticipated the advance to the Mt. Paektu area. It was probably during our march to Nanhutou that we debated the significant lessons of the legend of Zhenzhumen village, situated off Lake Jingbo. It is a very interesting legend.
A poor man and his daughter once lived in the village of Zhenzhu-men on Lake Jingbo. The daughter, nearly twenty years of age, was a rare beauty, and all the young men around wanted to marry her.
Her father had been endowed with the divine gift of seeing through waters of any depth. He once told his daughter, “While angling the other day, I saw a golden mirror lying deep in the lake. To retrieve that mirror, I must first get rid of a three-headed monster living in the water. To do this, however, I need a very brave and bold assistant. I’ve been trying to work out these days how to find a suitable assistant.”
His dutiful daughter answered, “I will marry the young man who helps you bring out that mirror.”
He backed his daughter’s idea. He disseminated the rumour about his daughter’s decision in the neighbouring villages. Many young men came to Zhenzhumen on hearing the rumour. However, when they heard the man’s plan to get the mirror, none of them expressed a readiness to become his assistant. However, one young man whose surname was Yang, volunteered. The old man and his daughter accepted his offer at once and promised him that the girl would marry the lad if they managed to bring back the mirror.
One fine day the man went to the lakeside with the young man. After rowing out onto the lake, the man gave the lad three swords—large, medium and small—and said, “When I come to the surface for the first time, you must give me the small sword, the second time—the medium one, and the third time—the large one. When you hand me the swords, you must act as quick as lightning. Don’t be frightened. If you take to flight in fright, before getting the mirror out, both you and I will die.”
The boy comforted him, saying, “Please don’t worry, sir.”
Soon the man jumped into the water. The lad sitting in the boat gazed into the water’s depths, and the girl on the shore watched him. A few moments later the man’s pale face broke surface. The boy swiftly handed him the small sword, as he had been told. The man dived into the water with the sword. The lake then began to surge in the depths. The man rose to the surface with one of the bleeding monster’s heads, as large as a man’s, and disappeared into the water with the second sword. In a few minutes, the lake ran high and the waves rose and seemed about to capsize the boat. The man, who was stained with blood emerged, this time holding another of the monster’s heads, the size of a horse’s, and plunged again into the surging water with a third sword. Thunder boomed in the sky and the waves raged. The boat rolled heavily on the waves, as if it were sinking. At this horrible sight, the girl on the shore felt as if her heart had stopped beating. She was so tense and fretful that she held her breath.
The lad became deranged and rowed the boat with all his might towards the shore, forsaking his promise to the man and his attachment for the girl, who had been watching him. Enraged, the girl shouted at him, stamping her foot, and persuaded him to turn the boat back; she climbed in and rowed with the lad to the centre of the lake in search of her father. The wind and raging waves subsided, but the man was nowhere to be seen. The boy and girl called out for him again and again, but the man died in the water and therefore there was no reply. The girl tearfully reproached the boy for breaking his promise. Quarrelling, having no idea of the time, they both disappeared in the fog.
Although the story varies a little from village to village, or from Emu to Ningan, this is the general outline. Apparently the name of Lake Jingbo originated from the Zhenzhumen legend. On hearing the legend we thought deeply about loyalty and a self-sacrificing spirit. My comrades cursed the young man as disloyal and cowardly. The legend affected them tremendously. Whenever a coward appeared in our ranks, the guerrillas would condemn him as “the boy Yang on Lake Jingbo”.
To discuss measures and decide how to cope with the urgent historic tasks raised by the country and the nation, whose destiny was at stake, I considered it necessary to convene a meeting of military and political cadres of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army at Xiaojiaqihe, before leaving for Mt. Paektu.
One evening in mid-February, when I was putting the finishing touches to the draft report for the meeting and waiting for the envoys, who had gone to Moscow, the door of the log-cabin was flung open and Wei Zheng-min appeared before me.
He apologized profusely for arriving later than schedule, explaining that he had been laid up in hospital for a few months. Although he arrived late, he was met with our congratulations for returning to Manchuria, after recovering from his illness. He looked much better now, probably because he had been to Moscow. I could guess just by looking at his composed air that his trip had been successful.
