With the Century




Part I





Revolutionaries, believe in the people and rely on them at all times and you shall always emerge victorious; if you are forsaken by them, you will always fail. Let this be your maxim in your life and struggle.


Kim Il Sung



Volume 1


            1. My Family

            2. My Father and the Korean National Association

            3. An Echo of Cheers for Independence

            4. Repeated Removal

            5. The Song of the River Amnok

            6. My Mother

            7. The Inheritance

            1. Hwasong Uisuk School

            2. Disillusionment

            3. The Down-with-Imperialism Union

            4. My Mind Turning towards a New Theatre of Activity

            5. Ri Kwan Rin, Heroine of the Independence Army

            1. The Pursuit of Progressive Thoughts

            2. Mentor Shang Yue

            3. The Young Communist League of Korea

            4. The Expansion of the Organization

            5. The Demonstration of Unity

            6. An Chang Ho Delivers a Political Lecture

            7. The Merger of the Three Nationalist Organizations

            8. The Path Taken by Cha Kwang Su

            9. The Lessons of Wangqingmen

            10. Behind Bars



It is extremely moving for a man to look back on his past in his latter years. People lead different lives and their experiences are varied, so it is with different feelings that they look back on their past.

I look back on my life with deep emotion and I have strong memories as an ordinary man and as a politician who has served his country and people. The country and people I have served always occupied an important position in world politics.

I was born in the first period of the country’s ruin in the great national tragedy and spent the early years of my life in the vortex of the rapidly-changing situation at home and abroad, and I came to join my fortune with that of the country and share good times and bad with the people in my childhood. Following this path, I have now reached 80 years of age.

My whole life, which has flowed with the current of the 20th century when the life of mankind has undergone unprecedented vicissitudes and the political map of the world has changed beyond recognition, is the epitome of the history of my country and my people.

Naturally, the course of my life has not been all joy and success. There have been heart-breaking sorrows and sacrifices, and many twists and turns and difficulties. While I made many friends and comrades on the path of my struggle, there were also many people who stood in my way.

My patriotic spirit made me as a teenager cry out against Japan on the streets of Jilin and carry on a risky underground struggle dodging the enemy’s pursuit. Under the banner of anti-Japanese struggle I had to endure hardships going hungry and sleeping outdoors in the deep forests of Mt. Paektu, push my way through endless snowstorms and wage long bloody battles convinced of national liberation, fighting against the formidable enemy scores of times stronger than our forlorn force. After liberation I had to spend many a sleepless night in an effort to save the divided country and again go through indescribable difficulties and distresses in the days of building and defending the people’s state.

In this course, however, I never once shrank back or hesitated.

I have always held a steady helm in my life’s rough voyage, and I owe this to my comrades and to the people who have helped me in good faith.

“The people are my God” has been my constant view and motto. The principle of Juche, which calls for drawing on the strength of the masses who are the masters of the revolution and construction, is my political creed. This has been the axiom that has led me to devote my whole life to the people.

I lost my parents at an early age and have spent my whole life amid the love and expectations of my comrades. I hewed out the path of bloody struggle together with tens of thousands of comrades, and in this process I came to realize keenly the real value of the comrades and organization that shared their lot with me.

I remember my early comrades of the Down-with-Imperialism Union who believed in me and came to follow me on the hill at Huadian in the 1920s when there was no telling as yet if we would ever liberate our homeland, and then those splendid comrades who shielded me from the enemy’s bullets and who laughed as they took their comrade’s place on the scaffold. They never returned to the liberated homeland; they are now lying as spirits of revered memory in the fields and mountains of a foreign country. The many patriots who started on a different path of struggle but joined up with us in the end are no more by our side.

 As I witness our revolution progressing triumphantly and our country prospering, with all the people singing its praises, my heart aches with the thought of the comrades who laid down their lives unhesitatingly for this day; often I lie awake at night with their images before my eyes.

In fact, I little thought of writing my reminiscences. Many people, including celebrated foreign statesmen and well-known literary men, urged me to write my reminiscences, saying that my life would serve as a precious lesson for the people. But I was in no hurry to do so.

Now that a large part of my work is done by Secretary for Organizational Affairs Kim Jong Il, I have been able to find some time. With the change of generations, veteran revolutionaries have departed from this life and the new generation has become the pillar of our revolution. I came to think that it was my duty to tell of the experiences I have gained in the common cause of the nation and of how our revolutionary forerunners gave their lives in their youth for this day. So I came to put down in writing what has happened in my life, a few lines each time I found a spare moment.

I have never considered my life to be extraordinary. I am content and proud to think that my life has been dedicated to my country and nation and spent in the company of the people.

I hope that what I write will convey to posterity the truth and the lessons of life and struggle that if one believes in the people and relies on them, one will regain one’s country and win victory every time, and if one ignores people and is forsaken by them, one will surely fail.


Praying for the souls of the departed revolutionaries,

The Myohyang Mountains

April 1992



CHAPTER 1: The Country in Distress



1. My Family


My life began in the second decade of the 20th century when Korea was going through the bitterest period of its national tragedy. Before my birth my country had been reduced to the colony of Japan. With the signing of the “annexation of Korea by Japan1 the sovereign power of the King had passed to the Japanese Emperor and the people of this country had been made slaves who were compelled to act under the “Decrees of the Government-General.”2 Our country, with its long history, rich natural resources and beautiful mountains and rivers, found itself trampled underfoot by the Japanese military.

The people were deeply grieved and trembled with indignation at being robbed of their state power. In the fields and houses of this land, where there was “wailing all day after the nation’s fall,” many loyalists and Confucian scholars killed themselves, unable to bear the agony of the country’s ruin. Even nameless people from the lowest class, lamenting the tragic fate of the country, responded to the disgraceful “annexation of Korea by Japan” by committing suicide.

A barbaric system of rule by gendarmerie and police was established in our country, and moreover even primary schoolteachers, to say nothing of policemen and civil servants, wore gold-laced uniforms, regulation caps and sabres. On the strength of Imperial ordinances the governor-general controlled the army and navy and exercised unlimited power to stop the ears and mouths of our people and bind them hand and foot. All political and academic organizations founded by Koreans were forced to disband.

Korean patriots were thrashed with lead-weighted cowhide lashes in detention rooms and prisons. Law-enforcement agents who had adopted the methods of torture used in the days of the Tokugawa shogu-nate burned the flesh of Koreans with red-hot iron rods.

Successive decrees of the government-general that were issued to blot out all that was Korean, even forced Koreans to dye their traditional white clothes black. The big businesses of Japan that had come across the Korean Strait carried off heaps of treasure and the riches of our country in the name of various ordinances such as the “Company Act” and the “Survey Act.”

While visiting various parts of the world I have had the opportunity of seeing many former colonial countries, but I have never seen imperialism so hideous that it deprived people of their language and surnames and even plundered them of their tableware.

Korea in those days was a living hell. The Korean people were no more alive than dead. Lenin was absolutely correct when he said, “...Japan will fight so as to continue to plunder Korea, which she is doing with unprecedented brutality, combining all the latest technical inventions with purely Asiatic tortures.”

My boyhood coincided with the time when the imperialists were struggling fiercely to redivide their colonies throughout the world. In the year of my birth successive sensational events took place in many parts of the world. That year a US marine corps landed in Honduras, France made Morocco its protectorate and Italy occupied the Rhodes of Turkey.

In Korea the “Land Survey Act” was published and the people were restless.

In short, I was born at an uneasy time of upheaval and passed my boyhood in unfortunate circumstances. This situation naturally influenced my development.

After hearing from my father about the circumstances of our country’s ruin, I felt a profound bitterness against the feudal rulers and made up my mind to devote my life to the regaining of our nation’s sovereignty.

While other people were travelling the world by warship and by train, our country’s feudal rulers rode on donkeys and wore horse-hair hats, singing of scenic beauties. Then, when aggressive forces from the west and east threatened them with their navies, they opened the doors of the country that had been so tightly closed. The feudal monarchy then hosted a contest for concessions in which the foreign forces had their own way.

Even when the country’s fate was at stake, the corrupt and incompetent feudal rulers, given to flunkeyism towards the great powers for generations, indulged in sectarian strife under the manipulation of the great powers. So, when the pro-Japanese faction gained the upper hand, Japanese soldiers guarded the royal palace, and when the pro-Russian faction was more powerful, Russian soldiers guarded the Emperor. Then, when the pro-Chinese faction got the better of the others, Chinese guards stood on sentry at the palace.

As a result, the Queen was stabbed to death by a terrorist gang within the royal palace (the “Ulmi incident” of 1895), the King was detained in a foreign legation for a year (“Moving to the Russian legation” in 1896), and the King’s father was taken away as prisoner to a foreign country; yet the Korean government had to apologize to that country.

When even the duty of guarding the royal palace was left to foreign armies, who was there to guard and take care of this country? In this wide world a family is no more than a small drop of water. But a drop of water is also a part of the world and cannot exist apart from the latter. The waves of modern history that spelled the ruin of Korea swept mercilessly into our house. But the members of my family did not yield to the threat. Rather, they threw themselves unhesitatingly into the storm, sharing the nation’s fate.

Our family moved north from Jonju in North Jolla Province in search of a living at the time of my ancestor Kim Kye Sang.

Our family settled at Mangyongdae at the time of my great-grandfather Kim Ung U. He was born at Jungsong-ri in Pyongyang and worked as a farmer from his early years. He was so poor that he became a grave keeper for the landlord Ri Phyong Thaek in Pyongyang and moved to the grave keeper’s cottage at Mangyongdae in the 1860s.

Mangyongdae is a place of great scenic beauty. The hill by our house is called Nam Hill, and when you look out over the River Tae-dong from the top of the hill you command a view that is like a beautiful picture scroll. Rich people and government officials vied with one another in buying hills in the Mangyongdae area as burial plots because they were attracted by the beautiful scenery there. The grave of one governor of Phyongan Province was at Mangyongdae.

Working as tenant farmers from generation to generation, my family eked out a scanty living. The family line had been continued by a sole heir for three generations before my grandfather Kim Po Hyon produced six sons and daughters. Then the number of members of the family increased to nearly ten.

My grandfather worked hard to feed his children. At early dawn when other people were still in bed he would go round the village to collect manure. At night he would twist straw ropes, make straw sandals and plait straw mats by lamplight.

My grandmother Ri Po Ik spun thread every night.

My mother Kang Pan Sok weeded the fields all day long and wove cotton by night with my aunts Hyon Yang Sin, Kim Kuilnyo, Kim Hyong Sil and Kim Hyong Bok.

Ours was such a poor home that my uncle Kim Hyong Rok was unable to attend school and helped my grandfather in farming from his boyhood. A slight knowledge of the Thousand-Character Text (a primer of Chinese characters) he learned at the age of nine was all the education he got.

All the members of my family toiled as hard as they could, but they could never afford enough gruel. Our gruel was prepared from uncleaned sorghum, and I still remember that it was so coarse that it was difficult to swallow.

So such things as fruit and meat were way beyond our means. Once I had sore throat and grandmother obtained some pork for me. I ate it and my throat got better. After that, whenever I felt like eating pork I wished I had a sore throat again.

While I was spending my childhood at Mangyongdae, my grandmother always regretted that we had no clock in our house. Although she was not a covetous woman, she was very envious of clocks hanging on the walls of other houses. In our neighbourhood there was one house with a clock.

I have heard that my grandmother began to speak enviously of that clock after my father began attending Sungsil Middle School. Because we had no clock, every morning she would wake up before dawn after a restless night and, guessing the time, quickly prepare breakfast. It was 12 kilometres from Mangyongdae to Sungsil Middle School, so my father might have been late for school if she had not cooked breakfast early enough.

Sometimes she would prepare a meal in the middle of the night and, not knowing if it was time for her son to leave for school, sit looking out through the eastern window of the kitchen for hours. At such times she would say to my mother, “Go and find out what time it is at the house behind.” However, my mother would not enter the house, reluctant to bother the people there, but would squat outside the fence waiting for the clock to strike the hours. Then she would return and tell grandmother the time.

When I returned home from Badaogou, my aunt inquired after my father before telling me that whereas my father had a hard time walking a long way to school every day, it would be good for me to go and stay at my mother’s parents’ home at Chilgol, as the school was nearby.

My family could not afford the clock my grandmother so desired until national liberation.

My family, though living only on gruel, were warm-hearted and ready to help one another and their neighbours.

“We can live without money, but not without humanity,” was what my grandfather used to say when admonishing his sons and daughters. This was the philosophy of my family.

My father was sensitive to new things and had a great desire to learn. He was taught the Thousand-Character Text at the private village school, yet he was always anxious to go to a regular school.

In the summer of the year when the Emissary Incident at The Hague3 took place, a joint athletics meeting was held in Sulmae village with the participation of the pupils from Sunhwa, Chuja, Chilgol and Sinhung Schools. My father went to the athletics meeting as a champion of Sunhwa School and took first place in many events such as the horizontal bar, wrestling and running. But in the high jump he lost first place to a competitor from another school. What happened was that his pigtail was caught in the crosspiece, and this prevented him from winning.

After the sports meeting my father went up the hill at the back of the school and cut off his pigtail. In those days it was no easy thing to cut off one’s pigtail without the permission of one’s parents and in disregard of the old convention that had been passed down over hundreds of years.

My grandfather took the matter very seriously and created a great fuss. By nature my family was strong in character.

Afraid of grandfather, my father dared not come home that day. He hung around outside the fence, so my great-grandmother took him to the back gate and gave him a meal. She loved him dearly, he being the heir to the family. My father would often say that he was able to attend Sungsil Middle School thanks to her kind assistance. She persuaded my grandfather Kim Po Hyon to allow my father to go to a modern school. In those days when feudal customs still prevailed, my grandfather’s generation was not very impressed by modern schools.

My father started at Sungsil Middle School in the spring of 1911, the year after the country’s ruin. That was in the early period of the introduction of modern civilization, so few children of the nobility were receiving the new-style school education. It was very difficult for poor families like ours that could hardly afford enough sorghum gruel to send their children to school.

The monthly tuition fee at Sungsil Middle School at the time was two won. To earn two won my mother went to the River Sunhwa and collected shellfish to sell. My grandfather grew melons, my grandmother young radishes, and even my uncle who was only 15 years old made straw sandals to earn money to help his elder brother with his school fees.

My father worked after school until dusk in a workshop run by the school to earn money. Then he would read books for hours in the school library before returning home late at night. After sleeping for a few hours, he would go to school again in the morning.

As is clear, our family was a simple and ordinary one the like of which could be found commonly in any farm village or town in Korea in those days. It was a poor family that was not particularly outstanding or remarkable in comparison with other families.

But my family were all ready to sacrifice themselves without hesitation when it came to doing something for the country and the people.

My great-grandfather was a grave keeper for another family, but he ardently loved his country and home town.

When the US imperialist aggressors’ ship General Sherman4 sailed up the River Taedong and anchored at Turn Islet, my great-grandfather, together with some other villagers, collected ropes from all the houses and stretched them across the river between Konyu Islet and Mangyong Hill; then they rolled some stones into the river to block the way of the pirate ship.

When he heard that the General Sherman had sailed up to Yanggak Islet and was killing the people there with its cannons and guns, and that its crew were stealing the people’s possessions and raping the women, he rushed to the walled city of Pyongyang at the head of the villagers. The people of the city, with the government army, loaded a lot of small boats with firewood, tied them together, set them on fire and floated them down towards the aggressor ship, so that the American ship was set on fire and sank with all hands. I was told that my great-grandfather played a major role in this attack.

After the sinking of the General Sherman, the US imperialist aggressors sent another vessel, the warship Shenandoah,5 which sailed into the mouth of the River Taedong, where its crew committed murder, incendiary attacks and pillage. The people of Mangyongdae again formed a volunteers unit and fought to defend their country from the Shenandoah.

My grandfather, who used to say, “A man should die fighting the enemy on the battlefield,” always told his family to live honourably for their country and he offered his children unhesitatingly to the revolutionary struggle.

My grandmother, too, taught her children to live uprightly and stoutly.

Once the Japanese treated her harshly by dragging her round the mountains and fields of Manchuria in the depth of winter in order to make me “submit.” But she scolded them and remained strong and proud as befitting the mother and grandmother of revolutionaries.

My maternal grandfather Kang Ton Uk was an ardent patriot and teacher who devoted his whole life to the education of the younger generation and the independence movement, teaching the children and young people at the private school he had founded in his home village. My maternal uncle Kang Jin Sok was also a patriot who joined the independence movement when still young.

My father taught me tirelessly from my early childhood to foster profound patriotism. From his desire and hope he named me Song Ju, meaning that I should be a pillar of the country.

As a pupil of Sungsil Middle School he, with his two younger brothers, planted three white aspens near the house to symbolize the three brothers. In those days there were no white aspens in Mangyongdae. That day my father told his brothers that the white aspen was a rapidly growing tree and that they, the three brothers, should grow rapidly and strong like the tree so as to win national independence and enjoy a good life.

Later, my father left Mangyongdae to continue his revolutionary activities and, following him, my uncle Kim Hyong Gwon took the path of struggle.

Then only my eldest uncle was left behind in Mangyongdae, but the three white aspens grew into tall trees. But their shadows fell across the fields of the landlord. The landlord said that the shadows would harm his crop, and he felled one of the trees. Yet, our family could not protest. Such was the lawlessness of the time.

I heard of this when I returned home after the liberation of the country. I felt really angry about it as I remembered my late father’s beautiful dream.

This was not the only cause of regret.

Several ash trees had stood in front of my old home. As a boy, I would often climb the trees and play in them with my friends. When I returned home after 20 years’ absence, I discovered that the tree that had stood closest to the house was no longer there.

My grandfather told me that my uncle had cut it down. The story was really pitiful.

While I was waging the war in me mountains, the police had tormented my family unbearably.

Police from the Taephyong sub-station took turns to keep our house under surveillance. Taephyong was some distance from Mangyongdae, and in summer the shade afforded by the ash trees served as a sort of guard post. As they sat in the shadow, they would call to the villagers or fan themselves to sleep. Sometimes they would drink alcohol and eat chicken or harass my grandfather and uncle.

One day my uncle, who was so good and quiet, went out with an axe and cut down one of the ash trees, and my grandfather told me that he had not even thought of dissuading him. He added, “There’s a saying that one is pleased to see the bugs die in a fire even though one’s house is burnt down.” His words caused me to smile wryly.

My grandparents had a very hard time because of their revolutionary sons and grandsons. But in spite of their bitter trials and persecution they never gave in but fought on stoutly. In the closing period of Japanese rule the Japanese imperialists forced Koreans to change their names to Japanese ones. But my grandparents refused to do so. In my home village only my family held out to the last without changing their names to Japanese ones.

All the other families changed their names. If they did not change their names, people found it hard to survive because the Japanese government authorities refused them food rations.

My uncle Hyong Rok was beaten and summoned to the police substation many times because he would not agree to change his name.

“Now you aren’t Kim Hyong Rok. What’s your name?” the policeman in charge would demand. To this my uncle would answer,It’s Kim Hyong Rok.” At this the policeman would leap on him and slap him across the face.

“Tell me again. What’s your name?” the policeman would ask him once more. Then he would answer calmly, “It’s Kim Hyong Rok.” Then the policeman would slap him even harder on the face. Every time he replied, “Kim Hyong Rok,” he was boxed on the ears. Yet he never submitted.

My grandfather said to his son: “Its a truly good thing that you haven’t changed your name to a Japanese one. When Song Ju’s fighting the Japanese, you can’t change your name into a Japanese one, can you? We mustn’t change our names on any account, even if it means we’re beaten to death.” When members of the family said farewell to my grandfather and grandmother and left the house, they would walk out through the brushwood gate in high spirits, saying that they would return after liberating the country.

But I was the only one who returned.

My father, who devoted his whole life to the independence movement, died under a foreign sky at the age of 31. A man of 31 is in the prime of his life. My grandmother came from home after his funeral. Even now I can see her before my eyes as she wept at the side of her son’s grave in the village of Yangdicun, Fusong, Manchuria.

Six years later my mother, too, passed away, in Antu, without seeing the day of national independence.

My younger brother Chol Ju who joined a guerrilla unit after our mother’s death and fought the enemy was killed in battle. Because he fell on the battlefield his body was never recovered.

A few years later, my youngest uncle who had been sentenced to long years in prison and was serving his term in Mapho gaol died from cruel torture. Our family received notice that they should recover his body but could not do so because they had no money. So, my uncle’s ashes were committed to the earth in the prison cemetery.

Thus, over a period of 20 years many of the strong, healthy sons of our family turned to ashes and lay scattered in foreign lands.

When I returned home after liberation, my grandmother hugged me outside the brushwood gate and pounded me on my chest, saying: “How have you come back alone? Where did you leave your father and mother? Did you not want to return with them?” With her heart bursting with such deep grief, what was my agony as I walked through the brushwood gate of my old home alone without bringing with me even the bones of my parents who were dead and lying in a far-off foreign land? After that, whenever I passed through the gate of someone else’s home, I would wonder how many members of the family had gone out through that gate and how many of them had returned. All the gates in this country have a story about tearful partings and are associated with a longing for those who have not returned and the heart-rending pain of loss. Tens of thousands of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of this country gave their lives on the altar of national liberation. It took our people as long as 36 years to win back their country, crossing a sea of blood, tears and sighs and braving storms of shells and bullets. It was 36 years of bloody war which cost us too high a price. But if it were not for this bloody war and sacrifices, how could we ever imagine our country as it is today? This century of ours would still be a century of misery and suffering with the disgraceful slavery continuing.

My grandfather and grandmother were old country people who knew nothing but farming. But truth to tell, I marvelled at their firm revolutionary spirit and was greatly inspired by it.

It is not easy to bring up children and send them all out on the path of the revolution and then give them constant support while enduring silently all the ensuing trials and hardships. I think this is much more impressive than a few battles or some years in prison.

The misfortune and distress of our family is the epitome of the misfortune and distress that befell our people after they lost their country. Under the inhuman rule of Japanese imperialism millions of Koreans lost their lives—dying of starvation, of the cold, from burning or from flogging.

In a ruined country neither the land nor the people can remain at peace. Under the roofs of houses in a ruined country even the traitors who live in luxury as a reward for betraying their country will not be able to sleep in peace. Even though they are alive, the people are worse than gutter dogs, and even if the mountains and rivers remain the same, they will not retain their beauty.

A man who perceives this truth before others is called a forerunner; he who struggles against difficulties to save his country from tragedy is called a patriot; and he who sets fire to himself to demonstrate the truth and overthrows the injust society by rousing the people to action is called a revolutionary.

My father was a pioneer of our country’s national liberation movement. He dedicated his whole life to the revolution from his birth in Mangyongdae on July 10, 1894, until his death as he lamented the dark reality of national decay on June 5, 1926.

I was born the eldest son of my father Kim Hyong Jik at Mangyongdae on April 15, 1912.


2. My Father and the Korean National Association


“Jiwon” (Aim High!) was my father’s lifelong motto.

He used to write this motto in large strokes on the walls at Sun-hwa and Myongsin Schools and in many other places, as well as at his home.

Some of his writing still remains, and it demonstrates that lie was quite good at writing with a brush.

In those days calligraphy was celebrated, and it was the fashion to obtain handwritings from renowned people and famous calligraphers and keep them in scrolls, in frames or on screens. As a little boy I thought that this was normal for calligraphy.

My father used to hang up his handwriting without decoration in places which attracted public attention.

When I was old enough to understand the world, my father began to teach me how I should love my country, saying that in order to become a patriot I should aim high.

“Aim High!” means what it says.

There is nothing extraordinary about a father who teaches his son to aim high. One cannot succeed in a venture unless one has a noble ideal and a high ambition and works tirelessly.

But “Aim High!” has nothing in common with worldly preaching about personal glory or a successful career; it implies a revolutionary outlook on life in which genuine happiness is sought in the struggle for one’s country and nation, and an unbreakable revolutionary spirit to liberate the country by fighting through the generations.

My father told me a great deal to explain why I should have a noble aim. What he told me amounted to the history of our people’s struggle against the Japanese.

... Once Korea was a very strong country, he said. Korea, having developed her military art, had seldom been defeated in war, and her brilliant ancient culture had spread across the sea to Japan. However, her strength waned because of the corrupt government during the 500 years of the Ri dynasty until finally she lost her sovereignty.

Before you were born, he continued, the Japanese conquered our country by force of arms. The five ministers6 of the feudal government who sold out the country to the Japanese invaders in the year of Ulsa (1905) are now condemned as traitors.

These traitors, however, could not sell the Korean spirit.

The Righteous Volunteers fought with spears in hand against the Japanese marauders in order to win back the sovereignty of their country. The Independence Army, armed with matchlocks, fought to destroy the invaders. Sometimes the people rose in revolt, cheering and throwing stones at the Japanese invaders, and appealing to human conscience and to international justice.

Choe Ik Hyon7 was taken to Tsushima as a captive but, as a protest, he refused to eat the enemy’s food until he died with honour. Ri Jun demonstrated our nation’s true spirit of independence by ripping his own belly open before the representatives of the imperialist powers at an international peace conference. An Jung Gun8 demonstrated the mettle of the Koreans by shooting Ito Hirobumi9 to death at Harbin Station and cheering for independence.

Even Kang U Gyu who was in his sixties threw a bomb at the Japanese Governor-General Saito. Ri Jae Myong took revenge on traitor Ri Wan Yong by stabbing him in the back.

Min Yong Hwan, Ri Pom Jin, Hong Pom Sik and other patriots called for the regaining of national sovereignty by committing suicide.

At one time a campaign was launched to pay back a loan of 13 million won which Korea had received from Japan after the Russo-Japanese War. To this end, all the Korean males gave up smoking, and even King Kojong10 joined the no-smoking campaign. The women cut down their expenses on food and sold their trinkets. The girls offered articles they had prepared for their marriage. Rich men’s servants, seamstresses, cake sellers, vegetable sellers and even straw sandal sellers contributed their hard-earned pennies for the payment of the national debt.

Nevertheless, Korea failed to maintain her independence.

What is essential is to rouse all the Koreans to a determination to win back the lost sovereignty of their country and develop sufficient strength to repel the invaders. With an unshakable determination you will be able to develop your strength, and if you develop your strength you will be fully able to defeat even the strongest enemy. If we are to recover our nation’s sovereignty, we must rouse the people throughout the country to the struggle, but this cannot be done in a day or two. That is why I tell you to aim high....

My father used to tell me these things from the days when he would lead me by the hand up and down Mangyong Hill. Everything he said was permeated with patriotism.

Once my father said to my grandparents, “What is the use of living if I cannot win my country’s independence? Even if I am to be torn to pieces I must fight and defeat the Japanese. If I fall in battle, my son will continue the fight; if my son cannot accomplish the cause, my grandson must fight until we win our nation’s independence.”

Later, I remembered these words when the anti-Japanese armed struggle, which I had believed we would win in three or four years, dragged on. As I lived through the long years of tragedy caused by national division after liberation, the division that compelled the north and the south to take opposite courses, I reminded myself of my father’s profound words.

What he said always reflected his idea of “Aim High!”, his conviction and his thought and aspiration for national liberation.

In spite of his family’s poverty, my father went to Sungsil Middle School with a strong resolve to achieve his idea of “Aim High!” During the period of a little more than a decade from the reform in the year of Kabo (1894)11 to the signing of the treaty in the year of Ulsa (1905), a lot of work was being done to establish a modern educational system, though belatedly, on the strength of the trend towards political reform in our country. At the time when in Seoul Paejae Hak-tang, Rihwa Haktang, Yugyong Kongwon and similar schools were being set up to teach Western culture, Sungsil Middle School was established in west Korea by American missionaries as a part of their religious effort.

This school took pupils from all parts of the country. Many young people who wished to receive modern education came to the school. History, algebra, geometry, physics, hygiene, physiology, physical training, music and other subjects of a modern education offered by Sungsil Middle School attracted the young people who wished to eliminate national backwardness and advance in step with the new world trend.

My father said that he attended this school in order to receive a modern education. He had no desire to learn the difficult Nine Chinese Classics that had been taught at Confucian schools.

Apart from the educational aims set by the missionaries, the Sungsil Middle School produced many renowned patriots who, in subsequent years, worked hard for the independence movement. For instance Son Jong Do who became the first Vice-Chairman and then the Chairman of the political council of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai came from this school. Cha Ri Sok who was a member of the state council of the provisional government towards its closing years was educated at the school.

Yun Tong Ju, a talented patriotic poet, also attended it, but left it early.

Kang Ryang Uk, too, attended the specialized course of the Sungsil School. In those days the specialized course was called the Sungsil College. Sungsil Middle School meant the secondary course of the school in those days. The Japanese called the school the source of anti-Japanese thought because it produced so many fighters for independence against the Japanese.

“Learn to read and write for Korea’s sake! Learn technology also for Korea’s sake! Believe in a Korean God, if you believe in one!”, my father used to say to his schoolmates as he rallied the young patriots and pupils together.

Under his guidance a reading circle and a single-hearted friendship association were formed at Sungsil Middle School. These associations inculcated patriotism in the pupils and, at the same time, worked hard to enlighten the popular masses in Pyongyang and the surrounding area. In December 1912 they organized a school strike against the inhumane treatment and exploitative practices perpetrated by the school authorities.

During the school holidays my father used to travel around Anju, Kangdong, Sunan, Uiju and other places in North and South Phyongan Provinces and Hwanghae Province, enlightening the masses and recruiting comrades.

The greatest achievement made by my father at Sungsil Middle School was to find many comrades with whom he could share life and death.

Many of his classmates were not only friends of my father but also ready to take up the common cause with him in order to shape the destiny of the country and nation. They were all young men with foresight and a high reputation, men of great ability, wide knowledge and outstanding personality.

Ri Po Sik was one of them. He came from Pyongyang and participated in the work of the reading circle and of the single-hearted friendship association, made a major contribution to the formation of the Korean National Association, and played a significant role in the March First Popular Uprising.

When we were living at Ponghwa-ri, many times he visited my father who was teaching at Myongsin School.

Among my father’s classmates from North Phyongan Province was a man named Paek Se Bin (Paek Yong Mu) from Phihyon. When my father was travelling around North Phyongan Province, Paek Se Bin frequently served as his guide. He was an overseas correspondent of the Korean National Association. When the Central Council for Independent National Reunification was formed in south Korea in December 1960, Paek Se Bin worked as its member.

Pak In Gwan stayed in the same hostel as my father in their days at Sungsil Middle School. For some time after he began attending school my father stayed at the hostel.

While teaching at Kwangson School in Unryul, Hwanghae Province in the spring of 1917, Pak In Gwan joined the Korean National Association. While out rallying comrades in Songhwa, Jaeryong, Haeju and other places he was arrested by the Japanese police and sent to Haeju prison for a year. Compositions written by his pupils at Kwangson School under the title “The Peninsula in Relation to Us” are even now on exhibition at the Unryul Museum of Revolutionary Activities. The compositions provide a glimpse of the ideological trend and spiritual world of the pupils at the school which was under the influence of the Korean National Association.

Of all the independence fighters O Tong Jin was the most intimate with my father.

It was in my father’s days at Sungsil Middle School that O Tong Jin would visit our house frequently. He was then attending Pyongyang Taesong School that had been established by An Chang Ho. Since they Were not only on friendly terms, but also in ideological harmony, they were sincerely and ardently associated with each other from the start. It was at the athletics meeting held on the military drill ground at Kyongsang-gol in the spring of 1910 that O Tong Jin first sympathized with my father’s opinions, so I was told.

The athletics meeting was attended by more than ten thousand young people and pupils from Pyongyang, Pakchon, Kangso, Yongyu and other places.

At the debating contest held at the end of the athletics meeting, my father became the focus of attention by claiming that our country should be modernized by our own efforts, in opposition to some pupils who asserted that, if our country was to become a civilized country, it should adopt Japanese civilization. Among the audience was O Tong Jin, who later became the head of Jongui-bu. Whenever he recollected the event, O Tong Jin used to say with deep emotion, “Mr. Kim’s speech that day made a great impression on me.” In the guise of a trader, from around 1913 he travelled around Seoul, Pyongyang, Sinuiju and other major cities in the country and to China, visiting my father whenever he had the opportunity, to discuss the future of the independence movement.

At first I took him for an honest businessman. It was only when we had moved to Badaogou and Fusong that I learned that he was an important fighter for independence.

By that time he enjoyed such a high reputation that there was no one who did not know his name, O Tong Jin (alias Songam). Judging from his property status and background, he could afford to live comfortably instead of taking the thorny path of revolution, but he took up arms and fought the Japanese.

O Tong Jin respected my father highly and loved him dearly. Many people visited his home in Uiju. The outbuilding of his house was wholly reserved for such visitors. He had so many visitors that he had to keep a cook exclusively for them. But he met my father in the main building and the mistress of the house herself used to cook for my father, so I was told.

Once O Tong Jin and his wife visited us. My grandmother gave them a brass bowl as a souvenir. I am writing about him in great detail not only because he was a friend and comrade of my father’s, but also because he played an important part in my younger days. From my childhood I felt greatly attached to him. He was arrested by the Japanese imperialists while I was studying in Jilin. Many years later, that is, in early March 1932 when I was travelling around Jiandao in order to organize the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army, he was put on trial at the Sinuiju local court. I had been greatly surprised to hear that the record of Gandhi’s preliminary examination amounted to as many as 25 thousand pages, but I was told that the record of O Tong Jin’s preliminary examination numbered as many as 35 thousand pages, or 64 volumes.

On the day of his trial thousands of visitors thronged the court with the result that the trial scheduled to begin early in the morning started at one o’clock in the afternoon. Then he denied the power of the court and shook the room by jumping into the chief judge’s seat and cheering for Korea’s independence.

The confused Japanese judges quickly suspended the trial and sentenced him without his even being present. At his appeal he was sentenced to life imprisonment, but he died in prison without seeing the day of liberation.

As we struggled to build up the guerrilla army, the press reported his trial, telling of his unstained honour and his unbreakable fighting spirit, and carrying a photograph of his being escorted in a prisoner’s hood to Pyongyang gaol. When I saw his photograph I recollected his unbreakable patriotic spirit with deep emotion.

Many of my father’s close friends in his Sungsil Middle School days became stalwart revolutionaries and later formed the backbone of the Korean National Association.

My father left Sungsil Middle School early and began to teach at Sunhwa School in Mangyongdae and then at Myongsin School in Kangdong, applying himself to the education of the younger generation and to rallying his comrades. He explained that he had left middle school with a view to concentrating on the practical struggle and to extending the theatre of his revolutionary activities.

During a school holiday in 1916 he toured Jiandao in northeast China. I do not know whom he got in touch with, but he went to Shanghai from Jiandao and there he contacted Sun Yat-sen’s nationalist revolutionary group.

My father had a high regard for Sun Yat-sen as a forerunner of the bourgeois democratic revolution in China. My father said that in China the men’s pigtails had disappeared and weekly holidays introduced through the efforts of the bourgeois reformists.

In particular my father spoke highly of the Three Principles of the People—the nation, the people’s rights and the people’s life—proposed by Sun Yat-sen as the programme for the Chinese revolutionary coalition, the Alliance Society, and of his new three-point policy of alliance with the Soviet Union, alliance with communism and assistance to the working class and peasantry which had been formulated under the influence of the May 4 Movement. He said that Sun Yat-sen was a revolutionary of large calibre, strong will and foresight, but he added that Sun Yat-sen had been mistaken when he had conceded the office of generalissimo to Yuan Shi-kai after the establishment of the Republic of China, on condition that he establish a republican system and remove Qing Emperor.

In my boyhood I often heard my father talking about the bourgeois reformist movement in Korea. He greatly regretted the failure of the coup in the year of Kapsin (1884) led by Kim Ok Kyun who remained in power for “only three days,” and said that his policy of human equality, the abolition of the caste system and the promotion of able people that had been formulated in his reformist programme of the Enlightenment Party as well as his idea of independence that suggested the renunciation of dependence on the Qing dynasty was all progressive.

Judging from what my father said, I realized that Kim Ok Kyun was a pre-eminent figure and that, if his reformist movement had succeeded, the modern history of Korea might have been different.

It was much later that we discovered the limitations in Kim Ok Kyun’s reformist movement and its programme and analysed them from the point of view of Juche.

Most of my teachers in Korean history regarded Kim Ok Kyun as pro-Japanese. The academic circles of our country after liberation labelled him as pro-Japanese for a long time because he had received help from the Japanese in his preparations for the coup. But we did not consider this estimation of the reformist to be fair.

 I told our historians that, although he was wrong to neglect the link between his movement and the popular masses, assessing him as pro-Japanese simply because he had drawn on the strength of Japan would lead to nihilism, that the aim of his use of Japanese forces was not to effect pro-Japanese reforms but to turn the balance of forces in those days in favour of the Enlightenment Party on the basis of a meticulous calculation of the balance, and that such tactics were inevitable in the situation in his time.

My father said that Kim Ok Kyun had failed in his attempted coup mainly because the reformists relied only on their supporters within the court, instead of believing in the forces of the popular masses, and that we must learn a lesson from his failure.

My father toured Jiandao and Shanghai to obtain a firsthand knowledge of the independence movement abroad of which he had heard rumours, recruiting new comrades and defining his policies and strategies for the subsequent years.

Judging from the international situation in those days, the national liberation struggles in the colonies were not fully developed. The mode and method of the independence movements in colonies had yet to be evolved.

When my father was visiting Jiandao and Shanghai, the Chinese revolution was experiencing difficulties on account of the insidious manoeuvres of the warlords and intervention by imperialist powers. The United States, Britain, Japan and other foreign forces created major problems for the Chinese revolution. In spite of this, many of the independence fighters in exile harboured illusions about the imperialists and wasted their time on empty talk about seeking aid from some of the major powers.

The situation in Jiandao reaffirmed my father’s belief that Korea’s independence should be achieved by Koreans themselves. After his visit to Jiandao, my father worked day and night to enlighten the masses and recruit comrades.

By that time our family had moved from Mangyongdae to Pongh-wa-ri, Kangdong. There he taught at Myongsin School during the daytime and enlightened the masses at night school, as he had done in Mangyongdae. He used to return home very late.

In a literary exercise at school I made a speech against the Japanese, from a composition prepared for me by my father.

In those days he composed revolutionary poems and songs and enthusiastically taught them to his pupils.

Many independence fighters visited my father at Ponghwa-ri. He himself travelled frequently around North and South Phyongan Provinces and Hwanghae Province to visit his comrades. In the course of this, hardcore elements were trained and a mass foundation for the independence movement was laid.

On the basis of these preparations, he and other patriotic independence fighters such as Jang Il Hwan, Pae Min Su and Paek Se Bin formed the Korean National Association at Ri Po Sik’s house at Haktanggol, Pyongyang on March 23, 1917. The young members of the association cut their fingers and wrote “Korea’s independence” and “Resolved to give our lives” with their blood.

The Korean National Association was a secret organization with the aim of achieving national independence and establishing a truly modern state through the efforts of the unified Korean nation. It was one of the largest anti-Japanese underground revolutionary organizations of Korean patriots at home or abroad at the time of the March First Popular Uprising12.

In 1917 there were not many clandestine organizations in Korea. By that time the Independence Volunteers, the Great Korea Liberation Corps, the Korea’s Sovereignty Recovery Corps and similar organizations that had been formed after the annexation had all been disbanded under the repression of the Japanese imperialists. Because underground fighters were indiscriminately arrested, ordinary people dared not think of joining them in their activities. The situation was such that even those who were determined to fight for independence were compelled to leave the country and form anti-Japanese organizations abroad. People who were not brave enough to do this engaged in moderate activities at home with the permission of the government-general, without offending the Japanese.

