KIM IL SUNG
With the Century
THE ANTI-JAPANESE REVOLUTION
Only those who have shed their blood and sacrificed their lives to repossess their country can be said to have fully experienced how valuable their fatherland is and how arduous and tortuous is the road to return to it.
Kim Il Sung
In mid-February of 1933, guided by old man Ma, we marched towards the Wangqing guerrilla zone. When they reached the road, the 18 guerrillas, who had spent the long tedious hours of the last 20 days in the mountain hut in constant discussions of political affairs, lengthened their stride in high spirits. Although the traces of the winter-long trials they had undergone still lingered about them, the marching column was lively and moved at a brisk pace.
It is said that the inhabitants of Wangqing, if asked nowadays what are the distinctive features of their district, will remark wittily that the place is noted for the long speeches made by their county chief, the long primary school buildings, and the long valleys. This comment must be the brainchild of a local humorist fond of cracking jokes to express his feeling of attachment to the place.
If such a witty phrase had occurred to me at the time in 1933 when my comrades-in-arms asked me what Wangqing was like, I could have given them a chance to laugh following their terrible hardships. But I merely replied that it was a place where many exiles had settled.
By exiles I meant revolutionaries.
In Wangqing the anti-Japanese independence struggle had raged more
fiercely than in the other counties of the Jiandao area, even from the early
years. It was in this county that Hong Pom Do, a famous veteran commander of
the volunteers’ army, dealt a crushing blow to the Japanese “punitive” forces,
and it was here too that
The vigorous activity of the Independence Army and the frequent appearance of independence fighters in this area had awoken the inhabitants’ national consciousness and stimulated them to fight for their country against the Japanese.
As the tide of the Independence Army movement receded and the independence fighters withdrew into the Maritime Province of Siberia and Soviet-Manchurian border districts, the leadership of the national liberation struggle in the Wangqing area gradually passed into the hands of the communists, and the main trend of the struggle shifted from nationalism to communist movement. On the patriotic soil which had been fertilized by the blood of the nationalists, the forerunners of a new ideological trend developed the communist movement.
For all this, the motive force of the struggle remained basically unchanged. The overwhelming majority of the nationalists became converts to the communist movement. The ranks of the communist movement thus included not only those who had, from the outset, taken the communist path, but also those nationalists who had gradually come to accept communism. It would have been impossible to launch the communist movement if it had been restricted to people free of all political taint. This is the principle of inheritance and innovation, one of the principles which have guided us in the development of the revolution. Communist ideology is the acme of human thought, and the communist movement is the highest stage of the revolutionary movements, but it would be a mistake to think, for this reason, that the communist movement starts and develops from a tabula rasa.
In any case, Wangqing was famous for its long record of anti-
Japanese struggle, for the favourable mood among its masses and its firm
political footing. It was also located near the six towns in the northern
frontier region of
In those days people used to say; those who wish to work their way
through university should go to Japan, those who wish to eat bread should go to
the Soviet Union, and those who wish to work for the revolution should go to
Jiandao. This reflected the thinking of the young people of
Going to Jiandao was as dangerous as approaching the opening of a pillbox, but we marched straight towards the pillbox without hesitation in order to forward the triumph of the revolution.
We marched with light steps towards the guerrilla zone, not because a sumptuous meal or comfortable beds awaited us, but because there we would find the comrades and people with whom we would share life and death, the ground which we would tread with the step of freedom, and a land of our own, which defied the ordinances of the Japanese Emperor and the decrees of the governor-general.
By February 1933, when we advanced towards Zhuanjiaolou under the guidance of old man Ma, the work of developing guerrilla bases in many parts of east Manchuria had been almost finished, and they had begun to demonstrate the effect they could have.
To establish the guerrilla bases and use them as a source of strength to launch a powerful armed struggle was one of the major policies adopted by the Korean communists at their winter meeting at Mingyuegou. At this meeting we had stated that in order to launch a campaign of armed resistance we must establish our positions, which was simply an expression of our intention to develop guerrilla bases.
At the meeting at Xiaoshahe in the spring of 1932 we raised the matter again, as a separate item on the agenda, and discussed seriously how we could develop the guerrilla bases in the form of liberated areas-a matter which had already been discussed at the Mingyuegou meeting the previous winter. After the meeting at Xiaoshahe, we sent able leaders to different parts of the Jiandao area and increased the tempo of revolutionary training for the rural villages. This was the first stage in our work of establishing the guerrilla bases.
The revolutionized rural areas had served as temporary bases for the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army pending the establishment of the guerrilla zones, and they provided the ground on which to develop the guerrilla bases. One guerrilla base after another had been developed in the places we had selected as most suitable at the Mingyuegou meeting in winter, that is, in the mountainous areas around Antu, Yanji, Wangqing, Helong and Hunchun-Niufudong, Wangougou, Hailangou, Shirengou, Sandaowan, Xiaowangqing, Gayahe, Yaoyinggou, Yulang-cun, Dahuanggou and Yantonglazi. All this was achieved through the titanic efforts of the Korean communists and at the cost of their blood in a fierce struggle against the enemy.
The blood spilt and the efforts dedicated to the establishment of these guerrilla bases in the area along the Tuman River by the Korean communists Ryang Song Ryong, Ri Kwang, Jang Ryong San, Choe Chun Guk, Ju Jin, Pak Tong Gun, Pak Kil, Kim Il Hwan, Cha Ryong Dok, Kang Sok Hwan, An Kil, Ri Kuk Jin, Ri Pong Su and others will be long remembered in history.
Prominent figures of the time were quick to assemble in the guerrilla
bases in the Jiandao area, travelling from the homeland and abroad. Many people
came to the Wangqing area, including Kim Pack Ryong, Jo Tong
The guerrilla bases in east
Exploiting the favourable conditions created by the establishment of this strategic centre of the revolution, the Korean communists expanded the ranks of the guerrillas, established party and Young Communist League organizations, the Anti-Imperialist Union, the Peasants’ Association, the Anti-Japanese Women’s Association, the Children’s Corps, the Red Guards and the Children’s Vanguard, Le., organizations uniting various sections of the population or paramilitary organizations, in preparation for resistance struggle involving the entire people. Organs of the revolutionary government were established in every district of the guerrilla zones. They set about building homes for the people, and providing them with genuine democratic rights and freedoms which their ancestors had never experienced. They were true champions of the people’s interests. The revolutionary government distributed land among the people, guaranteed them the rights to work, free education and free medical care, and thus built a society in which, for the first time in history, everyone enjoyed equality, and everyone supported and led each other forward, a society in which the noble morality of mutual respect prevailed. In the guerrilla zone there were neither rich people who threw their weight about nor poor people who were weighed down by the heavy burden of debts and taxes.
The guerrilla bases were vibrant with a rapturous enthusiasm which no suffering or hardship could ever dampen. It was the optimistic enthusiasm of people who, completely free from the fetters of social oppression, were building an independent new life. The happiness of the peasants, who danced to the beat of gongs as they drove in the stakes to mark off their plots of the land distributed by the people’s revolutionary government, heralded the approach of the greatest event of the century, that sweeping transformation of the world which was first effected by the Korean communists in the wilderness of Jiandao. Their life went on amid continued trials such as had already cost constant bloodshed and sacrifice, but the people’s dreams of a bright future gave them hope and inspired their songs.
The guerrilla bases in the Jiandao area, a tall citadel in one corner of the East, were writing a magnificent new chapter in the history of national liberation in defiance of the enemy’s constant attacks. They became a symbol of future happiness winning the adoring admiration of people in the homeland. Wherever they lived, and whatever their ideals, the Korean people regarded this citadel, built by the communists at the cost of their own blood, as their only beacon-light and gave it heartfelt support and encouragement.
In short, the guerrilla zones inspired the people with hope,
optimism and joy; they were the land of promise, the promise of the happiness
dreamed of by the people since time immemorial.The guerrilla bases became a source of constant headaches for the
top brass of the imperial headquarters in
Having guerrilla zones located just across the
Japanese militarists called the guerrilla bases in east
The Japanese imperialists feared the zone, not because the area was
particularly extensive, or because a large communist force capable of
overpowering their Kwantung Army was encamped there, or because there was any
possibility of a shell launched from Jiandao falling upon the roof of the royal
palace or the imperial headquarters in
The fact that more than 90 per cent of the communists and Young
Communist League members in that region were Koreans is sufficient to explain
why the rulers of
The example of indissoluble fraternal ties between the Korean and
Chinese communists was established there, and spread throughout Manchuria and
The guerrilla zone in Jiandao was not a “cancer destructive to Oriental peace,” but the very beacon-light of that peace.
Our efforts to fulfil our strategic task of establishing guerrilla bases for our revolution suffered a severe test when the Japanese militarist forces launched a wholesale “punitive” operation intended to smother the anti-Japanese armed struggle in its cradle. The result of their scorched-earth operations, however, was to speed up the establishment of guerrilla bases in Jiandao.