Wei’s return journey had not been smooth. He arrived in Ningan via Harbin by rail and met the comrades of the 5th Corps of Zhou Bao-zhong; on his way to Nanhutou he had been stopped near Wangou village by the patrol police. After a short interrogation, the policemen had suspected him and wanted to take him to their substation. Wei was carrying important documents from the Comintern in his bundle; everything would have been ruined if he had been taken to the station. He gave the policemen 50 yuan, and they let him go.
Wei said jokingly that he had thought his body would be worth tens of thousands of yuan but it turned out that it was only worth 50 yuan.
For some strange reason, he said: “Let me shake your hand once more. Comrade Kim Il Sung.”
“We’ve just shaken hands. What’s it all about?” I asked, puzzled.
“I want to congratulate you on one matter. This is a significant handshake. So, be happy, Comrade Kim Il Sung. After a serious discussion on the matters you’ve raised, the Comintern concluded that your opinions are all correct and issued some important directives backing them. Everything was settled just as the Korean communists desired.”
Feeling tears welling up in my eyes, despite myself, I grabbed Wei’s two hands.
“Is that true?”
“Yes. The Comintern criticized the east Manchuria Party committee for committing such grave Leftist mistakes in its struggle with the ‘Minsaengdan’ and other activities. All the senior officials of the Comintern and its Chinese Communist Party representatives expressed the same opinion on this matter.
“But most importantly, the Comintern has recognized the inalienable and inviolable right of the Korean communists to be solely responsible for the Korean revolution and has given its support to the revolution. The Comintern gave the clear-cut answer that the responsibilities should now be divided between the Chinese and Korean communists in such a way that the former would engineer the Chinese revolution and the latter the Korean revolution.”
Wei Zheng-min stopped speaking for some minutes for some unknown reason. I soon realized that his conscience and remorse were bothering him. Were reminiscences of the heated argument, where he had tried to prove the validity of his own opinion, making him blush? What serious arguments we had exchanged at the meetings at Dahuang-wai and Yaoyinggou and beyond the conference hall! Thanks to Wei Zheng-min’s visit to Moscow, the complicated issues were settled smoothly, just as we had expected and desired.
One source had alleged that Wei did not attend the Seventh Congress of the Comintern during his time in Moscow and merely left Hunchun, accompanied by ten local Party and YCL cadres on a study tour, and that he aimed primarily to report on the issue of the “Minsaengdan” to the Chinese representatives to the Comintern. Other materials were also untrue. The archives of the Comintern still maintain records of Wei Zheng-min’s attendance of its Seventh Congress.
Wei Zheng-min told me mat he had given the Comintern a detailed account of the guerrilla struggle in Manchuria. It went under the title “Feng Kang’s Report”. In Moscow he used the pseudonym Feng Kang, as well as his real name.
There were discrepancies in the reports of Leftist errors, committed during the anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle. Some of them blamed Wei for the errors, while others asserted that the deviations in the struggle against the “Minsaengdan” were righted, following his appointment as secretary of the East Manchuria Special District Committee.
I did not believe that he was totally responsible for the injurious consequences of the anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle. Frankly speaking, however, it is true that in the early days when, in his capacity of secretary of the Harbin City Party Committee, Wei came to east Manchuria in the winter of 1934 as an inspector from the provincial committee, he was at a loss as to how to deal with such a complicated issue as the “Minsaengdan”. At that time, he was more or less influenced by the prevalent opinions that many of the “Minsaengdan” members had infiltrated the revolutionary organizations and the guerrilla army and should therefore be purged to the last man. He subsequently confessed that at first he had suspected that most Koreans belonged to the “Minsaengdan”.
This statement would seem to be more or less true, judging from his report about me to the Comintern; it reads,
“Kim Il Sung. Korean. Brave and active. Speaks fluent Chinese. A guerrilla. Many people say that he is a ‘Minsaengdan’ member. Fond of talking to his men and trusted and respected by them as well as by the NSA soldiers.”
Despite his mistakes in the early days, it is only fair to say that he contributed greatly to correcting the ultra-Leftist deviation in the purge, going as far as Moscow and receiving the Comintern’s answer on the “Minsaengdan”. In fact, he had expressed his agreement with me on the issue at the Dahuangwai meeting. I was grateful to him for the accurate and objective report he gave the Comintern about the situation in east Manchuria, avoiding all forms of national prejudice and the satisfactory settlement of everything in our favour.
“Thank you. I’m grateful to the Comintern and all the more grateful to you. Comrade Wei, for taking such trouble to travel all the way to Moscow, despite your poor health. I won’t forget all that you’ve done for me.”