It was in this situation that the Korean National Association was born.

It was a revolutionary organization that stood firmly against imperialism and for independence. Its manifesto stated that, in view of the clear evidence that European and American forces were heading East and that they would soon rival Japan for hegemony, the association must, by taking advantage of their rivalry, promote the rallying of the masses and preparations for achieving Korea’s independence through the efforts of the Korean people.

As is clear from the manifesto, the Korean National Association, unlike those who pinned their hopes on foreign forces, adopted the independent stand that Korea’s independence should be won by the Korean people themselves.

The Korean National Association drew up a great plan for sending its members to Jiandao and developing that area into the strategic base for the independence movement.

The association had a closely-knit network of organizations. It admitted to its membership only well-prepared, tested and well-selected patriots, had an organizational system that worked from top to bottom and used code words for communications between its members. Its secret documents were compiled in code. It planned to hold a general meeting of its members every year on the day of starting a new school year at Sungsil Middle School. It was thoroughly concealed by means of such lawful fringe organizations as the School Association, Stone Monument Association and Home-town Association, It had area leaders under it and posted correspondents to Beijing and Dandong for the purpose of liaising with people working abroad.

The association had a solid mass foundation. It drew its membership from among workers, peasants, teachers, students, soldiers (of the Independence Army), shopkeepers, religious believers and artisans— people from all walks of life. Its organizational network spread throughout the country and even reached Beijing, Shanghai, Jilin, Fusong, Lin-jiang, Changbai, Liuhe, Kuandian, Dandong, Huadian and Xingjing in China.

In the course of forming and building up the Korean National Association, my father recruited many new comrades such as Jang Chol Ho, Kang Je Ha, Kang Jin Gon and Kim Si U. It would be impossible to describe all the painstaking efforts made by my father in order to discover them. He did not mind walking hundreds of miles if it was to meet a comrade.

O Tong Jin, on his way to Hwanghae Province, one day called unexpectedly on my father. He looked handsomer than usual and made a great impression on me.

He boasted that he had found a fine man.

“He is a young man named Kong Yong, living in Pyoktong,” O Tong Jin said. “He is well-informed, nine feet tall and handsome. Being a man of composure and skilful at Kyoksul (an art of self-defence—Tr.), he would have made a good defence minister if he was living in a feudal age.” Delighted at the news, my father remarked, “From olden times someone who recommended a good man has been more appreciated than the services of the good man himself. So your recent visit to Pyoktong has been of great benefit to our movement.” When O Tong Jin had left, my father asked my uncle to make a few pairs of straw sandals. The next day he put on a pair and set out on a journey.

He returned home before a month had passed. He had walked such a long way that his sandal had worn almost to shreds. Nevertheless, he was smiling as he entered through the brushwood gate, and showed no sign of fatigue.

My father was extremely satisfied with his interview with Kong Yong.

In my boyhood I learned from my father the ethics of comradeship.

The Korean National Association was the result of many years of my father’s energetic organizational and propaganda activities at home and abroad after the annexation. He planned to build up the movement on a large scale on the strength of the organization.

But the organization was put down harshly by the Japanese imperialists. In the autumn of 1917 the enemy discovered a clue concerning the organization.

One windy day three policemen fell upon my father as he taught at Myongsin School and arrested him.

Mr. Ho who had followed my father as far as the Maekjon ferry hurried back to my mother with a secret message from him.

My mother, as my father had written in the message, climbed up to the attic and came down with some secret papers which she destroyed in the kitchen fire.

From the day following my father’s arrest the Christians living in Ponghwa-ri gathered at Myongsin School early every morning and prayed for his release.

People from Pyongyang, Kangdong and the surrounding area swarmed to the Pyongyang Police Station with petitions for his release.

On hearing that my father was soon to be put on trial, my grandfather in Mangyongdae sent my uncle to the police station. He wanted to know whether my father wished to have a lawyer to defend him at the trial or not. When my uncle said that he would find the money to hire a lawyer by selling some household goods, my father flatly refused.

“A lawyer speaks with his mouth, and I can do the same. So there is no need to waste money on a lawyer. An innocent man does not need a lawyer to defend him!” The Japanese imperialists tried my father three times at the Pyongyang local court. Each time my father protested against the trial, saying, “How can it be a crime for a Korean to love his country and work for it? I cannot recognize this unwarranted examination by the authorities.” As a result, the trial dragged on. At the third trial the Japanese imperialists sentenced him to a term in prison.

After my father’s imprisonment uncle Hyong Rok and my second uncle on my mother’s side (Kang Yong Sok) came to Ponghwa-ri to take us to Mangyongdae.

But my mother said that she would remain at Ponghwa-ri through the winter. She wanted to remain there in order to get in touch with the members of the Korean National Association and other anti-Japanese fighters who might visit there, and to resolve any problems caused by my father’s arrest.

After dealing with all such problems my mother took us to Mangyongdae in the spring of the following year. My two grandfathers came to Ponghwa-ri with a cart to carry away our household goods.

For me the spring and summer of that year were miserable.

Whenever I asked my mother when father would return, she would answer that he would return soon. One day she took me to the Swing Park on Mangyong Hill. As she sat on the swing holding me in her arms, she said, “Jung Son, the icefloes on the River Taedong have melted away and the trees have produced green leaves, but your father hasn’t returned home. He was fighting to win back his country. How can that be a crime? You must grow up quickly and take revenge on the enemy for your father.... You must grow up to be a hero and win back the country.” I answered that I would do so, come what may.

After that she visited the prison many times without my knowledge, but she said nothing about it when she returned home.

One day she took me in the direction of the city, saying that she was going to Phalgol to have her cotton ginned. She left the cotton at her mother’s house at Chilgol on the way, asking her mother to have it ginned, and then took me to Pyongyang gaol.

My grandmother told her daughter to go without me, saying that a child too young to understand the world should not see a prison. If I saw my father behind bars, how frightened I should be! She was dead against her taking me to the prison. At that time I was six years old.

On crossing the wooden bridge over the River Pothong, I recognized the prison building. Nobody had told me what a prison looked like, but I could judge it from its unnatural shape and from the dreary atmosphere of its surroundings. The exterior of the prison building was forbidding and dreadful enough to terrify people. The iron gate, high wall, watch-tower and iron bars, as well as the black uniforms of the guards and their sharp glances were all menacing.

The visitors’ room was dim, screened from the sunshine. The air in the room was thick and oppressive.

Even in such an atmosphere my father was smiling as usual. He was delighted to see me, and praised my mother for having taken me with her. The gaunt face of my father who wore prison clothes defied instant recognition. His face, neck, hands, feet and all the rest of his body were scarred and wounded. Despite his condition, however, he was worrying about the safety of his family at home. His imposing and dignified bearing inspired me with an irresistible feeling of pride, mixed with a grievance and hatred for the enemy.

“You’ve grown up. Obey your elders at home and be good at your school work!” he said to me in his usual tone of voice, calm and composed, without so much as glancing at the warden.

The sound of his voice brought tears to my eyes. I said in a loud voice, “Yes. Please come home soon, father.” He nodded with satisfaction. He asked my mother to help the brush-sellers and comb-sellers who might occasionally come to visit her. By these he meant his comrades in the revolution.

His indomitable image that day left a lasting impression on me. I saw Ri Kwan Rin in the visitors’ room, and that also made an unforgettable impression on me. She was a student of art at Pyongyang Girls’ High School and a member of the Korean National Association. It was fortunate that she had not been arrested by the police. She had come with her classmate and fellow member of the association to see my father. It was strange in those days when feudal customs prevailed for a girl to visit a political prisoner. Things were such that if her visit to the prison were generally known no man would marry her. Even the wardens were surprised to see the smart, modern girl visiting a political prisoner and treated her with caution. With a bright face she consoled my father and my mother.

My visit to my father in prison was a great event for me. I understood why my mother had taken me with her to the prison. The physical wounds to my father made me feel to the marrow of my bones how fiendish was Japanese imperialism. Those wounds gave me a much more real and visual image of Japanese imperialism than the image provided by numerous statesmen and historians through their analysis and assessment of it.

Until that time I had not really experienced the atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese army and police. I had seen some Japanese policemen in Mangyongdae who had come to take a census or inspect the cleaning and found fault with one thing or the other and in the end slashed the door of the kitchen of my house with a whip and broken the lid of the cooking pot. But never had I seen them inflicting such appalling wounds upon an innocent person.

The wounds remained in my mind throughout the period of my revolutionary struggle against the Japanese. The shock I received on that visit still has a strong effect on me.

In the autumn of 1918 my father was released after completing his term in prison. My uncle and my grandfather went to the prison with a litter and the villagers waited for my father at the fork of Songsan-ri that leads to Mangyongdae.

With wounds from his beatings all over his body, my father tottered out through the prison gate. My grandfather, trembling with indignation, told my father to lie down on the litter.

“I will walk. How can I be carried on a litter under the eyes of the enemy? I will walk to spite the enemy,” my father said walking boldly forward.

Back home, my father said to his brothers, “In prison I even drank as much water as I could out of my determination to survive and fight to the end. How can I leave unpunished the Japanese who are the worst of living creatures? Hyong Rok and Hyong Gwon, you, too, must fight the Japanese. The enemy must be made to pay for our blood even if we must die.” Listening to him, I resolved to follow my father in the fight to destroy the Japanese imperialists.

My father read books even in his sickbed. To convalesce he stayed for some time with his aunt’s husband, Kim Sung Hyon, an ophthalmologist, and there he continued with his medical studies which he had started in prison. From Kim Sung Hyon my father obtained many books on medicine. Earlier in his Sungsil Middle School days my father had learned medicine from the doctor, and read medical books enthusiastically at home.

It was in prison that my father made up his mind to change from a teacher to a doctor.

Even before he had completely recovered, my father went on a journey to North Phyongan Province, resolved to restore the disrupted organizations of the Korean National Association.

My grandfather encouraged him to stick to his cause until it was accomplished. Prior to his departure, my father composed a poem, “The Green Pine-tree on Nam Hill.” The poem expressed his firm resolve to bring a new spring of independence to the silk-embroidered land of three thousand ri by fighting on even if he were to be torn to pieces.


3. An Echo of Cheers for Independence


My father left home one very cold day.

I anxiously waited for the spring. The cold was a great enemy for us who were poorly fed and dressed.

As the weather became a little warmer, my grandmother grew anxious, saying that soon it would be my birthday. Her worry came from her concern about how she could make my birthday not too bad during the lean spring, although the buds would be in flower and my father who had gone to the north would suffer less from the cold.

Although my birthday is in the spring when the farmers’ food has run out, my family used to put on the table a bowl of boiled rice and an egg fried with shrimps. An egg was a sumptuous feast for our family who could hardly afford even gruel.

However, in the spring of that year I gave no particular thought to my birthday. This was because my father’s arrest had shocked me and, on top of that, I was constantly worried about my father who was far away.

Soon after my father left home the March First Popular Uprising broke out. The March First Popular Uprising was an explosion of the pent-up anger and resentment of the Korean nation who had been exposed to extreme humiliation and mistreatment under the ten-year long brutal “sabre rule” of Japanese imperialism.

The ten years that followed Korea’s annexation by Japan were a period of ordeals, a period of darkness and a period of starvation. During this period our nation, living under mediaeval terrorism which had reduced the country to a huge prison, was robbed of all social rights including the freedom of speech, assembly, association and demonstration as well as of its wealth, and groaned in dire distress.

Our people who, following the country’s annexation by Japan, had built up their strength through secret associations, the Independence Army and the patriotic enlightenment movement, rose up boldly, unable to tolerate meekly this period of darkness, the period of plunder. .

The March First Popular Uprising was scrupulously planned and carried forward under the leadership of people in the religious world, from Chondoism, Christianity and Buddhism, and patriotic teachers and students. The national spirit of our people which had been inherited and sublimated through the reformist revolution in 1884, the movement for defending justice and rejecting injustice, the peasant war in 1894, the patriotic enlightenment movement and the volunteers’ struggle, erupted at last like a volcano in a call for sovereignty and independence.

In Pyongyang thousands of young people, students and citizens gathered in the playground of Sungdok Girls’ School on Jangdae Hill at 12 o’clock on March 1, a bell summoning them there. There they read aloud the “declaration of independence” and solemnly proclaimed Korea to be an independent state before holding a menacing street demonstration shouting the slogans “Long live the independence of Korea!” and “Japanese and Japanese troops, get out!” As the ranks of demonstrators thronged into the street, tens of thousands of people joined them.

People from Mangyongdae and Chilgol also thronged to Pyongyang. We had our breakfast at dawn and all our family left to take part in the demonstration and cheer for the independence of the country. The ranks of the demonstrators which had numbered only several hundred when leaving increased to several thousand. The demonstrating masses thronged towards the Pothong Gate shouting “Long live the independence of Korea!” and beating drums and gongs.

I, then six years old, also joined the ranks of demonstrators in my worn-out shoes and went as far as the Pothong Gate, cheering. It was hard for me to keep up with the adults who were thronging towards the city in angry waves. So, from time to time I took off my straw sandals, the sliding shoes being a nuisance to me, and ran after the ranks with the shoes in my hand. When the adults cheered for independence, I joined them.

The enemy used swords and guns indiscriminately against the masses, even mobilizing mounted policemen and troops. Many people were killed.

Despite this the demonstrators resisted the enemy fearlessly, becoming human weapons. A battle was fought in front of the Pothong Gate.

This was the first time I saw one man killing another. This was the day when I witnessed Korean blood being spilled for the first time. My young heart burned with indignation.

As the sun set and it became dark the villagers climbed Mangyong Hill with torches in their hands and there they again cheered for independence blowing bugles and beating drums and cans.

The struggle continued in this way for many days. With my aunt Hyong Bok I used to go up Mangyong Hill after my mother and there we cheered until late at night before going back down. My mother carried drinking water for the other people and peeled hemp stalks to be used as torches.

In Seoul a courageous demonstration was held with the participation of hundreds of thousands of people, including those peasants who had come there from the provinces to attend the funeral of King Kojong.

With a view to repressing the demonstration, the Japanese governor-general Hasegawa mobilized the 20th army division stationed in Ryongsan. The enemy brutally massacred the demonstrating masses, shooting and stabbing them. The streets of Seoul became a sea of blood in an instant.

However, the demonstrators continued their march, the second rank stepping forward to the van if the front rank fell.

People in other parts of the country also fought heroically, shedding their blood and not yielding to the brutality of the enemy who suppressed the demonstrators by force of arms.

When a young girl student had her right arm that held the national flag cut off by an enemy sword, she took the flag in her left hand and, when she was unable to move any further having had her left arm cut off, too, she continued to shout “Long live the independence of Korea!” striking terror into the hearts of the Japanese imperialist soldiers and policemen.

With the demonstration in Seoul and Pyongyang as the start, in the middle of March the uprising swept across all the 13 provinces of the country, spreading even to the Korean compatriots elsewhere such as Manchuria, Shanghai, the Maritime Province of Siberia and Hawaii and thus becoming truly nationwide resistance. At that time every Korean with a national conscience took part in this uprising irrespective of occupation, religious belief, age and sex.

Even women from respectable families who would previously not have gone outdoors because of feudal custom and kisaeng girls who were treated as women of the lowest birth formed ranks and rose in the demonstration.

For a couple of months following the outbreak of the uprising the whole country shook with cheers for independence. Then, as the spring passed and summer came, the spirit of the demonstrators gradually began to flag.

 Many people believed that the enemy would withdraw if they raised their spirit and shouted cheers for only a few months. However, this was a delusion. It was most unlikely for the Japanese imperialists to give up their occupation of Korea willingly in the face of such resistance.

In order to seize Korea, Japan waged three wars, counting only the major ones.

As long as 400 years ago Kato Kiyomasa and Konishi Yukinaga, Hideyoshi’s subordinates, ignited a fire in the land of our country, bringing with them a large army amounting to hundreds of thousands of men. That incident was called the “Imjinwaeran” (the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592—Tr.).

As soon as Japan took the road of civilization through the so-called “Meiji Restoration” in the middle of the 19th century, one of the first things her ruling circles advanced was the “theory of the conquest of Korea.” The “theory of the conquest of Korea” was an aggressive argument by the Japanese militarist group that they should conquer Korea by force of arms for the prosperity of Japan and for the greater strength of the emperor state.

Although the “theory of the conquest of Korea” was not put into effect in those days because of disagreement among the Japanese political circles and military authorities, the advocates of this “theory” raised a rebellion and waged a civil war for more than six months.

It is said that a bronze statue of Saigo Takamori, head of the advocates of the “theory of the conquest of Korea” who raised a large-scale rebellion against the emperor, stands even today in state in Japan.

Japan waged wars against China and Russia in order to swallow up Korea. The United States of America and Great Britain supported her surreptitiously.

How cold-blooded the Japanese military clique was can be seen from the following story.

It was Nogi who commanded the Japanese forces at the battle at Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War. In his attempt to seize Height 203 he went up the mountain by climbing up a ladder of corpses. They say that the grave on Paiokshan at Port Arthur holds only some of the more than 25,000 people who were killed there at that time.

Nogi won the war at a great cost, but he could seize neither Siberia nor Manchuria despite of the fact that he had boasted that he would swallow up both of them. Those Japanese who had been innocently deceived and become widows and orphans, thronged to the wharf in misery on hearing the rumour that Nogi was returning home. Their intention was to do him some harm.

They are said, however, to have shut their mouths at the sight of three boxes of ashes hanging on the breast of Nogi as he disembarked from the ship. Nogi had lost all three of his sons in the battle.

There is no knowing how truthful this story is. However, it was clear from this that the Japanese occupationists would not give up Korea readily.

However, the leaders of the March First Popular Uprising defined the character of this movement as non-violent from the outset, ignoring the elated fighting spirit of our people, and oblivious of this historical lesson. They confined themselves to formulating a “declaration of independence” and clarifying to the world the intention of the Korean nation for its independence. They did not want the movement extending any further and turning into a mass struggle led by the popular masses.

Some leaders of the nationalist movement went so far as to try to achieve the independence of Korea by means of a “petition.” When Wilson’s “theory of national self-determination” was made public, they launched a shameful petition campaign in the preposterous belief that a decision might be reached on the independence of Korea at the Paris Peace Conference by the representatives of the United States of America and other parties to the entente. Kim Kyu Sik and some other people visited the lodgings of the representatives of the great powers with a “petition for independence” in their hands, appealing to them for help.

However, the representatives of the parties to the entente gave the Korean question no consideration; they were concerned only about themselves.

Properly speaking, it was a miscalculation for senior figures from the nationalist movement to pin their hopes on Wilson’s “theory of national self-determination.” The “theory of national self-determination” was a hypocritical slogan which the US imperialists put forward in order to reduce the influence of the October Socialist Revolution and lord it over the rest of the world. Under the deceptive slogan of “national self-determination” the US imperialists schemed to undermine from within the multi-national USSR and isolate small and weak colonial nations from one another to prevent them from uniting in the independence struggle. At the same time they plotted to occupy the territory of the countries defeated in the war.

It was impossible for the US imperialists to help Korea to gain her independence because as early as the beginning of the 20th century they had “approved” of Japan’s invasion of Korea in the “Katsura-Taft Treaty.” There is no historical precedent for a major power to sympathize with a small country and give freedom and independence to the people of a weak country. The sovereignty of a nation can be achieved and preserved only through the independent efforts and indomitable struggle of that nation. This is a truth which has been proved through many centuries and generations.

During the Russo-Japanese War and the Portsmouth Peace Conference King Kojong sent a secret envoy to the United States of America to call upon it to expose Japan’s aggression and assist Korea in maintaining her independence. However, the United States of America unsparingly offered support in many, varied ways to Japan so that she could win the Russo-Japanese War. Then, at the Portsmouth Peace Conference to discuss a postwar settlement, it gave every possible assistance to Japan so that the result of the conference would be favourable for her. President Roosevelt ignored the confidential letter from King Kojong on the ground that it was not an official document.

Kojong then sent emissaries to the International Peace Conference held in The Hague in an attempt to have the illegality of the “Ulsa Treaty” (the treaty between Korea and Japan concluded in 1905—Tr.) proclaimed and maintain the nation’s rights by appealing to international justice and humanitarianism. However, the King’s letter to the conference was not effective because of the persistent obstructive manoeuvres of the Japanese imperialists and the lukewarm response of the representatives of the various countries, and all the efforts of the emissaries in appealing to the great powers for sympathy were frustrated. Under the pressure of the Japanese imperialists Kojong was held responsible for having sent secret envoys and was forced to hand the throne over to Sunjong.

The incident of the emissaries at The Hague was a loud alarm-bell which shook off the deep-rooted flunkeyist consciousness of the feudal rulers. The red blood of Ri Jun which dyed the site of the International Peace Conference was a serious warning to the future generation that no major power in the world would make a present of her independence to Korea and that it would be impossible to gain the country’s independence by relying on foreigners.

That the highest levels of the nationalist movement again pinned their hopes on the United States of America and the “theory of national self-determination” without taking this lesson to heart was because the ideas of worshipping and kowtowing to America were deep-rooted in their minds. Whenever the country was in danger, the incompetent feudal rulers looked to the big countries and tried to shape the destiny of the country with their help. This was implanted in the minds of the highest levels of the nationalist movement.

The March First Popular Uprising demonstrated that bourgeois nationalists could no longer be the leading force of the anti-Japanese national liberation movement.

The class limitation of the leaders of the March First Popular Uprising was that they did not go so far as to totally reject Japan’s colonial rule. They set the aim of the movement to be to obtain some concession which could ensure the interests of their own class within the limit of Japan’s ruling system. This became the ideological basis which later either reduced many of them to reformists or made some of them even call for “autonomy” as a compromise with the Japanese imperialists.

Until that time in our country there existed neither a progressive idea capable of smashing reformism nor a large army of the industrial proletariat who could fight under the guidance of a progressive idea. The young working class of our country did not have its own party whose mission it would be to establish Marxism-Leninism as the idea of the new era and to rally under its banner the working masses.

If the popular masses of our country who were groaning under the misrule of the Japanese imperialists were to find the true way ahead for their struggle and have a vanguard which would defend their interests, they had to travel along a longer and thornier path.

Through the March First Popular Uprising our people became keenly aware of the fact that no movement could emerge victorious without a powerful leading force.

Although millions of the masses came out into the streets in resistance with the common desire to win back their country, their struggle was dispersed and spontaneous; it was not waged according to a unified programme and combat plan because they were not led by the working class, by the party.

The March First Popular Uprising served as a serious lesson that if the popular masses were to win in the struggle for national independence and freedom, they must fight in an organized way with a correct strategy and tactics under the leadership of a revolutionary party, and that they must completely reject flunkeyism and prepare a strong revolutionary force for themselves.

Through the March First Popular Uprising the Korean people demonstrated to the whole world that ours are a people with a strong spirit of independence who do not want to live as the slaves of others and that they are a people with indomitable stamina and ardent patriotism who fear no sacrifice in order to regain their country.

This uprising dealt a heavy blow to the Japanese imperialists. In order to soothe the anti-Japanese feelings of the Korean people after the March First Popular Uprising, the Japanese occupationists had to change, although it was for form’s sake, the “sabre rule” for a “civil government.” With the March First Popular Uprising as a momentum, in our country an end was put to the era of the bourgeois nationalist movement and the national liberation struggle of the Korean people began to enter a new stage.

The shouts for independence which echoed to the whole world shaking my ill-fated country continued ringing in my ears throughout the summer. Those cheers made me mature at an early age. In the street in front of the Pothong Gate where I witnessed the fierce struggle between the demonstrating masses and the armed policemen, my world outlook leapt into a new phase. It can be said that my childhood ended as I shouted for independence standing on tiptoe squeezed in between the adults.

The March First Popular Uprising marked the first time that I stood in the ranks of the people and that the true image of our nation was implanted in my mind’s eye. Whenever I heard the cheers for independence which echoed like a roll of thunder to my mind I felt boundless pride in the indomitable fighting spirit and heroism of our people.

In the summer of that year we received a letter from my father.

With the letter my father sent me some Chinese ink sticks with the trade mark “Jinbuhuan” and some writing brushes. They were a special gift for me to improve my handwriting.

I ground one of the ink sticks onto an inkstone, dipped a writing brush in it so that there was plenty of ink on it and wrote the word “Father” in bold characters on a sheet of Korean paper.

That night our family took turns to read the letter by lamplight. My uncle Hyong Rok read the letter three times. Although he was of a carefree disposition, he was as careful as someone elderly when reading letters.

My mother read the letter quickly and, handing it over to me, told me to read it aloud so that my grandfather and grandmother could hear. Although I was under school age, I could read Korean letters because my father had taught me the Korean alphabet when he was at home.

When I had finished reading the letter, my grandmother stopped her spinning and asked me, “Doesn’t he say when he’s coming back?” And, without waiting for my answer, she said to herself: “Whether he is in Russia or in Manchuria.... This time he has been in a strange place for quite a long time.” The fact that my mother had merely glanced at the letter worried me. So, when I went to bed, I told her in a whisper of what I remembered of my father’s letter. My mother never took long over reading letters in the presence of my grandfather and grandmother. Instead, she would keep them in the breast of her coat and read them secretly during breaks as she worked in the field.

When I told her of what I remembered of parts of the letter, my mother said, stroking my hair: “It’s all right. Sleep now.” My father returned home in the early autumn of that year to fetch his family. It had been a year since we had seen my father.

During that time my father had worked hard to restore the organizations of the Korean National Association, win comrades and rally the masses in the area of North Phyongan Province such as Uiju, Chang-song, Pyoktong, Chosan and Junggang, as well as in Manchuria; It was around that time that my father convened the Chongsudong Meeting (November 1918). This meeting, which was attended by representatives of the organizations of the Korean National Association in North Phyongan Province and by the liaison agents of various regions, drew up policies for the immediate restoration of the organizations of the Korean National Association and for rallying the proletarian masses closely around these organizations.

My father, now back at home, told us many things, particularly about news from Manchuria and about Russia, about Lenin and about the victory of the October Revolution. He told us that a new world had come to Russia in which the workers, peasants and other unpropertied masses had become the masters, and he did not conceal his envy. He also expressed his great anxiety, saying that new-born Russia was facing ordeals because of the attack of the white party and the armed intervention of 14 countries.

Because all his stories were woven with vivid detail and facts, I thought that my father might have been to the Maritime Province of Siberia.

Like Manchuria, the Maritime Province of Siberia was also a base for the Korean independence movement and an important rendezvous. At the time of the March First Popular Uprising the number of Koreans residing there was several hundred thousand. In this area lived many patriots and fighters for independence who had gone there from Korea as exiles. It was through there that Ri Jun and his party went to The Hague. And Ryu Rin Sok and Ri Sang Sol also formed here (Vladivostok) the combined headquarters of the volunteers from the 13 provinces of Korea. It was also here that the Korean Socialist Party headed by Ri Tong Hui started to disseminate Marxism-Leninism as the first socialist group of Korea. It was also in this area that the Provisional Government in Russia known as the Korean National Assembly was formed and proclaimed its existence at home and abroad. Hong Pom Do13 and An Jung Gun conducted their military activities focussed on this area.

Korean fighters for independence and patriotic people who had come to the Maritime Province of Siberia as exiles, formed self-governing organizations and anti-Japanese resistance organizations throughout the area and conducted vigorous activities for the restoration of national rights. Units of the Independence Army based in the Maritime Province of Siberia advanced into such areas of North Hamgyong Province as Kyongwon and Kyonghung and attacked Japanese troops and policemen, thus seriously disrupting the enemy’s rule and border guard. Some fighters for independence who had moved to this area from Manchuria formed large units and fought with the Red Army in defence of the Soviet Republic.

When the combined forces of imperialism and the internal enemy who followed their dictates pounced upon the Soviet Union from all directions in order to strangle the new-born political regime there, thousands of Korean young people gave their blood and lives with arms in hand either in the guerrilla ranks or in the Red Army in order to defend the socialist system which mankind had longed for as their ideal. The names of Koreans are engraved in large letters on the monuments erected in the Far East to the memory of the heroes of the Russian civil war.

Such people as Hong Pom Do, Ri Tong Hui and Ryo Un Hyong who had worked hard for the independence movement for some time with the Far East of the Soviet Union as their base, met Lenin to gain his support for our national liberation movement.

The activities of the Korean fighters for independence in the Maritime Province of Siberia left traces which cannot be ignored in the history of the national liberation movement of our country, even though they once led to the heart-breaking tragedy as the Heihe Incident, brought about by the interference of outside forces and the antagonism among various associations.

I was not wrong to have guessed that my father had been to the Maritime Province of Siberia in order to win comrades.

My father told the family about the demonstration of the people in the northern border area, and we told him of how courageously the people of Kophyong Sub-county had fought at the time of the March First Popular Uprising.

Of what my father told us that day, the following is still vivid in my memory. He said: “It is unlikely that robbers who have intruded into your house and are wielding knives will let you live simply because you make a fuss begging them for mercy. If the man outside is also a robber, he will not come to your aid when he hears your cry. If you want to save your life you must fight the robbers. You can prevail over those who are armed with knives only when you fight them with a knife.” My father had already formed a new view and a new determination with regard to the independence movement. I learned later that at the time of the March First Popular Uprising and before and after this uprising my father had sought continually for the way ahead for national liberation, carefully following the events taking place at home and abroad and conducting his activities with the northern border area and south Manchuria as his base. He also had paid close attention to the process of the change in the socio-class relations in our country.

As the lesson of the March First Popular Uprising shows, the aggressors will not withdraw if we only hold demonstrations and cheer. It would also be impossible to regain the country only through the struggle of the Independence Army. We must fight the aggressors with a nationwide effort because all the country has become the prison of the Japanese and is covered with a forest of bayonets. To this end we must make a popular revolution, as in Russia. The popular masses should rise up with arms in hand and fight the enemy to win back the country and establish a new society free from exploitation and oppression.

This is the conclusion my father had drawn after all his hard work. This was the policy of the proletarian revolution.

With the independence movement unable to get out of its stagnation and only blood being spilled, my father asserted that a popular revolution should be made, necessitating a fresh method.

After the October Socialist Revolution had emerged victorious in Russia, my father began sympathizing with the communist ideology. Later, with the March First Popular Uprising as a momentum, he formed his own idea and a firm resolution that the national liberation movement in our country should shift from a nationalist movement to a communist movement.

At the Chongsudong Meeting held in July 1919 my father proved the historical necessity for a proletarian revolution. On the basis of this, he convened, in August of that year, a meeting of the heads of various districts under the Korean National Association, liaison agents and chiefs of the organizations for independence in Hongtong District, Kuandian County, China, formally proclaimed the policy of shifting the anti-Japanese national liberation movement from a nationalist to a communist movement and advanced, in keeping with the change in the time, the task of defeating Japanese imperialism with the strength of our nation and building a new society which would ensure the rights and interests of the unpropertied masses.

My father’s proposal of the policy of shifting from the nationalist to a communist movement is another of his exploits in the anti-Japanese national liberation movement.

My father used to explain his idea of the proletarian revolution plainly as the building of a new society which would provide rice to those who had no food and supply clothes to those who had no clothing and, through his practical activities he awakened the workers, peasants and other working masses to a progressive idea and united them into one revolutionary force by forming and expanding a variety of mass organizations.

Another feat my father achieved was his success in the struggle to prepare for fresh armed activities and unite armed groups.

My father expedited the preparations for fresh armed activities out of his conviction that the country could be regained only through armed activities, not through “petitions” or “diplomacy”.

My father’s plan was to select patriotic young people from the proletariat and train them into military cadres, ideologically remould the commanders and the rank and file of the existing armed organizations and thus turn their ranks into an armed force of the workers and peasants that was capable of carrying out the proletarian revolution.

Having put forward this policy, my father sent members of the Korean National Association to various units of the Independence Army to guide them in various matters—in the spreading of progressive ideas in the armed units, in the purchasing of weapons and in the training of military cadres and the increasing of the combat efficiency of the army.

 At the same time he worked hard to achieve the unity of the armed units. What distressed my father most in those days was the lack of unity in the ranks of the independence movement.

At that time there were many units of the Independence Army and organizations engaged in the independence movement in Jiandao and the Maritime Province of Siberia. The so-called Association of Koreans, the Korean Independence Association, the Thaeguk Association, the War-fund Raising Association and suchlike would spring up overnight. There were more than 20 such organizations engaged in the independence movement in south Manchuria alone. If these organizations had united with one another and worked hand in hand with one another they would have been able to display great strength. However, the factionalists became engaged in a scramble for power from the start, rejecting other organizations and regarding them jealously.

If this situation was not put to rights, there was a fear that the ranks of the independence movement would be disrupted and the movement forsaken by the people or destroyed piecemeal by the enemy; and it would be impossible to promote the great cause of shifting the direction of the movement which my father had resolved to undertake.

Under these circumstances, when my father heard that the conflict between the Korean Independence Youth Association and the Kwangje Youth League was becoming aggravated, he hastened to Kuandian and, while staying there for several days, persuaded the leaders of the two organizations to merge. Thanks to my father’s efforts, the armed organizations in the area along the River Amnok, such as the Corps for the Promotion of Industry and the War-fund Raising Corps, merged to form the National Corps.

It can be said that my father’s intention in preparing for fresh armed activities was to build up the strength of the armed organizations with people of worker and peasant origin to make a fresh start in the armed activities geared to the communist movement and ensure that the various armed organizations worked in concert by merging them.

My father was concerned with implementing the policy of shifting the direction of the movement until the evening of his life and, in the course of this, he suffered from a persistent illness.

After the policy of shifting the direction of the movement to the communist movement was proclaimed at the Kuandian Meeting the process of ideological disintegration was accelerated among the nationalists.

With my father bedridden, some of those who shared his idea and purpose were arrested, some became turncoats and others were scattered. So there remained only a few people who would work for the communist movement.

Conservatives from among the nationalists were building a wall against the new. However, many progressive people chose the new road and later joined the communist revolution with us.

My father’s idea about the communist movement served as great food for my growth.


4. Repeated Removal


As father often moved the centre of his activities, we had to move house many times.

When I was five years old I left my birthplace for the first time. In the spring of that year we moved to Ponghwa-ri. At that time I was not particularly sorry to part from my grandfather, grandmother and family. Still young, I was curious about the unfamiliar place and new things rather than concerned about parting.

But my heart ached that autumn when we moved to Junggang.

My family was very sorry about having to move to the northern tip of the country. My grandfather would normally support father and not offer a contrary opinion whatever he did, but he was stunned by the news that his son and grandsons would be going so far away.

Father made great efforts to console my grandfather when he showed his sadness at the forthcoming parting. Still ringing in my ears is what father said, while giving my grandfather a helping hand in his work on the earthen verandah for the last time.

“Watched, I cannot move freely within Korea. Upon my release from prison, they told me to stay away from the independence movement and farm at home. But I must fight even if I am thrown into prison repeatedly. The Japanese are hard-hearted fellows. We cannot win back the country by merely cheering for independence.” The day we moved to Junggang my elder uncle wept as he held my father’s hand and asked him not to forget his home even if he was far away and to write to him often if he had no time to return.

Father said, holding his hands in his: “I will not forget my home. How can I forget it? This evil time forces us to part in this way, but when the country wins its independence we will live together and lead a life full of pleasure, I believe. From a child you have helped me by making sandals, getting blisters on your palms. I am sorry to leave this large family for you to keep.” “Brother, it’s nothing. I will take care of father and mother. Be sure to put up a good fight and achieve your cherished aim. I will wait here for the day.” I could not repress my sorrow as I watched them part.

Mother said that we would return home again when the country was independent, but I did not know when that would be and felt myself choking. In fact my parents were buried in a foreign country without seeing Mangyongdae again. Time and again I looked back at my grandparents, so loath to part from them.

I did not like to leave that place where I was born and grew up, but I felt relieved about one thing. I liked Junggang because it was far from Pyongyang gaol. To tell the truth, I still felt uneasy even after my father was released from prison. I feared that the Japanese might send my father to prison again. In those days I knew nothing of the world and was naive enough to think that in the mountainous areas far from Seoul and Pyongyang there was neither prison nor Japanese.

When I asked how far it was from Pyongyang to Junggang, someone told me that it was 250 miles. This relieved me. I did not think that the Japanese would pursue us that far. Junggang was said to be the coldest place in Korea. I could easily stand the cold if only father was safe.

All our household goods we were to take were the bundle mother made of a few bowls and spoons and the haversack father was to sling over his shoulder. When we moved to Ponghwa-ri, we carried some boxes, a table and brassware and earthenware, but this time we had nothing to speak of. At that time a friend of my father’s accompanied us.

Getting off the train at Sinanju, we trekked all the way to Junggang, passing through Kaechon, Huichon and Kanggye. At that time there was no railway to Kanggye.

As we set out on the journey my father was concerned, doubting that I would be able to walk such a long distance. Mother, too, seemed to fear that I would not keep up. As I was only seven years old my parents were naturally anxious about me.

I got a lift on a passing cart at times but walked most of the way. It was the first major physical trial of my life.

At Kanggye we stayed overnight at the inn outside the Nam Gate and the next day resumed our journey. The owner of the inn, together with the members of the underground organization in the Kanggye area, warmly welcomed our party. The 125 miles from Kanggye to Junggang covered many passes and much desolate scenery.

Mother had a hard time when we crossed Paenang Pass. She was carrying three-year-old Chol Ju on her back and a load on her head and had blisters on her feet, as she wore wornout straw sandals. This caused her much trouble.

When we arrived at Junggang, I was disappointed. There, too, the Japanese were swarming like they did in Hwanggum and Somun Streets in Pyongyang. The Korean people were wandering around, having been driven out of their native land, whereas the Japanese had come to this remote mountainous area and were lording it over the people there.

Father said that wherever Koreans lived there were Japanese. I learned that in Junggang there were a police station, a prison and some military police. On my arrival at Junggang I realized that the whole of Korea had been converted into a sort of a prison.

The Japanese had taken over more than half the upper street of Junggang, where there were a school, some shops and a hospital for them.

The people of Junggang said that the Japanese imperialists had begun to stretch their tentacles of aggression there ten years before. Having wrested the right to fell trees in Korea after the conclusion of the Protectorate Treaty in 1905, the Japanese imperialists had set up a forestry administration in Sinuiju and a branch of it in Junggang and transferred their felling section there. It was a felling section in name only; in fact it was a sort of a paramilitary group including many ex-servicemen who had received systematic military training, which could be called out at any time in case of emergency. Also in Junggang there were armed policemen and a garrison.

Father had taken us to Junggang because he intended to set up a surgery there which the independence fighters could frequent and, with it as a base, wage the anti-Japanese struggle more actively. The position of physician would enable him to hide easily from the enemy’s surveillance and to contact people reasonably and freely.

We settled at Kang Ki Rak’s inn. Kang Ki Rak allotted to us the quietest and cleanest room at the inn. My father had stayed there for a while on his way back from Jiandao where he had gone upon his release from prison. He used the room where my family stayed.

Kang Ki Rak was both a dentist and a photographer, while running the inn, and he secretly maintained contacts between the organizations abroad of the Korean National Association and my father when he was active inside Korea and between its organizations at home and him when he was active abroad.