In the spring of 1932, the Japanese Kwantung Army in Manchuria and
their army forces in
The enemy’s atrocities began with his assault on Dakanzi in the
early part of April 1932 and drowned the fields and mountains of Wangqing in a
bloodbath. Dakanzi was the village where Ri Kwang, Ri Ung Gol and Kim Yong born
had led the harvest-time struggle and where Kim Chol, Ryang Song Ryong, Kim Un
Sik, Ri Ung Man, Ri Won Sop and
other comrades had captured weapons by raiding the public security office. As
the large force of the Ranam 19th Division pressed forward under cover of
artillery fire, machineguns and aircraft, the national salvation army unit
under the command of Wang De-lin, which was stationed in the village, withdrew
in haste across
Having occupied Dakanzi, the Japanese bombed the streets of Wangqing, and then attacked the town, killing its inhabitants, setting fire to houses and plundering them of property. Even the house of Li Heng-zhong, the richest man in Wangqing, who owned the largest estate in the district, was burnt down by the occupation force.
There followed the destruction of the villages of Deyuanli and Shangqingli.
The atrocities were so cruel and violent that the inhabitants of Wangqing composed a song about them;
On the sixth of April, 1932,
Dakanzi was attacked by the Japanese,
Shells bursting, roaring across the hills all around.
Under the rain of bullets and shrapnel
And bombs dropped from aircraft
The poor people were massacred.
Flames from Daduchuan soared into the sky,
Innocent people were killed all over the fields
And the fields of Wangqing became deserted.
And fight the enemy.
Boiling blood drives us out to take the field
And raise the flag of victory.
Throngs of people who had lost their homes and families in this barbarous “punitive” operation, surged into the valleys of Xiaowangqing and Dawangqing. The Japanese aircraft even bombed the defenceless refugees. The crystal-clear water of rivers in Wangqing was suddenly stained red with blood. The guts of dead people drifted down the rivers.
Zhuanjiaolou which is located near Luozigou and Xiaowangqing, one of the major bases of the revolution in Jiandao, had been under the powerful revolutionary influence of the anti-Japanese struggle from the early years. The valley, which was home to thousands of peasants, rafts-men and lumbermen, provided fine ground for the activities of vanguard organizations such as the party, the Young Communist League and the revolutionary organizations of various sections of the population. During the spring struggle, these organizations had mobilized the masses in the destruction of the defence corps which had been entrenched in the village.
The members of the defence corps, frightened by this mass uprising, had fled into the mountains and become bandits.
The struggle had been successful, but 13 people were killed.
The heated vortex of these struggles transformed Zhuanjiaolou into a breeding-ground for stalwart revolutionaries. Jang Ryong San, who was the commander of the 3rd company of the Wangqing guerrilla unit, had worked as a raftsman between Zhuanjiaolou and Shanchakou. Hamatang, where Ri Kwang had worked in the guise of a headman of a hundred households, was only several miles from Zhuanjiaolou.
The enemy did not hesitate to destroy a whole village in order to kill one communist: they even had a motto, “Kill a hundred people to destroy one communist.” The three-point policy of killing everyone, burning everything, and plundering everything, which was applied in the attack launched on the liberated area in north China by Okamura Yasuji, commander of the Japanese forces in north China, during the Sino-Japanese war had, in fact, been applied earlier in the “punitive” expedition to Jiandao in the 1920s, and had culminated in a scorched-earth policy when the guerrilla zones throughout east Manchuria were destroyed in the early 1930s.
The three-point policy and the so-called village-concentration policy, which had been adopted by the Japanese imperialists in Korea and Manchuria for the purpose of “severing the people from the bandits,” were applied by the French colonialists in military operations to put down the Algerian resistance forces and were perfected by the Americans in Vietnam.
Sandaowan, Hailangou, Longjing, Fenglindong and all the other
renowned revolutionary villages in
The Japanese even destroyed simple kitchen utensils, in addition to
killing the inhabitants of Jiandao and plundering their property. They
destroyed cooking pots and overturned under-floor heating facilities. They
pulled down the houses remaining and carried off the structural elements to the
The villagers who were unable to flee were threatened with death if they would not allow themselves to be dragged to the towns of Dakanzi or Daduchuan.
The “punitive” force made no exceptions for landlords in applying their forced evacuation orders. It was no secret that a considerable portion of the food supplies and other goods needed for the anti-Japanese guerrillas had come from landlords and propertied people. The enemy therefore attempted to cut off the source of these supplies and stifle the revolutionary army, already suffering from constant shortages of food and clothing.
Harassed by the enemy’s tenacious pursuit, the revolutionary masses roamed the mountains, without eating regular meals. But the mountains did not always provide safe shelter. Even the deepest of the valleys had dead ends, where the refugees had to hide in the forest. In such situation a baby’s cry meant death for everyone.
When the “punitive” troops were searching close to one group’s hiding
people, a woman gave breast to her baby and hugged it hard to prevent it
crying and bringing destruction on the revolutionary masses. When the
“punitive” troops withdrew, the woman found her baby was dead. Similar
tragedies took place in every village and every
To avoid such accidents, some women used to doze their babies with opium to keep them fast asleep. Unable to endure the ceaseless atrocities perpetrated by the “punitive” troops, some women even gave their beloved babies to strangers.
The women of this country suffered heart-rending trials for the sake of the revolutionary masses and their comrades-in-arms, for the sake of the anti-Japanese struggle which was dearer to them than their own lives.
Bourgeois humanists may mock at the maternal love of communists, asking how a woman could be so cruel towards her baby or be so irresponsible with its life.
But they must not hold these women responsible for the deaths of their infants. If they knew how many bitter tears were shed as these women buried the soft bodies of their babies in dry leaves and left their babies in the care of strangers, and if they knew what deep scars were left in the hearts of these women, they would condemn and hate the Japanese imperialists who sent their human butchers to Jiandao. The crime of trampling upon the maternal love of this country’s women was committed by none other than the fiends of Japanese militarism.
If she is to make amends for her past,
The revolutionary masses faced the alternative of being dragged down to urban communities by the Japanese or going deeper into mountains to live there and continue the fight.
How many of these Koreans who had abandoned their fertile paddy-fields to come to Jiandao would obey the enemy’s orders to move to towns which were under the rule of the Japanese army? Most of the inhabitants of Jiandao were poor peasants who had been deprived of their livelihood by the Japanese colonialists, and left their home districts in pursuit of the promised land like Ryultoguk.2 Although bled white by the local officials and landlords, the poor peasants had reclaimed steep hill slopes and valleys in the mountain ranges of Laoyeling and Haerbaling, removing the stones and pulling up tree roots by dint of herculean efforts. Exhausting as slash-and-bum farming was, and poor as they remained, these peasants had been contented with their lot simply because they were free of molestation by the Japanese. Which of them would ever obey the Japanese orders to follow them to towns, leaving behind homes and lands which they had made fertile with their own sweat and blood? This was the test set for the people of Wangqing who had experienced the massacre.
A few people, terrified into submission by the enemy’s atrocities, began to move down to the towns. But the overwhelming majority, who yearned to see a new world, moved deeper into the mountains in spite of the menace of the enemy. People who only yesterday had shared joy and sorrow in one mind for the revolution in the same village were now parting with each other, some going to towns and others to mountains.
The people who chose the mountains moved to the great forests of Xiaowangqing and Dawangqing, 25 miles away from the Wangqing county town (Baicaogou). It was around this time that the family of Ri Chi Baek moved from Zhongqingli to Macun.
The Wangqing county party committee and other county-level organs
had established their bases in Xiaowangqing. The east Manchuria ad hoc
committee which had been operating by moving between Xilin-he in
The Wangqing guerrilla base consisted of five organized revolutionary districts, including district No. 1, which included Yaoyinggou under its jurisdiction, and district No. 2, which had Macun and Shiliping under its control.
In those days the Wangqing guerrillas were grouped into three companies;
their prominent commanders and leaders were Ri Kwang, Ryang Song Ryong, Kim
Chol, Jang Ryong San, Choe Chun Guk and Ri Ung
That was what I learned on my arrival in Wangqing, from a briefing given by Ryang Song Ryong, one of the founders of the Wangqing guerrilla force, and Ri Yong Guk, secretary of the county party committee. These comrades had shown me around the Wangqing guerrilla base when I visited the place to acquaint myself with the situation there in the autumn of 1932.
At that time, as I made the rounds of the guerrilla zones in the Wangqing County I had given guidance to the work of the primary party organizations, the Anti-Japanese Association, the Anti-Japanese Women’s Association and other mass organizations. I had also received reports from the political workers operating in the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units.