This was my heartfelt acknowledgement to him.
Wei said awkwardly that my praise was more than he deserved. He continued, “When combatting the ‘Minsaengdan’, the East Manchuria Special District Committee and the Chinese communists under it made a serious mistake; they were narrow-minded and went to the extreme in dealing with people’s destinies. Many Korean communists and revolutionaries suffered undeserved punishment. I am first and foremost to blame for not combatting the ‘Minsaengdan’ in a just way. This was severely criticized by the Comintern.”
I considered his remark a piece of honest self-criticism.
“A communist is also a human being, Mr. Wei. Consequently, he is also prone to mistakes. I’d like to say that the ‘Minsaengdan’ issue became complicated, basically because the Japanese had sought to sow dissension between our nations.”
“You’re right. After all, we’ve been trapped in their scheme for quite some time and committed fratricide. We killed our own people. When I first arrived in east Manchuria, someone told me that the Koreans were claiming Jiandao and were thinking of restoring it. He added that I must be vigilant against their attempts to occupy it with Japanese help. For some reason, at first I believed him,” Wei said and smiled bitterly.
I felt sorry for him.
“Mr. Wei, everything’s fine now, so forget about the past. Frankly speaking, I felt heavy-hearted when I saw you off to the Comintern. But I felt complete trust on you, when you sincerely accepted our proposal and said that you’d convey it to the Comintern responsibly.”
“Thank you. I was also convinced that you’d think so.”
The Comintern made it clear that the Korean communists were not guilty in any way when they raised the slogan of the Korean revolution and that was in fact their sacred duty to do so, something the Comintern should have entrusted to them and their legitimate right inalienable even in terms of the principle of one party for one country. I felt as if I were a bird which had been freed from a cage and could now fly high up into the sky. We now had wings, so to speak, and the Korean revolution could now take off.
Wei Zheng-min provided me with a detailed account of the Seventh Congress of the Comintern.
In those days the Comintern was preoccupied with the urgent task of launching a world-wide struggle against fascism.
The emergence of fascism in Italy and Germany and its consolidation after the First World War had ushered in a dreary, unstable political climate in many European countries and was precipitating mankind into a new war. The fascism created by Fasci di Combattimento, organized by Mussolini of Italy, attained its highest peak under Hitler of Germany and the Nazi Party he founded.
Fascism advocated extreme national chauvinism. Consequently Germany became the source of a new world war. The extreme anti-communist mentality of fascism, combined with anti-Semitism, was the most vicious and pernicious trend of all reactionary views which had existed in all ages and all countries by that time. Fascism reared its ugly head as a force, which could not be ignored in the political lives in Germany and other countries.
Germany’s bourgeoisie considered iron fists of fascist dictators like Hitler to be the only instrument to be able to rid Germany of all its crises, overpower communism and bring about the restoration of the Third Reich.
Hitlerite fascism conspired against the German Communist Party as its first undertaking on usurping power. The notorious burning of the Reichstag building, which startled the whole world, was a rare farce which they staged. The political objectives of Hitler and Goring in this incident ended in ignominious failure. Of course, after the Reichstag fire, they outlawed the Communist Party and reduced the Reichstag to a mere rubber stamp, but also they vividly revealed the true nature of fascism to the world as the most reactionary and undisguised bourgeois political system. The world condemned German fascism as a provocateur, dictator and warmonger.
The rise of fascism in Germany awakened the political consciousness of the progressive people throughout the world.
With the onset of fascism and the threat of an imminent new war, the Comintern set the important strategic task of preventing dissension between Communist and Socialist Parties and resisting fascism by concerted efforts. This culminated in the launch of an anti-fascist popular front movement on an international scale.
In these circumstances, the oppressed nations in the East and colonies initiated an anti-imperialist, national united front movement to rally all national efforts into a single force to counter imperialist aggression.
On the basis of this strategic objective, the Seventh Congress of the Comintern required the Communist Parties of all countries to rally all anti-fascist and anti-imperialist forces.
Wei Zheng-min conveyed his respect for Dimitrov, saying that his report on the development of the struggle against imperialism and fascism on an international scale had been very impressive.
We believed that Dimitrov, hero of the Leipzig trials, which attracted the attention of the whole world, including progressive intellects, was an outstanding man of the times. His appeal to wage an active struggle against fascism gripped the hearts of progressive people throughout the world.