Through the inn father established contacts with the champions of the independence movement active in the areas along the River Amnok such as Linjiang, Changbai, Junggang, Pyoktong, Changsong and Chosan, and in other places at home and abroad.

 Being an influential figure in Junggang, Kang Ki Rak had free access to the government office. The information about the enemy he obtained through the government authorities was a great help to my father in his activities.

To help father I used to keep watch, look after the champions of independence movement who visited the inn and carry out secret liaison missions, going to Jungsang, Jungdok and other places. One .of my strongest memories from Junggang is that of my wrestling with a Japanese boy bigger than me who I got down with a belly throw. If a Japanese boy bullied Korean children, I would not let him get away with it. The owner of the inn feared that this might bring trouble later, but my father praised my courage, saying that one should never bow to those who look down on the Korean people.

In those days the anti-Japanese sentiment ran high in Junggang and the distribution of leaflets, a school strike and the disposal of some wicked stooges were common.

The enemy came to consider that all the changes in Junggang were connected with my father. The Junggang Police Station, acting on information from the Police Department of South Phyongan Province, listed my father as a “recalcitrant Korean” and a “person to be placed under the closest surveillance” and kept watch over him. At the sub-county office Kang Ki Rak chanced to see a copy of my father’s census register in which his name had been underlined in red. He intimated to my father that he had better leave as soon as possible for his safety since the police had marked him down for arrest. In the meantime a policeman serving at the Junggang Police Station let drop the remark that my father was going to be arrested. So my father could no longer stay in Junggang. We had to leave even the cold northern tip of the country, taking our bundles with us, and cross into a foreign land.

A step on from Junggang, and there was China. I could not hold back the tears that poured from my eyes as I rode in a small boat across the River Amnok from the Jungdok ferry. Leaving Junggang meant my fourth removal. I had looked on Junggang as a strange place, but at the thought that I was having to leave it for a foreign country it seemed as dear as my birthplace. At any rate, it was part of my homeland. Mangyongdae had cradled me, whereas Junggang and Ponghwa-ri were unforgettable places which made me realize that Korea, wherever one went, had been converted into a prison by the Japanese imperialists.

The day we left Junggang was unusually gloomy. The fallen leaves of late autumn drifted desolately up to the ferry. The migratory birds were flying in a flock towards the southern sky. The sight of them saddened me in spite of myself.

Junggang was the last my mother saw of her motherland, and my younger brother Chol Ju was unable to return to his homeland after crossing the river.

Man experiences many sorrows in his lifetime. The greatest of them is the sorrow of leaving one’s country as a stateless person. However great a sorrow one feels when leaving one’s birthplace, it cannot be compared with the sorrow one experiences when leaving one’s homeland. If a birthplace can be likened to a mother and a place away from home, to a stepmother, I wonder what a foreign country which is far stranger can be likened to.

The thought that I would be living in a foreign country where there were no people to welcome me and where I could not make myself understood disgusted me, though I was young, and everything went dark before my eyes. But in silence I had to endure the sorrow of leaving my country for the sake of my father’s aim of winning back the country.

The boatman groaned over the wretched plight of the Korean people, saying that more and more people were migrating to Manchuria.

 My father said that no one knew how many people had gone abroad, abandoning the fertile land of their birthplaces.

Even before the ruin of the country hordes of people from this country had left for the wilderness of Manchuria and Siberia to earn a living. People who had been deprived of the right to existence left the country in desperation, suffering cruel punishment. The waves of emigrants flowed to the United States, Mexico and other countries on the American continent. Deceived by the fine words that “Flowers are in bloom in all seasons; once seeds are sown they yield a bumper crop; and if one works three hours a day, one becomes rich in three years,” farmers and casual labourers had sailed over the Pacific to the American continent where they were treated as barbarians and hired as servants in restaurants and rich men’s houses or were worked hard on plantations under the scorching sun.

Nevertheless, then they had their own country.

After the ruin of the country, tens of thousands of farmers deprived of their farmland had drifted like fallen leaves to the desolate wilderness of Manchuria.

The Japanese upstarts and merchants who had dreamed of a windfall swarmed to the land where our forefathers had lived from generation to generation, and the masters of the land who had made it fertile were driven out and were forced to wander off to foreign countries. So the plight of the nation which has lost its state power can be likened to the fallen leaves or roadside pebbles, I think.

Every day now children of the emigrants visit the ancestral land their forefathers abandoned. Whenever I meet them, I am reminded of the wanderers I saw on the banks of the River Amnok.

In Linjiang many things were strange to me and not good for me, but one thing was good: I saw little of the Japanese.

Linjiang, a commercial town in Liaoning Province, China, was a centre of communications linking Korea with north and south Manchuria, The Japanese imperialists could not openly extend their influence to China at that time, so they secretly sent in their special agents to threaten the independence champions. But Linjiang was better for conducting revolutionary activities than Junggang.

On arriving at Linjiang my father made me learn Chinese under a Chinese teacher for six months and then immediately saw to it that I was admitted to Linjiang Primary School. After starting at that school I began to learn Chinese in earnest. Later on I continued to study it at Badaogou Primary School and Fusong Primary School No. 1.

That I gained a good command of Chinese from my early years is entirely thanks to my father.

At that time I did not understand fully why my father was so quick to make me study the Chinese language and go to Chinese schools; however, looking back on those days now I realize that father’s farsightedness based on his idea of “Aim High!” was a great help to me. If my father had not made me learn Chinese at an early age I might have had to face a great language barrier at every step of my life for the quarter of a century I spent in China.

Without a good command of Chinese it would have been impossible for us to gain a foothold in Manchuria, the major theatre of our struggle which was waged under the enemy’s harsh repression, let alone an easy establishment of friendly relations with the Chinese people and a success in effecting an anti-Japanese allied front with them.

The Japanese detectives who were said to have a hound’s sense of smelling and the Manchukuo police did not suspect me to be a Korean when I was walking in the street, dressed in Chinese clothes and speaking Chinese fluently. After all, I can say that my knowledge of the Chinese language contributed greatly to the Korean revolution.

Father rented a house through the good offices of Ro Kyong Du, an old acquaintance of his, and set up a surgery. He used one room as a surgery-cum-dispensary and hung up a large sign, “Sunchon Surgery,” on the outside wall. He also hung up a diploma from the Severance Medical College. He obtained the diploma from a friend of his prior to his departure from Pyongyang, I think.

After several months father was known as an excellent physician. That he won fame as a physician though he began clinical practice only after reading a few books on medicine cannot be attributed to his diagnostic skill but to his humane treatment. Wherever he went, my father valued people. With unusual devotion he treated and took good care of his fellow Koreans who, deprived of their birthplaces and homeland, were leading a sorrowful life in a foreign country.

Many patients visited Sunchon Surgery with little or no money.

Whenever they worried about paying the doctor’s bill, my father would tell them to pay it after the country had won its independence, if at all, and consoled them, saying, “Though we are now living in poverty in a foreign country, the day is not far off when we will win back our country and cross the River Amnok again.” Our house in Linjiang was always alive with guests, just as in Ponghwa-ri. Among them were patients, but most of them were anti-Japanese champions.

It was in those days that my uncle Kang Jin Sok came to Linjiang and formed the Paeksan Armed Group. This was an armed group with independence champions active in Phyongan Province forming its backbone. The meaning of Paeksan is Mt. Paektu.

In those days the farsighted people of Korea living in Manchuria set great store by the name “Paeksan.” They called the private Korean school set up in Fusong Paeksan School. The youth organization we formed in Fusong in December 1927, was also called the Paeksan Youth League.

The Paeksan Armed Group was a fairly large and well-knit grouping of large and small units from the Independence Army in the Linjiang and Changbai areas. Its headquarters was in Linjiang County. The Paeksan Armed Group was active in Junggang, Chosan, Huchang and other areas of North Phyongan Province in Korea and, farther, its activities reaching Pyongyang, Sunchon and Kangso areas.

After his arrival in Manchuria my uncle who had been active as a member of a secret youth organization in Pyongyang became a lumberjack for a while, staying with us in Linjiang until the armed group was formed. With the formation of the armed group he was appointed commissioner for foreign affairs and became involved in conducting political work and raising war funds in North and South Phyongan Provinces.

My uncle, together with the commanders of the armed group, frequented our house. In those days Pyon Tae U and Kim Si U, who was in charge of the financial affair of the Paeksan Armed Group, visited our home, accompanied by my uncle. Its commanders often stayed at our home overnight.

Other guests stayed in the front room, but my uncle always slept with us in the back room, with his pistol under his pillow.

In those days my father made great effort to prepare an armed struggle based on his progressive ideas as required by the switchover in the struggle declared at the Kuandian Meeting. Father went frequently to Hongtuga to work with the Paeksan Armed Group. When I woke up one night, I saw father and my uncle taking a pistol apart under the lamplight. For some reason the sight of it conjured up a scene before me of demonstrators cheering in front of the Pothong Gate at the time of the March First Popular Uprising. At that time I had seen only rakes and sticks in the hands of the demonstrators. But within a year I saw a pistol in the hands of my uncle. Drawing a bloody lesson from the death of several thousands, the leading spirits of Korea had armed themselves.

A few days later I received from father the task of fetching some ammunition and gunpowder from Junggang. He seemed to have decided to entrust the task to me since in those days the adults were subjected to close examination at customs posts.

I went to Junggang with a firm determination and came back safely, carrying with me a bag stuffed with ammunition and gunpowder. The policemen at the customs post had closely examined the people boarding the boat, but for some reason I had not feared them.

Later my uncle left Linjiang to work with the armed group in the homeland.

But within a month corporal Kim Tuk Su from the military police in Junggang came to Linjiang and informed us that my uncle had been arrested. Though he was a corporal in the military police, Kim Tuk Su was a conscientious man who did errands for my father on many occasions.

On returning home from school, I found my mother weeping. The arrest of my uncle had stirred the whole of my family.

After leaving Linjiang my uncle conducted vigorous activities in the Jasong, Kaechon and Pyongyang areas at the head of an armed group. He was arrested by the Japanese police in April 1921 in Pyongyang and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. He was imprisoned for 13 years and 8 months before being released on bail and dying in 1942.

My uncle who fought against gambling, drinking and superstition, forming an enlightenment organization called the Miphung Society at his birthplace came to join the noble movement to save the nation. This can be ascribed to the good influence of my grandfather Kang Ton Uk and my father.

A revolution is not conducted by a few special people alone. If awakened ideologically and placed under a good influence, anyone is capable of rendering distinguished service in the revolutionary struggle for the remoulding of the world.

After the arrest of my uncle the enemy sent many secret agents and plainclothes policemen to Linjiang to arrest father. So he used to take shelter in his friend’s house in the suburbs of Linjiang at night, while working at home during the daytime.

But it became impossible for him to remain in Linjiang any longer. We had to move to another place in a foreign country, taking our household goods with us. The whole family left Linjiang, carrying loads on their backs and shoulders, but it was impossible for us to carry all our household goods, so Missionary Pang Sa Hyon accompanied us, taking them on a sledge to Badaogou, Changbai County where we were to settle. It is about 62 miles from Linjiang to Badaogou.

Like Linjiang, Badaogou was a border village near the River Amnok. As in Junggang on the opposite side of the river from Linjiang there were Japanese military police and a police sub-station, so in Pho-phyong just opposite from Badaogou there were a branch station of the Japanese military police and a police sub-station.

Though Phophyong is in the northern tip of Korea, the Japanese imperialists deployed repressive forces there densely since the main arena of the independence movement had shifted to Manchuria. The secret agents, military police and policemen sent from Phophyong went to Badaogou and went wild searching for patriots every day.

My house was near the place where the River Badao joined the River Amnok. Father hung up a new sign “Kwangje Surgery” at our house.

To the right of my house there lived the family of Kim, a member of the Korean National Association, and to the left another family Kim who ran a noodle house. Just across the street from our house there lived yet another family Kim who earned a living by selling noodles.

In our neighbourhood lived the merchant brothers Kim who furnished supplies to the armed units in the areas along the River Amnok under my father’s direction. Thus four families Kim who lived around our house were good people.

Only the family who lived to the back of our house was questionable. It turned out later that Son Se Sim, the head of the family, was a secret agent for the Phophyong police sub-station. Son’s family had lived in Junggang before moving to Badaogou after us to keep watch on my father on the instructions of the Japanese police.

In Badaogou my father contacted people from various walks of life. Among them was a thinker with the surname of Hwang. While working as a clerk at the Namsa Timber Mill, he had embarked on the road of revolution under the influence of a progressive idea. He secretly carried out liaison missions for my father. After being given a task he would leave Badaogou immediately and fulfil it, wherever it was, and then return to my home to wait for another task to be given.

Sometimes he had long talks with my father over a glass of wine. Once he commented animatedly on the situation, referring to an article in the newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

When my father went fishing, he followed him to the riverside, carrying a pot stuffed with peppered bean paste, and caught fish and gutted them. He frequented our home for about three years, and one year he joined us in celebrating Harvest Moon Day.

Father was many times taken to the Namsa Timber Mill by him, which was 50 miles away, and there he taught and rallied the workers around the anti-Japanese organizations. The teachers of Rajuk Primary School, too, were given guidance by my father. One year—I am not sure which year it was—the school went on strike, which caused a great sensation.

Phophyong chapel was one place my father frequented in those days. It had no spire tipped with a cross but was an ordinary tile-roofed house. The only difference that marked it out from other houses was that the whole of the house was a single room without partitions.

After father’s arrival in Badaogou the chapel was used as a place for teaching people and as a rendezvous for revolutionaries. Whenever a service was held he went over to Phophyong and conducted anti-Japanese propaganda. At times he taught them to sing songs, accompanying them on the organ.

When father could not go, mother or uncle Hyong Gwon met those who had come to attend the service and conducted anti-Japanese education among them. I, too, went to the chapel, taking Chol Ju with me, and learned how to play the organ from father.

There were many places for secret rendezvous in the streets of Phophyong which father used.

The cleaner at the Phophyong police sub-station undertook clandestine work. When he discovered some secret information at the police station and conveyed it to the mail depository, the information would be sent to father.

I often went on secret errands for father. Once I sent some clothes and food to the patriots detained at the Phophyong police sub-station. The place I frequented most was the mail depository. Father told me to bring from the mail depository Tong-A Ilbo, Joson Ilbo and other newspapers, magazines and publications from Korea. Father was in charge of the branch office of Tong-A Ilbo in the name of my uncle Hyong Gwon; he received no pay but got the newspapers free.

I used to go to the mail depository a couple of times a week. Unless the river was iced over, it was difficult to travel to and from Phophyong.

But after the river was iced over, at times I went there every other day. When I was busy with my studies uncle Hyong Gwon used to go on the errand. When there was a lot of mail addressed to my father, uncle Hyong Gwon and I would at times go over there together to fetch it. The mail was mainly parcels, magazines and books on medicine published in Japan.

When we went to Phophyong, we received a great deal of help from Hong Jong U, an assistant military policeman. He became the supporter and helper of the revolution under father’s influence. Of course, our relations with him were not satisfactory from the beginning.

Badaogou was under the jurisdiction of the Phophyong military police sub-station. Subordinated to it were policemen from the police sub-station and the local customs officials. In those days the military police organs had great authority in the border areas.

Father and other members of the organization always kept movements at the observation posts of the military police under close surveillance and they, too, kept close watch on our house.

When Hong Jong U first appeared in the dispensary at our house, wearing the uniform of an assistant military policeman, all my senses were on the alert and father and mother were careful to guard against him.

After looking around the dispensary awkwardly for a while, he said: “Today I have visited you merely to convey the compliments of Jang Sun Bong in Anju. When I left for my new post in the border area he told me to seek out and meet his friend Kim Hyong Jik in Huchang. I was also eager to meet you and ask you for instruction.” His words and manner were very modest for a person wearing the uniform of a military policeman. But my father gave him the cold shoulder the first day.

“You were on intimate terms with corporal Kim Tuk Su in Jung gang, so what is the matter with you today?” mother asked him after Hong Jong U had left.

“The sight of Hong in the uniform of a military policeman reminded me of Pyongyang gaol,” he said.

Father regretted having behaved like that towards Hong Jong U who had gone to the trouble of conveying a greeting, and decided to treat him better the next time.

Later Hong Jong U visited our home again.

One day father said, while talking with mother: “If Jong U intends to make some secret inquiries into our house, I will make some secret inquiries into the military police through him. If I fail here, I will only endanger myself. But if I could win him over, what a great help it would be for our cause! We have Kim Tuk Su in Junggang and Hong Jong U in Phophyong. Wherever I go, there are military police.” From that day on my father gave Hong Jong U positive education. Throwing aside the formal manner used in speaking to assistant military policemen, he behaved sincerely towards him as a compatriot and treated him well.

Gradually he began to open his mind. It turned out that originally he had had a national conscience. He was born in Sunchon, South Phyongan Province. However hard he farmed at his home, he could not make ends meet. So he took the examination for an assistant military policeman to make his fortune. But, witnessing the barbarity of the gendarme and the police in cracking down on the demonstrators during the March First Popular Uprising, he regretted his decision to sit for the examination and decided to go back to farming. At this juncture he received a notice informing him that he had passed the examination and a summons to attend drill. Thus he became an assistant military policeman.

The Japanese imperialists reduced their military police organs at home, set up and expanded their police organs on a large scale in Korea and reinforced the military police organs in the border areas in the name of the reform of government organization, switching over from “sabre rule” to “civil government.” Most of the Korean assistant military policemen were reappointed as policemen or transferred to the border areas. So he came to Huchang.

One day he came to my father and expressed his readiness to take weapons from the military police and join the independence movement.

Father spoke highly of his courageous decision.

Father said, “It is praiseworthy for you to have decided to join the independence movement. Your Japanese military uniform has not corrupted you. How can we who boast a 5,000-y ear-long history meekly resign ourselves to slavery in bondage to the Japanese? I think it is better for you to help us in our work by remaining at your present post. If you wear the military police uniform, you may be able to help the independence movement in many ways.” Later Hong Jong U helped the independence champions as father told him to.

Often visiting father. Hong Jong U notified him beforehand on which day he would be standing guard at the ferry and at what time and told him to send anyone who wanted to cross the river during his duty. In this way he saw to it many times that revolutionaries crossed the river safely.

Thanks to him my father, too, escaped critical situation on many occasions. When something unpleasant was likely to happen to father, he would come over immediately to Badaogou and warn him, “Some policemen will soon be here. Take care,” or he would say to my mother, “When Mr. Kim returns home, please tell him to go to the countryside and stay there for a few days.” One day when he came over to Badaogou, having been given the task by the head of the military police sub-station of enquiring into the movements of the independence champions active on the opposite bank and the Koreans there, he saw a policeman from the Phophyong police sub-station escorting my father who was bound with a rope to the ferry.

Hong Jong U stood in his way and shouted at him, “He is one of our men who is working for the military police. Why have you arrested him without notifying us? If any question about Kim is raised, don’t meddle but notify me.”

The policeman begged his pardon for his error and undid the rope which bound my father’s arms.

Thus father escaped from a critical situation.

On returning from patrol, a military policeman once said to the head of the sub-station that doctor Kim was said to be a thinker and suggested that he be arrested and questioned.

Hong Jong U showed them the logbook of the military police which recorded information, and said that it had all been obtained through doctor Kim. He said, “If you want to know the mood of thinkers, you should disguise yourself as a thinker. Only then can you grasp their inmost thoughts. Doctor Kim has rendered us great service in our work.” The information was false, concocted by Hong Jong U himself.

In May 1923 when the post of assistant military policeman was abolished, he said that he would come over to China with his family and join the independence movement. He did not want to serve the enemy any more, he said.

My father took great pains to dissuade him. He said, “You would do better to return home and serve in the police, continuing to help us in our work as before. That will be of greater help to us than if you join the Independence Army and serve in it. When you return home, please visit Mangyongdae and convey my best regards to my parents.” On arriving home he visited Mangyongdae and gave my father’s compliments to my grandparents. He served as a policeman in the homeland as my father had told him to. On several occasions he asked his superiors to transfer him to the Taephyong police sub-station and began to serve there in 1927. On arriving there to take up his fresh post, he visited our old home at Mangyongdae, having a servant at the substation take wine, pork and oranges, and offered my grandparents New Year’s greetings. Mangyongdae was under the jurisdiction of the Taephyong police sub-station.

Hong Jong U did not abandon his conscience as a member of the Korean nation, as my father had taught him, and consistently protected our family. He transferred to the Taephyong police sub-station to protect our home at Mangyongdae. When he was in charge of Nam-ri, my grandfather and uncle Hyong Rok were less troubled by the enemy. The head of the police sub-station always told him to watch Kim Hyong Jik’s family closely and search his house from time to time since his family had the reputation of being anti-Japanese, but each time Hong Jong U said that he had found nothing special.

Immediately after liberation people everywhere caught and beat up the pro-Japanese, but Hong Jong U was left alone. Although he served as a pensioned policeman in his home town, he did not incur people’s hatred because he did not wrong them and always overlooked a violation of Japanese law.

He was misunderstood because of his past, but never sought praise for what he did. An ordinary man would have written to me to dispel any misunderstanding, but he did not do so.

Several years after the Fatherland Liberation War I told some officials to search for him and they succeeded in finding him in Sunchon. He was an old man of over sixty years. Nevertheless, we sent him to the provincial cadre-training school to give him education.

Even after graduating from the provincial cadre-training school he led a simple and quiet life, such being his natural disposition. He devoted his last years entirely to unearthing relics of my father’s revolutionary history.

A police uniform or title of policeman was no impediment to those who decided to live conscientiously for the country and nation like Hong Jong U. The important thing is not one’s title or uniform but one’s idea and spirit.

The education of the younger generation was always my father’s concern during his time at Badaogou. Even after he left teaching for medicine, father made a great effort to educate young people as before. It was father’s conviction that only when many able cadres were produced by enlightening people at regular schools and evening schools was it possible to win back the country and build a rich and powerful independent country. The summer short course for Korean primary school teachers was held in Sanyuanpu in the summer of 1924 when my father drew up detailed educational and musical programmes for the pupils.

A Korean school was established in the valley of Badaogou through my father’s efforts. Young people and children from Phophyong learned to read and write Korean at the school, cooking food for themselves with rice they had brought from home.

Wherever he went, my father would say: “The education of the younger generation is the foundation for national independence and state building.” “If a man is illiterate, he is as good as an animal. Only when a man is literate can he prove his worth and win back his country.” Bearing what he said in my mind, I studied hard. Badaogou Primary School was a four-year Chinese school. Classes were conducted in Chinese and Chinese subjects were taught. There was no Korean school in the town.

 So, on my return home from school I received private education from my father. He taught me the Korean language, geography and Korean history, told me many stories about Lenin, Sun Yat-sen, Washington and other famous men. He chose progressive novels or books for me and gave me systematic guidance in my reading so that I never failed to read the books he recommended and related my impressions after reading them. Thanks to him, I read many good books such as Great Men of Korea, Biographies of Korean Heroes and The Revolutionary History of Russia and Lenin and many newspapers and magazines.

Father exercised tight control over my studies. When we neglected our studies, he at times made not only me and my brother Chol Ju but also uncle Hyong Gwon stand up so he could lash us on the calf.

Mother, too, showed a great deal of concern for my studies. When I was going to the mountains to collect firewood on returning from school, she would say, “Don’t worry about collecting firewood. Do your lessons, instead,” so that I spent a longer time on my studies. Seeing mother so solicitous about me, though she led a life of hardship without even being properly clad, I always wondered what I could do to please her. Once when I went over to Phophyong I bought a pair of rubber shoes for her with the money she had given me to buy a pair of canvas shoes for myself, and I gave her them.

At this she said, “Though young, you think deeply. I don’t mind what kind of shoes I wear. If you study hard and grow up fit and well, it will give me pleasure.” Mother put her whole heart into making me merry and seeing that I grew up with a bright heart.

So I grew up with optimism and free of any cares and worries. Looking back on my childhood, I think I was most mischievous when I lived in Badaogou. Sometimes I worked such terrible mischief that me adults were astounded. How can we think of our childhood apart from mischief? When I recall the winter in Badaogou when we made a metre-wide hole in the ice on the River Amnok and jumped over it for fun after lining up on the riverside, it seems to me that I am reliving my child’s feelings of 70 years ago. We jumped over the ice hole, saying that those children who failed were not qualified to become Korean soldiers in the future. The children used to run towards the hole with all their might, taking it as a shame to be unqualified to become Korean soldiers.

Sometimes the children whose stride was short or who were frightened fell into the water, failing to jump over the ice hole. Then, as they dried the wet clothes of their children over a brazier, their families would complain, saying that because of Song Ju from the family which had come from Pyongyang all the village children might freeze. As the old villagers had heard that Song Ju was the head of the village children, they often muttered my name to lay the blame on me for what had happened to their children.

Sometimes I and the children played games of soldiers on the hill behind Badaogou till late at night, causing their parents to worry. Then the people of Badaogou would search for us all night, losing their sleep. Because this happened frequently, the parents were stricter with their children. However, they could not lock up children whose thoughts were apt to take free flight.

Once my classmate Kim Jong Hang brought a detonating cap he had taken out of a box kept in the shed of his house and showed it to us. The shed at his house was packed with weapons, clothes, shoes and the like which were to be sent to the troops of the Independence Army. His brothers bought work clothes, shoes and the like in large quantities through the agencies of Japanese companies and sent them to the troops. Having furnished themselves with two boats and even horses, they bought in goods by lots to supply to the Independence Army.

That day we played near the brazier, cracking pumpkin seeds. Kim Jong Hang whistled with the detonating cap in his mouth. In the course of this the detonating cap came in contact with embers and exploded, injuring him in many places.

His brother wrapped him in a blanket and hastily carried him on his back to my father.

If the police had heard that he had been hurt in the explosion of a detonating cap it might have caused great trouble. So, my father hid him in my house, giving him medical treatment for more than 20 days.

On that occasion I learned that Kim Jong Hang’s family was of patriotic merchants who distributed war supplies to the troops of the Independence Army.

Those years were years full of adventure.

But even in those days I was shadowed by one care.

As I grew older, my mental agony due to the ruin of the country increased.


5. The Song of the River Amnok


One day early in 1923 my father told me to sit at his side and asked me what my intention was having finished my primary education.

I said I wanted to go to secondary school. That was also my parents’ long-cherished desire, and I wondered why he was asking such an obvious question.

He said with a serious look that I should go to the homeland and continue to study there.

This advice was unexpected. Studying in Korea meant leaving the care of my parents, something I had never considered.

My mother who was sewing was surprised and asked if I couldn’t study somewhere nearby for I was still young.

My father seemed to have made a determination. He repeated that I must go, though we might miss one another for a time. He would never change his decision without a proper reason.

He said in earnest: You have suffered a lot of hardship, moving with us from place to place since your childhood; you may find yourself in a worse plight when you are in Korea again; nevertheless, I am determined to send you there; a man born in Korea must have a good knowledge of Korea; if you get to understand clearly while you are in Korea why she has been ruined, that will be a great achievement; share the fate of the people in your home town and experience how miserable they are; then you will see what you should do.

I said that I would do as he told me to do. In those days me rich people in Korea were sending their sons to study abroad. They believed that the United States or Japan was the place to seek modern civilization and academic pursuits, and that was the trend of the times. So I was going to Korea while others were going abroad.

My father’s way of thinking was unique. As I recollect the event, I think he was right in sending me to Korea. Anyhow, he was no ordinary man to send his scarcely 11-year-old son on a 250-mile journey alone through a then uninhabited land. His character served me as an encouragement and filled me with confidence.

To be frank, my feelings at that time were not simple. I was happy to hear that I was to study in the homeland, but I didn’t want to leave my parents and younger brothers. However, I was eager to see my home town. I spent several restless days with mixed feelings of yearning for my homeland and reluctance to leave the sweet family atmosphere.

My mother asked my father if it wouldn’t be better to send me when the weather was warmer. She was afraid of sending her young son on a 250-mile journey alone.

My father did not agree with this suggestion, either.

Though anxious over her son’s long journey, my mother spent the nights making me an overcoat and socks so that I might start on the date appointed by my father. She did not dispute her husband’s decision, as was her trait.

On the day of my departure my father told me that it was 250 miles from Badaogou to Mangyongdae and asked me whether I could walk all the way alone. I replied that I could. Then he drew the route in my pocketbook, marking off the names of the major places on the way as well as the distance between them, for instance, from Huchang to the next place, from Hwaphyong to the next, and so on. He further told me to send him two telegrams—one from Kanggye and one from Pyongyang.

On the last day of the first lunar month (March 16 by the solar calendar) I left Badaogou. A snowstorm was severe from the morning. My friends in Badaogou accompanied me for 7.5 miles to the south of Huchang across the River Amnok to see me off. They insisted on accompanying me the whole way, so I had trouble to persuade them to return home.

As I began my journey, various thoughts flooded my mind. For more than half the 250 miles of my journey I would have to walk over steep, craggy mountains which were virtually uninhabited. It would not be easy to cross them alone. Even in full daylight beasts of prey prowled about the woods on both sides of the road from Huchang to Kanggye.

I suffered a lot during the journey. I really had a hard time of it while crossing the Jik Pass, Kae Pass (Myongmun Pass) and the like. It took me a whole day to cross the passes in Mt. Oga. When I had crossed one pass another would appear. It seemed there was no end.

As I crossed Mt. Oga, I got blisters on my feet. At the foot of the mountain I fortunately met an old man who cured my blisters by bum-ing them with matches.

After Wolthan and Mt. Oga, I passed through Hwaphyong, Huksu, Kanggye, Songgan, Jonchon, Koin, Chongun, Huichon, Hyangsan, Kujang, arrived at Kaechon and then proceeded to Mangy ongdae by rail.

A narrow-gauge railway service was available from Kaechon to Sinanju; a light train pulled by a small English locomotive Nikisha covered the route. From Sinanju to Pyongyang a wide-gauge railway as we have today was working. At that time a rail ticket from Kaechon to Pyongyang cost 1 won 90 jon.

During that journey I met many kind-hearted people. Once, when I was suffering from sore feet, I was picked up by a peasant on an ox- drawn sleigh. When parting, I offered him some money, but he declined it and bought me some toffee instead.

The most memorable of them was the inn-keeper at Kanggye.

I arrived at Kanggye late in the evening and came to the inn. The inn-keeper came out to the gate and received me cordially. He was a small man who wore his hair in the Western fashion and dressed in Korean jacket and trousers. He was affable and sociable. He told me that he had received a telegram from my father and was expecting me.

His elderly mother, referring respectfully to my father as “Mr. Kim,” was as glad to see me as if I were her own grandson. She said, “When you were here with your father 4 years ago on your way to Junggang, you were a small boy but now you are quite grown up.” She served me with beef-rib soup and fried herrings which she had probably been saving for her own grandchildren. She made a bed for me with new quilts. They showered me with full hospitality.

The next morning I went to the Kanggye Post Office and sent a telegram to my parents as my father had told me to. The telegram would cost 3 jon for each of the first six characters and 4 jon each for any more. So I wrote 6 characters “Kang Gye Mu Sa To Chak” (Arrived safely in Kanggye—Tr.).

The next day the inn-keeper went to the bus station to arrange for my transport. On returning, he told me that I should have to wait for about ten days because the bus had broken down. He added that he had made a reservation for me, so I should stay with him. I was grateful for his kindness, but I said I could not afford to wait. He did not hold me back any more but offered me two pairs of straw sandals. Moreover, he introduced me to a cartman who was heading for the Kae Pass.

The keeper of the “West-Korea Inn” in front of Kaechon Railway Station was also a kind man.

At the inn I ordered a 15-jon meal, which was the cheapest of the meals they served there. However, the inn-keeper served me with a 50-jon meal. When I said I could not afford it, he told me not to mind the cost.

At night they gave a mattress and two blankets to each guest for 50 jon. I examined my purse and found that I could not afford the luxury of sleeping under two blankets. So I ordered only one blanket. Again the inn-keeper told me not to worry about the cost and said that he could not be so cruel as to see a boy sleeping miserably when other travellers were comfortable.

Though living in poverty as a ruined nation, the Korean people still preserved their traditional fellowship and beautiful customs. Up until the turn of the century there were many people travelling without money in our country. Villagers used to provide free accommodation for travellers. This was a Korean custom, which was the envy of the people of the West. My journey made me realize that the Korean people were truly kind-hearted and morally excellent.

The keeper of the “West-Korea Inn,” like those of the Kanggye and Junggang Inns, was under the guidance and influence of my father. As I had experienced on my previous journey to Junggang at the age of seven, my father had comrades and friends everywhere.

When I saw people receiving and taking care of our family as their own flesh and blood, I wondered when my father had made so many friends and what distance he had travelled to rally such comrades.

With so many friends everywhere my father, when away from home, was always helped by them. I, too, benefited a great deal from their assistance.

An unforgettable memory of my journey was of the town of Kanggye, lit by oil-lamps 4 years before, being flooded with electric light. The townsfolk were happy with the introduction of electric lighting, but I was sad at the sight of the streets because they seemed to be more Japanese.

The profound meaning of what my father had said to me on my departure about learning about Korea came home to me. As I remembered his instructions, I closely studied my unfortunate homeland.

The 250-mile journey was, for me, a journey of learning about my homeland and my fellow countrymen.

Towards sunset on March 29, 1923, fourteen days after my departure from Badaogou, I entered the courtyard of my old home.

My grandmother, who was making yam inside, hurried out to the yard, without stopping to put on her shoes, and took me in her arms.

“Who has come with you? How have you come? How are your father and mother?” She showered me with questions, giving me no time to answer.

Grandfather stopped making straw mats and ran out into the yard.

When I answered that I had come alone on foot, she exclaimed doubtfully, “Oh Lord! Really? Your father is more hard-hearted than a tiger.” The whole family sat together, and we talked all through the night.

The mountains and rivers were familiar and beautiful as ever, but the signs of poverty in every comer of the village were more conspicuous than ever before.

After staying for a few days at Mangyongdae, I started in the fifth year of Changdok School where my grandfather on my mother’s side was the head teacher. This was the beginning of my education in the homeland. From that time on I stayed in my mother’s maiden home in Chilgol to attend school.

My mother’s parents were in no position to support me. They were having a difficult time because my mother’s brother, Kang Jin Sok, was In prison. After his arrest, the police kept the family under strict surveillance, bothering them and, worse still, my uncle was in poor health. The whole family worried about him. The family were living in dire poverty, eating gruel made from coarsely ground grain or boiled rice mixed with ground beans. They always ran short of farm produce and my younger uncle had to carry goods on a cart for hire to eke out a livelihood.

However, they did not reveal any signs of poverty in my presence and supported me wholeheartedly while I attended school. They provided me with a separate room furnished with a kerosene lamp and fine floor mats. They were kind to my friends who used to visit me at all times.

Changdok School was a progressive institution established by my grandfather on my mother’s side and other far-sighted people from Chilgol and the surrounding area and aimed at promoting the restoration of national sovereignty as a part of the patriotic movement for cultural enlightenment.

Towards the end of the Ri dynasty and after the “annexation of Korea by Japan” a brisk patriotic education movement was launched as a link in the whole chain of the national-salvation movement. The pioneers and patriots, who attributed the shameful loss of national sovereignty to the backwardness of the country, regarded education as the foundation of and fundamental factor in self-development and clearly realized that, unless education was developed, neither the independence of the country nor the modernization of the society could be achieved, so they established private schools throughout the country.

This movement was led by patriotic fighters An Chang Ho, Ri Tong Hwi, Ri Sung Hun, Ri Sang Jae, Yu Kil Jun, Nam Kung Ok and others. The learned societies formed in all parts of the country also pushed ahead with the education movement.

At the height of the educational and cultural movement that swept the country, thousands of private schools sprang up, awakening the intellect of the nation that had slept in feudal fetters. It was around this time that village schools which had been teaching the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius were transformed into institutions for modern education and encouraged the younger generation to kindle the spirit of patriotism.

The leaders of me nationalist movement, without exception, regarded education as the starting-point of their independence movement and concentrated their financial power and energy on the undertaking. Kim Ku14, who was the mastermind behind the heroic ventures undertaken by Ri Pong Chang15 and Yun Pong Gil16, with terrorism as his major policy for the independence movement, had been engaged in education in Hwanghae Province in his early years. An Jung Gun, too, was a scholar who had established a school in the area of Nampho to teach the younger generation.

Among the private schools established in west Korea Taesong School in Pyongyang supervised by An Chang Ho and Osan School in Jongju financed by Ri Sung Hun were famous. These schools produced many famous patriotic fighters for independence and intellectuals.

My grandfather used to say that it would be an honour for Changdok School if it could produce only one great man such as An Jung Gun and that I should study hard to become a prominent patriot.

I replied that, even though I might not become such a praiseworthy martyr as An Jung Gun, I would become a patriot who would not spare himself for the independence of the country.

Of the private schools established in west Korea Changdok School was fairly large and modern with more than 200 pupils. A school was in a position to promote the enlightenment of the people in its vicinity. Therefore, the people and public-spirited men in the Pyongyang area attached great importance to Changdok School and spared nothing in support of it.

Paek Son Haeng, too, contributed a vast amount of money to this school. This woman, better known as Widow Paek than by her real name, was popular in Pyongyang before liberation for her charitable efforts. Widowed before the age of 20, she remained faithful to her dead husband until the age of 80, becoming rich by saving every penny she earned. Her way of making money was so bold and unique that she was the focus of public attention from her early days. It is said that the site of the present limestone mine belonging to the Sunghori Cement Factory was once her property. She had bought the rocky mountain which nobody cared for at a low price and sold it to a Japanese capitalist for dozens of times more than she had paid.

This woman, who did not even know how to use an abacus, had made this fabulous profit in a deal with the Japanese capitalist at a time when public resentment was running high at the traitors who had sold out the whole country to the Japanese imperialists with the signing of a paper. That was why people took pleasure in talking about her as if she were a great war hero.

People respected her because she had helped the community a great deal. Even though she was rich, she did not seek personal glory; she led a simple life, eating frugal meals, and donated her money unsparingly to society, money she had saved all her life. The money had been spent on building a bridge and a public hall—the Pyongyang Public Hall— which still remains intact before the Ryongwang Pavilion.

A few days after I began school my grandfather brought me a bundle of fifth-year textbooks. In excitement I took them and turned over the pages one after another. But, when I opened the textbook titled Mother-tongue Reader, I felt offended. It was a textbook of the Japanese language.

The Japanese imperialists forced our people to use the Japanese language in order to make them the subjects of the Japanese emperor. As soon as they had occupied our country they proclaimed that the official language of the government and public offices, courts and schools would be Japanese, and prohibited the Korean people from using their own language.

I asked my grandfather why the Japanese language book was titled Mother-tongue Reader.

He merely heaved a sigh.

With a pocket-knife I scratched out the word Mother-tongue from the title of the book and wrote in its place the word Japanese. The Mother-tongue Reader became the Japanese Reader in an instant. My urge to resist Japan’s assimilation policy encouraged me to act with such resolution.

After I had been at the school for some days, I found a few children speaking Japanese in the classrooms, streets and playgrounds. Some of them were even teaching Japanese to other children. Nobody seemed to feel ashamed of this or criticized it. They seemed to think that our language was disappearing for ever with the country ruined.

Whenever I saw children trying to learn Japanese, I told them that Koreans must speak Korean.