Also around this time we had given a short training course on explosive
weapons for workers from the munitions factories in different counties of east
In those days the leaders of
In these circumstances, it was suggested that the food problem could be solved for the moment by harvesting the crops in no-man’s land. By no-man’s land I mean the deserted farm lands between the guerrilla bases and the enemy-ruled areas.
There were deserted villages near Xiaowangqing and Dawangqing. Unable to endure the atrocities perpetrated by the barbarous “punitive” force, the villagers had fled, some of them to the enemy area, and others to the guerrilla zone, leaving their crops unharvested. Some of the crops belonged to the landlords and reactionaries who had fled to the enemy area, and some of them belonged to the peasants whom the Japanese had forced at bayonet-point to move to Baicaogou and Daduchuan.
The abandoned crops were also coveted by those who had fled to the enemy area. The landlords and reactionaries came every day with horse-drawn carts and other vehicles under the escort of armed self-defence corps men, harvested the crops and carried them away. Sometimes they even approached the guerrillas’ threshing floor and opened fire.
In view of this, we decided to form harvesting teams in all the guerrilla districts and mobilize all the people in the base to gather the crops in no-man’s land without delay. We informed the Wangqing people of the decision and discussed the measures required for its implementation with them. The harvesting team began reaping the crops at the entrance of Xiaowangqing and advanced towards Daduchuan. The grain was threshed as soon as it was reaped, then it was stored for distribution to the inhabitants of the guerrilla zone.
Harvesters working in the fields below the village of thirteen households had to be protected by the Red Guards against the self-defence corps, which was equipped with rifles capable of taking five cartridges at a time. There were occasionally fierce engagements between the two sides, who fired over the heads of the harvesters. We were deeply moved by the heroism of the Wangqing people who worked day and night to gather the crops at the risk of their lives.
Arduous as the struggle was, I was satisfied, as I left Xiaowangqing, that everything in the base was being done as we had intended.
On my way back to the guerrilla base, I set myself two major tasks.
The first was to achieve a large-scale expansion of the ranks of the guerrillas
and the second was to intensify the efforts of the united front to rally the
patriotic forces of all social strata in line with the new situation, in which
the theatre of our operations was shifting to the area of the
Having guided us as far as Zhuanjiaolou, old man Ma returned to Luozigou.
The jovial fellow, whom the Anti-Japanese Association provided as our guide in place of old man Ma, told us an interesting story about the small units of the Wangqing guerrillas, and how they had defeated the Japanese “punitive” troops that had invaded Yaoyinggou and Sishuiping.
The following day, we marched into the guerrilla zone of Yaoyinggou, the centre of Wangqing district No. 1, with the flag of the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army flying and bugles blowing at the head of our advancing column.
Hong Yong Hwa, a woman whose nephew Choe Kum San was my orderly in later years before he was killed in battle, came running up to the roadside with about 20 members of the Children’s Corps, and they welcomed us, waving their hands. She was in charge of the work with women under the party committee of Wangqing district No. 1. She was highly respected by the soldiers and the people for her devoted work for the guerrillas and the Chinese anti-Japanese units.
That day the people of Yaoyinggou prepared millet cakes and buckwheat noodles for us. In the evening they invited us to a performance given by the Children’s Corps.
Ri Ung Gol, head of the organizational section of the Wangqing district
No. 1 party committee, watched the soldiers and people enjoy their party
together with tears in his eyes. “General Kim Il Sung,” he said, “we have been
hearing news of your unit for many months. We heard that, after your expedition
to south Manchuria, you attacked Dunhua and Emu in north
I left the celebration and followed him to the office of the district party committee. We spent hours in discussion of the work of the guerrilla zone. Our attention was focused on how we should go about expanding the party and the other revolutionary organizations in places like Zhuanjiaolou, and how we should arm all the people in the guerrilla zone.
When we were elaborating measures for the defence of the guerrilla zone, a messenger came to us with a secret note from the enemy-ruled area. The note stated briefly that the Japanese garrison troops at Daxing-gou would attack the guerrilla zone the next day.
“They must be coming to avenge themselves on the guerrillas who attacked them in December last year,” Ri Ung Gol remarked with a wry smile, as if he were responsible for the enemy’s attempt to attack Yaoyinggou. “Those devils can’t even show proper respect for guests who have made a journey of hundreds of miles. We were planning to give your unit a few days’ good rest before you left. What an unfortunate coincidence!”
“Oh no!” I said. “It’s a happy coincidence. The men’s hands have been itching after all these months without a fight. It seems the moment has come for the enemy to pay for the blood spilt by our people at Dakanzi, Zhuanjiaolou, Deyuanli and Sanhanli.” I sent a messenger to Ri Kwang, telling him to transfer his unit to Yaoyinggou in a hurry.
Ri Ung Gol puffed at his hand-rolled cigarette in agitation for a while, then stood up to go to the party and summon the commander of the Red Guards. It was clear from his expression that he had decided to give orders for a general mobilization.
Smiling, I took him by the sleeve and pulled him back into his seat.
“Comrade Ung Gol, you are going to tell the Red Guards that the enemy is coming, aren’t you? The party seems to be at its height at the moment. So don’t disturb them, please. Send them all home in an hour and let them sleep well until early next morning. And I, too, will send my men for a sound sleep early tonight.”
It might seem contrary to normal military practice to allow the men and the people to enjoy themselves, instead of alerting them, when we knew that the enemy was going to attack us very soon. It was quite natural that the head of the organizational section of the district party committee, who was also in charge of military affairs, should glance at me uneasily.
Nonetheless, we kept the message about the enemy’s intentions to ourselves. The men were sent to their beds as I had suggested. I did not wish to excite them when they were still tired from the march. I knew quite well that no stout-hearted man could sleep when his spirits had been aroused by combat orders.
“At least tonight I must not let their sleep be disturbed. How many sleepless nights they have already spent during the last winter!” This was the thought uppermost in my mind that night. Perhaps it was a case of indulgence inappropriate for a guerrilla commander. In any case, the men were fast asleep by eleven o’clock.
Our guide from Zhuanjiaolou and the messenger from the enemy-held area could not get to sleep until midnight, probably because they did not feel sure that my decision was correct. Ri Ung Gol, head of the organizational section, too, tossed and turned in his bed.
“On our march I found the hills at the entrance to Yaoyinggou fascinating. What about giving battle there?” I suggested in whisper. “There’s a motor road running along the foot of the hills, isn’t there?”
Ri Ung Gol responded to my words by sitting up. “You mean the hills west of Dabeigou? They are a natural fortress.”
We were still discussing this question at about four o’clock in the morning.
Not long afterwards we climbed the hills, which were the gate to Yaoyinggou, so to speak. The commander of the Red Guards and the member of the Anti-Japanese Association from Zhuanjiaolou accompanied us. The southern sides of the hills were craggy cliffs, along the bottom of which ran a vehicular road. Parallel to the road flowed a river called the Xiaotonggou. The hills were full of rocks which provided natural shelters for the guerrillas.
We built up piles of stones between crags and then called together all the men of the Red Guards from Yaoyinggou and my unit and some members of the special detachment and took them to the hills. I told them to dig themselves in on the frozen ground and gave them combat orders, which concluded with an encouraging speech to the following effect:
Our ancestors used to describe such features of the terrain as impregnable. Highly advantageous to the defenders, and disadvantageous to the attackers! An impregnable fortress is a fine thing, but I have more confidence in your combat efficiency. Comrades, sing the song of tragedy no more, but let the enemy pay dearly today for the blood shed by our people. Blood for blood!
That day, more than 80 Japanese troops who were advancing on four
trucks into the
The next day, the Japanese garrison troops at Daxinggou launched an all-out attack on Yaoyinggou again, only to suffer heavy casualties before they fled.
That was the first battle we fought in a guerrilla zone in Jiandao. It was probably named the defensive battle of the Yaoyinggou guerrilla zone by the historians.
On the evening of the following day the inhabitants of Yaoyinggou
celebrated the victory in the
I think it was during that winter or the previous autumn that I met O Jin U at Yaoyinggou. On that occasion the villagers of Xiaobeigou held a welcome meeting in our honour at the Children’s Corps school where O Jin U was working as an instructor. He occasionally looks back with deep emotion upon our first meeting, saying that he was strongly impressed by me as I spoke then, holding a Model 38 rifle in my hand, with the butt resting on the ground. He was then fifteen or sixteen years old, and he would follow at my heels, toying with the Mauser that hung on my waist. He seemed to be very envious of it. We were all equipped with Model 38 rifles or with the most modern pistols.
I asked O Jin U if he wished to join the guerrilla army. He said he
had applied, but had not been accepted because he was too young. We accepted
him into the 4th Wangqing company the following year or the year after, and
took him on an expedition to north
While we were preparing to leave for Xiaowangqing after having repulsed the enemy and acquainted ourselves with the work of the party and mass organizations, a messenger arrived with a summons for us to go to Macun to discuss an important military matter.