I would like to mention here that the fact that Dimitrov, a Bulgarian, and not Zinoviev, Bukharin or Manuilsky of the Soviet Union, was at the helm of the Comintern symbolized a new phase in the development of the international communist movement; it marked the advent of a new age when the Comintern would function on the basis of the independent activities of separate Communist Parties. We can say that these demands of the times were reflected in the resolutions of the Comintern’s Seventh Congress, which accorded considerable independent activities to each party.
It was fortunate indeed that the congress fully recognized the rights and responsibilities of the Korean communists for the Korean revolution.
I was even more firmly convinced, on hearing Wei’s report, of the justness of our cause and the correctness of our lines. When he gave me the Communist International , the organ of the Comintern, carrying an article On the Anti-Imperialist United Front in Manchuria written by Yang Song, and a letter from the Comintern to a senior official of the eastern area bureau of the Jilin Province, signed jointly by Wang Ming and Kang Sheng, working at the Comintern’s oriental department, Wei Zheng-min added that both the article and letter explained the main content of the resolution adopted by the Comintern on Korea.
Yang Song proposed in his article to overcome Left-wing opportunist deviations and form an anti-Japanese united front at the earliest possible date, and maintained that the Chinese Communist Party should from that moment on adhere to the slogan of a united front of the oppressed nations of China, Korea, Mongolia and Manchuria. He also stressed that the Chinese and Korean nations should unite to overthrow Japan’s rule of puppet Manchukuo and set up a Jiandao autonomy by the Korean nation, and that the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, operating as part of the Chinese-Korean Anti-Japanese Allied Army, should fight for the independence of the Korean nation as well. Yang Song was in reality Wu Ping. a representative from the Comintern, I had met in Zhou Bao-zhong’s hut during the first expedition to north Manchuria.
The Comintern did not only provide moral and political backing; it also revealed its support of our activities by proposing measures to help us to speed up the Korean revolution in future.
One of them was a directive that the anti-Japanese guerrilla forces, which had so far conducted a joint struggle, should be reorganized separately into Korean and Chinese armies. This was, in effect, the nucleus of the issue on the responsibilities and rights of the Korean communists for the Korean revolution and played an important role in maintaining the Juche character and independence of the Korean revolution.
If we had organized a separate army of only Koreans, picking them out from all the guerrilla units in Manchuria, as directed by the Comintern, such an army alone could have proved to be a formidable force, capable of countering the two Japanese army divisions in Korea. If we had fought the Japanese army in a spirit of one man as a match for ten, the young people in Korea would not have remained mere onlookers. If they had joined us, the tide of the war would have changed and the country would have been liberated at a much earlier date.
Nevertheless, as communists, who had fought jointly in the same trench against the Japanese, our common enemy, for years, we could not be disloyal to our brothers and comrades-in-arms. If we had removed all the Korean soldiers to our advantage, then such a unit as the 2nd Corps, comprising 90 per cent Korean soldiers, would have come to an end. Chinese soldiers constituted the majority in other guerrilla units. However, most of them had come from the nationalist army: there were only a few communists in each of these units. Moreover, most of the commanders in each unit were Koreans. The core elements of each unit were also Koreans. If separate units of Koreans and Chinese had been created in this situation, it would have been difficult to maintain the Anti-Japanese Allied Army.
The Korean communists had carried out the anti-Japanese armed struggle with immense success by organizing the Anti-Japanese Allied Army with the Chinese communists in the mid-1930s and developing a joint struggle under anti-Manchukuo, anti-Japanese slogans. In the new circumstances, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army was to advance to the border areas, directing its main effort to the Korean revolution. However, we could not run the risk of weakening the joint struggle with the anti-Japanese armed units of the Chinese people. At a time when the progressive forces supporting the popular front in Spain were fighting together against the allied forces of the fascists, it would have been irrational and contrary to the trend of the times to separate the Korean-Chinese anti-Japanese armed units into Korean and Chinese armies. If the Koreans had formed their own army, when fighting in China, the Chinese people’s support might have weakened towards them.
We needed sovereignty, rather than a division of forces. We demanded recognition and respect for the Korean people’s right to independence, their right to carry out the Korean revolution, without any restraint, restriction or interference but not divided forces.
Needless to say, Wei Zheng-min and other Chinese comrades were well aware of this fact. But Wei seemed to think that the greatest gift he could give me on his return from Moscow was separate authority. He repeated his proposal to plan the reorganization of the armed forces by nationalities as the Comintern had advised.