The day I arrived in Chilgol after my return to the homeland from Badaogou the villagers gathered at my mother’s maiden home to hear about the situation. They said they wanted to hear me speak Chinese as they thought I might speak it well after living for some years in Manchuria. Even children at Changdok School often pestered me to teach them Chinese. But I would refuse, asking them why we should speak a foreign language when we had our own excellent language.

Only once did I speak Chinese in the homeland.

One day my mother’s brother asked me to go sightseeing in the city with him. Because he was usually very busy he seldom went outings, but that day he managed to find time for me. Saying that as I had been away for a long time he would buy me lunch in the city that day, he took me to Pyongyang.

After touring the city we entered a Chinese restaurant in the western part of the city. In those days there were many Chinese restaurants in the area where the Ponghwasan Hotel now stands.

In order to earn more money the restaurant-keepers would come out to the door and receive customers kindly, saying, “Welcome!” They vied with each other to attract guests.

The keeper of the restaurant we went to asked us in poor Korean what we would like to eat.

I ordered in Chinese, for his convenience, two plates of Chinese pancakes.

Wide-eyed, he asked me if I was a Chinese pupil.

I said that, though not a Chinese pupil, I knew some Chinese because I had lived in Manchuria for some years. Then I chatted with him in Chinese for a while.

The restaurant-keeper was very glad to see me, a young boy who had a good command of Chinese. He said with tearful eyes that he was reminded of his homeland on seeing a pupil from Manchuria.

He placed dishes we had not ordered on the table as well as pancakes and told us to eat plenty. We declined but, as he insisted, we ate everything. After our meal we tried to pay the bill, but he would not even take payment for the pancakes.

On our way home uncle said, laughing, “I took you to the city to give you a treat but instead you gave me a treat.” The whole village heard of this episode.

As I had hoped I joined the class of Mr. Kang Ryang Uk.

I had gone to stay at Chilgol not long after Mr. Kang left Sungsil School and began teaching at Changdok School. He was very sorry to have left the middle school, but he was unable to pay his fees.

 His family was so poor that his wife (Song Sok Jong) left him to stay at her maiden home for a while. It is said that her parents admonished her severely, saying, “You may not be a good wife in time of destitution for lack of grace, but how dare you abandon your husband because you are tired of poverty? How many households are there in Korea which are not as poor as his? Did you expect to eat rice with honeyed water sitting on a golden cushion after you married? Speak no more and return to him at once and apologize to him.” I do not think the reader will need further explanation to understand the situation of Mr. Kang’s family.

We called his wife “Sukchon auntie,” for she came from Sukchon, South Phyongan Province. Whenever I went to his house “Sukchon auntie” would serve me with rice mixed with ground beans. I ate it with relish.

One day after liberation I went to Mr. Kang’s to wish him a happy birthday and talked to his wife, recollecting what I ate in those days: “Madam, on occasions I still recall the rice mixed with ground beans you would serve me in Chilgol. You can’t imagine how I enjoyed it. Having been away from the homeland for 20 years I could not thank you for it. Please accept my thanks today.” To this, she replied with tearful eyes: “My family was so poor that I served you only rice mixed with ground beans, not proper rice. But as you say you are grateful for that, I do not know what to say. Those meals were never tasty.” Saying that she would make up for her poor treatment of me in my days at Changdok School, she served me with dishes she had cooked herself.

One year she sent me some wine called Paekhwaju, which she had distilled, to wish me a happy birthday. The name of the wine means distilled from a hundred flowers.

The poetic name of the wine aroused my interest but I could not drink it with a light heart because the vision of her struggling against hunger with no proper meal of boiled rice, swam before my eyes.

For me who had felt to the marrow of my bones the misery of a ruined nation, a tree, a blade of grass and a grain of rice in the homeland seemed many times more precious than they were before. Moreover, the teacher steadily inspired the pupils with national consciousness, so I was constantly under a patriotic influence at home and at school. In those days he organized picnics and excursions frequently to inculcate patriotism in the pupils.

An excursion to Mt. Jongbang in Hwanghae Province was particularly noteworthy.

After liberation Kang Ryang Uk, as Secretary-General of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly and Vice-President of the Republic, had many opportunities to meet me in connection with his work. We would recall with emotion the excursions we went on during our days at Changdok School and how we had seen Songbul Temple and Nammun Pavilion on Mt. Jongbang, Another unforgettable event of those days was the music lessons he gave. His music lessons were particularly interesting, so we used to look forward to them.

He had a wonderful voice which sounded better than professional tenors. When that voice sang the Song of Advance or the Song of the Young Patriot, the whole class listened with bated breath.

I think the melodies of the songs he taught us infused patriotic feelings into our minds. Later, when waging the anti-Japanese armed struggle, I would often sing those songs, and I still remember their words and melodies clearly.

Back in the homeland I found that the people were poorer than before.

 When spring sowing began, the children of the very poor would be absent from school, for they had not only to help in the farming but also to gather mulguji, pickpurse, the roots of bindweed and other herbs to supplement their meals when the grain ran out. There were some boys who would go to the city on market days to sell wild vegetables to buy grain and others would babysit at home for their parents. Children from poor families would eat boiled sorghum, foxtail millet or barnyard millet for lunch. Worse still, some had to skip lunch.

In Chilgol and Mangyongdae there were many families that could not afford a school education for their children. It was a pity to see children cooped up in their homes with no access to schooling because they were so poor.

For such children I would organize night classes whenever I went to Mangyongdae on holidays. I called them all to the class and taught them. I began by teaching them the Korean alphabet with the Korean Reader and then taught history, geography, arithmetic and songs. It was simple enlightenment that I undertook for the first time in my life.

While visiting the city frequently with my friends, I came to realize that the citizens of Pyongyang were leading no better a life than the people of Mangyongdae and Chilgol.

Of the 100,000 people living in Pyongyang only a small number of Japanese and Americans were living well. The Americans in Sinyang-ri, the most beautiful part of Pyongyang, lived in luxury; and the Japanese made their settlements in Ponjong and Hwanggumjong, the most thriving places in Pyongyang, and lived in clover.

In the “Westerners village” inhabited by Americans and the Japanese settlers, brick houses, shops and churches increased in number; on the other hand, in such places as the area along the River Pothong and in Ppaengtae Street the slum quarters were getting bigger.

Now with the construction of such modern streets as Chollima, Kyonghung and Ponghwa Streets and of such large buildings as the People’s Palace of Culture, the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium, the Ice Rink, the Changgwang Health Complex and skyscrapers, no evidence of old Pyongyang can be found, but when I was going to Changdok School, many small slum dwellings with straw-mat doors and board roofing were huddled there.

In the year when I returned home, there was an epidemic in Pyongyang and the surrounding area, torturing the people. To make matters worse, the whole city was suffering from flooding. Reporting the disaster caused by floods that year, Tong-A Ilbo said that about 10,000 houses, or half the total number of houses in Pyongyang, had been submerged.

Today 105-storeyed Ryugyong Hotel, the tallest hotel in the world, is being built behind Pothonggang Square, but the younger generation will not be able to imagine the misery their grandfathers and grandmothers suffered in small slums in the same place in those years.

While living through the miseries I came to aspire to a society where the toiling masses could live happily and harbour a bitter hatred for the Japanese imperialist aggressors, landlords and capitalists.

When I was a pupil at Changdok School there were great earthquakes in the Kanto area of Japan, and the news reached Chilgol, sparking the anger of my schoolmates. Rumour had it that Japan’s ultrarightists had instigated the army to massacre thousands of the Koreans living in Japan under the pretext that the Koreans, taking advantage of the earthquakes, were planning to revolt. This came as a great shock to me, But it gave me a clearer understanding that Japan, even though she was preaching “impartiality” and “Japan-Korea harmony,” despised Korean people, treating them as worse than beasts.

From that time I would not allow Japanese policemen on bicycles to pass with impunity. I would bury spiked boards in their way and their tyres always went flat.

Feelings of hatred for the Japanese imperialists and of love for our motherland were reflected in the musical play Thirteen Houses we produced. In this play thirteen pupils appeared on the stage and sang and danced while assemblying a map of Korea, each pupil taking a map of cardboard of each of the 13 provinces of Korea.

We staged this musical at a school athletics meeting in the autumn of 1924. In the middle of the performance a policeman appeared in the playground and ordered us to stop at once. In those days holding a small-scale athletics meeting required approval from the police, and even an approved event had to have police surveillance.

I met my teacher, Kang Ryang Uk, and said, “What is wrong in our loving our motherland and singing and dancing in praise of it?” I insisted that we continue our performance, come what may.

He, with the other teachers, protested against the unjustifiable conduct of the policeman and told us to continue the performance. Since we primary schoolchildren had such a high spirit of patriotism and resistance, is there any need to say more about the adults’ spirit? In the summer of the year when I returned to the homeland a general strike broke out in the Pyongyang Hosiery Factory. The newspapers gave front page headlines to this event. At the news, I thought, even though Japan was advertizing her deceptive “civil government,” she would sooner or later have to face resistance greater than the March First Popular Uprising.

Thus I spent two years. One day a few months before I left school I heard from my mother’s father that my father had been arrested again by the Japanese police. This was a great shock, I felt a terrible anger and hatred for the enemy. The distressed people of Chilgol and Mangyongdae seemed to examine my face.

I made preparations for a journey with a determination to fight at the risk of my life to take revenge on the enemy of my father, my family and my nation.

When I said I would go to Badaogou, my mother’s family advised me to go after finishing at school. My grandfather at Mangyongdae also tried to dissuade me, saying that I should wait a few months until I had finished school and the weather was warmer.

But I could not wait. I thought: How can I study here when misfortune has befallen my father?; I must go at once to help mother with her young sons; I must do my bit wherever it means going.

Knowing that he could not dissuade me, grandfather relented and said that I should do as I was determined and that it was up to me now that my father was behind bars.

The next day the family saw me off. The whole family wept—grandfather, grandmother and my uncle. My mother’s younger brother (Kang Chang Sok) who came to Pyongyang Station to see me off and Kang Yun Bom, my classmate from Chilgol, also wept in sadness.

My most intimate friend at Changdok School was Kang Yun Bom. He had no one to whom he could open his heart, so he would come to see me frequently. We would often go to the city together.

When the time came for the train to depart he gave me some boiled rice in a packet and an envelope. He told me that as he was not sure when he would see me again, he had jotted down a few words for me to read on the train. I opened the envelope after the train had left. In it were a short letter and 3 won. I was very moved by the letter and money. No one without a good heart could be so considerate towards his friend. In those days it was not easy for a boy to obtain 3 won. Even though I had started out on the journey, determined to avenge my father, money was a serious problem. He saved me from many difficulties.

 It seemed that he had had a great deal of difficulty in getting the money. He came to see me after liberation. The first thing I told him was how grateful I had been for the money 20 years before, to which he confessed that he had had great difficulty in obtaining it. That money was more precious to me than millions of won to a rich man. What can compare with all the pure and beautiful feelings of friendship that produced that 3 wont Money cannot buy friendship, but friendship can produce money and everything else.

He said that while I had been fighting in the mountains to liberate the country, he had done nothing in particular. I said that we should combine our efforts and build a new country, and that the shortage of cadres was an obstacle to nation-building. I asked him if he could do his bit by helping to build schools. He readily agreed. After a short time he had set up a school in Jochon and asked me to give it a name. I named the school Samhung Middle School. Samhung means the thriving of knowledge, morality and physique. In other words, it meant that the school should train its pupils to be knowledgeable, morally sound and physically strong.

Afterwards he took charge of the setting up of a university. These days building a university is no great problem, but there were many difficulties at that time because we had neither funds, building materials nor skilled builders. Whenever he had a problem with his work he would come to see me and discuss the problems with me throughout the night, staying in my house.

Kang Yun born was an unforgettable comrade and friend who saw me off on my way to national liberation. I still remember him as he saw me off in tears at Pyongyang Station that day. The letter he gave me read: Dear Song Ju, when parting with you I cannot keep back my tears. When shall we meet again after this parting? Let us remember our days at Changdok School even if a vast distance lies between us. Let us remember our home town and our motherland.

Encouraged by his friendship and moral support, I again negotiated one steep pass after another. In the evening of the thirteenth day after my departure from Mangy ongdae I arrived at Phophyong. Having reached the ferry I hesitated to cross the Amnok; I walked the bank of the river restlessly. The mountains and rivers of my motherland held me back from crossing over to Badaogou.

I was held back by a vision of my grandmother and grandfather who had seen me off at our brushwood gate, weeping, stroking my hands, adjusting my dress, and worrying about possible snowstorms. I felt I could not hold back the tears that welled up if I crossed that river. And, looking back at my motherland in misery at the bleak border I could scarcely suppress the impulse to rush back to my home town, to the house where I was born.

I had spent only two years back in my motherland, but I had learned and experienced much in those years. My most valuable experience was to have acquired a deep understanding of our people. Our people were simple, and industrious yet brave and strong-willed. They were staunch people who did not yield, whatever the adversity or hardship; they were polite and kindhearted and yet resolute and uncompromising against injustice. When the national reformists were conducting the reactionary “autonomy” campaign in the name of the “Yonjong Association,” the popular masses, particularly the workers, peasants, young people and students, were shedding their blood in resistance to the Japanese imperialists. From the image of them I felt an undaunted sense of national dignity and unbreakable spirit of independence. From that time I believed that our people were the greatest in the world and that I could liberate the country if I organized their efforts properly.

While seeing the Japanese army and the number of police and prisons increasing with each passing day behind the screen of “civil government” and looking at the waggons and cargo ships carrying the wealth plundered from our nation, I formed the clear understanding that Japanese imperialism was the most heinous destroyer of the liberty and dignity of our people and a vicious aggressor and plunderer imposing unbearable poverty and hunger upon our people.

The oppressive situation in the motherland gave me a firmer belief that only through a struggle would the Korean nation be able to drive out the Japanese imperialists and live in happiness in a liberated country. My desire to liberate my country as quickly as possible and turn everything into ours, into Korea’s, burned in my heart.

I walked a little way down from the ferry to the rapids to evade police observation and set foot on the frozen river. Across the river, which was only 34 metres wide, was the town of Badaogou and my house which was in the street near the river bank. But I hesitated again, obsessed by the uncertainty of whether I would ever cross back to my homeland to which I was going to bid farewell.

I stepped back and picked up a pebble from the river bank, holding it firmly in my hand. I wished to take everything that could be a token and memento of my motherland and to keep it as a treasure. That day I underwent a truly painful psychological experience. Because this experience had left a wound in my heart, at the banquet given by patriots in the homeland in my honour after my triumphal return home, I spoke first about that experience.

I walked slowly towards the opposite side of the river singing quietly the Song of the River Amnok:


On the first of March in 1919

I crossed the River Amnok.

The day will come round every year

I’ll return when my work is done.


Blue waters of Amnok, my homeland,

Wait the day I return to you.

I crossed to attain our dearest wish

I’ll return when we have won.


I looked back at the mountains in the motherland over and again with sorrow and indignation. I thought: My dear Korea, I am leaving you. I know I cannot live even for a moment away from you, but I am crossing the Amnok to win you back. Across this river is a foreign land, but I will not forget you, even in there. Wait for me, my Korea.

Then I sang the song again. As I sang this song, I wondered when I would be able to tread this land again, when I would return to this land where I grew up and where my forefathers’ graves lay. Young as I was, I could not repress my sorrow at this thought. Picturing in my mind the miserable reality of the motherland, I made a grim resolve not to return before Korea had become independent.


6. My Mother


I entered Badaogou at dusk. Having felt uneasy throughout the long journey, I became more strained the moment I reached my house.

But my mother was calmer and more composed than I had expected. She hugged me in delight and said, “You’ve made the 250-mile journey all by yourself. I’ve never done that, but you’ve played the man!” I told her briefly about affairs in Mangyongdae and asked about my father. She said in a low voice that he was well.

From her look I guessed that my father had passed the crisis but was still in danger. She was clearly being very cautious about being overheard or watched.

I gave my younger brothers some biscuits I had bought from the money I had saved from what I had received in Mangyongdae, and settled down for the night to swap experiences.

After supper, however, mother unexpectedly told me to leave at once because the family was under strict surveillance by the enemy. She did not tell me where my father was; she just said that he had escaped, and that I must go. Though normally tender and gracious, on that evening she gave no thought to my will or intention. She ordered me to set out immediately, even though I had travelled hundreds of miles on foot in the coldest season and she had not seen me for two years; she was not allowing me to stay with her even for a night. I was struck dumb with amazement. When she told me to take my brothers with me, I asked her what she was going to do with herself.

“I am waiting for your uncle to return from Sinpha. On his arrival here I will dispose of our household articles and wind up our affairs here. But you must leave quickly.” She cautioned me to slip out quietly and go to Ro Kyong Du’s house in Linjiang. Then she requested a sleigh from Taskmaster Song.

He complied willingly with her request. His real name was Song Pyong Chol, but the people in Badaogou used to call him Taskmaster Song because he always behaved like a taskmaster.

With his help we left Badaogou by sleigh for Linjiang.

All my life as a revolutionary I have met and bid farewell to many people, but that was a particularly memorable experience.

As I set out on a journey again as soon as I had met my mother after a fortnight’s long travel from Mangyongdae, I thought a lot about her.

My mother was of a gentle character. My father was stout-hearted and strict as a revolutionary, so I received a warmer love from my mother.

Being tender-hearted, she had bitterly regretted our parting when I left for Korea to study two years before.

Although she had done nothing to stop me leaving her, being in the presence of such a strong husband who, as my grandmother in Mangyongdae had said, was harder-hearted than a tiger, I saw tears gathering in her eyes.

She was a woman with such a kind heart as to accord a warm welcome to a stranger of my age of thirteen if she knew that he needed shelter after a journey.

One spring day a boy with serious boils on his left leg and neck had come on his uncle’s back to my house from Huchang, Korea. He was living with his uncle because his parents had divorced.

After examining the patient my father told my mother that if the boy underwent an operation on his leg he would be unable to walk for some time, so he should stay at our house during his treatment. She gladly agreed. Once every day after the operation my mother helped my father to mix honey, wheat flour and soda and apply it to the boils. As she dressed (he dirty wounds, she never frowned.

Thanks to her kind care, the boy recovered.

His uncle, when he came to fetch him, offered a one-yuan note to my father, saying, “The medical fee would normally amount to hundreds of yuan, but please accept this as a token of the thanks of a poor family. I hope you will buy some wine with it....” Hearing this, my mother said, “Please don’t bother about the medical fee. It is unreasonable to take it from a poor man. I am sorry I haven’t fed the boy as I should.” But the man insisted on paying. If he had been rich it would have been a different matter. But he was a poor man who had earned the money by gathering fallen pine-needles from the mountain and selling them. So my parents were embarrassed.

My father said to my mother that if he refused to take the money it would be a rejection of the man’s gratitude, so she said that they should accept his thanks. So she went to the market with the money and bought five yards of cotton cloth and gave it to the boy saying that he should have some new clothes made with it for the forthcoming Tano festival. At that time one yard of cotton cloth cost 35 fen. So, she added 75 fen of her own to the one yuan to buy cloth for the boy.

Poor as she was, she was not mean.

She used to say, “A man dies not because he hasn’t money but because he is mortal. Money changes hands.” That was her philosophy.

She was a truly good-natured and sympathetic woman.

When father criticized her once in a while, she never answered back. She would apologize for having done wrong and promise not to do it again. When through mischief we got our clothes dirty, damaged the household utensils or played noisily in the house, grandmother would ask her why she left her children alone without so much as scolding them once.

“I don’t think it necessary to scold them for such a mistake,” she would say simply in reply.

She herself was proud of helping her husband in his revolutionary work, but as a woman she lived through endless hardship that she could hardly endure. She seldom lived in comfort with her husband, because he was always away from home working for the independence of the country. I can say she was happy for about a year, when her husband was teaching at the school in Kangdong, and then at Badaogou for a year or two while they lived a home life together.

With her husband in prison, ailing after his release and moving from place to place under police surveillance, and after his death, with me, her son, fighting away from home for the revolution, she spent her whole life in misery and under constant strain.

When she was living in Mangyongdae, too, she was always on her feet as the eldest daughter-in-law of a family of twelve. What with caring for her husband and her parents-in-law, and what with the household chores of washing the dishes, laundering and weaving, she had not a moment of leisure. During daylight she had to work in the fields without a moment to relax, gazing up at the sun. At a time when feudalism prevailed and etiquette was extremely complicated, the duties of the eldest daughter-in-law of a large family were not simple. When boiled rice was prepared for a meal at times her share was the scorched portion at the bottom of the pot, and when gruel was made she drank the thinnest part of the liquid.

When she was exhausted she would go to church with my aunt. In Songsan where the Military University is now situated there was a Presbyterian church. Many Christians lived in Nam-ri and its vicinity. Some miserable people thought they would go to “Heaven” after death if they believed in Jesus Christ.

When parents went to church their children followed them. In order to increase its congregation the church frequently distributed sweets and notebooks to the children. The children liked such gifts, so they went to Songsan in groups every Sunday.

At first I, too, was interested in the church and sometimes went to Songsan with my friends. But I became tired of the tedious religious ceremony and the monotonous preaching of the minister, so I seldom went to church.

One Sunday, as I ate some bean toffee made by my grandmother, I said to my father, “Father, I won’t go to church today. Attending worship is not interesting.” “Do as you please,” he said to me who was still too young to know the world. “In fact, there is nothing in the church. You may not go. You must believe in your own country and in your own people, rather than in Jesus Christ. And you must make up your mind to do great things for your country.” After that I stopped going to church. When I was a schoolboy in Chilgol, too, I did not go to church although the pupils who did not were under suspicion. I believed that the Christian Gospel had nothing in common with the tragedy which our people were suffering. The Christian doctrine preached humanism, but the call of history for national salvation was more pressing to me who had been anguishing over the destiny of the nation.

My father was an atheist. But, because he had once attended Sungsil Middle School where theology was taught, he had many friends who were Christians, and I had many opportunities to meet them. Some people ask me if I was much influenced by Christianity while I grew up. I was not affected by religion, but I received a great deal of humanitarian assistance from Christians, and in return I had an ideological influence on them.

I do not think the spirit of Christianity that preaches universal peace and harmony contradicts my idea advocating an independent life for man.

Only when my mother went to church in Songsan did I go. She went to church, but she did not believe in Jesus Christ.

One day I asked her quietly, “Mother, do you go to church because you believe in God?” She smiled, shaking her head.

“I do not go to church out of some belief. What is the use of going to ‘Heaven’ after death? Frankly, I go to church to relax.” I felt pity for her and loved her all the more. She often dozed off during prayers. When everyone else stood up to say amen at the end of the minister’s prayer, she would wake up with a start. When she did not wake even after the amen I would shake her to tell her that the prayer was over.

One evening, together with my friends I passed the funeral director’s located by the pass at the back of the village. We children were in dread of it.

As we were passing it a boy shouted, “A ghost is coming.” Surprised by his shout we ran for our lives, without stopping to pick up our shoes when they slipped off.

That evening we could not return home, so we slept at a friend’s house. Early the next morning we returned home, collecting our lost shoes on the way.

Back at home I told mother about it.

“Sing a song when you pass such a place,” she said, “If you sing, nothing will come out for fear of you.” She said this probably because she considered that singing would dispel my fear. After that I used to sing a song as I passed the shed, She was gentle and generous at ordinary times, but before die enemy she was bold and stout-hearted.

In Ponghwa-ri, a few hours after my father’s arrest, some Japanese policemen stormed into my house to search it. They began to search for secret documents. Filled with anger she shouted, “Search all over the house if you want.” She faced the enemy with an indomitable spirit, even throwing around and tearing clothes. The policemen lost heart and left, quite at a loss.

My mother was such a woman.

That evening a snowstorm raged over the River Amnok.

The sound of the howling wind that seemed to sweep away the forest and the roar of beasts in the dark night stung my heart, aching as it was with the sorrow of national misfortune.

Sitting on the sleigh that glided along the boundary between the two countries, holding tightly in my arms my two younger brothers who were trembling with fear, I realized that the road of revolution was not smooth and that it could not be easy for a mother to love her children.

We three, wrapped in a quilt, trembled with cold. The night was pitch-dark and my brothers huddled up against me, murmuring that they were afraid.

We stayed overnight at Ogubi on the Korean side of the river and arrived in Linjiang the next day.

We met Ro Kyong Du and discovered that he was none other than the inn-keeper who had helped us to get a house in Linjiang and called frequently on my father to discuss the destiny of the nation. He warmly welcomed us as important guests and treated us hospitably.

His house had seven rooms arranged on two sides and we stayed in the quietest, second room on the quieter side. There were three guest rooms opposite our room with a kitchen between them. These rooms were always full of guests, most of whom were going to Korea from Manchuria via Linjiang or were coming to Manchuria from Korea. Ro Kyong Du’s was virtually an embarkation house for fighters for Korea’s independence.

A nationalist who was thoroughly anti-Japanese, Ro Kyong Du was a man of mild yet obstinate and stubborn character. He used some of the income from his inn to support independence fighters. Because he made a scant living by selling food I considered him as a labourer, so to speak. I was not sure why he had settled in Linjiang, but rumour had it that he had been in hiding in the Dandong area for a while because of his involvement in the diversion of tungsten ore into illegal channels to gain funds for the independence movement, and that after things had quieted down he had moved to Linjiang for safety.

His home town was Ha-ri, Kophyong Sub-county, Taedong County, South Phyongan Province. Ha-ri was next to Nam-ri, my home town, with the River Sunhwa between them. He was said to have been a hard-working farmer, but after he met my father, he had got into the habit of living away from home because of his involvement in the independence movement. In the course of this he had fallen into disrepute in the eyes of his whole family who blamed him for peddling goods instead of caring about his farm work. At ebb tide he would cross the River Sunhwa to meet my father. For this reason he fed us well and took good care of us.

My family and I owed him a great deal. During our month-long stay in his house he did everything to make us comfortable and always treated us with a kind smile. Once he arranged on our behalf and at his own expense a long-distance call to my father in Fusong. Thus I spoke on the phone for the first time in my life. My father wanted to hear the voices of all his children, so each of us, as well as my mother, spoke on the phone in turn.

Mother had come to Linjiang with my uncle Hyong Gwon on the appointed day. On her arrival, she took us to a Chinese restaurant, telling us we were going sightseeing through the city. She bought a bowl of meat dumplings for each of us and asked us about various things.

At first I thought that she had taken us to the restaurant because she wanted to buy a good meal for her children who had been under the care of other people for a month, but I discovered that she had done so because she wanted to hear how we had been faring.

“Has any suspicious character appeared at the inn looking for you during your stay?” she asked. “Have you ever visited another house to play? How many people know you are staying at Ro’s house?” And then she exhorted us not to reveal our identity anywhere on any account and to be cautious in everything we did until we moved to a new place.

In Linjiang, too, she could not sleep at ease because of her worries about us. A rustle in the night made her wake up and listen with her full attention.

How could a mother who was so anxious about her children’s safety be so firm in sending us to Linjiang?! I think that it was the real love of a mother, a revolutionary love.

No love in the world can be so warm, so true and so eternal as maternal love. Even if a mother scolds or beats her children, she does not hurt them; she loves them. Her love can bring down a star from the sky if it is for her children. A mother’s love knows no reward.

Still now in my dreams I see the image of my mother.


7. The Inheritance


Mr. Hwang who would often call at our home in Badaogou made a great impression on my father’s life. It was he who rescued my father from the hands of the Japanese police in Huchang.

My father had crossed the river to go to Phophyong to liaise with the organizations within the country. There he was caught by policemen lying in ambush near the noodle house which he used as a secret meeting place. It was Son Se Sim, the keeper of the inn at the back of our home, who had informed against my father. This man used to come to our house once every few days and, sitting close by my father, flatter him, calling “Mr. Kim,” “Mr. Kim.” My father had not known that this fellow was a spy.

In order to uncover the underground organization, the police affairs bureau of the government-general kept my father’s arrest in absolute secrecy and dispatched high-ranking officers to the police department of North Phyongan Province to investigate the case. Police Sergeant Akishima and a policeman from the Phophyong police sub-station were ordered to escort my father quickly to the provincial police department in Sinuiju via Huchang police station. The Japanese decided to escort my father to Sinuiju as soon as they arrested him in case the Independence Army troops operating in the area along the River Amnok should try to rescue him.

While my father was locked up in Phophyong police sub-station they would not allow us, the members of his family, to see him. Therefore, we were unaware that he was going to be escorted to Sinuiju. It was Mr. Hwang who told us of it. He said: “Madam, I’ll engage a lawyer even if it costs me my whole fortune. I’ll stay to see his trial and then come back. Don’t worry. Now, would you give me a few bottles of wine if you have some?” Taking with him some bottles of strong wine and a string of dried pollack in a bag, he stealthily followed my father. The police started on me trip early in the morning and when the convoy arrived at the inn in Yonpho-ri village, it was almost lunchtime. Complaining of hunger, the policemen ordered meals at the inn. Mr. Hwang who had trailed along after them entered the inn and, looking round, got the wine bottles out of his bag and invited the police to have a drink. At first they declined because they were escorting a prisoner. But as Mr. Hwang insisted, they began to take a glass or two, praising him, saying, “You’re a very good man.” Mr. Hwang said soothingly that the prisoner should be fed and persuaded the police to unlock the handcuffs to free one of my father’s hands. Mr. Hwang himself drank a great deal but was not drunk. He was a heavy drinker. Finally, Akishima and his Korean subordinate fell asleep and began to snore.

Seizing his chance, my father got free of the handcuffs with the help of Mr. Hwang and escaped with him from the inn. They climbed Ppyojok Hill opposite. When they were nearly at the top, it began to snow. When the policemen woke having recovered from the effect of the wine, they rushed out in pursuit of my father, firing their guns blindly. While they were rushing about firing, my father parted with Mr. Hwang at the top of Ppyojok Hill. After that, they never met again.

After liberation I sent people to many places to find this Mr. Hwang. Somehow the man who had risked his life unhesitatingly to help my father when he was in distress would not appear readily when a good world had been created. Mr. Hwang was a true friend and comrade who would have mounted the scaffold in my father’s place. But for the help of so faithful a comrade as Mr. Hwang, my father would not have been able to escape at the critical moment. It was natural that my father’s friends told him that he was blessed with many good comrades. Because my father did not spare himself in the cause of the country and the people and shared good times and bad, life and death with many independence movement champions, he had many people around him and a great many revolutionary comrades and friends.

During the strategic retreat of the People’s Army in the Korean war, I heard the story of my father’s escape from Mr. Ri Kuk Ro. In the year when the war broke out, in early autumn, the Government of our Republic sent out many members of the Cabinet to the provinces as plenipotentiary delegates in order to speed up the delivery of taxes in kind. Mr. Ri Kuk Ro who was then a minister without portfolio was sent to an area which was a part of North Phyongan Province at that time. When he had completed his assignment, the People’s Army had started a strategic retreat and I was staying in the Kanggye area. One day he came to see me, as he wanted to make a report on his work to the Cabinet, when unexpectedly he changed the conversation to the subject of the inn of Yonpho-ri. Before leaving for Kanggye after completing his work in Huchang County, he went with the county chief for internal affairs to Yonpho-ri, where he looked round the inn from which my father had effected his escape. He said that the building was still there. In those days both Kanggye and Huchang had belonged to North Phyongan Province.

Mr. Ri Kuk Ro had spent all his life in south Korea and abroad before coming over to north Korea prior to the building of our state after liberation. So it was quite surprising and wonderful to hear what he said about the inn at Yonpho-ri. If my father’s exploits had been known widely to the people then as they are now, that would have been fully understandable. But when I heard him talking about the inn at a time when few people knew about it, I was very surprised. Out of curiosity I asked him, “How on earth do you know about my father?” “Twenty years ago,” he answered, “I had heard of Mr. Kim Hyong Jik by reputation. In Jilin a kind person told me about your family. When this war is over, I think I would like to write a biography of your father. But I feel diffident because I am not a good enough writer.” Although he was usually so reticent and quiet, Mr. Ri Kuk Ro talked a great deal that day without hiding his excitement. We left the busy office of the Cabinet and strolled along the deserted banks of the River Tongno (Jangja), talking for more than an hour.

The man who had told him about my father was Hwang Paek Ha, father of Hwang Kwi Hon. Mr. Ri Kuk Ro had been in Manchuria as a member of a delegation of the Singan Association at the time. The mission of the delegation was to provide relief for the Korean nationals who had suffered because of the May 30 and August 1 Uprisings. As there were many victims of the uprisings, the leadership of the Singan Association sent a delegation to Manchuria to relieve them. At that time he had met Choe Il Chon in Fengtian. He it was who advised him to meet Hwang Paek Ha if he should go to Jilin. In accordance with his advice, Mr. Ri Kuk Ro had met Hwang Paek Ha upon his arrival in Jilin and received his help in the relief work. It was then that he had heard about my father and learned that Yonpho-ri was in Huchang County and that Huchang County was a major centre of my father’s activity.

The Singan Association had sent him to Manchuria because he had spent many years teaching in the area. He had once been in charge of training in an Independence Army unit at Naidaoshan, and then taught at Paeksan School in Fusong and at Tongchang School in Huanren County. Therefore, it was not so surprising that he had heard about my father in Manchuria. He went on to say: “The county chief for internal affairs was quite in the dark about the story of the inn. So I criticized him a little, telling him it was a shame for the people of Huchang County not to know about the inn. Then I told him to take good care of the house.” He said with a concerned look that young people who knew nothing of the history of their patriotic forerunners’ struggle would become worthless, yet officials did not seem to educate people properly in the traditions of the struggle.

In that crucible of the war when the destiny of our young Republic, no more than two years old, was at stake, what he said about the need to preserve our revolutionary traditions really filled me with a deep sense of gratitude. I felt warm inside; it seemed as though the spirits of the patriotic martyrs who had fallen fighting for the country had appeared before my eyes all at once calling on me with all the force of their voices to fight on and win, to defend the country to the end. At a time when it was suggested that Korea was going under, the remarks of Mr. Ri Kuk Ro about Yonpho-ri inspired me with strength.

After parting with Mr. Hwang, my father wandered about the mountain all day long before finding a dugout hut at a place called Kadungnyong which was not very far from the inn at Yonpho-ri, and asked the man living there for help. While introducing themselves to each other, my father learned that the other man was named Kim and from Jonju. The man was pleased to meet a revolutionary with the same name as himself in such a deep mountain as Kadungnyong, and with friendly feelings towards my father helped him all he could. The old man Kim hid my father in a stack of millet straw near his hut. It was then that my father got frostbite on his feet and knees and all across the lower part of his body. While he hid in silence with bent limbs in the cold straw stack over several days, he caught an incurable illness. The old man protected my father, thrusting balls of rice or roast potatoes into the stack. Akishima was harangued by his superiors for losing my father. The police department of North Phyongan Province kept a sharp lookout along the River Amnok from Huchang to Jukjon-ri and continued the search for many days. But they never noticed the millet straw stack at Kadungnyong. I think my father understood the situation and chose the right place to hide. In the meantime, the old man Kim went out to the River Amnok to examine whether the river was frozen over. He then taught my father how to cross it with the help of a long pole. The ice was not yet very thick, so the crossing was still hazardous. As he was taught by the old man, my father put the pole on the ice and, pushing it forward with both hands, sprawled ahead. In this manner he crossed the Amnok safely. If you carry a long pole with you, you will not drown even when the ice gives way under you. This was a unique way of crossing a river that was coated with only thin ice. But during this river crossing my father got frostbite again. The frostbite he got at that time was a factor contributing to his death in Fusong a year later.

After safely crossing the river in such a desperate fashion, my father stayed in Taolaizhao village for a few days for treatment before leaving for Fusong, conducted by Kong Yong and Pak Jin Yong who were Independence Army men from the unit stationed in Fusong under the command of Jang Chol Ho; this unit was attached to the nationalist organization Jongui-bu.

I have already mentioned the fact that my father became acquainted with Kong Yong through the introduction of O Tong Jin. Kong Yong came from Pyoktong County. He was a faithful young man guided by my father from the time when he was a member of the Pyoktong Youth Association for Independence and then an armed member of the Pyokpha detached army barracks. He was on very intimate terms with my father. When he came to our home, he always stroked my hair, saying “Song Ju,” “Song Ju.” I called him uncle until he later became a communist and our comrade, our comrade-in-arms. After my father’s death Kong Yong, who was living in Wanlihe, would visit our home at least once every week bringing with him rice and firewood, and console my mother. His wife came to our house with her husband carrying a basketful of edible herbs on her head. He was so grieved at my father’s death that he did not stop wearing his mourning dress for quite a long time.

On his way to Fusong with the two men, my father was captured by mounted bandits near Manjiang and was thus in danger again. That was a time when bandits were rampant everywhere. The confused and uncertain situation at the time when warlords were at daggers drawn in their struggle for influence produced many bandits. Many men from the dregs of society, finding no way out of their hopeless situation, took this road. To make matters worse, the Japanese imperialists infiltrated the bandit groups and manipulated their leaders or bred new bandits for the purpose of weakening the anti-Japanese forces. Moving about in hordes, the bandits would sack the people’s houses or capture and rob wayfarers of their money or belongings. When they were out of humour, they would not hesitate to commit such brutalities as cutting off people’s ears or beheading them. So the two men who were escorting my father were on the alert. My father told the bandits that he was a doctor, but the robbers would not let him go, insisting that a doctor must be rich. My father soothed and humoured them; he said to them that being a doctor who was earning a scant living from his patients, he had no money, that if any one of them was ill, he could cure him, and that back home, he would not report them to the authorities. With this he asked them to let him go, but they would not listen.

At this Kong Yong came to a decision. While the bandits were off their guard smoking opium after dinner, he extinguished the oil lamp and helped my father and Pak Jin Yong to escape before attacking the rascals, some ten in all, with skillful boxing. Then he made off from the den of the bandits. That was a truly dramatic sight, resembling a fight scene in a film. My father often recalled with deep emotion the self-sacrificing deed of Kong Yong in this escape. Kong Yong was a devoted fighter who would not spare himself when it came to helping his comrades.

A few days later my father met Jang Chol Ho in Fusong. He had been a surveyor until a few years previously, but now he was a commander of a company of the Independence Army. When he saw the pale face of my father he was extremely worried and asked him to rest until he was well again, at a place they had arranged for him. Other people, too, advised him to rest. In fact, my father was in such a state at the time that he should not keep going any longer without some treatment. My father realized this. It was the coldest time of the year. But he set out immediately on a journey to the north without thinking even of putting a wet compress on his sick body. Company Commander Jang Chol Ho conducted my father to his destination.

Huadian and Jilin were the places he went to at that time. He went there in a great hurry, ignoring his frostbitten body, to speed up the integration of the independence movement organizations into a single front and the unity of the anti-Japanese patriotic forces. In those days the founding of a political party was at the top of the agenda for the independence movement champions.

With the development of thought and the deepening of the infusion of the revolutionary idea, party politics had become the trend and was spreading rapidly in the political circles of the world. Both bourgeois politicians and communists supported party politics. With the October Revolution as a turning-point. Communist Parties were founded in succession in many Asian countries. With the spread of new ideological trends, the age of party politics began in the East. In 1921 a Communist Party was founded in China, our neighbour.

In this situation the pioneers of Korea pushed ahead with their activities to create an organization capable of political leadership over the national liberation struggle.

Party politics requires as its prerequisite the establishment and development of an idea and ideal to serve as its guiding principle and basis; without this it is scarcely conceivable.