We left Yaoyinggou immediately.
On our arrival at Xiaowangqing we were received by Wang Run-cheng, alias Ma Ying, and two other men. He was more often known by another nickname-Wang danaodai-which meant a man with an unusually large head.
Dagezi and some other personnel of the guerrilla zone guided me to the foot of the hill at the back of Macun and the house of old man Ri Chi Back where I stayed and where I met the representatives of the east Manchuria party committee. Dagezi is Ri Yong Guk’s nickname, it means a long fellow. He was the secretary of the Wangqing county party committee at the time. There was a bachelors’ quarters which had been made into a “travellers’ home,” but I was persuaded to stay at the old man’s house because the “travellers’ home” was crowded and noisy. Ri Chi Baek was Kim Jung Gwon’s father-in-law, and the name of the old man’s wife was So Song Nyo.
Ri Chi Back’s family were all patriots and revolutionaries.
In his house I dressed in dabushanzi (a Chinese gown-Tr.) for talks with Wang Run-eheng and Ids company.
“Congratulations upon your arrival in Wangqing!” Wang danaodai greeted me.
“I am glad to see you again,” I replied, shaking his hands.
I was lucky to meet a revolutionary who was an old acquaintance of mine in Wangqing, where I was a stranger.
I had first met him at Antu, when I was concentrating on work with
the anti-Japanese units of the Chinese nationalists, following my return from
the campaign in south
Commander Meng’s regiment had moved from north Manchuria to the
Antu area in order to make contact with Tang Ju-wu’s units of the self-defence
army in the
Commander Meng’s regiment had been sent to Antu by Wu Yi-cheng on another mission to obtain opium needed to raise funds for military purposes. The Antu area was a major source of opium and insam (ginseng-Tr.). Tang Ju-wu had also sent his men to Antu with a view to establishing a monopoly of the opium trade in that area. In those days opium was used in place of currency.
“Comrade Kim Il Sung,” Wang Run-cheng said half-jokingly at a meeting of the anti-Japanese soldiers’ committee held at Ri Kwang’s house, “the success of the national salvation army units in cooperation with your unit in the attack on Dunhua and Emu can be attributed to opium. The large amount of opium that was obtained in Antu and distributed among my men had strengthened their morale.”
We were familiar enough with each other to speak our minds frankly on such matters.
Wang helped us a great deal in the course of our work in Antu. He used to carry messages to maintain contact between myself and Hu Jin-min or Zhou Bao-zhong. Since he was in charge of propaganda in the national salvation army, he had had free access to the commander’s headquarters, to say nothing of regimental, battalion and company headquarters. He was a good messenger for me and for the communists who had been posted to the national salvation army.
As was usually the case with intellectuals who had been trained in
a normal school, Wang, though a man of large build, was gentle and
good-natured. He had taken up the revolutionary cause during his normal school
days at Ningan, under the influence of schoolmates who had studied in large
“Comrade Kim Il Sung,” Wang said. “The revolution is raging
fiercely in east
He analyzed the developments in north and east Manchuria in considerable
detail, and we had a frank exchange of views concerning the tasks facing the
party organizations in east
As a result, the guerrilla companies in Wangqing were brought under the unified command of their battalion headquarters.
This was followed by a regrouping of the companies in other counties
These were the impressive events that marked our arrival in Wangqing. We soon became used to the new surroundings. The sense of exotic newness we usually felt whenever we changed our theatre of activity soon gave way to an attachment to the new place and curiosity about it.
By 1933 I had lost nearly all the people dearest to me. The death
of my mother had orphaned her three sons, and the sweet home of these three
boys at the
The only place where the tender feelings of my heart could produce any effect was the guerrilla zone in which I was to fight. The people here would become as dear to me as my own grandparents, my own parents and my own brothers. In the personality of the mistress of the house, So Song Nyo, I rediscovered the warm character of my own mother, her love and benevolence.
Because of the enemy’s constant blockade and “punitive” assaults,
the guerrilla bases in east
In that part of the world there were neither shops, nor markets, nor merchants, nor any money in circulation. Here the law of value had no effect. Shoes and clothing for the population were obtained by capturing the enemy’s supplies. From time to time Leftist deviation shook the guerrilla zone and plunged it into apprehension.
Nonetheless, all these difficulties by no means dominated life
there. A new way of living in freedom and happiness-although in a somewhat
limited and relative sense-together with the optimistic spirit of a people who
had been liberated from the tyranny of the enemy, defined the main line of
development in the guerrilla zone. The difficulties were enormous, but the
morale of the soldiers and civilians was high. In this isolated region, beyond
the reach of the administrative power of
For this reason we treasured the guerrilla base with all our
hearts. The heroic action of our nation to defend the guerrilla base was displayed
daily throughout the whole of east
The remote valley of northern Jiandao, where the day dawned in battle and the sun set in battle, the guerrilla base where a new way of life and a new ethics were beginning to thrive even amidst the thunder of bursting shells-this became my dear home.
On arrival at Macun, we were again accorded a hearty welcome, which I thought was more than we deserved. The news of our success in the battle at Yaoyinggou had quickly spread throughout Jiandao, and the inhabitants of Xiaowangqing greeted us with wild enthusiasm.
Life in the guerrilla zone, which was completely free from the enemy’s rule, fascinated us.
However, not everything that happened in this new world was to my liking. We were not always pleased by the attitude to work and the way of thinking of some of the people at the helm of the revolution in Jiandao.
What surprised me most was the Leftist tendency that was spreading
like an epidemic among revolutionaries in east
This tendency was especially conspicuous in the work of consolidating the guerrilla base.
When discussing the establishment of the guerrilla bases at meetings held at Mingyuegou and Xiaoshahe we had agreed on the definitions of three types of bases-a full-scale guerrilla zone, a semi-guerrilla zone, and a base of activity-and on the need to ensure a reasonable balance among them.
Some communists in east
Having the Soviet flag mat symbolized a worker-peasant government
over this wide territory, the cadres busied themselves with nothing in
particular, simply creating a lot of fuss amid shouting “Revolution!
Revolution!” They seldom fought outside the guerrilla zone, but spent day after
day mouthing empty slogans about establishing a proletarian dictatorship and building
a society for the proletariat. On public holidays they assembled in the yard of
the soldiers’ barracks or in a children’s playground to dance Russian dances or
sing the May Day. Sometimes cadres from the east
We, too, spent the spring season in this atmosphere, unable to concentrate on anything. By degrees, however, we came to recognize this Left-wing communist mistake for what it was and seek ways of correcting it.
The guerrilla zone was crowded with people. During its formation thousands of refugees and exiles had flocked to the Wangqing base alone. The situation was similar in Hunchun, Yanji and Helong.
Such large numbers of people in a mountain valley with a very limited area of arable land posed the problem of food supplies. Everyone had to eat bean gruel. The beans were ground with a millstone and cooked, together with a pinch of grain, into a gruel. When this gruel was available, people might complain about it, but when these supplies ran out, we had to eat cakes made of pine bark which was first boiled in caustic soda water and then pounded, or else we were compelled to allay our hunger with boiled bracken, the shoots of Atractylodes, and the roots of broad bellflower, Codonopsis lanceolata or Solomon’s seal. In spite of this, we sang revolutionary songs and made speeches, waving our fists in the air and calling on the people to overthrow imperialism, the pro-Japanese elements and the coterie of parasites. That was the way things were done in the early days of our life in the guerrilla base.
Of course, we engaged in a number of small battles, such as raids on police stations, attacks on the enemy’s supply convoys, and counterattacks on enemy forces which had invaded the guerrilla zone and from which we captured weapons. When we returned from triumphant battles, the people shouted hurrah, and waved flags, but there were not many major battles, and we spent most of our time on standing guard on hill-tops and protecting refugees. The territory under our control was large, but there were not many rifles or armed troops. A few rifles were allotted to each of the groups of soldiers, mostly in order to guard the base.
When we tried to increase the ranks of our armed soldiers, we were obstructed by weak-kneed secretaries or committee-members, who whined that the revolutionary army was not a united-front army, and that therefore, it must recruit only the most stalwart of the workers and peasants, not taking just anybody, in case it should become a rabble. In those days the anti-Japanese guerrillas in the Soviet area were called the worker-peasant guerrillas.
The defence of a territory that covered thousands of square kilometres was overtaxing the strength of a few companies. Since there were many gaps in the defence structure, the “punitive” forces could easily penetrate deep into our defences, and then thousands of the local inhabitants had to pack up their things and seek refuge. Such situations caused panic among the population almost every day.