“I fully understand what you think. Comrade Wei. But I believe that we cannot look at the matter from only one angle. As we’re communists, we have to consider everything on the basis of revolutionary principles and class interests. When they talk about the Korean revolution, Korean communists do not seek to support narrow national interests. We believe that the national interests of the revolution should always be combined with international interests and that international interests must not be detrimental to national interests.
“Therefore, I must give deep thought as to whether it would be more advantageous to the revolution to preserve the united Korean-Chinese anti-Japanese armed forces, which have been fighting for years in the same trench, or separate them on the basis of nationality. Perhaps you’re suggesting the reorganization of the anti-Japanese armed forces on the basis of nationality out of respect for the Korean communists, but we don’t view this superficially. Furthermore, we are actually operating as the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, although fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Chinese communists. Consequently I don’t see any need to separate them.”
Wei was clearly pleased, but then asked anxiously, “Does that mean we will adhere to the directives of the Comintern? Prom a moral point of view, we have no right to bind you, Korean comrades in the Anti-Japanese Allied Army.”
“I don’t think you need to worry about that,” I said. “I would suggest that, while operating as an allied army, we call ourselves the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, when we’re in our homeland and Korean villages in northeast China, and then announce ourselves as the Anti-Japanese Allied Army, when we’re in Chinese villages. Surely that would mean preserving the allied army system and also carrying out the directives of the Comintern.”
“Thank you. Comrade Kim. I didn’t expect such generous understanding. This magnanimous approach of the Korean communists represents strong support for the Chinese revolution.”
Smiling, I shook Wei’s hand and said, “Have we been fighting together for only a few years? And must we part after fighting together only a few more years? Our friendship will last for ever, as long as China remains our neighbour and communism emerges victorious in your country.”
“Thank you, Comrade Kim. If is indeed an honour for me to fight in the same ranks with Korean communists like you. I’d like to become your political commissar. Commander Kim Il Sung. I will assist the Korean revolution by uniting more closely behind our Korean comrades.”
We embraced each other and laughed long and heartily.
To be candid, I had formed a new opinion of Wei Zheng-min after meeting him in Nanhutou. He regretted his past mistake. After restructuring the Party organizations in Manchuria, following the Seventh Congress of the Comintern, he was appointed to responsible posts of secretary of the South Manchuria Provincial Party Committee and political commissar of the 1 st Route Corps of the Northeast Anti-Japanese Allied Army; but he accompanied my unit most of the time, rather than the unit of the Chinese comrades. As he said jokingly, he was virtually performing the role of political commissar of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army under my command. For some reason he was fond of my company. It was not surprising that the Japanese official records listed Wei Zheng-min (alias Wei Ming-sheng) as my political commissar. He stayed for a long time in the Changbai area in my company and visited the secret camp on Mt. Paektu several times. He seldom objected to our lines or proposals in the years following the meeting at Nanhutou.
The alliance between the Korean and Chinese communists, which had undergone temporary trials due to the anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle, entered a new stage around the time of the Nanhutou meeting.
After it, we continued the armed struggle against the Japanese imperialists for nearly 10 years jointly with the Chinese communists and Chinese anti-Japanese forces, developing the Korean revolution and providing active assistance to the Chinese revolution. History of the mutual support and cooperation between the Korean and Chinese communists can thereby be traced to the early 1930s.
A Chinese leader, referring to this fraternity and assistance, said that the Korean people’s support for the Chinese people was thin and yet long-term, and that the latter’s support for the former was thick and yet short-term. I think that this constituted a sincere evaluation of what our people, a small nation, had been doing for a long time to help the fraternal Chinese people.
The meeting with Wei Zheng-min is an impressive event, which will remain in my memory for the rest of my life. As his visit to Moscow contributed greatly to the removal of obstacles to the Korean revolution, I am still grateful to him.
The following anecdote made my meeting with Wei still more memorable.
One day towards noon, when we were making preparations for a meeting of military and political cadres, my orderly hurried to tell me that a big tigress was threatening our long-range observation post and asked for permission to fire. He explained that the post was located on the top of a rocky cliff, commanding a good view, but that down below the cliff there was a den where a big tigress lived with her two cubs. He continued that the guards had tried to change the post out of fright, but they continued to get along because they had had no other suitable place and the tigress had meant no mischief, but she had gone wild since the previous day.