Bourgeois nationalism emerged as an ideological trend in the modern history of our country and guided the national liberation movement, but it withered away without having its own political party. In the arena of the national liberation struggle the new, communist ideological trend emerged in place of bourgeois nationalism. Among the pioneers of the new generation who were aware that bourgeois nationalism could no longer be the banner of the national liberation struggle, the number of adherents to communism increased rapidly. Many progressive elements in the nationalist camp turned to the communist movement.

The line set out at the Kuandian Meeting of changing course did not end simply as a declaration but was carried into reality by the pioneers within the nationalist movement. O Tong Jin was the first to put into effect the line of the Kuandian Meeting. After the meeting many people belonging to the Independence Army unit commanded by O Tong Jin came out in support of the Marxist-Leninist ideology. The Japanese imperialists called the new force that appeared in this period the “third force.” The mid-1920s, when my father escaped from the grip of the Japanese police and went to Jilin via Fusong, was a period when the nationalist movement was being broken up between the reformists who sought a change of course and the conservatives who opposed this.

 With a clear understanding of the situation, my father decided that it was time to found a political organization which would be capable of carrying the idea of reorientation into effect. The nationalist movement of the Koreans in Manchuria had so far been conducted with the idea of restoring state power primarily through direct armed operations and through activities for self-government mainly with regard to education and the people’s livelihood. But they had no organization which could provide political leadership for this movement. So my father, together with the nationalists of the reformist group active in the Jilin area, set about preparing for the foundation of a new organization capable of giving political leadership to all the military organizations and self-government bodies scattered across Manchuria.

The first thing done in this regard was the convening of a meeting at Niumaxiang in Jilin at the suggestion of my father. The meeting took place at the house of Pak Ki Baek (the father of Pak Il Pha) at the foot of Mt. Beishan, Jilin, early in 1925. It was attended by Ryang Ki Thak, Hyon Ha Juk, O Tong Jin, Jang Chol Ho, Kim Sa Hon, Ko Won Am, Kwak Jong Dae and others who were the veterans or the leaders of medium standing of the independence movement. They unanimously recognized the need for a political organization capable of providing unified leadership for the independence movement and adopted a decision by common consent on founding a single party in the near future. The meeting discussed various important problems relating to the founding of the party. According to what Ri Kwan Rin remembered, there was a particularly lively discussion at the meeting with regard to the name of the party. The question was whether the party would be called the Korean Revolutionary Party or the Revolutionary Party of Koryo. It was agreed in the end that the name was important, but that it was still more important to lay down proper duties and a proper programme for the party in line with the aim of their activities. So they settled on naming it the Revolutionary Party of Koryo and passed on to debating its programme.

After a year the leaders of the independence movement who attended the Niumaxiang Meeting held a joint conference with delegates from the Chondoist reformist group and from the Hyongphyong Association from the homeland, as well as with delegates from the Maritime Province of Siberia, at which they formed the Revolutionary Party of Koryo with the aim of “abolishing the present system of private property and doing away with the existing state organization so as to build a unitary world state based on communist institutions.” My ailing father was unable to attend this conference. After looking round Beishan and Jiangnan Parks and meeting the cadres of the young men’s organization in Xinantun, my father returned to Fusong and told us over the telephone to leave Linjiang. After travelling a short distance from Linjiang, we met two Independence Army men sent by Company Commander Jang Chol Ho. They wore mourners’ hats, and this was to evade the suspicious eyes of the special agents. We set out for Fusong in the horse-drawn carriage they had brought with them. Father came out as far as Daying, some 10 miles from Fusong, to meet us. I felt as if all my anxieties were gone when I saw father smiling brightly, though looking unwell. Leading my younger brothers by the hand I went running up to him. Even before I could greet him, my brothers had seized him and poured out what they had kept in their hearts for two months. While answering all their childish questions, father kept his eyes steadily on my face.

“I can see the water of the homeland has really done you good! After I sent you home to Korea, I could hardly sleep. And here you are back, having become so grown-up and strong!” said father joyfully.

That night our family sat in a happy circle and talked until late, saying everything we wanted to tell one another. That was when I heard of Mr. Hwang and old Mr. Kim from Jonju who had helped my father to escape, and of the saga of Kong Yong in the bandits’ lair in Man-Jiang.

While I was talking about what I had seen and felt in the homeland, I told my father of my resolve never to cross the River Amnok again before Korea had regained her independence. Father looked at me with satisfaction; then he supported my resolve by saying that that was what a son of Korea should naturally do. Then he remarked that I should not think that my study of Korea had ended at Changdok School; I should continue to study with greater zeal to understand the homeland and its people even after settling down in a foreign land.

A few days later I started at Fusong Primary School No. 1. My closest friend at that school was Zhang Wei-hua, a Chinese boy. He was a son of the Chinese who was the second or third richest man in Fusong. There were dozens of private soldiers at his house. Almost all me insam (ginseng) farms in Donggang, Fusong County, belonged to the Zhangs. Every autumn they dug up insam roots and took them to other provinces on horses or donkeys to sell them. When they were going to other places to sell insam, their private soldiers would stand guard along the route. Although the father of Zhang Wei-hua was a wealthy and well-known man, he was a man of conscience who hated imperialism and loved his country. So was his son. In later years when I was engaged in my revolutionary activities, I was saved many times thanks to their help.

Among the Korean pupils, Ko Jae Bong, Ko Jae Ryong, Ko Jae Rim and Ko Jae Su were my friends.

In the days when my father was conducting revolutionary activities in and around Fusong, the situation was very unfavourable because the reactionary Chinese warlords had turned pro-Japanese and were obstructing the activities of the Korean patriots in every possible way. Moreover, my father’s health was not good owing to the aftereffects of the terrible torture inflicted on him in Pyongyang and in Phophyong and of his frostbite. Nevertheless, my father did not slacken his revolutionary struggle in the least.

A new doorplate outside our house in the street of Xiaonanmen read “Murim Surgery.” In fact, my father was not in a position to treat any patients. Rather, he needed treatment himself. But before long he set off again on a trip. Everyone tried to dissuade him. Jang Chol Ho, Kong Yong, Pak Jin Yong and all the other independence movement fighters in Fusong remonstrated against the trip. Uncle Hyong Gwon and I tried to stop him, and even my mother who normally supported and backed up silently whatever he did entreated him to refrain from going for this once.

But he stuck to his decision and left Fusong. My father was so uneasy at the news that, because the upper levels of the Independence Army units operating in the area of Naidaoshan were not united and were squabbling in several factions for influence, the army was in danger of disintegration.

On the instructions of Jang Chol Ho, a man escorted my father to Antu. When he left Fusong, he took some ten kilogrammes of millet and a pot of bean paste for two men’s provisions in a knapsack, and carried an axe and a pistol with him. They would have to go hundreds of miles across a deserted country to reach their destination. They had a hard time going through the no-man’s-land, I heard later. At night they built a campfire in the open and slept, leaning against a pile of logs with nothing to cover them. My father kept coughing so hard that the other man was constantly worried.

Even after his return from Antu, he continued to cough violently. A few days later, in spite of the bad state of his health, he began to work to obtain authorization for the opening of Paeksan School. This was a school with a long history established by the Korean exiles and patriotic forerunners in the Fusong area in cooperation with the farmers at a time when a movement to establish private schools was briskly under way in the homeland. At first, the school was no more than the size of Sunhwa Private Village School for the study of Chinese classics in Mangyongdae which my father attended. So it was as big as a two-room farm house of today. Yet, the tiny Paeksan School had to be closed down for a long time because of a lack of funds. When our family moved to Fusong, a movement was afoot to reopen the school. Since the local warlord in authority backed up by the Japanese imperialists would not readily grant permission for the opening of the school, my father became extremely concerned.

Wherever he went, my father used to pay primary attention to the education movement and set up schools. On the eve of its opening, my father went to the school with Jang Chol Ho, taking with them on carts desks and chairs made at a woodworking mill. Although he did not stop working as a doctor at the “Murim Surgery,” his heart was always at the school. He became honorary headmaster of Paeksan School. He did not teach in person, but he showed interest in what was taught and in the work of supporting the school. He often made speeches and guided the extracurricular activities of the children at the school.

The Mother Tongue Reader used at Paeksan School was written by my father. After opening the school, he went to Sanyuanpu in Liuhe County, and then wrote the textbook with someone named Pak Ki Baek (Pak Pom Jo). When he wrote teaching materials, interested people took them to Sanyuanpu for printing, and the printed books were distributed around Manchuria. There was a printing house in Sanyuanpu under the control of the political organization Jongui-bu, and this printed school textbooks. Printing was done by lithography, and the books printed there were attractive. The textbooks printed there were used at Korean schools in Manchuria.

My father called many meetings in Fusong to discuss problems of education and dispatched able people to Antu, Huadian, Dunhua, Changbai and other areas to set up schools and night schools everywhere there were Koreans. The Yugyong School in Deyongcun village, Shibadaogou, Changbai County, was also founded in those days. Ri Je U who later joined the Korean Revolutionary Army and became a member of the Down-with-Imperialism Union, and anti-Japanese fighter Kang Ton attended this school.

As matters at Paeksan School were a success, my father again toured other parts of Manchuria and conducted work among the independence movement fighters. The main part of his activities in this period was the struggle for achieving the unity and cohesion of the independence movement. Since top of the agenda was the founding of a single party capable of implementing the line of the change of course, the problem of achieving the unity of the ranks of the independence movement which was the prerequisite for it became an urgent task which nobody could ignore. My father gave his last years entirely to this cause.

A new era was ushered in when the three organizations of Jongui-bu, Sinmin-bu and Chamui-bu came into being in Manchuria as a result of the amalgamation of the many small independence movement organizations that had had their own areas of influence in the three provinces of Manchuria. But these three organizations, too, were given to squabbling to expand their spheres of influence, only to be scorned by the people at large.

In this situation my father, who was convinced that unity was the most pressing historical need, held discussions about the measures for achieving the unity and cohesion of the ranks of the independence movement with representatives from the Korean National Association and military organizations at home and abroad in Fusong in August 1925, and formed the Association for the Promotion of the Alliance of National Organizations. My father’s intention was apparently to hasten the establishment of a single party through the activities of this association. He worked against time every day, busier than ever. It seems that he realized that his days were numbered.

Not long after that my father became seriously ill. From the spring of 1926 he was confined to bed. Hearing of his illness, many people from different places visited our house. Every time I came home from school I saw five or six pairs of unfamiliar shoes on the earthen verandah. The people came to inquire after the condition of my father, bringing medicines they believed to be efficacious for his health, and consoled him. However poor they were, nearly everyone of them brought at least one insam root. But my father’s illness was too far-gone, so medicine had no effect on him. Spring was bringing a rich lifeblood to everything alive on Earth and everything was singing of the new season. But alas, this could not restore my father’s health, even though everyone desired it so earnestly.

I was too worried to go to school in peace. One morning I turned back halfway to school and went home. I was anxious about father.

“Why don’t you go to school?” he asked me sternly. I heaved a deep sigh, unable to say anything in reply. “Go,” he said. “A man with such a weak heart will never do anything great.” Thus he made me go to school.

One day O Tong Jin came from Jilin with Jang Chol Ho to see my father. In accordance with the line set out at the Fusong conference he had been working hard to unite the anti-Japanese patriotic forces, but as things had not turned out as he had desired, he had been in anguish. So, he said, he had come partly to discuss the matter with my father and partly to ask how he was. With this, he indignantly denounced those who were guilty of separatist acts. The hot-tempered Jang Chol Ho declared in a rage that they should break with those diehards.

My father who had been listening attentively to the two men took both of them by the hand and said, “No, that won’t do. It may be a hard job, but we must bring about unity at all costs. We won’t win independence before we are united and rise in arms against the enemy.” After they had left, father spoke of the factional strife which had continued from the period of the Ri dynasty, and he deplored the fact that when the country had been lost due to the factional struggle, the people who professed themselves to be champions of the independence movement were still unaware of the truth and, split into many small groups, were squabbling in factions. Without doing away with the factional strife, he went on to say, it was impossible either to achieve the independence of the country or to bring about civilization and enlightenment. Factional strife is a cause of decline in national strength and attracts foreign forces. When foreign forces come in, the country will go to ruin. During your generation it is imperative to root out the factional strife, achieve unity and rouse the masses.

When I returned home from school to nurse him, father had me sit by his bedside and told me about many things. They were mainly accounts of his experiences in life, and they were very instructive. One thing I cannot forget to this day is his remark about how a revolutionary should be prepared for three contingencies.

“Wherever he may go, a revolutionary must always be prepared for three contingencies. He must be prepared for death from hunger, death from a beating and death from the cold; yet he must stick to the high aim he set himself at the outset.” I engraved these words of my father deep on my heart. His remarks about friends and friendship were also instructive.

“A man must not forget the friends he has gained in adversity. One must rely on one’s parents at home and on one’s friends outside; that is what is traditionally said, and it is an important saying. True friends who will be one’s partners through thick and thin are dearer than one’s brothers.” That day he talked for a long time about friends and friendship. He said: I began the struggle by winning comrades. There are people who obtain money or pistols to begin the independence movement, but I started by seeking in all places for good comrades. Good comrades will not fall from heaven nor spring out of the earth. They must be looked for at great cost by oneself just as gold or precious stones are prospected for, and must be fostered. That is why I have moved around Korea and the wilderness of Manchuria all my life until my feet were blistered. Your mother, too, has had a hard time being hospitable to guests, going hungry all her life. If you have a true heart that is dedicated to the country and the people, you can obtain many good comrades. What matters is the mind and the heart. Even without money people can be comrades if they are like-minded. This is why friendship that is hard to obtain with a mountain of money can be acquired with only a glass of hot water or a slice of potato. I have neither a fortune nor power, but I have a great many good friends. If this can be called a fortune, I think I have the greatest of fortunes. I have never grudged my comrades anything. That is why my comrades have protected me at the risk of their lives. It is because my comrades have helped me selflessly that I have been able to devote myself to the movement for national liberation in the face of every manner of hardship and trial.

He said that even in his sickbed he missed his friends more than anything else, and told me over and over again to find many good comrades.

 “Only he who will die for the sake of his comrades will find good comrades.” Still now this teaching given me by my father remains deeply impressed on my mind.

For several months my mother nursed my father devotedly as he fought desperately against his illness. Her devotion was unequalled and really touching. But even her superhuman exertions could not save my father.

On June 5, 1926, my father passed away under the small roof of a hut in a foreign land hundreds of miles away from his home, grieving over his lost country.

“When we were leaving our home, we said we would achieve independence and return together. But I am afraid I cannot return. When the country wins its independence, you return home with Song Ju. I do not want to depart without attaining my aim. I entrust Song Ju to you. I wanted to give him education up to secondary school, but I think that is impossible. If you can, please send him to secondary school at least, even if you must live on gruel to do so. Then, as for the younger boys, everything will depend on Song Ju.”

My father’s last wish imparted to my mother began with these words. Handing over to her the two pistols he had always carried with him, he said:

“If these guns are discovered after my death, there will be trouble. So bury them and then give them to Song Ju when he has grown up and starts on the road of struggle.”

Then he gave us three brothers his last injunction:

“I am departing without attaining my aim. But I believe in you. You must not forget that you belong to the country and the people. You must win back your country at all costs even if your bones are broken and your bodies are torn apart.”

I wept loudly. My father’s death let loose my pent-up grief for my lost country. My father died after passing his life enduring every manner of hardship and suffering for the sake of his country. Even when he was mortally ill because of repeated torture and severe frostbite, he did not give in but went to meet the people and his comrades. When he was exhausted, he walked with a cane, and when he was hungry, he allayed his hunger by eating snow. He never looked back or wavered; he always walked straight forward. My father did not take sides with any faction or seek power but dedicated his whole life without hesitation to the cause of national liberation and the working people’s well-being. He was free from worldly desires and self-interest. When he had money, he suppressed his desire to buy sweets for his children and saved it up and bought an organ, which he contributed to a school. He placed his fellow-countrymen above himself, and his motherland above his family. He moved forward without faltering in the teeth of the cold wind. He lived as a man of integrity and an upright revolutionary. I never once heard my father talking about household affairs. I inherited a great deal from my father in ideological and spiritual wealth but nothing in the form of property and money. The farm implements and household utensils now on display in my old house are all legacies left behind by my grandfather, not by my father.

The thought of “Aim High,” being prepared for the three contingencies, the idea of gaining comrades, and two pistols—this was all I received from my father. My heritage was such that it portended great hardship and sacrifice for me. Nevertheless, there could be no better heritage for me.

My father was accorded a public funeral. On the day of the funeral the street of Xiaonanmen was crowded with mourners. Many of his comrades, friends and disciples who had followed and respected him in his lifetime, as well as his former patients, streamed from all parts of north and south Manchuria, Jiandao and from the homeland. Even the head of Fusong County called with a bundle of gilt incense papers. He burned incense and bowed in tears before the spirit of my departed father.

It was decided that my father’s body would be laid to rest at Yangdicun on the bank of the River Toudao-Songhua some four kilometres from Xiaonanmen. During his lifetime my father had often visited the village. He was great friends with the villagers, as close as brothers and sisters, and talked with them and treated their illnesses. After his death, my father would have wished to be among the people with whom he had been so close. That day the four-kilometre-long road from Xiaonanmen to Yangdicun was a sea of wailing. The independence movement followers who were carrying the coffin wept bitterly. The Korean women in the Fusong area wore white ribbons in their hair for a fortnight after the funeral.

Thus I lost my father. I lost my father overnight, and with him a teacher and leader. He was my flesh and blood who had given me a life and, at the same time, a teacher and leader who had led me along the path of the revolution from my early years. His death was a heavy blow to me. The irreparable loss left a hollow in my heart. At times I would go and sit alone in tears on the riverside gazing at the far-off sky of the homeland.

To think back, my father’s affection for me had been extraordinary. After I had grown a little, he used to tell me earnestly about the future of our country and people. His love for me had been stern and yet infinitely deep. Now I could no longer receive or expect such love and such guidance.

But what lifted me up from the depth of grief was the extraordinary heritage my father had left me: “Aim High,” preparedness for the three contingencies, the gaining of comrades and two pistols. When I was at a loss what to do in my inconsolable and sombre grief, I drew strength from my inheritance and began to seek the path I must follow.



CHAPTER 2: Unforgettable Huandian



1. Hwasong Uisuk School


After my father’s funeral, his friends stayed in Fusong for a few days to discuss my future.

It was in mid-June of 1926 that I left for Hwasong Uisuk School at their recommendation.

That was immediately after the June 10th Independence Movement in our country.

This movement was a mass anti-Japanese demonstration organized by the communists who had recently appeared in the arena of the national liberation struggle following the March First Popular Uprising.

As is well known, the March First Popular Uprising was a turning point in the national liberation struggle in our country in its shift from the nationalist to the communist movement. Among the forerunners who realized through the March First Popular Uprising that bourgeois nationalism could no longer be the banner of the national liberation struggle, the trend to follow the new current of thought rapidly increased, and through their activities Marxism-Leninism spread quickly.

In the year after the March First Popular Uprising a working-class organization called the Labour Mutual-aid Association appeared in Seoul and, following this, mass organizations such as peasant organizations, youth organizations and women’s organizations came into being one after another.

Under the guidance of such organizations, an energetic mass struggle got under way in our country from the beginning of the 1920s to defend the rights and interests of the proletarian masses and oppose the colonial policy of the Japanese imperialists. In 1921 the dockers of Pusan went out on a general strike. Following this, successive workers’ strikes broke out in such industrial centres as Seoul, Pyongyang and Inchon, as well as in many of the provinces. Under the influence of the working-class movement, tenant disputes against Japanese landowners and vicious Korean landlords swept the Namuri Plain in Jaeryong and the Amthae Island. Also, students went on strike in many places in opposition to the colonial slave education and in demand of academic freedom.

By replacing their “sabre rule” with the silk cloak of “civil government” and drawing some pro-Japanese elements into the “Advisory Council,” the Japanese imperialists pretended to encourage the participation of Koreans in politics. At the same time, under the specious title of “promoting the expression of public opinion,” they permitted the publication of some Korean newspapers and magazines and made a fuss as if an era of prosperity had come. However, our nation would not tolerate such trickery and continued its struggle against the aggressors.

The trend of the development of the mass movement, particularly the working-class movement, called for a powerful political force capable of giving it unified leadership. To meet this historic demand, the Korean Communist Party was founded in Seoul in April 1925. At that time many political parties of the working class were appearing in a number of European countries, too.

The Korean Communist Party did not fulfil its role effectively as the vanguard of the working class because of some essential limitations—its lack of a guiding ideology that conformed with the actual situation, and its failure to achieve the unity of its ranks and strike root deep among the masses. However, its foundation, marking as it did an important event that demonstrated the change of the old current of thought to a new one and the qualitative change in the national liberation struggle, gave impetus to the development of the mass movement, particularly the labour movement, the peasant movement and the youth movement, as well as of the national liberation movement.

The communists started to prepare for a fresh anti-Japanese demonstration on a nationwide scale.

It was around this time that Sunjong, the last King of the Ri dynasty, died. His death stimulated the anti-Japanese feelings of the Korean nation. At the news of the King’s death Koreans, irrespective of age and sex, wept loudly in mourning. Even though the country had been ruined Sunjong, as the last King, symbolized the Ri dynasty. However, now that he was dead Koreans’ pent-up sorrow for their ruined country again burst out. The following song sung by some students to the band music added to the grief of the mourners.


Farewell to you, Changdok Palace

For ever and ever.

Go I shall to my grave

To a place forlorn.

Now that I am leaving you,

When shall I come again?

May the 20-million

Korean people thrive.


Their wailing was a great irritation to the Japanese occupationists.

Wherever Koreans gathered in crowds to mourn, Japanese mounted policemen immediately moved in and dispersed them with clubs and by force of arms. Even pupils from elementary schools were clubbed mercilessly. What the Japanese desired was that Koreans should not grieve over the ruin of their country and should shut their mouths, without weeping over the death of their King. This was the true nature of rule by the governor-general who disguised his “sabre rule” with the “civil government.” The enemy’s outrageous repression of our people added fuel to their burning anti-Japanese feelings.

Taking advantage of the anti-Japanese spirit of the popular masses, the communists planned a nationwide anti-Japanese demonstration on the day of the funeral of Sunjong and secretly pushed ahead with preparations for it.

However, the secret was betrayed to the Japanese imperialists by factionalists who had found their way onto the preparatory committee for the demonstration. The preparations for the anti-Japanese demonstration were ruthlessly suppressed.

However, patriotic people did not discontinue the preparations.

On June 10 when the bier of Sunjong was passing through the streets, tens of thousands of Seoul citizens launched a mass demonstration shouting, “Long live the independence of Korea!”, “Japanese troops, get out!” and “Fighters for Korean independence, unite!” Their grudges and anger pent up during the seven years of “civil government” burst out at last into an outcry of “Hurrah for independence!” Even pupils from elementary schools who were only twelve years of age joined the demonstration. The demonstrators grappled courageously with the enemy’s armed soldiers and policemen.

The June 10th Independence Movement failed to overcome the ruthless suppression by the Japanese imperialists because of the machinations of the factionalists. If the bourgeois nationalists’ worship of the great powers was a basic reason for the failure of the March First Popular Uprising, the factional activities of the early communists were the root cause that ruined the June 10th Independence Movement. In leading this struggle the Tuesday group worked from their factionalist point of view, whereas the Seoul group resorted to obstructive moves to oppose them.

After the June 10th Independence Movement, most of the principal figures in the leadership body of the Korean Communist Party were arrested.

As a result of the June 10th Independence Movement the deceitful-ness and craftiness of “civil government” were revealed to the whole world. Through this movement our people demonstrated their indomitable will and fighting spirit to regain their country and defend their national dignity whatever the adversity.

If the communists had rid themselves of factionalism and organized and led this struggle in a unified way, the June 10th Independence Movement would have expanded and developed as a nationwide struggle and a heavier blow would have been dealt to the colonial rule of the Japanese imperialists.

This movement left a serious lesson that without getting rid of factions it would be impossible to achieve either the development of the communist movement or the victory of the anti-Japanese national liberation struggle.

In those days I analysed the result of this movement in my own way. I wondered why the organizers of this struggle had used the same peaceful method which had been applied at the time of the March First Popular Uprising.

There is a saying, “Train soldiers for a thousand days to use them for a day.” Likewise, if one wants to send the popular masses to the battlefield once, one must educate and organize them sufficiently and train them well.

However, the organizers and leaders of the June 10th Independence Movement sent tens of thousands of empty-handed people to confront armed soldiers and policemen, having failed to make full preparations. S0 it was natural that the outcome should be tragic.

I could not sleep because of my indignation at the setbacks suffered by the anti-Japanese movement, each time entailing wholesale deaths. The failure of this movement made my blood run hot and made me still more firmly determined to defeat the Japanese imperialists and regain my country.

With this ideological urge I resolved to make my days at Hwasong Uisuk School worthy of the teachings of my departed father, of the wishes of my mother and of the expectations of the people.

Hwasong Uisuk School was a two-year military and political school belonging to Jongui-bu. The school was founded at the beginning of 1925 with a view to training cadres for the Independence Army.

Having found the way to national resurrection in building up strength, the fighters for independence and the patriotic champions of the enlightenment movement worked hard to establish military schools to train military personnel at the same time as founding general schools. Thanks to their efforts many military schools were established in various parts of Manchuria. Among them were Xinxing Training School (Liuhe County), Shiliping Military Academy (Wangqing County), Xiaoshahe Training School (Antu County) and Hwasong Uisuk School (Huadian County).

Such leaders of the independence movement as Ryang Ki Thak, Ri Si Yong, O Tong Jin, Ri Pom Sok, Kim Kyu Sik and Kim Jwa Jin played the central role in the establishment of these military schools.

Those admitted to Hwasong Uisuk School were servicemen on active duty selected from companies under Jongui-bu. The candidates from the different companies were allotted by the higher authorities, and they were selected from among the best soldiers. When they had finished the two-year course new ranks were conferred on them according to merit and they were returned to the companies they had come from. Outside the Independence Army some young people entered this school on the recommendation of individuals. Such cases, however, were rare. So, young people with a noble will and who were in the prime of their life wanted to go to this school.

Now there remain very few of my fellow students from Hwasong Uisuk School who can look back upon those days.

When my father was alive I worried little about my future and household affairs. After he had passed away, however, I was obliged to consider my future and to deal with the many complex problems which were raised in household management.

I was at my wits end because of the sorrow and distress caused me by the death of my father. However, I pondered over my future with the single desire to devote my whole life to the independence movement, whatever the cost, as my father had hoped, and with the ambition to go to a higher school, if the circumstances permitted it, even though it might be a burden to my mother.

In his will my father had wished that I be sent to a secondary school. However, my family was so poor that I felt I could not express my wish to go to a higher school. If I were to go back to school my mother would have to bear the heavy burden of raising money for my school fees. However, the small amount of money my mother was getting for doing laundry and needlework for others was not enough to pay for my education, it being spent on keeping our poor family.

After my father died my uncle Hyong Gwon, who had been his assistant, soon lost his job in the dispensary. There was only a small amount of medicine left in the dispensary by my father.

It was at this time that my father’s friends advised me to go to Hwasong Uisuk School. The will my father left to my mother included the matter of my going to a higher school. My father’s last request addressed to my mother and uncle was to write to his friends and get their help in sending me to a higher school.

My mother wrote to many people, as he had requested. My mother had to do so, although she regretted it, because the world was so cruel that it was impossible to live even for a single day without the help of kindness. So the question of my future was presented for discussion among those fighters for independence who remained in Fusong after my father’s funeral.

This is what O Tong Jin told me: I have sent a letter of introduction to Uisan Choe Tong O for you to go to Hwasong Uisuk School. A military education there will meet your ambition. As your father said, independence cannot be attained through argument. We will take responsibility for your future after your graduation from that school. So study all you can at school.

It appeared that my father’s friends wanted to train me as a reserve cadre who would succeed their generation in the future. It was good that the leaders of the Independence Army were concerned about training reserve cadres and attached importance to it.

I readily agreed to O Tong Jin’s proposal. I was extremely grateful to the independence fighters for their kind concern about my future. Their intention to send me to a military school and train me for the independence movement conformed with my desire to devote my whole life to the cause of national liberation. My view in those days was that we could defeat the Japanese imperialists only through a military confrontation and that one could stand in the front rank of the independence movement only when one had a military knowledge. The way was open now for me to realize my dream.

I regarded Hwasong Uisuk School as a short cut to Joining the anti-Japanese struggle for independence, so I hastily began to make preparations with a light heart for my journey to Huadian.

 Once a foreign statesman asked me: “Mr. President, how did it happen that you, a communist, went to a military school run by nationalists?” This must seem quite puzzling.

It was when I had not yet joined the communist movement that I entered Hwasong Uisuk School. My world outlook was not at a sufficiently mature stage for me to regard Marxism-Leninism completely as my doctrine. All I had learned about communism at that time was what I had read in Fusong in such pamphlets as The Fundamentals of Socialism and The Biography of Lenin. I was attracted to a socialist and communist society through the rumours I heard about the development of the newly-born Soviet Union where the idea of socialism had been realized.

There were more nationalists than communists around me. The teachers at the schools I attended in various places advocated nationalist ideas more than communist ones. We were surrounded by nationalism, which, though destined to give way to a new trend of thought, had more than half a century of history, and its influence could not be ignored.

The fact that there were many sturdy young people at Hwasong Uisuk School and that it was giving free political and military education made me resolve to go to Huadian. Better educational conditions than those at this school were inconceivable for me who wanted to go to a higher school although I was in no position to pay any school fees and harboured the ambition to start on the road of national restoration in accordance with the will of my father.

Frankly speaking, in those days I pinned great hope on the education provided at Hwasong Uisuk School. I was delighted to think that after being taught at the school for two years I would have acquired a military knowledge, to say nothing of the fact that I would have received a secondary education.

However, when I actually left home I frequently looked behind me even as I stepped forward. As I turned back to see Yangdicun where my father’s remains were buried and my mother and younger brothers who were far away, watching me out of sight, I could not move my feet easily because of my distraction.

I was worried about my mother who would have a hard time of it with my little brothers. In those days it was not easy for a mother to support her family single-handedly in such a godforsaken place as Fusong.

I calmed myself by thinking over the words of my mother, that a man who has started on a journey should not look back.

It was about 75 miles from Fusong to Huadian. Rich people made the journey in comfort in a covered carriage called a Hanlinche. But I could not afford to do so because I had only a little travel money.

Huadian was a mountain town under the jurisdiction of Jilin Province. Situated 12 to 15 miles away from the confluence of the River Songhua and the River Huifa it was a leading centre of the independence movement in south Manchuria.

When I started on my journey, one fighter for independence in Fusong said that Hwasong Uisuk School was in extremely strained circumstances, and he expressed his worry that I would have difficulties. I imagined that the board and lodging at Hwasong Uisuk School would be poor because the Independence Army as a whole was in financial difficulties. However, such a difficulty was no problem for me. I, who had been living on gruel and had dressed in cotton clothes from my childhood, believed that Hwasong Uisuk School could not be poorer than my family in Mangyongdae, however strained its circumstances might be.

What made me uneasy was the thought of whether Hwasong Uisuk School would receive me who was young and had no record of military service. However, the fact that Kim Si U was in Huadian and that my father’s friends such as Kang Je Ha were working at Hwasong Uisuk School was a great reassurance for me.

When I got to Huadian I first visited Kim Si U’s home, as my mother had told me. He was the Huadian area controller under Jongui-bu. The area control office was a self-governing organization which helped the Koreans residing in the district under its control in their everyday life. There were such offices in Fusong and Panshi, as well as in such localities as Kuandian, Wangqingmen and Sanyuanpu.

Kim Si U was a fighter for independence who had known my father from the time when he was in Jasong County. After the March First Popular Uprising he went to China and conducted his activities in the area of Linjiang and Dandong. He moved to Huadian in 1924. Having built a rice mill there he raised money for the independence movement while working hard to enlighten the masses.

The rice mill he built was the Yongphung Rice Mill situated in Nanda Street. While performing his duties as an area controller he obtained money by operating the rice mill to provide food for the Independence Army and give financial support to Hwasong Uisuk School and the nearby model elementary school for Koreans.

From my days in Linjiang I had followed with awe and highly respected him, being fascinated by his openhearted character typical of a northern man and by his strong disposition. He loved me dearly like his own son.

Kim Si U and his wife who were mending a hencoop in the yard, received me gladly, shouting for joy as I appeared. There were so many chickens in the yard that they got in my way.

Kim Si U took me to Hwasong Uisuk School.

He wore clothes that gave off the smell of rice bran, typical of a rice-dealer.

Hwasong Uisuk School was situated on the banks of the River Huifa. It had a steep, straw-thatched roof and blackish walls of blue bricks common to Manchuria, and it stood against a forest of Zelkova trees. The hostel of Hwasong Uisuk School was situated behind the school building with the playground between them.

Both the school building and the hostel were much shabbier than I had imagined, but that did not matter. I suppressed my misgivings by thinking that it would be fine if I could only learn a lot of good things, although the building was shabby.

Nevertheless, the school grounds were spacious and tidy.

Carefully I examined the whole appearance of Hwasong Uisuk School with hope and curiosity.

I remembered how once, when we were living in Badaogou, O Tong Jin had called on us one cold winter day, not even wearing a fur cap, and consulted my father about the founding of Hwasong Uisuk School.

Having arrived at the school as a new student and looked around it, I was full of deep emotions.

The headmaster, a middle-aged, shortish man with a receding hairline and a pleasant appearance, received me in his office. He was Uisan Choe Tong O.

Uisan was a disciple of Son Pyong Hui, the third high priest of Chondoism and one of the leaders of the March First Popular Uprising who were known as the thirty-three people. He graduated from the training school founded by Son Pyong Hui, and then started in the independence movement by building a village schoolhouse in Uiju, his home town, and giving an education to the children of believers in Chondoism. He had taken part in the March First Movement. Later he came to China as an exile and, having opened a Chondoist mission, conducted patriotic activities to propagate religion among the exiles.

The headmaster said to me that he would repent all his life of his failure to be present at my father’s funeral. He and the area controller spoke about my father for a good while.

What Choe Tong O said on that day made a great impression on me. He said: “Song Ju, you have come to our school at the right time. The independence movement has entered a new era which requires talented people. The era of Hong Pom Do and Ryu Rin Sok when people worked in a random way has passed. In order to overcome the tactics and the new types of arms employed by the Japanese, we need our own modern tactics and new types of arms. Who can solve this problem? It is the new generation such as you who should take charge of this and settle it....” The headmaster also told me a lot which could serve as a lesson for me. He said that the board and lodging were poor, but, he urged me to put up with and endure all the difficulties and look forward to the future—the independence of Korea. My first impression of him was that he was gentle and surprisingly eloquent.

That day Kim Si U’s family prepared supper for me. As I sat face to face with people belonging to my father’s generation at a modest table that expressed the sincerity of the host and hostess, I was full of deep emotion.

There was a bottle of alcohol made from cereal at one edge of the round table. I thought that Kim Si U had put it there to drink with his meal. But he poured some into a glass and offered it to me, much to my surprise.

I felt so awkward that I flapped my hands. I was bewildered because this was the first time in my life that I had been treated as a grown-up. True, during my father’s funeral Jang Chol Ho had offered me some alcohol when he saw me so upset. However, he had acted so towards a mourner and no more than that.

Nevertheless, Kim Si U treated me as if I were completely grown up. He also changed his style of speech, making it a little more respectful.

He said: “At the news of your arrival, I thought eagerly of your father. So I saw that a bottle of alcohol was prepared. Whenever your father came to Huadian he would drink the alcohol I offered him at this table. Now you take this glass in place of your father. You are now the head of your family.” Although he offered me the glass as he said this I could not bring myself to take it readily. Although the glass was so small that it could be hidden in the palm of one’s hand, it was loaded with inestimable weight.

At that table where Kim Si U treated me as an adult, I solemnly felt that I should behave like a grown-up for the sake of the country and the nation.

He offered me the room which he used as a bedroom and study. He surprised me by saying that he had discussed the matter with the headmaster and that I should stay at his home without ever thinking of living in the dormitory.

He said that, because my father Kim Hyong Jik had requested him to take good care of me in the letter he wrote in his dying moments, he was under an obligation to do so.

Thus in Fusong and in Huadian my father’s friends behaved with the utmost sincerity towards me. I suppose they did so because they wanted to be loyal to my father. At that time I thought a great deal about their sincerity and faithfulness. That faithfulness was based on the ardent hope of the people belonging to my father’s generation that I would do something for the independence of the country. That hope made me feel a heavy responsibility as a son of Korea, as a member of the new generation. I became fully determined to live up to the expectations of the people by studying and training hard, bearing my father’s last injunctions in mind.

From the following day I started a strange life at Hwasong Uisuk School, a military academy. Choe Tong O took me to a classroom. When they saw me the students expressed their curiosity about such a young fighter from the Independence Army. They seemed to presume mat I was a youngster who had been sent there after running a few errands for one company.

There were more than forty students there, but none of them was as young as me. Most of them were about 20 years of age. Some of them had sparse beards; some had children. All of them were like elder brothers or uncles to me.

As soon as the headmaster had introduced me, the students applauded.

I went to the front row by the window and took the seat the teacher had told me to take.

The student sitting next to me was Pak Cha Sok from the first company. Whenever a new lesson began he briefly whispered into my ear, telling me about the teachers as they entered the classroom.

The teacher whom he introduced with the greatest respect was military instructor Ri Ung. Ri Ung was a member of the military commission under Jongui-bu and had attended Huangpu Military Academy. In those days everyone looked up to graduates from this academy as if they were extraordinary beings. Because his father was running a large chemist’s shop in Seoul he was said to take a lot of insam that was sent to him. He was respected by the students because of his wide knowledge and varied attainments, although he tended to be rather bureaucratic.

Pak Cha Sok told me that Hwasong Uisuk School taught such subjects as the history and geography of Korea, biology, mathematics, physical education, military science and the history of the world revolution. He also wrote down the daily routine of the school on a sheet of paper.

This is how my ties with Pak Cha Sok were established. Later, in the days of the armed struggle, he left an indelible wound in my heart. Although later he was to take a wrong path, in our days at Hwasong Uisuk School he was exceptionally friendly to me, like my own brother.

That afternoon Choe Chang Gol from the sixth company, accompanied by more than 10 of his comrades, came to Kim Si U’s home to visit me. It seemed that their first impression of me had been favourable and that they were curious and felt an urge to talk to me because I had entered the school at a very young age.

Choe Chang Gol had a big scar on his head. His wide forehead and black eyebrows were very manly. He was tall and had a good constitution. So he could have been called handsome but for the scar on his head. There was something free-and-easy in his way of speaking and in his manner which attracted people. During our first meeting he made a great impression on me.

“You say you are only 14 years old, but you seem very advanced for your years. How did you come to serve in the Independence Army at your young age and how is it that you are attending Hwasong Uisuk School?” This was the first thing that Choe Chang Gol asked me. His eyes never left my face, and there was a smile on his lips all the time, as if he had met an intimate friend with whom he had lived for a long time under the same roof.

Briefly I told him what he wanted to know.

When they learned that I was the eldest son of Kim Hyong Jik, they became more friendly towards me, expressing their surprise on one hand and casting respectful glances at me on the other. They asked me many questions in order to learn of my experiences of the country.