The Leftist leaders, who regarded the size of our liberated territory as the decisive factor in the triumph of the revolution, were bent on maintaining a large territory, without any scientific assessment of the balance of hostile and friendly forces and were motivated only by their subjective desires. They even demarcated the guerrilla zone and the enemy-ruled area in an artificial manner, by calling the former the “Red territory” and the latter the “White territory.” They labelled the inhabitants of the enemy-held area as “reactionaries” and those in the intermediate zone as “double-faced” and suspected or rejected them for no reason. The people from the homeland were also treated as “reactionaries” and that was the most serious problem.
The women in the “Red territory” had their hair bobbed in order to distinguish themselves from those in the “White territory.” A “Red” style of written and spoken language, songs, schools, education and media differed from the “White” style. People travelling to the “Red territory” from the “White territory” were strictly checked and even after interrogation, they were not allowed to go home immediately. Orders to deal with the “White” people who came to the “Red territory” as enemy spies were issued from the top of the hierarchy down to the Children’s Corps organizations. Some of the members of the Wangqing county party committee harboured continuous ill feelings towards the people who had moved from the Xiaowangqing valley to the towns.
Some men of the Red Guards who had been posted as long-range look-outs at Dongricun once detained a peasant from Daduchuan who had come to buy an ox in the guerrilla zone. A Leftist element on the county party committee, informed of the interrogation of the unidentified peasant, told the investigators to press the suspect person to reveal his identity even by torturing him, saying that he might possibly be a spy. No matter how severely they tortured him, the peasant insisted that he was not a spy. In fact, the peasant was neither a spy nor an agent of the enemy. But the Leftist wronged this innocent man and ordered his money to be confiscated.
Recollecting the undisclosed abuses perpetrated by the Leftists in the guerrilla zone in those days, Choe Pong Song, who worked for the Young Communist League in Wangqing for many years, said:
“The mere mention of the Leftist deviation always reminds me of
events in the guerrilla zone in the early days. The Leftist abuses in Jian-dao
were really shocking. Once we guerrillas captured a cart-load of salt from the
Japanese on the
Such abuses as the punishment even of innocent people, without discriminating friend from foe, were also frequent in the guerrilla zones in other counties as well. The problem was very serious, because all these cursed acts were committed unhesitatingly in the noble name of the revolution, and they forced a large number of revolutionary people who were opposed to the Japanese to move across to the “White territory.”
The Leftists went so far as to arrest the relatives of old man Ri Chi Baek, when they came from Onsong to Shangqingli to attend the memorial ceremony for their parents, who had been killed in a “punitive” action by the enemy. The Leftists regarded them as “reactionary” people.
Whenever I saw cases of such injustice, I felt thoroughly ashamed. If a man who professes to be a communist punishes an innocent person by labelling him a reactionary, he is no longer a communist, but the worst of criminals.
Even after our arrival in Wangqing, these criminals continued to throw their weight about, behaving like “privileged revolutionaries” that no one could ever touch, and lording it over the masses.
Some people regarded the Soviet as everything, and this viewpoint was a serious problem to us. We came to the conclusion that if we were to preserve the base and develop the revolution, we must overcome the tendency of isolation and extend the theatre of our operations. In other words, it was imperative to abandon the shortsighted practice of clinging only to the defence of the guerrilla zone, and to form large elite forces so as to launch active military and political operations with freedom of mobility.
If the army was to launch full-scale operations, it had to be relieved of the burden of defending the base. We found a solution to this problem in creating and expanding many semi-guerrilla zones in the vast territory surrounding the full-scale guerrilla zone, and in getting them to support it. We sought our breakthrough to fresh victory in the creation of semi-guerrilla zones.
I met and talked with Tong Chang-rong on many occasions in order to
learn the experience of guerrilla zones established in
In the autumn of 1931, a Chinese Soviet Provisional Government was
In those days the Red Army under the leadership of the Chinese
Communist Party numbered more than a hundrend thousand, and controlled a vast
area extending from the southern part of
My interview with Tong Chang-rong convinced me that the experience of the establishment of the Chinese Soviet zone, which was equivalent to a sizable independent state in terms of territory and population, could not be applied to our efforts in the area on the Tuman River, and that establishing semi-guerrilla zones in the area that surrounded the full-scale guerrilla zone and in the northern region of Korea was the only way for the Korean communists active in the base of Jiandao to defend their revolutionary headquarters and launch a guerrilla war on a large scale.
The need for a semi-guerrilla zone became ever more pressing in the course of the practical armed struggle. The overwhelming task of defending a large area with a small force made it imperative to work out a fresh solution as soon as possible. If we had tried to formulate a theory at our desks by merely analyzing classical theory or drawing on the experiences of Russian Bolsheviks or the Chinese in Ruijin, we might merely have recognized the need for the guerrilla base of a new type, different from the type of the liberated area, but failed to press forward at speed with its establishment in a correct understanding of the pressing nature of this question.
The question of the semi-guerrilla zone was not taken up as a matter simply of the form of the base. The discussion reflected the ideological question of whether to establish the principle of Juche in the revolution by overcoming dogmatism and the worship of the great powers; it concerned the view to be taken of the masses and the need to overcome the Leftist error and accept as the motive force of the revolution the broad masses of the people who had been rejected as the “double-faced”; this was a serious question of direct relevance to the formation of the revolutionary forces, the question of whether or not to rally them in an anti-Japanese national united front.
By a semi-guerrilla zone we meant an area which would be partly under our own control and also partly under the control of the enemy, an area which would be under the enemy’s formal territorial rule, but effectively, under our control, which would provide support for the anti-Japanese guerrilla army, train revolutionary forces, including reserve forces for the guerrilla army, and play the role of a liaison between the guerrilla zone and the enemy-ruled area. Figuratively speaking, it would be governed by the enemy during daylight, but would come under our control at night.
The semi-guerrilla zone was suited to our struggle to build a revolutionary base. We found no significant examples of this type of guerrilla zone in the foreign experiences of guerrilla warfare. It was the development of our revolution that posed the establishment of the semi-guerrilla zone as a pressing task.
In mid-March 1933, we advanced to the area around Mt Wangjae,
We had formed a detachment consisting of 40 men from the 2nd company of the Wangqing battalion, who had been operating from their base at Sancidao, and ten commanding officers and political workers who had been selected from the companies, a detachment to be sent to the homeland. We then sent an advance party of several men under the command of platoon leader Pak Thae Hwa to the Onsong area.
Certain people, who were influential in the east
I rejected their objection and continued to prepare for the operations,
being convinced that loyalty to my national duty meant loyalty to my
internationalist duty, and that me Korean revolutionaries had an inviolable
right to fight for the liberation of
At about this time, I was incensed by an incident that cast a
shadow over the anti-Japanese guerrillas’ advance to the homeland. A man from
the 2nd company who had been to Onsong of the homeland on a liaison mission was
arrested on his return by a man named Kim Song Do and taken to the east
The 2nd company commander An Ki Ho and its political instructor Choe Chun Guk hurried to see me at Macun and complained furiously of Kim Song Do’s abuse of power, denouncing the arrest of this man without his commanders’ knowledge.
Choe Chun Guk, who used to be as gentle as a newly-wed bride and so
well-mannered that he seldom spoke ill of anybody, even went so far in his
abuse of Kim Song Do as to call him by his nickname “one-eyed Wang.” I simply
listened in silence, for I was not acquainted with Kim Song Do. All that I knew
of him was that he had been the head of the propaganda department of the east
Manchuria ad hoc committee of the Young Communist League, had recently been
appointed to the east Manchuria party ad hoc committee, and was now inspecting
different counties in east
I rebuked Choe Chun Guk sternly for his indecent manner of speech.
“Comrade Chun Guk, when did you get into the bad habit of calling people by indecent nicknames? True, Kim Song Do has ignored us and gone too far, but can’t you have the magnanimity to respect his person?”
Choe Chun Guk was very tolerant of criticism.
“I am sorry,” he apologized with a serious expression. “Forgive me if I was indecent or rude.”
“The guerrilla zone is a place where people live close together, so people may well have nicknames. But ‘one-eyed’ is too rude a nickname.”
At that moment, I was more offended by the Wangqing people who called Kim Song Do “one-eyed Wang” than by his arrest of the 2nd company man.
I asked why Kim was called Wang. Choe Chun Guk answered that the inhabitants of Jiandao had probably nicknamed him Wang because Kim Song Do, a Korean, smelt like a Chinese and grovelled too much to his superiors.
On my way to the east
From Ri Yong Guk in the office of the county party committee, I learned that Kim Song Do was a veteran party member who was admitted to the Korean Communist Party as early as 1927, and worked as a member of a party cell committee under the Manchurian general bureau of the Tuesday group before being arrested by the Japanese consulate police and imprisoned and beaten. After his release from prison, he quickly transferred to the Chinese party and was promoted to a post at ad hoc committee level. He wore dark glasses, probably in order to disguise his ruined eye, and went about in dabushanzi.