A little while later I asked Choe Chang Gol about his time in the Independence Army.

First he told me how he had got the scar on his head. He embellished his story to make it more interesting, sometimes cracking jokes so that it was really splendid. What I remember in particular about his story was that he always spoke of himself in the third person. When he meant, “I did so,” or “I was deceived,” he said, “Choe Chang Gol did so,” “Choe Chang Gol was deceived,” thus provoking a smile from his listeners.

“This happened when Choe Chang Gol was a common soldier under Ryang Se Bong. Once he captured a spy in the vicinity of Kaiyuan. On his way back he stopped at an inn. But that extremely careless Choe Chang Gol started nodding off with the spy in front of him. He was tired after walking many miles. Meanwhile the spy undid the rope that bound him, hit Choe Chang Gol on the head with an axe and escaped. Fortunately he did not strike very hard. The ‘decoration’ on Choe Chang Gol’s head had this dismal history. If a man is careless, he will suffer the same fate as Choe Chang Gol.” After a few hours of heart-to-heart talks I found him to be a very interesting man. I made friends with hundreds and thousands of people in my youth. However, this was the first time I had met such a buffoon as Choe Chang Gol who, referring to himself in the third person all the time, skilfully wove his stories.

Afterwards I learned more about his personal history. His father ran a small hotel in Fushun. His father had wanted him to join the business and help him. However, Choe Chang Gol left home and joined the army to help win the country’s independence. When he was serving in the Independence Army his grandmother had come to Sanyuanpu many times in order to persuade her grandson to go home. However, Choe Chang Gol never gave in. Each time she came, he said: With the country ruined, it is not the time to keep our hotel.

I became friendly with Choe Chang Gol, Kim Ri Gap, Kye Yong Chun, Ri Je U, Pak Kun Won, Kang Pyong Son and Kim Won U. In addition to them, I got to know many young people who came to Hwa-song Uisuk School from south Manchuria and various parts of our country, determined to join the anti-Japanese movement.

Every afternoon they called at Kim Si U’s to talk with me. I was grateful for the fact that so many of my fellow students visited me, yet I was surprised at this. I became acquainted from the start with people who were five to ten years older than me, and not with those of my own age. This is why many of my comrades-in-arms in the days when I was working among young students and in the period of my underground revolutionary activities were older than me.

Within a few days of starting at Hwasong Uisuk School I discovered that the circumstances there were more strained than the fighter for independence in Fusong had told me. What could be called the property of Hwasong Uisuk School was only some old desks and chairs and a, few items of sports equipment.

But I had a great ambition. Although the house was grey, shabby and cramped for space, what reliable young people were growing up in that straw-thatched house! Hwasong Uisuk School was short of funds but it had many sturdy young people. In this sense it could be called wealthy. This gladdened me above all else.


2. Disillusionment


I soon became accustomed to life at Hwasong Uisuk School. After attending classes for about two weeks I found mat the subjects taught there were not too difficult.

The biggest headache for the students was mathematics. One day during class several students were called on to solve a long problem of four arithmetical equations, but they could not do so. They marvelled at me when I solved it without difficulty. It was little wonder that they had failed; they had been away from regular education for several years, serving in the Independence Army.

From then on I found mathematics harassing. Whenever we had mathematics homework, I was bothered by bearded young students who were loath to use their own brains.

As a reward for my labour, so to speak, they related their various experiences to me. Many of them were instructive.

They strove to help me in many ways in military drill, which was physically very tough.

In the course of this we became intimate friends and came to relate frankly our inmost thoughts and stories that we kept locked away in our hearts. They thought that I, a young first year student, might hold them, who were older than me, up, but I did not lag behind them in class or at drill and mixed well with my classmates, being liberal in everyday affairs. So we were close in spite of the difference in age.

Such being the situation, my situation was good.

Some time later, however, I gradually became dissatisfied with the education provided at Hwasong Uisuk School. Although the school had been set up by my father’s friends and was mainly run by those who had known him, I found there the remnants of outmoded ideas and methods handed down by the preceding generation.

Although the bourgeois nationalist movement had a history of several decades, the education at the school did not cover a theory to encapsulate, critically analyse and generalize it. The bourgeois nationalists led the nationalist movement for decades, but they prepared no proper treatises or textbooks which might serve as a guide to the movement and provide lessons. The leaders of the Independence Army and patriotic figures who visited the school only spoke vaguely about winning independence as they banged their lectern. They said nothing about methods of aligning revolutionary forces, of mobilizing the masses and of achieving the unity and cohesion of the ranks of the independence movement, or about proper tactics and a proper strategy for the armed struggle. The Korean history they taught mainly described the history of dynasties, and their world revolutionary history, the history of the bourgeois revolution.

What was taught at Hwasong Uisuk School was only nationalist ideas and outmoded military training reminiscent of old Korea.

The teachers, imbued with nationalist ideas, talked a great deal about opposing Japan and about national independence, but the struggle methods they advanced were outmoded. The school authorities often invited men from the Independence Army who had battle experience to the school and asked them to speak about their distinguished military service. In their stories about deeds of arms they advocated the method of individual attack applied by An Jung Gun, Jang In Hwan, Kang U Gyu, Ri Jae Myong, Ra Sok Ju and other patriots.

The students complained, “The school is an officer-training school producing cadres for the Independence Army only in name. How can we drive out the Japanese when we drill only with wooden rifles and have no cartridges for target practice?” Once one student asked the drill instructor when they would be able to handle the new type of rifle. Embarrassed at this the instructor prevaricated, “The cadres of the Independence Army are conducting vigorous activities to raise funds to buy weapons from the United States, France and other countries. So, the problem will be solved before long.” They were looking towards distant Western countries for a few rifles. Such was the situation.

Whenever I ran with sand bags attached to my trouser legs at military drill, I wondered whether we could defeat the Japanese by acting like that.

Previously a Tonghak Army tens of thousands of men strong led by Jon Pong Jun had been routed by a Japanese army of one thousand men on Ugumchi Hill. The Japanese army had been armed with a new type of weapon. If the Tonghak Army which was a hundred times stronger had beaten the Japanese, they could have attacked Kongju and advanced up to Seoul and the situation would have developed in their favour, but they were poorly armed, their military power was weak and so they suffered an ignominious defeat.

The arms and equipment of the Righteous Volunteers Army were no better than those of the Tonghak Army. The Volunteers Army, too, had a small number of new rifles but most of its men used swords, spears or flintlocks. I think that is why historians qualify the struggle of the Volunteers Army as a struggle fought between flintlocks and Model 38 rifles. It is not difficult to imagine what perseverance it would have required to overpower the Model 38 rifle which could fire ten rounds per minute with a flintlock which required priming each time it was fired, or what a hard fight it would be.

The Japanese troops at first fled, scared at a flintlock’s report, its powers being a secret that only the volunteers knew. But after they learned the flintlock’s powers they were no longer afraid and made little of it. So, what was the result of the battle? The volunteers who came from intellectuals’ families and respected the nobility’s ethics and Buddhist precepts are said to have fought wearing broad-brimmed hats and cumbersome gowns.

Those volunteers were mowed down by the cannons and machine guns of the Japanese troops.

The power of the Japanese army was much stronger than in those days. So, I wondered whether we, by running with sandbags, could defeat the troops of an imperialist country which produced tanks, artilleries, warships, planes and other modern weapons, as well as heavy equipment, on assembly line.

What disappointed me most was the ideological backwardness of the school.

The school authorities followed only the road of nationalism and guarded against other ideological trends, so the students naturally followed that course.

Some young students at the school still believed in dynastic rule or harboured illusions about US-style democracy.

These trends found fullest expression in seminars on world revolutionary history. The students called on by the teacher enlarged on capitalist developments, repeating what they had been taught in the lesson.

I was dissatisfied with their dogmatic approach to lessons. At the school, politics lessons did not deal with the independence of Korea, the Korean people and other questions about the reality. The textbooks contained mechanical explanations which accorded with the teaching programme, and the students were requested only to repeat what they had learned.

I asked what type of society should be built in Korea after she won her independence, turning to the student who had just joined the debate, for I considered it right to hold debates on practical problems, problems concerning the future of Korea.

The student replied without hesitation that Korea should take the capitalist road. He said: “Our nation lost its country to the Japanese because our feudal rulers idled their time away reciting poems while other countries advanced along the road of capitalism. We should build a capitalist society and thus avoid a repeat of the past.” Some students held that the feudal dynasty should be restored.

No student asserted that a democratic society should be built or that a society where the masters were the working people should be established. At that time the national liberation movement was switching over from the nationalist movement to the communist movement, but they did not seem to take into account the prevailing trends.

Some students said, as they sat with their arms folded, that the country to be built should be discussed after the country became independent, and that a controversy over capitalism or the restoration of the dynasty before independence was pointless.

As I listened to them, my feeling that the nationalist education provided at Hwasong Uisuk School lagged behind the times grew stronger.

The thought that the arguments over the restoration of the feudal dynasty and the adoption of capitalism were anachronistic, made me feel frustrated.

I could not endure any more. So, standing up, I said, “Our country cannot carry out a bourgeois revolution like the European countries, nor should we restore the old feudal ruling machinery.

“Capitalist and feudal societies are ones where people with money lead a luxurious life by exploiting the working people. After Korea becomes independent we should not build such an unfair society. It is wrong to consider only the development of a technological civilization without taking the malady of capitalism into account. It would be absurd to restore the feudal dynasty. Who can support the dynastic rule which sold the country to foreign forces? What have the kings done? They bled the people white and beheaded or banished loyal subjects who spoke the truth. What more did they do? “After making Korea independent, we should build a society free from exploitation and oppression, a society where the workers, peasants and other working people lead a bountiful life in their homeland....” Many students expressed their sympathy with my argument. Who can oppose a proposal to build a rich and powerful country which is free from exploitation and oppression and in which everyone is equal? After school Choe Chang Gol, too, expressed his support for me, grasping my hands firmly and saying that I had made a good speech. He remarked with great satisfaction that I had advocated communist ideas superbly without mentioning communism even once.

The limitations of Hwasong Uisuk School were the epitome of the limitations of the nationalist movement itself. I could see the whole picture of the nationalist movement through Hwasong Uisuk School.

In this period troops from the Independence Army became powerless and were engaged only in a struggle for influence. They rarely launched military actions as they had done in the homeland and in the areas along the River Amnok in the first half of the 1920s and, lying low in the areas under their control, engaged only in collecting war funds.

People from the Shanghai Provisional Government which professed to be the “national government representative of the Korean nation” were divided into factions called the “self-government group,” the “independence group” and the like and became engaged in a fierce struggle for power. That was why the head of the provisional government was frequently replaced. There was even a time when two government reshuffles took place in a year.

 The leading figures of the provisional government continued to press the mean “petition,” to the extent of impairing the nation’s dignity, instead of drawing a due lesson from the fact that at the Paris Peace Conference the “petition for the independence of Korea” had not even been included on the agenda of the conference due to the wicked obstructive manoeuvres of the delegates from the United States and other entente powers.

When the “US congressmen’s Eastern inspection mission” went to Seoul via Shanghai, they even urged the pro-US flunkeyists to present a gift of insam, silverware and other valuable goods to the US congressmen.

But the provisional government found it difficult to support itself due to a shortage of funds in the mid-1920s until finally it had to maintain its miserable existence with the help of Jiang Jie-shi’s Chongqing government.

Frightened by the revolutionary advance of the working masses, many of the nationalist leaders coming from the propertied classes, characterized by political vacillation, turned their coats and surrendered to the enemy. They degraded themselves, becoming the stooges of the Japanese imperialists, national reformists instead of “patriots,” and stood in the way of the national liberation movement.

In the name of the “civil government” the Japanese imperialists decided that if the Korean people wanted national independence they should cooperate politically with Japanese rule instead of opposing it, strive to acquire the right to self-government under Japanese colonial rule, develop their culture and the economy and improve their nation.

Their decision was accepted by the nationalist leaders from the propertied class. They advocated the “development” of education and industry, the “self-cultivation” of individuals, “class cooperation,” “unity” and “national autonomy” under the cover of “national reform” and the “cultivation of strength.” So, the wind of reform swept Hwasong Uisuk School.

The front room of Kim Si U’s house was always alive with young people who had come to discuss politics with me. In those days I read books on Marxism-Leninism that I found in Kim Si U’s study, so our conversations generally drifted to politics.

In Fusong I read The Biography of Lenin, The Fundamentals of Socialism and a few other books, but in Huadian I read even more books. Previously I had confined myself to grasping the content of the books I read, but after going to Hwasong Uisuk School I came to consider the principles of revolution contained in the classics in connection with the situation in Korea. I wanted to know many things related to the Korean revolution.

How to overthrow Japanese imperialism and win back the country? Who is the enemy and who an ally in the struggle for national liberation? What course to take to build socialism and communism after winning national independence?... I wished to find answers to all these questions.

When I picked up a book to get an answer to these questions, I delved into it at length until I found an appropriate passage. In particular I read the passage dealing with the question of colonies twenty times. So, when friends came to see me, I had many topics to discuss.

We talked a great deal about the new trends of thought and about the Soviet Union. When the students listened to these stories, they pictured a new world free from exploitation and oppression, and were reluctant to leave. They were more interested in these stories than in the argument about the restoration of the Ri dynasty, capitalism or national reform. The students, who were passing their time frivolously, gradually began to aspire after something new.

But at school they could not speak freely about Lenin or about the October Revolution. The school authorities prohibited such talk.

The expectations I entertained of Hwasong Uisuk School gradually began to crumble.


3. The Down-with-Imperialism Union


The old-fashioned nature of Hwasong Uisuk School made me realize that outdated methods were of no avail. As the days went by I became more firmly convinced that organizing small armed units equipped with a few rifles to kill a few Japanese policemen across the Amnok and raising war funds was not the way to achieve national liberation.

I made a firm resolve to employ new methods in paving the way to national liberation. My comrades agreed with my resolve. But we were few. The majority of the students would not readily accept my new idea; they were guarded in their reaction to it or rejected it.

The school prohibited its students from reading books on communism. Whenever I went to school with The Communist Manifesto, the other students would nudge me and tell me that I should read such a book at home. They told me that the school authorities guarded against, and exercised strict control over, “Red” books and had threatened even to expel those who persisted in reading them.

I argued: If a man does not read the books he wants to because he has been prohibited from doing so, how can he undertake a great cause? We should read books that teach us the truth even though we are threatened with expulsion.

I had borrowed The Communist Manifesto from Kim Si U. He had many books on communism in his study. His study could be said to be demonstrating the trend of the times when the national liberation movement was turning from the nationalist to the communist movement, and to be revealing the view of Kim Si U himself who was trying to swim with the current of that time.

I could only feel dissatisfied with the fact that the school authorities prohibited the students from reading such books. But we were so fascinated by the new thought that the school regulations could not dampen our passion to delve into it. I devoured the books on communism, disregarding the policy of the school authorities. By that time the number of students who were eager to read such books had increased to such an extent that we drew up an order and the timetable for reading each of them and insisted that it be returned on time. Most of the students observed the reading regulations, being approved by schoolmates who aspired to the new thought.

Only Kye Yong Chun, who was absent-minded, violated these regulations, and he did so frequently. He didn’t observe his reading timetable and was careless about selecting a suitable place to read. He kept The Communist Manifesto for more than ten days. When I told him to hand it to another comrade right away, he said he needed two more days to extract something from it. The next day he was absent from school, and even slipped away from the hostel. He did not turn up throughout morning classes, and lunch time came. We found him absorbed in the book in a thicket by the River Huifa. I told him quietly that, although it was good to read avidly, he should never miss classes and that he should be careful about when and where he read. He said that he would, but during the history lesson the next day the teacher snatched the book from him while he was reading it secretly. The book was handed to the headmaster, and we got into serious trouble.

Having discovered that I had borrowed the book from the study of Kim Si U, the school authorities sent the history teacher to take Kim and me to task. He said to Kim Si U that it was not proper for him, an area controller who was in a position to help the school in its work, to fail to prevent the students from reading Leftist books and that from then on he should see to it that the students refrained from reading such books. He told me in a threatening tone to watch my step.

I was angry with the authorities’ handling of the affair. In front of Kim Si U I gave vent to my pent-up indignation against the school. I said: “For a man to develop sound qualities he must acquire a wide knowledge. Why do the school authorities deprive young men who need to imbibe new ideas of their right to study a progressive idea recognized by the world? The works of Marx and Lenin are on sale even in ordinary bookshops, so I can’t understand why only Hwasong Uisuk School keeps its students from reading such books.” Heaving a sigh, he confessed that he could do nothing as it was the policy of Jongui-bu and the school authorities.

As a man’s idea is the basic criterion for defining his value, so its educational ideology is the basic criterion for determining the value of a school and its education. However, the school authorities tried in vain to counter the current of new thought with an outdated idea that did not accord with the trend of the times. This incident let the students know that there was a group which was studying Marxism-Leninism in the school. The authorities made a fuss about punishing and expelling the group but this only stirred up the aspiration for and interest in the communist idea among the progressive young men. After that incident, the number of students coming to me to borrow Leftist books increased sharply.

I began to meet individually those with whom I could share my idea, purpose and fate.

My father had always said that one should have reliable comrades and many of them. He also said that a man who had a just and wonderful aim could not attain it if he had no comrades with whom he could share his fate. I always remembered his teachings.

I mixed with many students, among them a certain Ri from the first company. Because he was clever, proficient and good-natured he was popular with the students. But he was strangely conservative in his idea. It was he who had insisted that the monarchy be restored during the class on the history of the world revolution.

Normally we only greeted each other when we met, but after a football match with senior course pupils of the Koreans Exemplary Primary School we became close friends. Ri, who played as a forward that day, ran into a player from the other side and injured his leg.

I went to the hostel and lived there for more than ten days while I nursed him. In the course of this we became quite open with each other. He said that it had been ridiculous for him to insist on the restoration of the monarchy and that, as I had said, our country, after independence, should develop into a society in which the toiling masses ate their fill and lived in happiness. He said we should drive out the Japanese as soon as possible and live happily.

I asked him: “Do you think you can defeat the Japanese after receiving military training at this school? People say that Japan is one of the five great powers of the world, so do you think the Independence Army, with hardly any rifles, can match such a powerful enemy?” He answered: “In order to fight, we must train our bodies and become marksmen. So there is no other way than to follow the methods of the veteran independence fighters, is there?” “No. That is not the way to win independence. I am now reading the works of Marx and Lenin to learn the right method, and I have leamt a lot from their works. The Japanese imperialists slander the communist idea, and bigoted nationalists reject socialism. Even though rich people speak ill of socialism we, the sons of workers and peasants, must not denounce communism indiscriminately without even studying it. If one wants to become a true independence fighter and a patriot, one must study Marxism-Leninism closely.”

It appeared he agreed with me. He remained silent for a while, and then asked me to lend him some books.

I told him that I would lend them to him after he had recovered, and I encouraged him to get back to normal soon by taking good care of himself.

The tide of sympathy for the new thought swept the school with an irresistible force. Except for a few bigoted students who followed nationalism, the overwhelming majority accepted the progressive idea. I frequently organized seminars with the progressive students on the books they had read. The seminars were held at the houses of Kim Si U and Kang Je Ha, the school superintendent, and at the side of the River Huifa.

When a seminar was taking place in his study, Kim Si U would, secretly, take strict measures to ensure that the members of his family and his guests kept away from it. Sometimes he would sit on the porch to keep watch while pretending to do odd jobs. I would recognize his warm heart and tacit support in such actions.

We decided on Kang Je Ha’s house as a place for seminars because not only was his son Kang Pyong Son my close friend but also Kang Je Ha himself had been a friend of my father’s and his ideological tendency was good. He was a nationalist, but he did not reject communism. Whenever I visited his house he would talk to me about communism. He used to say that he was too old and that we should triumph by using communist methods. This was a great encouragement to us. He had several books on communism in his house.

When I look back now, I think we discussed the practical problems arising in the Korean revolution at a very high level at that time. In the course of those discussions the young men would reach a consensus and adopt similar positions on the revolution in Korea.

One day when we were holding a seminar at Kim Si U’s house, Ri whom I had been nursing arrived on crutches and asked me to lend him the books I had promised. He said that, with the other students following a new road, he, as he lay in the hostel, was afraid he might fall behind. Thus he, too, joined us.

Capitalists say they take great pleasure in making money, but I took the greatest pleasure and interest in making comrades. How can we compare the happiness a man feels when he has won a comrade to the delight a man feels when he has obtained a piece of gold! Thus my struggle to win comrades started at Hwasong Uisuk School. Since then I have devoted my whole life to gaining comrades.

With so many reliable comrades coming together, I wondered how I should organize them so that we could work on a greater scale. I spoke of this to my comrades. As far as I remember the meeting was held towards the end of September. I think I said a lot about the need for an organization. I said to the following effect: We must open up a long and thorny path in order to liberate the country and build a society in which the working people can live happily; if we build up our ranks and fight tenaciously at the cost of our blood, we shall emerge victorious; after forming an organization we should rally the masses behind it and arouse them to liberate the country by relying on their own efforts.

The comrades were all delighted; they insisted on forming the organization as soon as possible.

I said that we should make further preparations for forming it and attract more comrades who shared our idea and would fight at our side. The meeting marked eligible people out for membership of the organization and gave an assignment to each of us to educate individual candidates. But some of the comrades were apprehensive lest the forming of the organization should mean the appearance of factions. I said to them: The organization we are going to form is a revolutionary one of a new type that will be quite different from the factions of the nationalists and communists; it is not an organization for factional strife but one for revolution, and we shall fight tenaciously by devoting ourselves to revolution.

After a period for preparation we held a preliminary meeting on October 10, then the national day of China, and discussed the name of the organization, its character, its fighting programme and its rules and regulations. A week later, on the 17th of October, 1926, we formally set it up at Kim Si U’s house. The meeting was held quietly in a simply-furnished room with under-floor heating, but no platform. Even after more than 60 years I still remember the animation and passion that filled the room.

That day everyone was excited, including me. Being on the threshold of forming an organization I was reminded, in spite of myself, of my late father and the Korean National Association. In order to form that association he had travelled tens of thousands of miles over several years and rallied comrades from everywhere. After the formation of the association he had devoted his whole life for the realization of the ideal of the association. He had left his cause unaccomplished for his sons to take up. I felt my heart beating and tears welling up in my eyes as I thought that I was taking a first step on my way to executing my father’s will that we must liberate our country even if our bones were to be crushed and our flesh torn to shreds.

The programme for our organization embodied my father’s ideal.

I still remember vividly the faces of the young men who spoke with fervour at the meeting that day. Choe Chang Gol, Kim Ri Gap, Ri Je U, Kang Pyong Son, Kim Won U, Pak Kun Won, Ri Jong Rak, Pak Cha Sok (though the last two of them later turned traitor)—they all took a militant oath that they would devote their all to the revolution. Some of them were good public speakers while others were not. But they all made good speeches. I, too, made a speech, quite a long one in fact.

 At the meeting I suggested that we name the organization the Down-with-Imperialism Union, abbreviated to DIU. The Down-with-Imperialism Union was a pure, fresh political organism of a new type created in the throes of a historic cause by young people of the rising generation who aspired to socialism and communism, for the realization of national liberation and class emancipation with the ideal of anti-imperialism, independence and sovereignty. We formed this union with the aim of building socialism and communism, but we named it the Down-with-Imperialism Union in order to avoid it being open to suspicion by the nationalists as an excessively Leftist organization. We attached a great deal of importance to our relations with the nationalists in those days. My proposal to name the organization the Down-with-Imperialism Union was passed unanimously. The fighting programme of the DIU I suggested was also adopted unamended. As it was an organization to fight to overthrow imperialism as its name suggested, its programme was also great. The immediate task of the DIU was to defeat Japanese imperialism and achieve the liberation and independence of Korea, and its final objective was to build socialism and communism in Korea and, further, destroy all imperialism and build communism throughout the world. We also adopted policies for putting this programme into effect. The young men attending the meeting received the printed Rules of the union.

At the meeting Choe Chang Gol nominated me as head of the Union.

We rushed hand in hand to the River Huifa and, singing a song, made a grim resolve to share life and death on the road of the revolution for the motherland and the nation.

I sat up all that night. I was too excited and moved to sleep. Frankly speaking, we were elated with excitement and joy as if we had gained the whole world. How can the pleasure a billionaire feels when rolling in money be compared to our pleasure? In the communist movement at that time there were many organizations with eye-catching slogans. Ours was a new organization which could scarcely be compared with those organizations in terms of scale. The public did not even know about the existence of the DIU.

Nevertheless, we were feverishly excited because we were proud of the fact that ours was a communist revolutionary organization of a new type that was totally different from the conventional organizations. The DIU was not an organization formed by a certain faction and its members were not people who had broken away from any faction or from an organization in exile. They were from the new generation, as white and pure as snow. The blood running through the DIU was free from any impurities.

Its members were not insignificant people. They were virile, young talented people; they could make speeches, write treatises, compose songs and were good at self-defence. They could “match one hundred or one thousand” as we say nowadays. With such young men gathered together to blaze a trail, their gallant spirit was unimaginable.

Whenever the revolutionary cause we had launched was in a predicament in later years, the members of the DIU always found a way out, even if it meant sacrificing themselves. As hardcore elements of the Korean revolution, they played a leading role everywhere they went. Among those the DIU produced many young people, particularly Kim Hyok, Cha Kwang Su, Choe Chang Gol, Kim Ri Gap, Kang Pyong Son and Ri Je U, fought heroically in the van of the struggle, until the last moment of their noble lives; only a few were otherwise. I think it deplorable that some of those who made a good start came to betray the ideal of the DIU as the revolution progressed.

I have now lost all those comrades who worked hand in hand with me in the days of the DIU. Many sons and daughters of the DIU who fought through thick and thin for the independence of the motherland and for the society of the proletarian masses left us in the prime of their youth, too early to enjoy this happy life. By giving their youth they laid the foundations of our Party and our revolution.

In the history of our Party the DIU is recognized as the root of the Party, and the formation of the DIU as a starting-point or the genesis of the Korean communist movement and the Korean revolution. From this root came the programme of our Party, the principles for building our Party and its activities, and the backbone for its foundation. With the formation of the DIU our revolution advanced on the basis of the principle of independence.

I think the ideal of the DIU and our mettle at that time have been described in part in “The DIU and Kim Il Sung” in the book A Short History of the Korean Revolutionary Movement Overseas written by Choe Il Chon (alias Choe Hyong U) immediately after liberation.

When the Revolutionary Army was formed a few years later and the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland was founded, calling upon the 20 million Korean people to rise up in one body, and when the revolution was at its height with tens of thousands of supporters and sympathizers surrounding us, I would look back with deep emotion on the day when we formed the DIU in Huadian.


4. My Mind Turning towards a New Theatre of Activity


Hwasong Uisuk School experienced many difficulties because of a shortage of funds.

There were less than 100 students at the school. But given the circumstances of the Independence Army at the time it was not easy to provide for even this number of students.

Although Jongui-bu was in charge of the school, it was unable to provide sufficient money. Jongui-bu had three departments, in charge of the administration, the military and civil affairs and was barely maintaining its existence with funds collected from the people penny by penny. Therefore, it was in no position to provide large sums of money for the school.

In order to solve the difficulties caused by lack of funds, the authorities of Hwasong Uisuk School mobilized its students from time to time to collect funds. The students formed groups each consisting of 20 people. They returned to the companies from where they had come, received weapons and collected funds while travelling for two months around the districts under the jurisdiction of Jongui-bu and, when their scheduled time was over, left with other groups taking their turn.

The money they collected in this way was all used up within a few months. So they again had to go to Jilin to request Jongui-bu for aid.

Once headmaster Choe Tong O sent the school superintendent to the headquarters of Jongui-bu to obtain the money that would be needed for the winter.

However, the school superintendent returned empty-handed cursing the commander of the third company. He said that the third company commander had taken the money intended for Hwasong Uisuk School and used it for his wedding. It was said that the company commander had spent the money like water in order to treat all his neighbours to food and drink over several days. Some food had remained even after that so he had even invited people from the neighbouring village to celebrate with him.

I could not repress my indignation when I heard this.

The money in the coffers of Jongui-bu had not fallen from the sky. It was money contributed as war funds by the people in tiny amounts to regain their lost country even though they themselves lived on gruel and sometimes missed meals. If they had no money, our people contributed to the war fund even by making straw sandals and selling them. Only then could they feel at ease.

The commander of the third company seemed to think nothing of this. He must have been completely blinded by self-interest to have, as a company commander, resorted to such mean deception.

The fact that a commander whose mission it was to fight a bloody battle against the enemy, felt no compunction in committing such misappropriation was proof that the highest circles of the Independence Army were degenerating.

It is said that, following the “Ulsa Treaty,” a commander of the Volunteers’ Army, upon hearing of the defeat of the volunteers under the command of Choe Ik Hyon in Sunchang, gathered hundreds of volunteers and conducted vigorous activities in Jolla Province. Upon hearing that his men had robbed some people of their household effects he, having lamented the fact, disbanded his unit and hid in the mountains. From this we can see that the commander regarded an infringement upon the interests of the people as a great shame and crime.

The misdeed of the commander of the third company could be considered, in the final analysis, to be an encroachment on the interests of the people.

When I was living in Linjiang some soldiers of the Independence Army became me talk of the town because they had gone to Korea and taken a cow from some peasants. The commander of the unit to which these soldiers belonged once visited our home and was sharply reproved by my father.

In those days, when soldiers of the Independence Army appeared in areas where Koreans were living in order to collect funds, those in charge of the districts had a document circulated around the settlement in which they had written the amount of money or rice which each household was to contribute. The residents had to contribute funds as was noted in the document. This was a heavy burden on the poor farmers.

Nevertheless, the soldiers of the Independence Army disregarded the people’s poverty and simply tried every possible means to exact as much as possible. Groups with different districts under their control fought to expand them. Some soldiers of the Independence Army forced men from other armed units into giving them the money they had collected and then taking to their heels.

Members of large and small armed units vied with one another to squeeze money from the people. They regarded the people as mere taxpayers and attendants who should provide them with money, grain and bedding.

Such misdeeds were no better than those of the bureaucrats in the former feudal society.

Sitting in palaces with jewelled crowns on their heads, the feudal rulers of Korea constantly enacted new tax laws to bleed the people white and keep their purses empty.

At one time the feudal government used colossal sums to build the Kyongbok Palace and, with a view to compensating for this, they even invented a door tax (travel tax). If they had built universities and factories with the money they obtained in this way, they would at least have been thanked by posterity.

The progressive young people at Hwasong Uisuk School deplored the fact that the Independence Army seemed to be going to ruin with a company commander having degenerated to such an extent. However, they simply blamed and deplored him. In the bright society we have now, the army and the people would have gathered public support and taken him to court or tried the case among themselves to force him to break his bad habit. However, nothing could be done in those days when there was no law and military discipline was not rigid.

True, there was an organization under Jongui-bu in charge of civil cases. However, it only existed in name. Before it they brought only those people who could not contribute sufficient funds, and they were beaten on the hips. They connived at such illegal acts as that committed by the company commander. Their law had a loophole through which the higher circles could slip.

With this event as the impetus I resolved to give a serious warning to the soldiers of the Independence Army and to all the fighters for independence. However, the problem was how to do so.

Choe Chang Gol proposed that we select representatives of the students and protest against it by visiting all the companies, from the first to the sixth.

Some people suggested that they should expose the bureaucratic acts of the soldiers of the Independence Army by having an article published in a periodical such as Taedong Minbo issued by Jongui-bu. It would have been good to do so. The problem was, however, whether the headquarters of Jongui-bu, the commanders of other companies and the members of the editorial department of the said publication who were little different from the commander of the third company would accept the article.

I proposed that we write a letter of protest to all the companies of the Independence Army instead of attempting methods about which we were undecided. The others supported my proposal and asked me to write the letter of protest.

That letter of protest was the first criticism we offered of the nationalists following the formation of the Down-with-Imperialism Union.

It was the first time for me to write a letter of protest. It seemed to me that in it I failed to include everything I wanted to say. However, my comrades told me it was good, so I gave it to Kim Si U and asked him to convey it to the correspondent from Jongui-bu when he came. The letter of protest was quickly conveyed to all the companies by the correspondent.

There was a big response to the letter. Even O Tong Jin who was intolerant of anything that hurt his pride or censured Jongui-bu, not to mention the man who had used the war funds for his wedding, appeared to have been shocked by the letter.

At the beginning of the following year when I was studying in Jilin, O Tong Jin spoke of the letter of protest to me. He said that he had read it with the company commanders and platoon leaders who had gathered where the sixth company was stationed.

He said: “Having read your letter of protest, I sharply reproved the third company commander. I even thought of removing him from his post. Such people bring shame on the Independence Army.” Although he frankly admitted that the highest circles of the Independence Army were degenerating, O Tong Jin was indignant and irritated over the fact that he was unable to save the situation.

I wonder how O Tong Jin managed to appease his fiery temper when he had to remain an on-looker to the corruption of the Independence Army, unable to check even what he saw with his own eyes and felt keenly.

As I listened to O Tong Jin I realized that the depravity of the Independence Army was a source of anguish not only for us younger generation but also for conscientious nationalists.

However, it was scarcely possible to arrest the political and moral depravity of the Independence Army with one letter of protest.

The Independence Army was heading towards irretrievable decline. The fate of the Independence Army, nationalist army to defend and represent the interests of the propertied class, could not be otherwise.

The students of Hwasong Uisuk School were little different from the soldiers of the Independence Army when it came to treating the people rudely and imposing economic burdens that were too heavy on them. When they were mobilized to collect contributions they, too, collected the people’s property and provisions on a rival basis in the districts under their control.

Those families who did not readily contribute were forced to give them animals such as pigs or chickens. With these families they either claimed that they lacked patriotism or found fault with them without good reason by saying, for instance, that they did not support the Independence Army.

They even complained about the meals served at the school saying that they were continually given cooked millet and that the non-staple foods were not good enough, and so on. Once at supper a student complained that only cooked millet and soup made of dried vegetable leaves were served in the dormitory’s dining-room. In the end, he even quarrelled with Hwang Se Il, the inspector of the dining-room. Hwang Se H took his duties very seriously. However, the students said that the inspector was not doing his job properly even if the quality of the meals was only a little below standard.

Following the country’s liberation I once met Hwang Se II who was working as the vice-chairman of the Uiju County People’s Committee and we recollected our days at Hwasong Uisuk School. Then he told me that when he visited the village, he never complained about the meals, remembering the lesson he had learned during his days at the school.

I believed that those who complained about cooked millet at Hwasong Uisuk School would also complain about the meals when they returned to the Independence Army after graduating. I also thought that such people would, in the end, be reduced to despicable creatures who knew nothing but money and power.

The problem was that, in two years, such people were to command the companies and platoons of the Independence Army. Nothing could be expected from soldiers who were not ready even to live on cooked millet, let alone die of starvation.

Disappointment at the nationalist movement as a whole centring around the Independence Army, as well as disillusion in education at Hwasong Uisuk School grew in my mind with the passage of time. Hwasong Uisuk School did not meet my expectations and I could not fulfil the expectations of the school. As Hwasong Uisuk School could not meet my desire, so I could not be the student for which Hwasong Uisuk School hoped. My discontent with Hwasong Uisuk School and the dissatisfaction of this school with me were in direct proportion to each other.

The more I loved the progressive idea of Marxism-Leninism, the more I shunned the education provided at Hwasong Uisuk School, and the more I rejected the education of this school, the more I felt in agony, I feared that staying away from the school would mean betraying the trust of those who had sent me there and going against the will of my father who had asked them to look after me. I felt terribly sorry at the thought of 0 Tong Jin who had quickly covered hundreds of miles to attend my father’s funeral and consoled me and urged me to go to the school, even pushing travel money into my pocket, as well as of Kim Si U who had poured me liquor to welcome me on my arrival at the school, of Choe Tong O and of Kang Je Ha.

If I was to remain loyal to them, I had to take an interest in the education provided at Hwasong Uisuk School, even though I was disillusioned with it. I could save my face before them by studying for two years, shutting my eyes to everything and meekly serving in the Independence Army in the company to which I would be appointed.

The trouble was not that I would be unable to study the new current of thought or solidify the foundation of the Down-with-Imperialism Union if I served in the Independence Army.

It was inconceivable for me, however, for the sake of saving my face, to get along politely and diplomatically, being given education which I considered to be conservative. I did not want to compromise with the outdated education in such a manner.

So, what should I do? Should I return home as head of the household, taking over the surgery from my uncle? Or should I go to a city—Shenyang, or Harbin or Jilin—and go to a higher school? After these complicated thoughts I resolved to leave Hwasong Uisuk School and go to Jilin to attend secondary school. I chose Jilin as my next stop after Huadian because this city was an important political centre of Manchuria where many anti-Japanese fighters for independence and Korean communists gathered. For this reason Jilin was even called the “Second Shanghai.” In China, Shanghai was the assembly place of the Korean revolutionaries.

I wanted to break out of the narrow enclosure of Huadian and step into a broader arena, launching the communist movement which had taken its first step with the formation of the Down-with-Imperialism Union on a higher stage and conducting it on a full scale. This was the main reason why I left Hwasong Uisuk School early.

Going to Jilin after attending Hwasong Uisuk School for only six months was the first great and courageous decision in my life. My second courageous decision was to set fire to the bundle of documents accusing those who were allegedly affiliated to the pro-Japanese organization called “Minsaengdan,” when I was forming a new division following the Nanhutou Meeting.

Even now I think that it was right for me at that time to make the courageous decision to leave Hwasong Uisuk School and go to Jilin to mix with other young people and students. If I had stayed at Hwasong Uisuk School all the processes which later helped to lead the Korean revolution to a rapid upsurge would have been delayed.

The members of the Down-with-Imperialism Union were surprised to hear of my intention to leave the school and go to Jilin. I told them: “Now that we have formed the Down-with-Imperialism Union we should extend its organization and idea far and wide. It seems that I can do nothing by remaining here. I think there will be no great benefit for me in remaining at this school. After I leave, you should take advantage of your opportunities also and establish yourselves either in units of the Independence Army or in some appropriate place and go among the masses spreading the line of the Down-with-Imperialism Union. Because you are all members of it you must receive unified leadership from the organization no matter where you may be working.” I agreed with some of my comrades to meet later in Jilin.

I had already discussed with Kim Si U the matter of leaving Hwasong Uisuk School.

I confessed to him: “I will consult with my family, too. However, I don’t find Hwasong Uisuk School much to my liking.... Although I have no money, I would like to go to Jilin to attend secondary school. Could I ask for your opinion?” The area controller expressed great sorrow. Nevertheless, he did not try to stop me leaving the school.

He said: “If this is your intention, I will talk over the matter with my friends and use my good offices on your behalf. Each man has a favourite cart. If you don’t like the Hwasong Uisuk School cart, ride in your own.” I felt much easier in my mind because Kim Si U, who had been so delighted at my coming to Hwasong Uisuk School and welcomed me, understood me. He told me to pay courteous respects to headmaster Choe Tong O so that he would not be sorry at my leaving the school. He also asked me to call on him without fail on my way to Jilin after seeing my mother.

Winning Kim Si U’s consent was easier than I had expected.