Ri Yong Guk described Kim Song Do as a “man not only eloquent but also tactful enough to slip socks onto the feet of a flying crow.”
I had interviewed Kim Song Do for about three hours in the office
of the east
As I sat face to face with him, my intention of accusing him of an abuse of power gave way to a feeling of pity for him. The eye that had withered away and his darkish complexion gave him an exhausted look that aroused pity in me. How praiseworthy and moving it was that despite the physical handicap of the loss of one eye, this man was trekking across steep mountains in Jiandao in the service of the revolutionary cause! “Comrade Inspector,” I addressed him, trying to be courteous and refraining from raising my voice. “Why did you arrest the man at his workplace, without so much as discussing his case with us?”
Kim Song Do gazed at me over his glasses. His look seemed to express displeasure with me and question how I dared to ask such an insolent question of an inspector of the ad hoc committee.
“It is strange that you should ask me such a question. You know quite well that this man’s act in crossing the border is an expression of nationalism, which contradicts proletarian internationalism.... We consider him to be a member of the ‘Minsaengdan.’”
“On what grounds?”
“His journey to and from
“Is this your own view?”
“Yes. And my superior’s also.”
After this answer, I was tongue-tied for a short while, because I felt more pity than repugnance for him.
It was strange that I should feel a certain sympathy for him, not
contempt. at that moment. I should have been angered by the tomfool and
shattered his nonsense with cogent argument. His totally absurd prejudice and
childish way of thinking, so much out of keeping with this illustrious
position of inspector on the east
“How miserable that he should be mentally crippled in addition to his physical handicap!” I thought to myself. “Of course, the stamina with which he devotes himself to the revolution, even wearing dark glasses to conceal his withered eye that could be noticed by secret agents is laudable. How good it would be if this mettle were reinforced with a sound intellect! How can a man suffer from such miserable mental disorder?”
“You seem to be identifying nationalism with the ‘Minsaengdan,’” I said in a quieter tone of voice. “How can you dare to weigh them on the same balance? Is it not too fallacious a syllogism to tar the two with the same brush because a few nationalists like Pak Sok Yun, Jo Pyong Sang and Jon Song Ho have suggested the formation of the ‘Minsaengdan’? As far as I know, you, too, first belonged to an organization which was under nationalist leadership, and then later you joined the communist movement. Would you accept it if for this reason you were labelled a ‘Minsaengdan’ member? Answer me.”
“How could I....” he mumbled.
I gave him a few minutes to reflect, and then resumed my forceful argument, “I presume you had Tong Chang-rong in mind when you mentioned a superior of yours. But I don’t think he is such a narrow-minded man. If Secretary Tong Chang-rong had made such a decision out of minor prejudice or misunderstanding, without being fully informed of the actual state of affairs, you comrades, who are familiar with the Korean situation, should have advised him in every possible way so that he had a correct understanding, shouldn’t you?”
Kim Song Do was silent.
On my way back to my headquarters, taking with me the arrested comrade, I could still hardly rid myself of a feeling of pity for him.
To be candid, I always felt sympathy for him through all the many conflicts we had during debates on theoretical matters, until he directed the purge of revolutionaries, dancing to the tune of others.
But I ceased to sympathize with him then, when I saw him murdering many staunch revolutionaries under the pretext of purging the “Minsaengdan.” Later, he himself was executed on a charge of being a “Minsaengdan” member. My experience over decades of turbulent events showed me that terrorists fell at the hands of terrorists, that Leftists were tried and executed by Leftists, and that self-destruction was the fate in store for those who lacked the guts to stick with their own conviction and tried to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.
The detachment to the homeland that had left Macun early in March,
arrived on this side of the
At that time, we also worked among the chiefs of ten households and
a hundred households, who were at the bottom of the administrative hierarchy of
the puppet state of
The story of an axe, well-known from the reminiscences of Pak Yong Sun, occurred during our stay in the village.
One day, with a view to helping my Chinese host, I took an axe and
a water pail to the
When I had nearly finished breaking a hole in the ice, the sharp head of the tool slipped from the handle and fell into the hole. I raked about for hours with a long pole with hooked prongs on its end, but it was in vain.
I offered a generous price to the master of the house, apologizing to him sincerely for my carelessness. The old man would not accept the money, saying that, although he was too old to help the revolutionary army, he was grateful to me for my helping hand every morning. I insisted on his taking the money, saying that if I were to leave the place without making good his loss, I, the commander, would be violating the discipline of the revolutionary army.
Although I had paid generously for the axe, I was still haunted by
the thought of it. No amount of money would be able to make up for the old
man’s loss of his cherished tool. In the spring of 1959, I asked a group of
visitors to old battlefields of the anti-Japanese armed struggle in northeast
To our regret, however, when the group arrived at the village, the old man was no longer in this world.
We crossed the
The heads of the revolutionary organizations in the region of the six towns and the political workers, who had been in hiding among the larches on the ridge, came out to meet us.
On the summit of the mountain, which was densely covered with young oak trees, I surveyed the scenery for a long time. There is a saying that a decade changes the world, but this part of the country had been changed in less than three years. The slag heaps from a coal-mine were a new sight that had not existed when we were forming the homeland party organization on Turn Hill, and so was the train that was running along the Onsong-Unggi (Sonbong) line, one small piece of the new Onsong, which had not been there in the autumn of 1930 or in the spring of 1931.
Along with the mountains and the rivers, the people and the revolution had grown and advanced. Since we were here last, new anti-Japanese revolutionary organizations had been created one after another and begun their activity.
The fighters in the six towns and surrounding areas had been enveloping the enemy’s administrative machine in an immense steely network of revolutionary organizations in the northern frontier zone of Korea, where the heads of the Japanese military and police structures in charge of keeping the peace boasted of perfect security on the border.
struggle, too, had grown. The guerrilla forces in east
As I stood, lost in these thoughts, I recalled a piece of poetry composed in Chinese characters by General Nam I, which I had leamt at Changdok School from my maternal grandfather. I chanted it in a calm voice:
sword wears down
gulps and dries the
Should a man at twenty fail to subdue the land,
Who will in later years call him a man of calibre?
My grandfather had explained to me that General Nam distinguished himself in the battle against invaders from the north and was promoted to the post of minister of the army at the age of twenty. My grandfather encouraged me to become a general or a commander of the vanguard when I was grown up, and to fight the Japanese invaders. Hearing that General Nam was executed on the basis of a false accusation against him by a treacherous subject, I had lamented his death. I resolved to grow up to stand in the van of the war, repulse invaders and fight for the security of my country and my fellow people just as General Nam had done.
On the summit of Mt. Wangjae I pledged to myself: “As General Nam repelled the invaders from the north by fighting on the strong basis of the six forts on the northeastern frontier, so we will spread the armed struggle deep into the homeland by drawing on the support of the semi-guerrilla zone created around the six towns, and will trap the Japanese imperialists and destroy them!”
The political workers and heads of revolutionary organizations who assembled on the mountain reported to me the situation in the homeland and the activities they had conducted.
I spoke words of encouragement to them, telling them that the work of laying the mass foundations for the anti-Japanese revolution was proceeding without a hitch in the northern frontier. I also set them the task of developing the armed struggle and extending it into the homeland.
In this question, I laid special emphasis on the task of establishing the semi-guerrilla zone. We intended to establish semi-guerrilla zones in the Onsong area and many other regions of the homeland, secret rendezvous points and other bases for our activities in the dense forests, and thus lay the cornerstone of the armed struggle in the homeland.
The meeting on Mt. Wangjae discussed the task of rallying the whole nation as a single political force under the banner of an anti-Japanese national united front on the basis of a worker-peasant alliance, as well as the task of the revolutionary organizations in the homeland in speeding up the development of the mass movement and the preparations for founding the party.
The guerrillas’ advance to the Onsong area was a prelude to the spreading of the anti-Japanese armed struggle to the homeland, and it marked a new milestone in the development of the national liberation struggle. It demonstrated at home and abroad our unshakable conviction in the view that the Korean communists had an inalienable and inviolable right to fight for the Korean revolution.
The advance of the anti-Japanese guerrillas to the Onsong area and the meeting on Mt. Wangjae proved the correctness of our policy of establishing semi-guerrilla zones around full-scale guerrilla zones and in the homeland, and that the subjective and objective conditions for the establishment of semi-guerrilla zones in Jiandao and in the area of the six towns on the northern frontier of Korea were mature.
After this meeting, we visited Ryuda Islet and Paksokgol in Kyong-won (Saeppyol), and Kumsan Hill at Sinhung village in Jongsong County and many other places in the homeland, where we held meetings, gave short courses and conducted political work, mainly for the purpose of teaching the political workers and heads of revolutionary organizations in the homeland the principles and methods of the underground revolutionary struggle.