However, parting with headmaster Choe Tong O was accompanied by unbearable agony. At first he was angry and criticized me for a good while. He stormed at me, saying: “Once you, a man, have resolved to do something, you must see it through. It is unreasonable for you to leave the school in mid-course. You say you are leaving because you do not like the education here. Where is there in this uncertain world a school that can be to everybody’s liking?” Then he turned his back on me and looked out of the window.

Thus he stood looking vacantly at the sky from which snow was falling.

“If this school is not to the liking of such talented students as you, Song Ju, I, too, will leave.” At these words spat out by the headmaster, I was nonplussed, not knowing what to do with myself. I wondered if I had been too cruel in criticizing the education being given at the school in front of its headmaster.

After a while Choe Tong O calmed down and approached me, placing his hand on my shoulder.

He said: “I will not oppose any ism, be it nationalism or communism, if it aims at winning the independence of Korea. Anyhow, I wish you success.” Even after we had gone out into the playground, the headmaster said many fine things to me, things which would serve as a lesson for me. Snow fell continually on his head and shoulders.

Afterwards, whenever I recollected how the headmaster had seen me off in the heavy snow, I repented of my failure to brush the snow off his shoulders.

Thirty years later Choe Tong O and I had a chance, emotional meeting in Pyongyang. I was the Premier and he was a cadre of the Consultative Council of Former South Korean Politicians in the North for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification. However, that meeting was simply a meeting between teacher and pupil. The idea behind the Down-with-Imperialism Union which had been put forward in Huadian was blossoming into socialism in this land which had emerged victorious from the ordeals of the war.

“So, Premier Song Ju, you were right at that time!” As he smilingly spoke my childhood name, my mind travelled back to the playground at Hwasong Uisuk School a few decades before on the day when snow was falling.

The old teacher, who had spent his whole life amid complicated political upheavals, appreciated my leaving Hwasong Uisuk School 30 years ago with this short remark, with no explanation or commentary.

My mother also supported me in leaving Hwasong Uisuk School. When she first heard of it, she looked very grave. However, when I told her the reason for my leaving the school, it put her mind at rest.

She said: “You are always worried about your school fees. A man can do nothing if a lack of money deprives him of his vitality. I will provide your school fees by all means. I only want you to achieve your aim. Now that you have resolved to follow a new path, be bold.” What my mother said was a great encouragement to me in my fresh ambition.

In Fusong, I discovered that many of my schoolmates were still there, having been unable to go on to higher school because of their straitened family circumstances and that they were at a loss, not knowing what course to take. I decided to awaken them ideologically and lead them along the road of revolution.

I was impatient to do something, with the DIU having just been formed, and I decided to spread its roots in all directions.

I formed the Saenal Children’s Union of patriotic children in and around Fusong to educate them in progressive ideas and lead them to the road of revolution. I formed the union on December 15, 1926. It was a communist organization for children, the aim of which was to fight for the bright new day when Japanese imperialism would be overthrown and national liberation achieved, the day when the old society would be destroyed and a new one built.

The formation of the Saenal Children’s Union marked an important event in extending the activities of the DIU. The slogans put up by the children’s union were truly impressive. We put up the slogan, “Let us fight to achieve Korea’s liberation and independence!” and for this purpose set some immediate tasks such as that of studying new progressive ideas and explaining and disseminating them among broad sections of the masses.

I defined the organizational principles and a work system for it to carry out its tasks, as well as a daily routine for its members, and I gave them guidance in their union life before I left for Jilin.

I helped my mother to form the Anti-Japanese Women’s Association on December 26, 1926, on the basis of the experience I had gained in forming the DIU and the Saenal Children’s Union.

After my father’s death my mother embarked on an energetic revolutionary struggle. In those days my mother organized evening classes in the Fusong County town and in the rural areas around it; she taught Korean women how to read and write and gave them revolutionary education.

I visited Kim Si U in Huadian as I had promised, on my way to Jilin after my short stay in Fusong.

Kim Si U gave me a letter addressed to Kim Sa Hon, saying that Kim Sa Hon had been a close friend of my father. It was a letter of introduction in which he asked him to have me accepted at a school when I arrived there. That was my last meeting with Kim Si U.

Kim Si U was someone whom I shall always remember and who left a deep impression on me. He was taciturn, but did much work for national liberation. He took part in the enlightenment of people, the education of the younger generation, the purchase of weapons, fund raising, guiding political workers to and from the homeland, the conveyance of secret materials and information, and the amalgamation of the armed organizations and their cooperation; there were almost no fields in which he had no hand.

He not only helped my father in his work but also gave me sincere support in my work. It was Kim Si U who kept watch on the day when we formed the DIU and who was most delighted at the event.

 After our parting he continued to supply the Independence Army with food grain and aided Korean students enthusiastically, while continuing to run the Yongphung Rice Mill. During the civil war in China he, as the chairman of the aid-the-revolution association, took great pains to protect Korean people’s lives and property from attacks by the Japanese and Jiang Jie-shi’s armies in Huadian.

He returned to the homeland in 1958. Although he had worked hard for the nation all his life, he never mentioned the fact. So, I did not discover his whereabouts.

He became seriously ill in Jonchon, and only when he had just a few days to live did he tell his children about his relations with my father and me.

His children were surprised to hear his story. They said to him: Why did you never visit the General if you knew him so well? How glad the General would be to meet you, father! The General is currently giving field guidance in Jonchon. Even now it is not too late. We must invite him to our house as you cannot move.

It was true that at that time I was giving field guidance in Jonchon County.

Having listened to them, he chided them. “It is not for your benefit that I tell you this old story just before I die. It is the history of our family, and you should be faithful to him and fully support him. We should not keep him away from state affairs even for a moment, should we?” The old man had been stout-hearted in this way for many years. If he had acted as his children had told him, I would have met him. I was very sorry. My failure to meet him again is one of the greatest regrets of my life.

Whenever I recall my days at Hwasong Uisuk School and the DIU, I am reminded of Kim Si U. I cannot speak about my Huadian days without mentioning Kim Si U, who made quiet, persistent efforts to help me in those unforgettable days when we disseminated the new ideas and formed the DIU.

The DIU grew to become invincible owing to the positive support of Kim Si U and other honest people.

Bearing the hope of these people in mind, I left for Jilin with a great ambition and great determination.


5. Ri Kwan Rin, Heroine of the Independence Army


When I was back in Fusong after leaving Hwasong Uisuk School, there were fewer independence champions who visited my home than before.

The house was quiet and lonely, whereas it had been alive with people day and night before.

One strong impression I got in Fusong concerned Ri Kwan Rin. After the death of my father, she came to stay with us. I am told that O Tong Jin said to her, as he sent her to our home, “You are greatly indebted to Mr. Kim. In view of this, go to Fusong and help Song Ju’s mother.” Ri Kwan Rin kept my mother company while working for the South Manchurian Women’s Education Federation.

She was a bold woman with an optimistic disposition. She was attractive, bold and of firm character and had both literary and military accomplishments. The like of her was rarely found in Korea in those days.

When, dressed in man’s uniform, she rode about on horseback, people she passed would look at her with curiosity as if she came from another world, because in those days women used to go about with their faces veiled in accordance with feudal custom.

But back in Fusong I found her looking less lively than before.

She was surprised to learn that I had left Hwasong Uisuk School. She wondered why I had given up die officer-training school which young people were anxious to attend.

When I told her why I had left the school and how, she said that I had made a courageous decision, and she gave her support to me in my determination to leave for Jilin. Nevertheless, she could not hide her sadness.

The fact that I had rejected and broken away ideologically from a school that was under nationalist influence seemed to make quite an impact on her. On seeing the change in my life, the sensitive Ri Kwan Rin seemed to have felt more keenly the demise of the Independence Army and nationalism. Mother said that she had changed greatly and had recently become more taciturn and subdued.

At first I simply attributed this to the mental agony that was usual for unmarried women of her age. She was then 28 years old. In those days early marriage prevailed, so the ladies 14 or 15 years old married wearing their hair done up. In those days if a girl was said to be 28 years old, people would shake their heads and say that she was too old to marry. It was very likely that old maidens like Ri Kwan Rin would suffer mental agony over the question of marriage.

She often looked moody, so one day I asked her why she was looking so thin and gloomy.

Heaving a sigh, she said, “The years pass, but things are no better. That’s why I am gloomy. When your father was alive I could easily walk 25, even 50, miles a day. Whatever I do since your father’s death, I don’t feel elated; even the pistol I carry is likely to rust. The trouble is that I can find no mental support anywhere. The Independence Army no longer seems effective. Its situation is utterly wretched. The old leaders only put on airs and do not report for work. I can’t understand what they are thinking about. Strong fighting men enjoy a family life and the unmarried men chase women. One agile man with fighting spirit married a few days ago and left the Independence Army to go to Jiandao. They all copy one another and flee. It is inevitable that when men reach a certain age they get married. However, if they throw away their rifles to get married, who will fight for national independence? I don’t know why they behave so shamelessly.” Then I understood her mental agony and indignation. She, without marrying, was making strenuous efforts for the independence movement, whereas able-bodied men were fleeing for safety, throwing away their rifles. This had aroused her resentment.

When educated girls acted like modern women following the trend of civilization, Ri Kwan Rin, carrying a pistol, fought bravely against the Japanese soldiers and police, crossing and recrossing the River Amnok.

I think that the instances of a woman, dressed in man’s uniform and carrying a pistol, becoming a professional soldier and fighting the foreign enemy, are few in the history of Korea. Because I feel this to be important, I have covered her story under a separate title in this book. It was hard to imagine that in Korea, where the old practices of treating women as inferior to men still remained and were, in fact, prevalent, a woman carrying a pistol went to the battlefield.

Our women’s resistance to a foreign enemy has differed historically in its style and method, but what has always been true is that their resistance in most cases has assumed a passive form based on the feudal Confucian view on chastity.

Whenever a foreign enemy invaded the country and murdered and harassed our people, the women would conceal themselves deep in the mountains or in temples so as to avoid violation. Those women who failed to hide would resist by killing themselves. During the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592 the number of women martyrs officially registered is said to have been over 30 times greater than the number of male patriots. Thus it is clear how much Korean women valued their honour.

When Choe Ik Hyon died for his country by fasting on Tsushima Island, his wife is said to have killed herself after mourning for two years to share the fate of her husband.

From a moral point of view her act should be regarded as the act of someone loyal to her country and faithful to her husband.

But a problem arises. If all choose to die, who will defend the country against the enemy? With the progress of civilization in our country a change took place in the way of thinking of our women and in their view of life. Rejecting the passive form of resistance to the enemy such as escape and suicide, our women, together with the men, demonstrated in the face of the bayonets of the Japanese troops and police and threw bombs into the enemy’s government offices and other public buildings.

However, it was perhaps only Ri Kwan Rin who took part in the armed resistance as a woman soldier of the Independence Army. This she did for over ten years in a foreign country.

She was beautiful, so wherever she went it was a problem for her to get rid of the men who chased her. In the light of her looks, scholarly attainments and family background she was fully qualified to teach at a school, find a good match and live well as others did, but she devoted herself entirely to the independence movement.

Her father was a landed farmer belonging to the middle class who had a ten-roomed house, though it was straw-thatched, and several hectares of land and forest in Sakju. When Ri Kwan Rin was 12 years old she lost her mother and two years later her father took a 16-year-old girl as his wife.

Ri Kwan Rin could not call a woman only two years older than herself her mother. On top of that, her father, who believed strongly in feudal custom, gave no thought to sending her to school; when she was 15 years old he began looking for a suitable match for her.

She had always begged her father to send her to school, envying those who did attend, but as her father refused, she left home at the age of 15.

While her father was away from home she went to the River Amnok. There she placed some of her clothes and shoes beside an ice hole before setting out for Uiju. There she entered Yangsil School through the good offices of a distant relative of hers. She attended the school for about six months before, with the approach of autumn, sending her father a letter asking him to send her school fees.

Her father had been spending his time in tears, thinking that his daughter had drowned in the river. On receiving a letter from his daughter he was so glad that he went immediately to Uiju. He told his daughter that he would now allow her to study and that if she had anything to ask of him she should write to him at any time.

From then on she studied hard without any worries about her school fees. As she had a fine school record, the school authorities recommended her for the art course at Pyongyang Girls’ High School.

She attended the school for a year or two and in that time came to know the world; she was admitted to the Korean National Association with my father vouching for her. From then on she became a fully-fledged member of the revolutionary organization and took part in underground activities. It was around this time that she learned about the idea of “Aim High!” from my father. She secretly worked to absorb comrades from among the pupils of Pyongyang Girls’ High School, Sungsil Middle School, Sungi Girls’ School and Kwangsong High School.

One day she came to Mangyongdae on an excursion. At our home, she had a talk with my father and helped my mother in her work.

At that time it was difficult to get to Mangyongdae, but in spring many pupils from Sungsil Middle School, Kwangsong High School and other schools came there with their lunch boxes to enjoy the fine scenery.

When the March First Popular Uprising broke out in Pyongyang, she fought bravely at the head of the demonstrators. When the demonstration broke up she took a short rest at her hostel before returning to encourage her schoolmates. When there was a sweeping roundup of the prime movers of the demonstration after its reversal, she joined the independence movement full-time, returning to her home town. It was her decision that she would not return to school until the nation had been saved from ruin. Initially she managed the general affairs of the Kwangje Youth League that had been formed by 0 Tong Jin.

She shot two Japanese policemen to death in the homeland and threw their bodies into an ice hole in the River Amnok before going over to Manchuria.

When she had returned to the homeland to raise funds after Joining the Independence Army, she had been stopped and examined by the police. She had had a pistol in the bundle on her head, so the situation was critical.

A policeman urged her to undo the bundle. Pretending to unfasten it, she whipped out the pistol and, pointing it at the policeman, took him to the forest where she disposed of him.

As she frequented the homeland to raise funds, many things happened to her on her journeys. Once she received the task from 0 Tong Jin of touring South Phyongan Province to raise funds. During her return to headquarters in the company of a man from the organization at home, she stayed overnight at Sandaowan; there they were threatened by the members of another armed band from the neighbourhood. At the time they were carrying several hundred won with them. The bandits demanded money, firing blank shots with the pistols they produced. Frightened by their threats, the man accompanying her meekly produced the money he kept, but she did not offer them a penny and instead drove them away.

There were many women soldiers among the guerrilla troops when we waged the anti-Japanese armed struggle, but up to the time of Ri Kwan Rin there had been no such women in Korea. She was bold and plucky although she had been a schoolgirl learning embroidery and sewing in her high school days. Once such newspapers as Tong-A Ilbo and Joson Ilbo published sensational articles about her.

Ri Kwan Rin was upright and faithful to her principles.

After the March First Popular Uprising the work to merge the organizations of the independence movement went ahead vigorously in south Manchuria. But the amalgamation did not progress smoothly because each organization put its own men forward, thus displaying a self-centred attitude, and ignored people from other organizations. The merger negotiations always ended without success because of pointless wrangles and conflicts.

My father decided to draw the veterans of the independence movement into the merger work to tide over the difficulties. The first person he marked out for this was Ryang Ki Thak. It would not be easy to remove him from under the enemy’s surveillance and escort him from Seoul to south Manchuria. After some serious thought my father chose Ri Kwan Rin as the right person and sent her to Seoul, giving her a letter to Ryang Ki Thak.

Ryang Ki Thak had great influence among the nationalists. Born into the family of a scholar of Chinese classics in Pyongyang, he had worked hard to cultivate the anti-Japanese sentiment for independence among the people through his patriotic activities as a journalist and educator. He was famous for the Korean-English Dictionary he compiled, the first of its kind in Korea, and for his leadership of the campaign for the repayment of the national loan to Japan. He was thrown into prison for several years because of the “case of the 105 people” and had a hand in the Sinmin Association, in the Shanghai Provisional Government (as member of the state council) and in the formation of the Koryo Revolutionary Party (as chairman). He, together with 0 Tong Jin, formed the organization of Jongui-bu. Because of his record he was respected by the independence champions irrespective of their party affiliation.

When she got to Seoul Ri Kwan Rin was arrested by detectives and thrown into the detention room at the Jongno police station. She was put to terrible torture every day. They tortured her by pouring chilli powder up her nose, pricking her flesh around her fingernails with a bamboo needle and hanging her from the ceiling with her arms tied behind her back. Some days they stamped on a wooden board placed across her face after making her lie on her back on the floor. They kicked, beat and trampled on her while asking her, “Did you come from China or Russia? Why did you come?” After spraying paraffin over some ash paste on her legs, they threatened to burn her to death.

But she did not yield; she shouted at them, “I am a jobless wanderer. I came to Seoul to find a job as a seamstress or a nurse for a rich family. Why do you detain and harass me, an innocent woman, like this?” She insisted on her innocence and, after a month, she was released.

She was in so bad a condition that she could hardly move, but she brought Ryang Ki Thak to Xingjing. On her arrival in Xingjing she was confined to bed because of the aftereffects of the torture. Her colleagues nursed her but her condition did not improve, so they found an old doctor to treat her. Taking her pulse, he made the absurd diagnosis that she had conceived. It must have been a silly joke the old doctor played on her, a noted beauty, out of caprice.

Dismayed at this, she asked him what he meant. He said that it meant she was pregnant. No sooner had he uttered this than she shouted at him, throwing a wooden pillow at him, “You scoundrel, why do you mock me, a young unmarried woman who is fighting arms in hand for national independence? What do you want to gain by slandering me? Say it again.” Frightened at this, the doctor fled without even putting on his shoes.

She was so brave that my father frequently entrusted her with important tasks. She did whatever my father asked of her. If she was told to go to Pyongyang or to Seoul, she went. If she was asked to go on an urgent errand, she went. If she was requested to enlighten some women, she would do so.

When my father conducted political work in the homeland, she often went with him to ensure his personal safety and help him in his work. She went to Uiju, Sakju, Chosan, Kanggye, Pyoktong, Hoeryong and other northern border areas, the Jiandao area, Sunan, Kang-dong, Unryul, Jaeryong, Haeju and other areas in west Korea and Kyongsang Province. She covered thousands of miles on her travels.

Ri Kwan Rin was the only girl in our country to cross and recross Mt. Paektu in those days.

She led a soldier’s life that was so hard for a woman, roaming the dew-sprinkled fields of a foreign country in the golden years of her youth which she should have spent in the warmest happiness.

My heart ached at the sight of her agony over the declining independence movement, the agony of a woman who, carrying two pistols with her, was active throughout the length and breadth of the stormy world with a single-hearted patriotic spirit.

When I began my preparations for my journey to Jilin, she said that she, too, wanted to go there to do something. However, she was unable to fulfil her desire.

When I was attending school in Jilin I met her on two or three occasions at Son Jong Do’s house. When she asked me to tell her about the situation, I spent a long time telling her about the prospects for our revolution. She said that she liked what we were doing. Nevertheless, she could not break away from Jongui-bu. She belonged to the Left faction of the nationalists who accepted communism but failed to put their ideas into practice.

I was sorry to see Ri Kwan Rin agonizing over the decline of the nationalist movement. In the nationalist camp there were many patriotic-minded people such as Ri Kwan Rin who were devoted to the independence movement with no concern for their personal lives. But, having no proper leader, Ri Kwan Rin, a plucky woman who was faithful to her principles, did not know what to do. As the Down-with-Imperialism Union had only just been formed she could not join our movement.

When I saw Ri Kwan Rin who was agonizing with no mental support to rely on, although my father had believed in her and brought her up with affection, I lamented over the lack of a genuine leading force for our national liberation movement which was capable of uniting and leading all the patriotic forces of Korea.

Her mental agony made me think that our new generation should work harder for the revolution. I made up my mind to open up as early as possible a new path for enlisting the support of all, including the patriots like Ri Kwan Rin who were groping about without a proper leader and usher in a new era of revolution in which all the people who desired national independence could advance, riding the same current.

With this determination I speeded up my preparations for my trip to Jilin.

I sought her for half a century since seeing her in Jilin.

When we formed active guerrilla units in east Manchuria there were many women in their 20s in the ranks. I was reminded of Ri Kwan Rin, the heroine of the Independence Army, whenever I saw the courageous women soldiers who marked a new chapter in the history of national liberation, displaying the same stamina and fighting spirit as the male soldiers. Not knowing her whereabouts, I was anxious to know where she was and what she was doing. Although I made enquiries through many channels, I heard nothing of her whereabouts and what she was doing.

After national liberation I searched Sakju, her birthplace, for her but failed to find her.

It was in the early 1970s that I discovered where she was. After making many enquiries, our comrades from the Party History Institute discovered that she was living in China with her son and daughter.

From among the people who fought alongside Ri Kwan Rin, Kong Yong, Pak Jin Yong and other people who had embraced communism under the influence of the DIU opened up a new path with us. They all died heroic deaths worthy of revolutionaries.

But Ri Kwan Rin had to abandon the struggle halfway due to the lack of a proper leader for her to follow.

When 0 Tong Jin was alive, however, she took great pains and walked long distances to implement the line of the proletarian revolution laid down at the Kuandian Meeting. In the summer of 1927 when I left for Jilin Ri Kwan Rin and Jang Chol Ho, along with other members of the Independence Army, were engaged in enlightening the people in Naidaoshan, where they lived in straw-thatched huts and grew potatoes. It seemed that 0 Tong Jin had made Naidaoshan the base for the activities of the Independence Army.

But after 0 Tong Jin was arrested, these activities were abandoned. Among the Leftist forces of the nationalist movement 0 Tong Jin was the person most inclined towards communism. After the arrest of such a central figure no one came forward to risk his life to implement the line of the Kuandian Meeting. Some people within Jongui-bu sympathized with communism, but they were powerless.

After the birth of Kukmin-bu with the amalgamation of the three organizations the highest levels of the nationalists rapidly became reactionary and it became difficult even to utter the word communism. The leaders of Kukmin-bu did not scruple to commit treachery by informing the Japanese police of people from the Left wing of the nationalist movement who sympathized with communism, or even assassinating them.

Ri Kwan Rin had to roam about in search of a refuge, subjected to persistent pursuit and threats by the terrorists of Kukmin-bu. Finally she married a Chinese man and settled down. She was unfortunate in marriage, too, because she could not marry a man who she wanted to marry.

Thus the “flower of the Independence Army” and the “red flower among the green,” she who caught the attention of the public, “appearing like a lodestar in the desolate land of Manchuria,” and struck terror into the enemy, withered away.

Figuratively speaking, she was an independence champion who set sail on a lengthy voyage in a wooden boat called nationalism.

It was too frail a boat to sail the vast expanse of the rough sea of the anti-Japanese resistance movement for independence, a voyage beset with manifold trials and hardships. Such a boat could not reach the destination of national liberation.

Many people set sail on the boat, but most of them gave up without reaching their destination. After that they looked out for an opening to earn a living or to lead an easy life pretending to be patriots. Some from the upper levels who allegedly “represented” the nation became petty bourgeoisie producing ointments, and others became monks and escaped to the mountains.

Those who settled down to a family life or simply earned their living without turning traitor were not so bad. Some independence champions who sailed on the nationalist voyage with Ri Kwan Rin betrayed their country and nation and became the stooges of the Japanese imperialists.

It was several years before Ri Kwan Rin returned to the homeland having spent more than half a century in a foreign country since our last meeting.

I was told that she became more anxious to return to the homeland after learning that I was Song Ju, the son of Mr. Kim Hyong Jik to whom she had been attached in her Independence Army days. If Song Ju was leading the country, Mr. Kim Hyong Jik’s idea of building a society where all are equal must have been made the reality, she thought. So she wanted to witness that reality. She wanted to have her body buried in the homeland in which she was born and grew up, the homeland which she used to picture in tears whenever she looked up at the stars in the sky, lying on her back in the vast fields of Manchuria swept by the cold wind.

But, unknown to others, she suffered a mental agony for many years before deciding to return to the homeland. She had a son, a daughter and many grandsons and granddaughters. It was not an easy matter for an old woman in her twilight years to decide to return to her homeland alone, leaving her dear family in the distant foreign country which it would be difficult for her to visit again once she had left it.

However, Ri Kwan Rin made up her mind to return to the homeland even if it meant leaving her family for ever. It was a courageous decision no woman can make except a plucky woman like Ri Kwan Rin. If she had not devoted the prime of her life to the country, she could not have made such a courageous decision.

Only those who have devoted themselves body and soul to the country, weeping, laughing and bleeding, can truly realize how dear their homeland is to them.

When I met Ri Kwan Rin after her return to the homeland alone with her grey hair flying, leaving her family in a foreign land, I admired her burning patriotic spirit and her noble view of life.

Ri Kwan Rin, who was in her 20s when she parted from me in Fusong, appeared before me as an 80-year-old grey-haired woman. Of her rosy face which had attracted everyone there was no sign.

When grey-haired Ri Kwan Rin, who had not told us of her whereabouts although we had taken such pains to find her, appeared before me, I was seized with sadness about the cruel world which had kept us apart for more than half a century.

We provided her with a house in a scenic spot in the heart of Pyongyang and with a cook and a doctor in consideration of her old age. The house was near the girls’ high school she had attended in her girlhood. Kim Jong Il, secretary for organizational affairs, chose a house in this spot in consideration of her feelings. Secretary Kim Jong Il went to her house and saw to it that the furniture was arranged to her liking and the lighting and heating equipment was properly installed.

 Though infirm with age, she made a kitchen garden in front of her house and planted some maize there. She wanted to prepare food from maize with her own hands and treat me to it since I had very much enjoyed corn on the cob in my childhood. Even after half a century’s time she still remembered my likes and dislikes. When she was living in Fusong, in summer she used to buy and cook corn on the cob as a treat for my brothers.

In consideration of the service she had rendered to the homeland and nation in her youth, after her death we held a grand funeral for her and buried her remains in the Patriotic Martyrs Cemetery.

Wherever they may live in the world, those who truly love their country and nation will visit their homeland where they were born and where their forefathers’ graves lie. Even those with different views when parting will some day meet again and share their feelings with each other.



CHAPTER 3: In Jilin



1. The Pursuit of Progressive Thoughts


I remained at home for about a month to celebrate New Year’s Day. Then in mid-January I left Fusong. When I arrived in Jilin it was noon and the streets were full of people. I thought it would be awkward to take out my pocketbook and turn over the pages with numbed fingers to look up the addresses of my acquaintances each time I was going to ask my way. So I had committed to memory the names of the streets and house numbers I was looking for. From the first moment the bustling scenes in the large city with its long history seemed to press down upon me who had been living only in the quiet and lonely countryside.

After leaving the station I could hardly move because of my great excitement. I stood looking for a long time at this lively new scene which represented a new life for me. The most memorable thing I saw in the streets of the city that day was that there were many water vendors. I heard some passers-by grumble that there was not enough drinking water so that only the number of water vendors was increasing in a place once known as a city of water, even called a quay, and that life in the city of Jilin might well grow harder in time. The city life in which even a glass of water had to be reckoned in terms of money weighed down heavily upon me from the first moment, but defying this weight, I threw out my chest and marched down the street into the city.

Having walked some distance along Chelou Street towards Beishan from the station I came to a wall which separated the inner city from the outer part and saw a gate in the wall with a sign reading Zhaoyang Gate above it. Near the Zhaoyang Gate there was another gate called Xinkai Gate. Besides these two gates, there were Bohu, Linjiang, Fuxiu, Desh-eng, Beiji Gates and others, ten in all. All of these gates were guarded by soldiers of Zhang Zuo-xiang’s army. The ancient-looking wall of Jilin marred here and there by weathering showed that this was an old walled city.

Although I was a stranger to the place, the city did not seem so unfamiliar to me. This was probably because I had long wished to see it and there were many friends of my late father in the city. In my pocket-book I had the addresses of more than ten friends and acquaintances of my father to whom I would have to pay courtesy calls. Old friends of my late father 0 Tong Jin, Jang Chol Ho, Son Jong Do, Kim Sa Hon, Hyon Muk Kwan (Hyon Ik Chol), Ko Won Am, Pak Ki Baek, and Hwang Paek Ha were all living in Jilin. I had to call on all of them.

O Tong Jin was the first person I decided to visit. I called at his house which was located between Chelou Street and Xiangfu Street. To tell the truth, I was feeling rather nervous at the time. I was afraid that Commander O might have been displeased to hear that I had left Hwa-song Uisuk School to which I had been admitted through the kind offices of my father’s friends. But he was as kind as ever and delighted to see me. When I told him why I had left Hwasong Uisuk School and come to Jilin, he sat nodding his head in silence for a while, looking serious. Then he said: “Seeing you in Jilin all of a sudden, I am reminded of your late father. Your father, too, unexpectedly left Sungsil Middle School. I heard that with many regrets at the time. But much later I realized that your father had been right in making the decision. Anyhow, I marvel at your resolve to leave the school after only six months and come to Jilin, If Jilin is what you want, then, dig your well here.” This was all O Tong Jin said after hearing my account of how I had come to Jilin. I felt grateful to him for his broad-minded way of thinking which was fully worthy of him. He remarked with regret that now that I had decided to come to Jilin for schooling, I should have had my whole family, my mother and younger brothers, move there to settle. When he had come to my father’s funeral he had asked my mother many times to move to Jilin where there were many friends of her late husband. Mother was grateful for his kind suggestion, but she would not leave Fusong. With the grave of her husband in Yangdicun village, she thought, how could she move out to Jilin? That day O Tong Jin introduced his secretary Choe Il Chon to me. Since he had previously boasted a great deal about his secretary, I already knew something about this Choe Il Chon. He was well-known in the Jongui-bu organization as a good writer. Our meeting that day marked the beginning of the special comradely ties between Choe Il Chon and me.

That afternoon, 0 Tong Jin took me to the Sanfeng Hotel and presented me to some independence fighters. Among them were Kim Sa Hon to whom Kim Si U had written a letter of introduction for me and Jang Chol Ho who commanded the Jongui-bu guards. Besides these two men there were many independence fighters staying at the hotel whose names I did not know. Along with the Taifenghe Rice Mill, this hotel was one of the two nests for independence fighters in Jilin that they used for lodging and liaison. This hotel also provided accommodation for many emigrants from Korea. The manager was from the same province as the Rev. Son Jong Do. He had lived in Jungsan County, South Phyongan Province, before moving to Jilin on the advice of the Rev. Son and opening the hotel. Though it was a hotel in name, it looked more like a dormitory or public hall. It was within only 100 metres of the Japanese consulate. So it was virtually on the threshold of the consulate, which might just as well have been called the headquarters of the Japanese detective service in the Jilin area. It seemed risky, therefore, for the followers of the anti-Japanese independence movement to visit the hotel day and night with secret agents and policemen so close at hand. But they came there all the same, saying, “The darkest place is below the candlestick.” Strangely enough, there was never any instance of a Korean patriot being walked off from the Sanfeng Hotel. So, after we formed our organizations later, we often used this hotel.

After reading the letter of introduction from Kim Si U, Kim Sa Hon asked me if I would like to go to Yuwen Middle School in Jilin where a Korean by the name of Kim Kang who was a good friend of his was teaching. He said that it was a private school founded by the newly-emerging public circles in the city and that it was the most progressive school in Jilin. It was widely known that this school was progressive by nature. The newspaper Jizhang Ribao had written about it many times. As early as 1921 the paper had said that it was a school in financial difficulties but making a very good showing, so it was aided by various social organizations. Owing to the disputes over funds and the headmaster’s abuse of his authority, there had been many headmasters. When I arrived, Li Guang-han had recently taken over, replacing Zhang Yin-xian, a graduate of Jinling University in Nanjing. The fact that the headmaster had been changed four times sufficed to show how highly justice and lawfulness were esteemed at the school. This reformist tradition of the school captured my fancy.

The next day Kim Sa Hon introduced me to teacher Kim Kang of Yuwen Middle School. Kim Kang was a good English scholar. He presented me to the headmaster, Li Guang-han. Li Guang-han was a Left-wing nationalist from China and he had been a classmate of future Prime Minister Zhou En-lai at secondary school. He was an intellectual of conscience who had largely been subject to the future prime minister’s influence even in his younger days. It was several decades later that I came to learn of the relationship between Prime Minister Zhou and Li Guang-han. Once, when I met Prime Minister Zhou En-lai when he was on a visit to our country and talked about my youth and those Chinese people who had helped me, I happened to mention the name of Li Guang-han. The prime minister was delighted to hear his name and told me that they had been classmates at the middle school affiliated to Nankai University in Tianjin.

Li Guang-han asked me what I was going to do after finishing at school. When I answered without hesitation that I would like to devote myself to the cause of winning back my motherland, he said approvingly that my intention was highly praiseworthy. It seemed that because I had opened my heart to him, he readily granted my request that I join the second year without going through the first year.

Later, when I was engaged in the youth and student movement and underground activities, I was given assistance on many occasions by Mr. Li. Even when he learned that I missed classes frequently on account of my revolutionary work, he ignored the fact and shielded me so that the reactionary teachers bribed by the warlord authorities should not touch me. When the warlords or consulate police came to arrest me, he informed me of their attempt before I escaped out of the fence. Because the headmaster was a conscientious intellectual, many people with progressive ideas were able to conduct their activities under his wing.

When I returned after registering at Yuwen Middle School, Mr. 0 Tong Jin and his wife told me that I should live with them instead of boarding at the hostel. This was an offer for which I was truly grateful in view of my situation at the time. I needed the support of my mother to attend the school, but she was infirm. She worked day and night all the year round, doing washing or needlework for money, and sent me about three yuan every month. After paying my school fees and the cost of notebooks and textbooks, I could scarcely afford to buy a pair of shoes. Such being my situation, I was obliged to accept the kindness and advice of the old friends of my late father. In Jilin I lived with 0 Tong Jin at first. Then, after his arrest, I stayed with Jang Chol Ho for a year, with Hyon Muk Kwan for several months and then with Ri Ung who replaced 0 Tong Jin as the leader of Jongui-bu.

Most of the prominent figures in Jilin in those days had been on intimate terms with my father, so they cared for me and looked after me in many ways. While frequenting the houses of my father’s old friends, I became acquainted with many cadres of the Independence Army and leaders of the independence movement, and met a large number of various people on their way in and out of Jilin. Almost all the cadres of the Jongui-bu organization were living in Jilin at the time. This organization had a splendid central and local setup comprising administration, finance, judiciary, military affairs, education, foreign affairs, prosecution, and inspection and supervision, and it exercised as much power as that of an independent state, collecting taxes from the Korean inhabitants of the areas under its control. In order to protect this huge machinery it maintained a permanent central guard consisting of more than 150 soldiers.

As a provincial capital in China, Jilin was, along with Fengtian (Mukden), Changchun and Harbin, one of the political, economic and cultural centres of Manchuria. The Jilin military control station was headed by Zhang Zuo-xiang, a cousin of Zhang Zuo-lin. He would not listen readily to what the Japanese said. When the Japanese told him that someone was a communist and another a bad man, he would reject it, telling them that it was none of their business. He did so more from his ignorance and self-conceit than from any political conviction. This characteristic of the man was of benefit to the revolutionaries and people engaged in the social movement.

The greater part of the Koreans resident in Manchuria lived in Jilin Province. So Jilin was the haunt of many Korean independence fighters and communists who were fleeing from the Japanese army and police. This made the city a theatre and a centre of political activities for Koreans. The Japanese had good reason for stating, “Jilin is the operational base for anti-Japanese activities in the three eastern provinces.”

In the latter half of the 1920s Jilin was an assembly point for the leaders of the Jongui-bu, Chamui-bu and Sinmin-bu organizations which constituted the main forces of the Korean nationalist movement in Manchuria. Huadian, Xingjing and Longjing were the principal centres where the supporters of the independence movement published newspapers and opened schools, but it was Jilin where their leaders assembled and conducted their activities.

It was also Jilin where the factionalists belonging to the M-L group, the Tuesday group and the Seoul-Shanghai group made reckless efforts to expand their respective forces. Nearly all the major figures of the communist movement conceited enough to think themselves important haunted this city. All sorts of people flocked here—nationalists, communists, factionalists, political refugees and so on. Young people and students seeking eagerly for new things and for the truth also came to this city. In short, it could be said that Jilin was a scene where ideological trends of every description were breathing together.

It was here that I unfolded my revolutionary activities under the banner of communism. When I came to Jilin I found that some members of the Down-with-Imperialism Union had come to the city as they had promised in Huadian and were on the register of such a school as Wenguang Middle School or were working at the locomotive depot and the wharf. As soon as they heard of my arrival in Jilin, they hurried to the house of Commander 0 Tong Jin. “Money, drinking water and firewood are scarce here, but this is a good place because there are plenty of books,” they said in telling me of their impressions of Jilin. I jokingly said I could stand even the pain of hunger if I had many books. I said it for fun, but at the same time I meant what I said. They had a favourable opinion of Yuwen Middle School. Some of the teachers were Right-wingers from the Kuomintang, but most of them were affiliated to the Communist Party or followed the Three Principles of the People, they said. Their words eased my mind. As it became known later, both teacher Shang Yue and teacher Ma Jun at the school were communists. We resolved to learn the revolutionary truth as we wished and fight for all we were worth to attain the goal of the Down-with-Imperialism Union in this new place.

Those members of the Down-with-Imperialism Union who had remained in Huadian had left for areas in Manchuria inhabited by Koreans such as Fusong, Panshi, Xingjing, Liuhe, Antu, Changchun and Yitong Counties in search of new theatres of activity. Some of them had returned to their old Independence Army companies.

In a confusing city like Jilin it was not easy with only a small number of hardcore members to make all the people listen to what we had to say and struggle for the realization of the Down-with-Imperialism Union’s ideal. But we were filled with a firm determination that each of us should become a spark to rouse a hundred people and ensure that the hundred people in their turn would set the hearts of ten thousand people around them on fire to reform the world.

I began my activities in Jilin by conducting a deeper study of Marxism-Leninism. When I was coming to Jilin, I had made up my mind to pursue in earnest and more profoundly the study of Marxism-Leninism which I had begun in Huadian. The social and political atmosphere in Jilin stimulated my resolve to inquire deeply into new ideas. I was more keen on reading the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin than studying the school subjects.

In those days China was going through a period of great revolution and therefore many good books published in the Soviet Union and Japan were available in translation. A magazine with the title Translation Monthly was issued in Beijing and it often carried progressive literary works which the young people and students found interesting. In Jilin we could have any number of books which were difficult to obtain in Fusong or Huadian. But I had no money to buy them. People will find it hard to believe me when I say now that I put on my canvas shoes only when going to school and would walk about barefoot almost all the time after school.

The admission fee for the library on Niumaxiang Street was ten fen a month. I bought an admission ticket every month and would stop at the library on my way home from school every day and spend hours reading books and newspapers. This enabled me to read various publications at little cost. When I could not afford to buy the good books on sale in bookshops, I would persuade some rich students to buy them, and would borrow them from the sons of families who bought books not for reading but for the sake of displaying them in bookcases.

At Yuwen Middle School the administration of school affairs was democratic. The chief librarian was elected every six months at a general meeting of the students. The elected chief librarian was supposed to draw up a plan of management for the library and had the right to acquire books. I was elected chief librarian twice at the school. Availing myself of the opportunities, I laid in a large stock of Marxist-Leninist books. But with plenty of books available, the trouble was that I did not have enough time to read them all. I tried hard to find a minute for reading and to read even one more book within the given time and understand its substance in full.

In my childhood my father would give me books to read and then make me put down in writing the gist of the books and what lessons I had learned from them. This habit of mine cultivated by my father proved of great value. If you read a book carefully without losing sight of its essential point, you can seize its substance clearly no matter how complicated it may be and you can read many books in a short time.