In the homeland we frequently met with revolutionaries in order to instil in them the Juche-orientated revolutionary line and working methods, and help them to guide the complex practical struggle with due care. The proper political and practical training of the leaders of the revolutionary organizations and their hardcore elements in the homeland was a prerequisite for success in the creation of the semi-guerrilla zones.
The elites who had been sent on the mission of guiding the revolutionary
struggle in the homeland became active within the very fabric of the country,
in trade unions and peasants’ associations, which were concentrating their
efforts on the resistance against the Japanese, and they formed revolutionary
mass organizations in many parts of the country. These political workers
extended the network of their activity to
The party organizations formed in the area on the
Following this, the cadres in east
From the spring of 1933, strenuous efforts were made to establish
semi-guerrilla zones in the Soviet districts of east
Many of the village heads who had been appointed by the puppet
The experience of the development of semi-guerrilla zones proved
valuable for the activities of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army in the
The semi-guerrilla zone had proved very effective, so when we
established our bases in the
Drawing on the support of the full-scale guerrilla zones and the semi-guerrilla zones which had been established in the vast area surrounding the former, the anti-Japanese guerrillas penetrated deep into the enemy-ruled area, revolutionized the masses, and expanded the mass organizations as well as the vanguard organizations of the party and Young Communist League. They were thus able to strengthen the mass foundations of the anti-Japanese armed struggle and switch from the defensive to the offensive. As we went over to the offensive in the war against the Japanese, we were able to break the enemy’s tight economic blockade and find easier solutions to the problem of food, the greatest headache in the life of the guerrilla zone.
The semi-guerrilla zones enabled us to overcome the Leftist deviation that had discriminated between “Red” and “White” territories and driven a large number of people over to the enemy side, and also to rally broad sections of the population into a single political force under the banner of the anti-Japanese national united front. They also contributed greatly to the elimination of flunkeyism and dogmatism, and the establishment of the principle of Juche in the development of the Korean revolution.
Luozigou and Liangshuiquanzi were the most exemplary of all the semi-guerrilla zones in the Wangqing area, Ri Kwang rendered distinguished service in transforming Luozigou into a semi-guerrilla zone. When he was dispatched there, he built up strong footholds for us by working among the soldiers of the anti-Japanese army of Chinese nationalists as well as among people from the Independence Army.
Luozigou had been made a major base of the independence movement led by Ri Tong Hwi and his group since the beginning of the 1920s. The old people who had joined him in the Independence Army movement had great influence in the area. Under the auspices of these people, Ri Kwang was able to educate and organize the inhabitants on revolutionary lines.
Many able political workers were sent to Luozigou to help transform it into a semi-guerrilla zone. Some of them laid down their lives. Choe Jong Hwa, who contributed greatly to the work of revolutionizing Luozigou, was one who died there.
Pak Kil Song, an able detachment commander of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, and Choe Kwang were working underground at Luozigou in those days.
The enemy formed reactionary organizations such as the concord
society or cooperative society in that area and made frantic efforts to stamp
out the revolutionary forces, whereas we formed large mass organizations like
the Anti-Japanese Association and united all the patriots. Luozigou also served
as food-supply base for the revolutionary masses of people in Wangqing.
Whenever there was a food crisis in the Xiaowangqing guerrilla zone, messengers
were sent to a revolutionary organization in Luozigou to fetch emergency
supplies. The members of the revolutionary organization in Luozigou would carry
loads of cereal on their backs as far as Shimen at Shiliping and deliver them
to the people from Wangqing. Even after Luozigou was occupied by the enemy,
food was still carried from there to liberated areas. It would be no exaggeration
to say that, from the latter half of 1935, when the guerrilla zone was
disbanded and the main force of the KPRA left on its expedition to north
Manchuria, the revolutionaries in
Luozigou became such an excellent source of food supplies for the revolutionaries in Wangqing partly because the place was a natural granary surrounded by fertile land, where even passing beggars were welcomed to share meals of millet, but more especially because many revolutionary organizations had taken root there and given the inhabitants a good education.
Kim Ryong Un, a head of a hundred households in Luozigou, a
grassroots civil-servant who enjoyed the confidence of the
In order to prevent the guerrilla operatives from infiltrating into
the walled town and the people from maintaining secret contact with the
revolutionary army, the enemy strictly controlled the flow of people going in
and out of the town by posting young men on guard at all times, while at the
same time taking stringent measures against the smuggling of food and consumer
goods out of the town. The guards were each equipped with a club, which served
as a sort of credential issued by the puppet state of
When soldiers of the revolutionary army went to Luozigou to obtain food, Kim Ryong Un used to select only young men under our influence for guard duty. When the soldiers who had come for food reached the town, the guards would hand over their clubs to them, then run back to the head of a hundred households. Under his direction they collected food and delivered it to the provisions detail.
Members of revolutionary organizations in Luozigou would coax
soldiers of the puppet
One puppet army soldier, who desperately loved money, would buy things at low prices in various places and then ask the shopkeeper to sell them for him at a high price. The soldier did this because, if he were discovered selling things himself, he would be punished. He swore brotherhood with the shopkeeper and even sold him ammunition. The shopkeeper bought it at 25 fen a piece and sent it on to the revolutionary army. As many as five thousand cartridges were obtained in this way.
This is merely one simple instance proving the validity and effectiveness of the semi-guerrilla zone.
The semi-guerrilla zone established around the
In those years, we obtained much of our cereals, clothing, matches, drugs, explosives, salt and other essentials required for the guerrilla zone from the revolutionary organizations in Onsong and Liangshuiquanzi.
Salt was the scarcest commodity in the guerrilla zone. Things were so hard that we had to satisfy our craving for salt by putting a tiny grain of it into our mouths after eating every five spoonfuls of gruel. In order to make life impossible in the guerrilla zone, the enemy used every conceivable means to stop food and salt finding its way there. In autumn, the peasants were forced to bring all their harvests into the stores of the concentration villages under the enemy’s control, and then receive daily rations based on the number of mouths in each household. The enemy knew that any surplus food would find its way across into the guerrilla zone.
The enemy even went so far as to form anti-contraband squads, the salt police, and have them make surprise searches of the peasants’ houses. Any surplus of soy sauce and bean paste was taxed, and the owners of the surplus were whipped with triangular wooden sticks.
In the autumn of 1934, we sent a large group of people, including 30 men from the 2nd company with horses, and even some children, to Liangshuiquanzi to obtain salt.
It was 50 miles to the village and back from Wangqing. Notified in
advance of the salt operation, the revolutionary organization of the village
made piles of salt near the bank of the
The convoy loaded two to three sacks of salt on each of the horses and carried them to Sancidao safely. The remainder was transported to the guerrilla base, 20 to 30 kilograms on each man’s back. Some of the salt was exchanged for flour at Luozigou.
Most of the supplies which the organization of Liangshuiquanzi sent to us came from the six towns including Onsong on the northern frontier of the homeland. The people there also obtained many of the goods they sent to the guerrilla base from Tumen and Longjing, because it was impossible to procure large amounts of consumer goods in the homeland, which was under the enemy’s strict surveillance and control. People in the organizations in the homeland would cross the river in secret and travel to commercial centres like Tumen and Longjing to buy essentials which were later sent to anti-Japanese guerrilla bases through the appropriate channels.
Tumen and Longjing were in effect our reliable sources of supplies. For this reason, we seldom attacked such places as Tumen, Longjing and Baicaogou, where many of our revolutionary organizations were working underground. Once in the early days of our guerrilla war, our comrades attacked Baicaogou. Immediately after the raid, Ri Kwang’s father informed us of the adverse effect the battle had on the rich people whom he had intended to draw into the united front He said they had been frightened by the attack. From then on, we refrained from attacking such places. The semi-guerrilla zones in the six towns rendered historical and highly meritorious services to the survival of the soldiers and civilians in Wangqing and other liberated areas.
We established a large number of concealed bases of activity in the enemy-ruled areas, in addition to the full-scale guerrilla zones and semi-guerrilla zones. These bases supported the military actions and political activities of the guerrillas as well as providing liaison links. The combination of underground revolutionary organizations and liaison points provided a type of temporary and mobile base, which was established in many large cities such as Longjing, Hunchun, Tumen, Laotougou, and Baicaogou and along the railways in the enemy area.
Whenever I recall the unforgettable days when the semi-guerrilla zones were being established in Jiandao and in the homeland, I remember O Jung Hwa, a man who made a most powerful impression on me.
On his release from me Sodaemun prison in Seoul, O Jung Hwa took a train bound for the north, stopped at his wife’s family home in the vicinity of Huimudong for a few days to recuperate, and then immediately returned to Shixian and came to see me.