It was not simply out of academic interest or from a spirit of inquiry that I spent night after night reading in my secondary school days. I did not delve into the books with the object of becoming a scholar or for the purposes of a career. How could we expel the Japanese imperialists and win back our country? How could we do away with social inequality and make the working people prosperous? These were the questions the answers to which I wanted to discover in the books. No matter what book I was reading and where, I was always seeking the answers to these questions. I am sure it was in the course of this that my position was established of approaching Marxism-Leninism not as a dogma but as a practical weapon and of searching for the truth not in an abstract theory but always in the practice of the Korean revolution. In those days I read The Communist Manifesto, The Capital, The State and Revolution, Wage Labour and Capital and other Marxist-Leninist classics and books expounding them which I came across.

In addition to political books, I read many works of revolutionary literature. I found the works of Gorky and Lu Xun the most interesting. When I was in Fusong and Badaogou I used to read many old tales such as The Tale of Chun Hyang, The Tale of Sim Chong, The Tale of Ri Sun Sin, and Monkey, but after coming to Jilin I read many revolutionary novels and stories and progressive books which described the real life of the time, including Mother, The Iron Flood, Blessing, An Authorized Life of Ah-Q, On the River Amnok, and A Boy Wanderer. Later, when we ran up against severe trials like the “arduous march” during the anti-Japanese armed struggle, I recalled the revolutionary stories such as The Iron Flood I had read when I was in Jilin and drew strength and courage from them. Literary works play a great role in the formation of the world view of people, so every time I meet writers, I tell them to produce many revolutionary stories and novels. Our writers are now writing many revolutionary masterpieces.

We became politically aware also through seeing at first hand the absurd social phenomena and the miserable living conditions of the people at the time. Many of the Koreans coming from Korea to Manchuria passed through Jilin on their way to other places. We often heard from them about the pitiful conditions of the people at home. Some of the travellers crossing the River Amnok would pass through Dandong and come to Changchun on the south Manchurian railway, from where they would either proceed to north Manchuria by the Dongzhi railway or go by the Ji-Chang line to Jilin and then into the backlands nearby. Others would pass through Fengtian to go to the Dunhua, Emu or Ningan regions by the Feng-Hai and Jilin-Hoeryong lines. In the cold winter and early spring many Koreans could be seen at Jilin station and at the hotels in the city. Among them were people with truly sad and pathetic stories.

One day I went to the theatre with my friends to see a Chinese opera. After the performance the actress who had recited the poem came to us and asked us if a man with the name of Choe so-and-so was living in the city. He was her fiance. We were all surprised to hear her speak Korean. In Korea Chinese opera was not known.

The actress, whose name was Ok Pun, hailed from Kyongsang Province, Korea. Her father had one day been drinking with his friend who lived behind his house, and the two men had promised that if their wives gave birth to a boy and a girl, they would match them as man and wife, and that if the babies were only boys or only girls, they would make them sworn brothers or sisters. After a while a boy and a girl were born to the two houses. Their parents cut a silk kerchief into two and kept one half each in token of the marriage of their children. Later the two families had to leave their home village in search of a living. The boy’s family went to live in Jilin. The boy grew up and was now a student at Wenguang Middle School. After coming to Jilin his parents had managed somehow to obtain a house and made a reasonable living by running a small rice mill. On the other hand, the girl’s family had found themselves with no money when they arrived in Dandong and were compelled to sell their little daughter to a Chinese family. Ok Pun had been trained with a whip in Chinese opera and become an actress. As she grew older, she began to think of the boy she had been betrothed to back in their home village. Whenever she came to a new place, she would secretly meet any Koreans there and ask them if they knew where her betrothed was.

That day the actress Ok Pun had a dramatic reunion with her intended husband from Wenguang Middle School. When Ok Pun said she would stop her part in the play and join her husband, the owner of the theatre company who had been travelling with her demanded a huge sum of money. So, Ok Pun said to her fiance that she would return to Jilin after paying off the sum within a few years with money she would save from her pay. Witnessing all this, we felt indignant and angry in our hearts. We students denounced the mercenary and heartless manager of the theatre company as a “viper-like woman.”

Life in the large city where hundreds of thousands of humans were locked desperately in a struggle for existence gave off the stink of a class society. One summer day when the sun was beating down, I was returning from Beishan with my friends. On our way we witnessed a roadside scene in which a rickshaw driver was bickering with a rich man. It appeared that the rich man who had ridden in the rickshaw had not paid enough. Insisting that, since the Three Principles of the People was in force the gentry should duly pay heed to the matter of the “people’s livelihood,” the rickshaw driver asked for a little more money. But the rich man, far from giving him more money, countered the Three Principles of the People with the Five-Right Constitution and hit the poor man with his cane. Scandalized at this scene, we students swooped down on the rich fellow and made him pay some more money.

Such experiences made us skeptical and disaffected; we asked ourselves how it was that there were people who rode in a rickshaw while there were others who had to pull it, and, why it was that certain people were living in luxury in palatial mansions while others had to wander the streets begging.

A man can be said to have established his revolutionary world view when he becomes aware of his class position and interests, hates the exploiting classes, is prepared to safeguard the interests of his class and then embarks on the path of revolution with a determination to build a new society. I began to realize my class position through reading the Marxist-Leninist classics and other revolutionary books, became aware of many inequalities by observing social phenomena, conceived a growing hatred for the exploiting classes and exploiter society and, in the end, embarked on the road of struggle with a resolve to reform and rebuild the world.

The more I read the works of Marx and Lenin and the deeper I became absorbed in them, the greater the urge I felt to disseminate their revolutionary theories among the young people and students as soon as possible.

The first student I made friends with at Yuwen Middle School was a Korean named Kwon Thae Sok. There were four Korean students in all at the school; Kwon Thae Sok and I were the only ones who were interested in the young communist movement. The other two had no interest in the political movement. They were only concerned about money and were thinking of going into business after graduation. Kwon Thae Sok and I shared similar aspirations and similar views on society and so we were friends from the first. Of the Chinese students a young man called Zhang Xin-min was a friend of mine. He would always be in my company and discuss politics with me a great deal. We talked about various topics ranging from social inequality to the reactionary character of imperialism, the Japanese imperialists’ scheme to invade Manchuria and the Kuomintang’s traitorous acts.

Marxism-Leninism was still no more than an object of admiration among the young people and students of Jilin. Because Marx was said to be a prodigy, they would at most leaf through his classics just to see what sort of a man he was, or they would think they were behind the times if they did not know what Marxism was.

Drawing on my experience in Huadian, I organized a secret reading circle at Yuwen Middle School with several like-minded students. Its mission and aim were to arm the progressive young people and students closely with Marxist-Leninist thoughts and theory. This organization quickly grew and had soon expanded to many schools in the city, including Wenguang Middle School, Middle Schools No. 1 and No. 5, the Girls’ Middle School and the Normal School. With the increase in the number of members of the reading circle we got a room at the rice mill run by supporters of the independence movement and opened a library there, with members of the Ryugil Association of Korean Students running it.

Today libraries can be found everywhere, and if we choose to, we can build large palatial libraries like the Grand People’s Study House. But it was not an easy task furnishing a library in those days when we had nothing but our bare hands. We needed to lay in a stock of books, set up bookshelves, and install desks and chairs, but we had no money. Every Sunday, therefore, we worked to earn money, carrying sleepers on our shoulders at the railway construction site or gravel on our backs at the riverside. The girl students went and sorted rice at the rice mills. We purchased books with the money we earned penny by penny with so much pain. We installed a secret bookshelf to keep revolutionary books. After we had finished equipping the library we put up notices with brief yet interesting book reviews throughout the city. Then a great many students hastened to call at our library.

We even had love stories prepared to attract students. Young people often came to the library to read the love stories. After we had thus given them a taste of reading, we started offering them books on social science. When the students were awakened gradually through reading social science literature, we offered them the Marxist-Leninist classics and revolutionary stories and novels from our secret stock. We provided the young people and students with novels by Ri Kwang Su such as Resurrection, Heartlessness and Trailblazer. Ri Kwang Su drafted the “February 8th Declaration of Independence” in Tokyo on the eve of the March First Popular Uprising and wrote many progressive works while he was involved in the independence movement. Therefore, young people read his novels with keen interest. But later he deserted his principles and failed to write works with any instructive value. In the end, he went so far as to write reactionary novels like the Wife of a Revolutionary. After founding the anti-Japanese guerrilla army, I made for south Manchuria with the guerrilla force. On my way I stopped at Fusong for a brief visit, and there I read the novel. Its story is about a communist lying in his sickbed whose wife forms a liaison with the medical college student who comes to her home to treat her husband. Thus the work was about her scandalous life. It was an insult to the communists and defiled the communist movement from start to finish.

Of a Saturday or a Sunday we gathered at Jilin Church or Beishan Park to discuss our impressions of the books we had read. At first there were some who talked about the love stories. But they were snubbed by the other students who said that their observations were quite worthless. Once humiliated in this way, the students who had been infatuated with love stories would turn to revolutionary stories of their own accord.

“Story-telling” was another method we used in widely propagating the revolutionary thought among the young people and students and the masses. One day I had a sore throat, and because a poultice had been applied, I could not attend a class. On my way home from school, I dropped in at Beishan, where I saw a large crowd of people sitting around a blind man who was telling an old tale. As I approached, I found that the blind man was reciting a passage from the Three Warring Kingdoms, in the manner of a shaman narrating a spiritual message. When he came to the scene in which Zhu-ge Liang takes an enemy position through trickery, he even beat a drum to add to the fun. Then, when the narration reached a climax in an interesting scene, he abruptly stopped and held out his hands to the listeners for money. In those days this was called “story-telling” by the Chinese, and it was a good way of drawing the masses.

After that we adopted this method in popularizing revolutionary thoughts. Among our companions there was a man who was a real jester and quick of tongue. He had been given the assignment of working with men of religion, and he was more clever and accurate than the pastors in offering up a prayer and reciting from the Bible. I told him to take up “story-telling” and found him to be better at this than at reciting from the Bible. He would go to a guest room in a village or a park where people flocked and narrate good stories in an interesting manner; he enjoyed great popularity. The blind man did his “story-telling” for money, but our friend did not ask for a penny. Instead, he would stop his narration at an interesting point and make an inflammatory speech for a while before telling his audience to come at a certain hour the next day when he would resume the story. So the next day the people would come to the appointed place to listen to the rest of the story.

 Of the people I got to know through books in those days, Pak So Sim impressed me deeply. In the busy quarters of Jilin there was a large bookshop by the name of Xinwen Shushe. I would go to the shop several times a week. Pak So Sim was also a regular customer there. He would always linger before the social science counter to find out which books had arrived. We often bumped into each other there. He was tall and thin and had an intelligent air. When I went to the shop with some other students and bought armloads of books for our library, he would be as pleased as if he were choosing books for himself and tell us about the content of certain books and advise us as to which books we should read and therefore buy. This was how I came to form a close friendship with Pak So Sim through books. When I was going to school from Dongdatan, he came to my quarters and stayed with me for a while.

He had lived in Seoul before going there. He was in such poor health that he gave no thought to joining the communist movement, but wrote short articles for newspapers and magazines. His articles were carried in the newspaper Haejo Sinmun and the magazine Joson Ji-gwang. Although he had nothing to do with the communist movement, he was contemptuous of the factionalists. As he was upright and had great insight, those involved in various movements who frequented Jilin tried to win him over to their camps.

He would sit up until late reading The Capital in Japanese. He was an enthusiastic reader; when he ran out of money, he would pawn his clothes to buy books. He was not a pedant who would pretend to be a Marxist-Leninist theoretician after reading a few primers, yet he was someone with a thorough knowledge of the major works of Marx and Lenin. He was a memorable teacher who initiated me into The Capital and explained it to me. As was the case with Marx’s works in general, The Capital had many points that were difficult to understand. So, Pak So Sim gave me explanatory lectures on The Capital. To grasp the substance of the classics, one needs a primer or a guide. Pak So Sim acted as a faithful guide for me. He was extremely well-read.

Once I asked him about the Marxist-Leninist propositions on the dictatorship of the proletariat. He explained to me the propositions of the Marxist-Leninist classics which interpreted the proletarian dictatorship from different angles at different stages of historical development. For his theoretical attainments and learning, he could be called a master of Marxism. But there was something that was beyond the reach of his knowledge, something he found it hard to answer. I asked him the question: Although the Marxist-Leninist classics say that the class emancipation of the working class comes before national liberation, is it not true that in our country the yoke of Japanese imperialism should be thrown off first before the class emancipation of the workers and peasants? This question was argued about a great deal among our comrades. We found that the Marxist-Leninist classics fell short of providing a theoretical explanation of the interrelations between the emancipation of the working class and national liberation. As for the national liberation struggle in colonial countries, there were many problems which required scientific elucidation. Pak So Sim answered my question only vaguely.

I asked him another question: The Marxist-Leninist classics generally say that the revolution in the suzerain state and that in a colonial country are organically linked with each other and stress the importance of the victory of the revolution in the suzerain state. That means that our country will be able to attain its independence only after the working class of Japan have won their revolution, doesn’t it? So should we wait until they win their victory?

Pak So Sim was at a loss what to say in reply to this. He gazed at me in surprise. He said it was an internationally-accepted line of the international communist movement that, as was pointed out in the classics, the emancipation of the working class came before national liberation and that the struggle of the working class in the suzerain state was considered more important than the national liberation struggle in a colonial country. When I tilted my head in doubt, he became annoyed and said frankly that he had only studied Marxism-Leninism as a science and that he had not viewed it in the light of concrete revolutionary practice related to the independence of Korea and the building of communism in Korea. His words somehow saddened me. It was useless to Study communist theory only as a science detached from practice, as he said he did.

The greatest anguish my friends and I felt in studying the progressive thoughts of Marxism-Leninism was that while we were anxious to reform society by means of a revolution as the Russians had done and thus liberate our country, the situation in Korea was different from the situation prevailing in Russia when the October Revolution had taken place. We were confronted with such complex problems as how to carry out the proletarian revolution in a colonial country like Korea, a backward semi-feudal state, how to establish contact with the revolutions in neighbouring countries, particularly China, when we had to wage the struggle on Chinese territory away from our homeland due to the harsh repression of Japanese imperialism, and how to fulfil our national duty to the Korean revolution and our international obligations to the world revolution. It took us a long time and cost us dear before we found correct answers to these questions.

Pak So Sim became intimate with me and was drawn deeply into my revolutionary aspiration in the days of my pursuit of Marxist-Leninist studies. He joined the Anti-Imperialist Youth League and then the Young Communist League and worked selflessly with us to educate and enlighten the young people and children. Although he had been a bookworm, he displayed an amazing passion for work once he had made up his mind and jumped into the arena of practical activity. We sent him to the Kalun area to receive treatment for his tuberculosis. He built a hut on the banks of the River Wukai some two kilometres from Jiajiatun and lived a lonely life there cooking for himself. Once when I was working in the areas of Kalun and Wujiazi, I found time to pay him a visit. He was delighted to see me. We had a hearty talk and discussed many things. He showed me a picture of his wife. I was surprised because I had thought his wife was dead, or they were divorced. Her picture showed her to be beautiful and intelligent, a modern woman. Pak told me that a letter had come from his wife in Seoul a short time before. When I asked him why he did not summon her, he explained that she was a daughter of a rich family. I asked him if he had not known that when he married her. Pak heaved a sigh and said that after their marriage his world view had undergone a change. His words struck me as very odd, so I asked him if he had forgotten her. He had thought so, he admitted frankly, but after receiving a letter from her, he thought of her often. So I told him that if he loved her, he should write and send for her. How can a man who is incapable of re-educating his wife overthrow the old society and build a new one? If his wife were by his side, it would also prove good for the treatment of his illness, I advised him. Pak sighed and said that he would do as I advised.

“I’ll do so because it’s your advice. But my life is already on the decline. I lead a frustrated life, I mean.” He had no children, and no estate or mental legacy to be left behind should he have any. He wanted to devote his whole life to the study of Marxism-Leninism and write books which could help the working class. But, he said, he could not attain his objective. He said that when he had been fit and strong, he could not write because he was ignorant, and that now that he was awakened to the truth, his health would not allow him to do so.

 His remark grieved me. He was a devoted scholar, tireless and inquiring. If he had not buried himself in books but plunged into practical activities a little earlier, he might have hit upon some valuable theories helpful to the revolutionary cause of the working class and made some practical achievements. A theory is born of practice and its accuracy is verified through practice. The practice we are not allowed to lose sight of even for a moment consists of the independence of Korea and the welfare of our people. To our regret, Pak So Sim had no sooner awoken to this truth than he departed from our side. His wife came from Seoul and nursed her sick husband, and he kept writing short essays and occasional notes before dying at Kalun.

The ancients said that if a man learns the way in the morning, he may die in the evening without regret. It was a pity that a man like Pak So Sim who could have accomplished many useful things should have died as soon as he awoke to the truth.

I spent a little more than three years in Jilin. Jilin is a place dear to me, with vivid memories from one period of my life. In this city I came to understand Marxism-Leninism as a scientific theory, and with the help of this theory came to a deeper realization of the practical truth for the independence of Korea and the people’s well-being. My quick comprehension of the essence of the new ideology was due to my sorrow and indignation as a son of a stateless people. The intolerable misery and distress of our nation led me to early maturity. I accepted the fate of my suffering country and compatriots as my own. This brought me a great sense of duty to the nation.

In the days I spent in Jilin my world view was established and strengthened, and it provided me with a lifelong ideological and moral foundation. My accumulation of knowledge and experience in Jilin enabled me to build the framework of an independent revolutionary thought in the future.

Study is a basic process for the self-culture of revolutionaries and represents an essential mental endeavour that must never be suspended even for a single day in laying the groundwork for achieving social progress and reform. Proceeding from the lesson learned in the process of pursuing progressive ideologies in Jilin, I emphasize even now that study is the first duty of a revolutionary.


2. Mentor Shang Yue


While Pak So Sim was my teacher and introduced The Capital to me, Shang Yue was my teacher and introduced Mother by Gorky and the Dream at the Red Mansion to me. Shang Yue taught philology and literature at Yuwen Middle School.

Shortly after his appointment to the school, we heard that a new teacher of philology and literature, a graduate of the English faculty at Beijing University, had arrived at the school, and we all looked forward to his lecture.

However, we were somewhat anxious about the new teacher. We wondered if he had been appointed by the Office of Education as its agent. There were several undesirable elements bribed by the warlord authorities among the teachers at Yuwen Middle School, and they had been appointed by the Office of Education. It was not long since Zhang Xue-liang, on the orders of Jiang Jie-shi, had hoisted the flag of the Kuomintang in Manchuria. The intelligence machinery of Jiang Jie-shi was already stretching its tentacles from Shenyang to Jilin. The agents of the Kuomintang had not yet got their hands on Yuwen Middle School, but the progressive teachers and students at the school were placed under constant surveillance by the warlords and their agents. This being the situation, the appointment of a new teacher could not but make us feel nervous as we awaited his lesson.

The teacher dispelled the students’ suspicion and won their popularity after only one lesson. He explained the long story of the 120-part Dream at the Red Mansion in an hour. He was so proficient in explaining the essentials, weaving the plot with important details of life, that we were able to digest instantly all the messages carried in the novel and the process of the decline of a noble family in which the patriarchal tradition held sway.

As he left the classroom after the lecture, the students exclaimed joyfully that the new teacher at Yuwen Middle School was a talented man.

He had spoken a great deal about the content of the novel, but only a little about its author. So the next day I stopped him as he strolled around the playground and asked him to tell me about Cao Xue-qin, the writer of the novel. He said that he had omitted a biography of the writer because of a lack of time, and that it was natural for me to ask about him. He went into the details of the writer’s life and his family background.

After his explanation I asked him some questions about the corelations between the class origin of a writer and the class character of his works.

He gave me clear answers to those questions, too. Saying that he was giving me his own opinion, he explained that while it was true that the class origin of a writer might influence the character of his works, the dominating factor defining the character was not the author’s class origin but his outlook on the world. He took Cao Xue-qin as an example. He said: Cao was born to a noble family that received the favour of the Emperor Kangxi and grew up in comfortable circumstances but, because he had a progressive outlook on the world, he was able to give an artistic description of feudal China in her disintegration and of the inevitability of her collapse.

He went on to tell me: “You were right to come to see me today, Song Ju. If a student has a question, something he wants made clear, he should immediately receive help from his teacher. That is the attitude a student in pursuit of science should adopt. Ask me many questions at any place and at any time. I am fond of students who ask me many questions.” I was pleased that he told me to ask many questions. I had been known as a pupil who asked many questions from my days at primary school. Even at Yuwen Middle School I bothered the teachers with many questions. He said that he had me Dream at the Red Mansion and a short biography of Cao, and told me I could read them at any time if I wanted to. So I was lucky enough to be the first visitor to his boarding house.

My grandfather would always say that it was not advisable for a pupil to visit his teacher’s house. Not only those from the older generation who had grown up by learning Tongmongsonsub (the first textbook for a boy—Tr.) at village schools, but also many other elders who claimed that they had become civilized thanks to modern eduction were of the same opinion as my grandfather. My grandfather’s opinion was this: If pupils peep into their teacher’s private life frequently, they lose their awe of him; the teacher must give his pupils the firm belief that their teacher neither eats nor urinates; only then can he maintain his authority at school; so a teacher should set up a screen and live behind it.

Grandfather had this opinion at the time when my father was attending the village school. There was a teacher named Kim Ji Song at Sunhwa Village School which my father was attending. He was helplessly fond of drinking. He would often send my father, who was the class monitor, on errands to buy wine for him. At first my father obeyed him meekly, but after seeing the drunken teacher fall flat on his face in a ditch on his way home, father changed his mind.

One day the teacher gave him a large bottle and sent him on the same errand. But outside the school gate he threw the bottle at a rock and smashed it to pieces. He told the teacher that, chased by a tiger, he had tripped over a stone and broken the bottle. In blank dismay the teacher said, “Oh! Has a tiger from Mt. Paektu come as far as Mangyongdae? How shameful it is for me that you must lie to me! It was wrong of me to send you boys for wine.” Thus he stopped drinking. Even though his teacher had stopped drinking, the image of the teacher flat on his face in the ditch smelling of wine was engraved on my father’s memory. My grandfather’s opinion of a teacher’s code of conduct was based on this anecdote.

But before my teacher Shang Yue could set up a screen, I had plunged into his private life.

There were hundreds of books in his bookcase. It was the richest and most impressive of all the bookcases I had ever seen. His room was a library. The bookcase contained many English novels and biographies. I was fascinated by his books. If I were to digest all the knowledge in these books, wouldn’t that be better than a university education? It Is fortunate for me that this teacher has come to Yuwen Middle School, I thought.

After a cursory inspection of the books I asked:

“Excuse me, sir. How many years did it take you to fill this bookcase?”

He came up to the bookcase and, looking into my face, said with a smile:

“Almost 10 years.”

“How many years do you think it would take me to read all these books?”

“If you are diligent, three years, and if not, 100 years.”

“Sir, will you open this bookcase to me if I promise to read all these books in three years?”

“Why not? But there is one condition,”

 “If you will lend the books to me, I will accept any condition.”

“The condition is that you become a writer in the future, and that’s all. I have always wanted to train a few writers from among young people who will work for the proletarian revolution. You will be one of them, won’t you?”

‘T am extremely grateful for that. Frankly, I feel a particular attachment to literature and I admire writers. After the liberation of the country I might take up literature; however, sir, we are the sons of a ruined nation. My father fought to liberate the country, braving difficulties all his life, before passing away. I am determined to devote myself to the struggle for national independence in accordance with my father’s will, and that is my highest ideal and ambition. I am set on fighting to liberate my nation.”

The teacher, leaning against the bookcase, nodded continually, a serious look on his face. Then he came to me and placed his hand on my shoulder, saying, “That’s wonderful. Song Ju! If the struggle for independence is your ideal, I will open this bookcase to you on that condition.”

That day I returned home with the Dream at the Red Mansion. The next books I borrowed were the novels by Jiang Guang-ci, On the River Amnok and A Boy Wanderer. I found these two novels very interesting. The first novel, On the River Amnok, in which Ri Maeng Han and Un Go, a Korean young man and girl, were the principal characters made a special, unforgettable impression on me. Later I borrowed from him Gorky’s Mother.

In this way we got on exceptionally well through books and literature. He would lend me any book I wanted to read. If I asked for books he didn’t have in his bookcase, he would go to the trouble of obtaining them for me from other sources. In return for his helping me with my reading, I had to tell him about my impressions of each book I had read.

We swopped our opinions on The Enemy by Gorky and Blessing by Lu Xun.

Thus we frequently exchanged our views on literature. The topic of our conversations always focussed on the mission of literature. We talked a great deal about how literature should reflect the reality and promote social progress.

The teacher said that literature was a light that gave men intellect. He said that while machines promoted the development of production, literature perfected the qualities of the men who operated machines.

He would talk about Lu Xun and his works with particular fervour. He was a literary friend of Lu Xun and a member of the literary circle that was led by him. The short story The Axe-head he wrote during his circle activities was highly thought of by Lu Xun. The novel depicted the people in the Luoshan area who were fighting against feudal customs. According to Shang Xiao-yuan, Shang Yue’s daughter, Lu Xun also expressed his dissatisfaction with the story, saying that it lacked literary sharpness.

By overcoming the immaturity revealed in his early works, in the 1930s he produced a work with perfect ideological and artistic qualities, A Plot, which was favourably spoken of by readers. This novel was carried serially in a magazine published in Yunnan Province. In the 1980s the People’s Literature Publishing House of China published this novel in paperback.

In addition to The Axe-head and A Plot he produced the novels, Spear and The Dog Problem and published them. While working as a teacher he never abandoned his creative endeavours as a writer. So it was only natural that he tried to lead me into literary pursuits in those days.

I even borrowed from him the Selected Works of Chen Du-xiu. Chen was one of the founders of the Communist Party of China; he had been at the helm of the Chinese party. At first, he was reluctant to lend the books to me because he was afraid that I might be corrupted by Chen’s Rightist capitulationist line. He added that Chen had been the Dean of School of Letters at Beijing University before he had gone to the university and that many teachers and students were proud that Chen had been one of them at the university.

He confessed:

“To be frank, I once worshipped Chen. I became fascinated by him while reading the magazine New Youth he published and his early treatises. But now my opinion of Chen has changed.”

According to him, the great popularity Chen had enjoyed at the time of the May 4 Movement and in the early days of the Communist Party had fallen because he had adopted the line of Rightist opportunism.

Chen’s opportunist error was particularly evident in his attitude towards the peasant question. As early as 1926 Stalin had pointed out that the peasantry was the main force of the anti-imperialist front in China and the most reliable ally of the Chinese working class. Nevertheless, Chen ignored the peasantry. Out of his fear of a conflict between the peasants and the landed proprietors, he opposed the peasants’ interference in the administration and their active self-defence. In short, he tried to restrain the peasants’ struggle. Chen’s mistake was that, on the pretext of opposing imperialism, he was against the revolution in the rural communities because he feared that the bourgeoisie might break away from the revolutionary front. His capitulationist line resulted instead in encouraging the bourgeoisie to betray the revolution. This was Shang Yue’s view of Chen Du-xiu.

As he rightly pointed out, the works of Chen contained capitulationist elements which could do great harm to the revolution. After reading the Selected Works of Chen Du-xiu I had a long conversation with him on our views on the peasant question. This talk centred on the following points: What similarities and differences are there concerning the peasant question in the Korean revolution and the Chinese revolution; what are the points we should refer to in Lenin’s strategy on the peasant question; and what should be done to enable the peasantry to play their role as the main force of the revolution?

I said that it must be right to regard the peasantry as the great force of a country since agriculture was the major foundation of a country.

He affirmed my view and went on to say that neglecting the peasantry meant neglecting farming and the land, so the revolution, however noble its ideal, would inevitably fail if the peasantry was neglected. He added that Chen was mistaken because he had forgotten this principle.

This conversation convinced me that the teacher was a communist. He discovered that I had been working for the Young Communist League. He had marvellous sensibility and judgement. He joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1926. He had been arrested by the reactionary warlords of the Kuomintang while guiding the peasant movement in his home town and experienced many hardships for over a year in military prison in Zhejiang Province. Later he was released on bail with the help of a Korean army surgeon and came to Manchuria under an assumed name of Xie Zhong-wu. He had got employment at Yuwen Middle School in Jilin through the good offices of a man named Chu Tu-nan.

After exchanging our views on the peasant question, we frequently discussed political questions. The young people and students in Jilin in those days used to discuss politics widely. Since China was then in the throes of a great revolution and Korea was at the height of a mass movement, we had a host of questions to discuss. It was around this time that there were vehement arguments among Korean young people about which was right, Ri Jun’s method or An Jung Gun’s method. Many young people and students were definitely in favour of An Jung Gun’s fighting method.

I asked the teacher about his view on An Jung Gun’s method. He commented that what he had done was certainly patriotic at the time but his method was unsure. His opinion coincided with mine. I thought that the struggle against imperialist Japan’s aggression could not succeed by using the terrorist method of killing a few stooges of the warlords, and that it would achieve its aim only by educating and awakening the popular masses to political consciousness and encouraging all the people to join the struggle.

We also swapped opinions on the history of imperialist Japan’s aggression in Korea, her colonial policy in Korea, her scheme to invade Manchuria and the warlords’ support for it, and the necessity for solidarity and cooperation between the peoples of Korea and China in the anti-imperialist, anti-aggression struggle.

In those days the students of Yuwen Middle School frequently discussed the attitude of the League of Nations towards disarmament. There were many students who harboured illusions about the League of Nations. So I wrote an article exposing the league’s trickery in dealing with the question of disarmament. Many students spoke in support of my article. My teacher, Shang Yue, read it and commented that my opinion was correct.

In his days in Jilin he lost contact with his Communist Party organization but he gave several lectures on the works of such progressive writers as Gorky and Lu Xun for the purpose of enlightenment. Once at the request of the members of the secret reading circle he gave a one-week special course in the school library on the subject of “Let us oppose imperialism.” The students’ reaction to his lectures was very good. I let him know this to encourage him. He was loved by his students for his progressive ideas, high sense of responsibility in education and profound and wide knowledge of the cultures and history of all ages and countries.

The reactionary teachers who were bribed by the warlord authorities were unhappy with him and tried to sully his reputation as a teacher. The students who were loved and supported by him were also subject to their jealousy and slander. A certain Fang tried to force the headmaster, Li Guang-han, to expel the Korean students, and Ma, the physical-training teacher, schemed to stir up opinion against me, saying that the Korean students were hostile to the Chinese teachers. Shang Yue always shielded me from their attack.

The English teacher, too, was hostile to the students who aspired to the new trend of thought. He was steeped in flunkeyism. He was so contemptuous of Oriental people that he said it was uncivilized of the Chinese people to smack their lips while eating; Westerners did not, he said. He, a Chinese, behaved like a Westerner.

His frequent show of contempt for Oriental backwardness was seriously offensive to us. So when we were on kitchen duty we prepared noodles and invited the teachers to dinner. As they ate their hot noodles, the hall was loud with sucking sounds. The English teacher, too, was sucking his noodles down. The students roared with laughter at him. Sensing that he was being made fun of he flushed and left. After that he never again spoke ill of Oriental people. As he worshipped the West so much, the students were not interested in his lessons.

The reactionary teachers’ pressure on Shang Yue grew towards the beginning of 1929.

On one occasion he said that it was desirable to encourage as many people as possible, rather than only sportsmen, to take part in physical training. He said that it was undesirable that only basketball players should use the court in the school playground. Some rowdy players who were unhappy with his remark tried to attack him after school when he was returning to his boarding house from school. I saw to it that the members of the Young Communist League and the Anti-Imperialist Youth League prevented them from such misconduct and scolded them severely.

The literature teacher, as he looked at the fleeing attackers, sighed. saying, “Ma has trained some wonderful stooges.”

I said to him with a laugh, “Don’t be afraid, sir. This, too, is a sort of class struggle. We should prepare for a possible clash that may be worse than this one.” To this he replied, “You are right. We are fighting now with the warlords.”

While trying to reinstate the students who had been expelled without due cause by the Office of Education, he was dismissed and left Yuwen Middle School. When I returned to school after guiding the mass organizations in the Changchun and Kalun areas in their work, Kwon Thae Sok hurried up to me and gave me a letter the teacher had left for me. The letter said: I have been defeated in the fight with the warlords and am leaving you, but we will defeat them in the future. Wherever I go I will send you, Song Ju, my wholehearted blessing on your ideal to live your whole life as a true son of your motherland and your people. Those were the last words of encouragement from him to me.

I have not seen him since. I discovered that he was still alive when I received from him in 1955 his essay, The Historical Relationship between Marshal Kim Il Sung and I in His Boyhood and in 1980 his book The Outline of Chinese History. Reading them, I recalled the days at Yuwen Middle School when we would discuss the situations in Korea and Manchuria, the aggressive policy of the Japanese imperialists and the joint struggle of the Korean and Chinese peoples, and I sent my heartfelt gratitude to my old teacher.

Whenever Chinese leaders have visited our country I have inquired after him. To my regret, I have not met him again. I must say that I have not fulfilled my obligation as one of his pupils. The border between countries is something strange. He passed away in 1982 while a professor at Chinese People’s University in Beijing.

His eldest daughter Shang Jia-lan, a researcher at the Dynamics Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, visited our country in 1989 and his third daughter Shang Xiao-yuan came to our country to see me in 1990. The latter is teaching at Chinese People’s University. I could not suppress my joy when I saw his image in his daughters’ faces after 60 years of separation. Can a difference in nationalities change people’s feelings? Friendship knows no barrier of skin colour, language and religion. If Yuwen Middle School had been nearby, I would have picked a handful of the lilac petals that blossomed in the school garden and given them to his daughters, saying, “This is the flower your father loved. Your father and I met frequently by a lilac bush.”

Leaving Jilin, he devoted himself to party work, education, culture and writing in Harbin, Shanghai, Beijing, Hankou, Chongqing, Ningxia and Yanan. He once worked as the chief secretary of the provincial party committee of Manchuria, I was told.

He never forgot me throughout his life and always maintained friendly feelings for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a close neighbour of China.

He was buried in the Martyrs’ Cemetery in Babaoshan in Beijing.

A man who has a mentor he can recollect throughout his life is truly a happy man. In this sense, I am a happy man. Whenever I miss this man who left a lasting impression on me in my youthful days, I take a stroll in my heart in the garden of Yuwen Middle School.


3. The Young Communist League of Korea


With the rapid dissemination of Marxist-Leninist ideas through the activities of the members of the DIU and secret reading circles a qualitative change began to take place in the thinking of the young people and students. The progressive ideas gradually made them understand the tasks set before them by history and the nation. We united the young people and students into various organizations, while continuing to awaken them ideologically. Only through organizations was it possible to disseminate Marxist-Leninist ideas wider and train hardcore forces more rapidly.

I started my revolutionary activities in the youth and student movement. I attached great importance to this movement partly because I was a student and particularly because it played an important role in and had an important influence on awakening and organizing workers, farmers and other broad sections of the masses.

In Marxist-Leninist theory the youth and student movement is likened to a bridge. In other words, the youth and student movement is a bridge for the dissemination of progressive ideas, the enlightening and awakening of the masses and the encouragement of them to join the revolutionary movement. We supported this theory.

With the revolution progressing and getting into its stride our view on and attitude towards the role of the young people and students changed radically. We defined the young people and students as constituting the fully-fledged main force of the revolution, thus breaking away from the old viewpoint according to which the motive force of the revolution had been defined with the main emphasis on the workers and peasants. This is proved to be correct by the course of the youth and student movement.

Young people and students fought bravely in the van of the March First Popular Uprising, the June 10th Independence Movement, the student incident in Kwangju17 and other historic events which constituted the peaks of the anti-Japanese patriotic struggle in our country before liberation. We opened a new history of the communist movement on the strength of the youth and waged the 15-year-long anti-Japanese armed struggle with young people and students as the backbone. Today, too, young people and students are fulfilling the role of the shock brigade in our revolution.

Young people and students are the main force of the revolution in south Korea, too. Young people and students played an important role in triggering off the April 19 Uprising18, the leading role in the people’s resistance in Kwangju (1980)19 and were standard-bearers in the June Resistance which overthrew the political regime of the “Fifth Republic.”

As is well known, young people and students were the vanguard of the May 4 Movement which the Chinese people regard as the starting-point of their new democratic movement.

The long and rich history of the struggle of the Korean people in which they constantly accumulated new experience, clearing an untrodden path for mankind, has proved that the old theory which did not regard students even as a social stratum does not conform with the actual situation in our country.

The problem with our youth and student movement up to the first half of the 1920s was that it did not stand firmly by the class and anti-imperialist view and was not rooted deep in the masses. Most of the top level of the movement were intellectuals, and the main force of the movement attached too much importance to the enlightenment movement.

We made every possible effort to take a resolute first step while strictly guarding against any repetition of the shortcomings revealed in the youth and student movement previously.

But the formation of the organization and the enlisting of young people and students in it came up against complex problems. Our greatest difficulty in organizing the young people and students was deciding what method and form to adopt in founding an organization, in view of the fact that youth organizations formed by the nationalists and factionalists already existed. In Jilin there were already the Jilin Youth Association, the Ryogil Association of Korean Students in Jilin, the Children’s Association and other organizations.

If these organizations had not existed, new organizations could have been formed without hindrance, like building houses on an empty site. But various organizations had already been formed and were working among the young people and students, and they could not be ignored.

After serious discussion we decided to ignore or renovate the organizations which existed only in name and were not active and leave the organizations which were active, though uninspiring, as they were, and use and reform them in the future.

The Association of Korean Children in Jilin was the first organization we formed there. At that time there was the Children’s Association that had been formed by the nationalists in Jilin but it was an organization in name only and the Korean children in Jilin knew nothing of its existence. We formed the Association of Korean Children in Jilin, a legal organization, in April 1927 at Son Jong Do’s chapel.

I, together with Kim Won U and Pak Il Pha (Pak U Chon), presided over the meeting. At the meeting it was decided to set up organizational, propaganda, and sports and leisure sections within the association and to establish branches in schools and regions.

Hwang Kwi Hon, who attended Jilin Girls’ Normal School and was then in charge of the propaganda section of the Children’s Association, remembers this well.

The Children’s Association embraced all the Korean children in Jilin, including the children of workers, peasants and small and medium manufacturers and merchants, as well as of nationalists. The aim of the Association of Korean Children in Jilin was to educate children in the anti-Japanese idea and bring them up to be reliable reserves for the revolution.

In its programme the Children’s Association made one important task for its members to be to study the new progressive ideas and explain and propagate them to the broad sections of the people.

In May that year we reformed the Ryogil Association of Korean Students in Jilin into the Ryugil Association of Korean Students in Jilin.

The Ryogil Association of Korean Students in Jilin had no small number of members and a certain influence.

Originally it had been formed to promote friendship among Korean students in Jilin and had been aided by the nationalists. Son Jong Do was one of its advisers.

When we proposed to reform the Ryogil Association of Korean Students in Jilin into the Ryugil Association of Korean Students in Jilin, some people suggested that it be disbanded, criticizing it as a fraternity organization directed mainly by the nationalists. They alleged that, as the organization was based on nationalism and heterogeneity, whatever might be done to it, it would still remain nationalist. The essence of their argument was that nationalism was an outdated trend and should be done away with.