His release and his reappearance in Wangqing were a great joy and
consolation to me at the time when I had just arrived in the guerrilla zone
from my expeditions to south and north
The first thing he asked for in the interview with me was a major assignment. Judging from his unhealthy complexion, I thought he needed a few months of convalescence, but since he insisted on having something to do, I told him to establish a semi-guerrilla zone in some part of the area around Gayahe.
District No. 5, in which he worked was adjacent to Liangshuiquanzi, Tumen, Yanji, Baicaogou, Daduchuan and other major bases of the enemy’s “punitive” forces, and in Gayahe there was a substation of the Japanese consulate police. Liucaigou was raided by the enemy early in January 1933, and later Sishuiping was attacked twice by the “punitive” forces.
Though he had been released from prison, O Jung Hwa himself was being shadowed by an enemy agent. But he could not conceal his joy at the assignment he had received.
I gave him the assignment of establishing a semi-guerrilla zone near Gayahe because the area was so close to the enemy’s bases and also because the area was a frequent target of enemy attack. The assignment was difficult and dangerous, but I had every confidence in O Jung Hwa.
He had already made a strong impression upon me when I first met him in the autumn of 1930, an impression that gave me confidence in mm. At that time I had a serious talk with him in his own house. When I came out after the conversation, I found several sturdy young men standing alertly on watch outside the fence. Similar young men were also on guard at the entrance to the village. These arrangements demonstrated his working ability and his revolutionary attitude to me in a very powerful way.
His revolutionary prowess found brilliant expression in rallying me masses to action.
As the first step towards giving the village a revolutionary training, he obtained a pair of hair-clippers and formed a scissors association which enlisted all the villagers. In those days, ordinary barbers’ shops charged 15 fen for a haircut but O Jung Hwa charged only five fen. He bought books with the money he earned in this manner, and taught the members of the association how to read and write. Interested in being able to read as well as in a cheap haircut, people participated in the work of the association with great enthusiasm. In this way O Jung Hwa educated the villagers.
After providing them with the basics of enlightenment he formed the Lingdong Friendship Association by merging the old boys’ association, schoolmates’ association and friendship association. The new friendship association was a legal organization of young people and students in Dunhua and Yanji, Hunchun, Helong and Wangqing-the localities situated to the east of Haerbaling, O Jung Hwa frequently prepared and produced dramatic performances in order to give the villagers a revolutionary training. When he wrote a script himself, his cousins, of whom there were very many, would divide the parts among themselves, make the scenery, direct their own performances and stage a perfect show.
After inspiring the people with revolutionary enthusiasm in this manner, O Jung Hwa first accepted his own family and relations into the revolutionary organization, and then enlisted all the villagers. Both before and after the winter meeting at Mingyuegou, he and Kang Sang Jun, Jo Chang Dok and Yu Se Ryong helped with the procurement of weapons, a fundamental task in the preparations for the formation of the anti-Japanese guerrilla army. The weapons they had captured from the enemy at the risk of their lives were a significant contribution to the equipment of the special detachment whose members included Choe In Jun, Han Hung Gwon, Kang Sang Jun and Kim Un Sik. Just as we intended, O Jung Hwa established an excellent semi-guerrilla zone in part of district No. 5, the district which was first in the line of the enemy’s attack. He also carried out in good faith the task of establishing bases for activity in the enemy-held area. The Chonil Printing Works in Tumen, which he transformed into a major base for our activity, became the eyes and ears of the revolutionary army.
The enemy regarded O Jung Hwa and his family as a thorn in his side, and was watching for a chance to eliminate them. In the spring of 1933, a small guerrilla army group captured a secret letter from the Japanese consulate in Longjing to their police station in Shixian. It contained a directive ordering the killing of the Os.
As soon as we learned of the secret instructions, we sent guerrillas to save the family. The guerrillas swiftly evacuated all 31 of the Os to Shiliping.
In the summer of 1933, O Jung Hwa, who had fought undauntedly and tirelessly every minute of all his life, always racing about at the speed of a short-distance runner, was unfortunately arrested by the enemy at a secret rendezvous in Beifengwudong. He was murdered on the spot immediately he was captured. We have no way of knowing what his last moments were like or how he faced his death. The enemy agents who murdered him and his comrades disappeared, leaving their vile deed as an eternally unsolvable mystery.
When old man O Thae Hui came rushing to the scene of the murder in furious haste from Shiliping, his son was lying, bloody and battered, his eyes open, near the rendezvous. The eyeballs, in which the spark of life still lingered, reflected the blue sky of the guerrilla zone on which he used to gaze with such fondness when alive.
But the mouth was closed more tightly than in his life. From the sight of it the old man knew that his son had not betrayed the secret of the organization in order to save his life. The heroism of this death only grieved the old man all the more. “You have lived a life of only 34 years, but it was an honourable life. A long life does not always mean happiness. But you have left me too soon! How heart-rending your death will be to General Kim Il Sung, who treasured you so much!” The old man thought as he held his dead son in his arms.
I could not believe that he was dead. How could it be that a man who had talked and walked so much, and achieved so much in his work, living like a blazing fire, should die so quietly? No one was with him at the moment of his death. He was left lying there on the ground, leaving not a single word of behest. If he had had something to tell me what would it have been? He might well have asked me to give him another assignment, since the semi-guerrilla zone was already established.
If he had lived, I would have entrusted him with greater responsibility. According to the revolutionary ethics, entrusting a man with many assignments is an expression of the greatest love and the greatest possible confidence in him.
Our revolution had lost yet another distinguished organizer and propagandist,
a man who was loved by everyone in Jiandao, another loyal and stalwart pillar
and support, who had inspired the people with pride and struck terror into the
heart of the enemy. It was a heart-rending blow struck just at the moment when
our revolution was surging ahead in east
O Jung Hwa had awakened the revolutionary consciousness of the masses and roused them to action by sacrificing himself. Though he was gone, new heroes sprang up like bamboo shoots after the rain in the soil of the semi-guerrilla zones where his blood had been spilt, heroes who would carry the great war against the Japanese imperialists to ever greater heights.
Leftist abuses were most rampant in the establishment of structures of political power, and Leftist deviation in the building of political power found its most glaring expression in the line of building the Soviet and in some of its policies, which were the products of the petty bourgeois rashness of people steeped in dogmatism, sycophancy and adventurism.
Political power had been a major subject of discussion among us
from the days of the Down-with-Imperialism
While we were in
Pak So Sim adhered to the classic schema and argued over the question of a worker-peasant dictatorship. He supported the idea of the workers and peasants becoming the masters of state power, but he shook his head, saying that he did not like the word “dictatorship.”
Differences in the degree of their political awareness and their
interests led some of the young people in
Kim Hyok, Cha Kwang Su, Kye Yong Chun, Sin Yong Gun and other communists of the younger generation did not like the old men of the Independence Army who spoke out for the restoration of royalist government. They also had doubts about the proponents of immediate socialism.
This state of affairs obliged us to engage in heated polemics about political power as a major question in the students and young peopled forum, which dealt mainly with political affairs.
Later, at the meeting held in Kalun, we defined the nature of the
Korean revolution as anti-imperialist, anti-feudal and democratic. On this
basis, we emphasized that the Korean communists must establish a political
system for the people in liberated
We maintained essentially the same position when the question of power was discussed at the meeting held in Mingyuegou in December 1931.
With the establishment of guerrilla bases in the Jiandao area, the type of political power to be established became the subject of wide-scale discussion. In order to maintain and administer those guerrilla zones which were liberated areas, it was necessary to set up a government which would organize the economic activities of the people, educate them and develop culture in the area under its jurisdiction. Without establishing a government in the guerrilla zones, which were the embryo of a state, it would be impossible to provide the people with a livelihood and mobilize them in the struggle.
From the autumn of 1932, therefore, the communists in east
In its initial stage, I, too, was pleased at the establishment of Soviet power in the guerrilla zones. I considered that the name of the government was not important as long as the government championed the people’s interests.
In those days “Soviet enthusiasm” was sweeping throughout east
Even those who regarded the Korean revolution as a bourgeois democratic revolution spoke about a worker-peasant Soviet government.
The “Action Programme of the Communist Party of Korea” which had been drafted by Choe Song U, a Korean, and other people working at the Comintern headquarters, in cooperation with the officials in charge of the Oriental Department of the Executive Committee of the Comintern (Kuusinen, Magyar and Okano), proposed the immediate task of “establishing a Soviet state of workers and peasants,” along with the complete independence of Korea.
Unconditional support and acceptance of the Soviet line in revolutionary practice was a matter 01 common sense beyond dispute in the international communist movement and was regarded as a criterion for distinguishing between the stances of communist revolution and opportunism. The establishment of a Soviet government was regarded as the most important task by the communist parties and communist organizations in capitalist countries, to say nothing of the colonies and semi-colonial countries. In fact. Soviet power became the ideal of the entire world proletariat.
The Soviet idea was so very influential because it was recognized as the only type of government capable of putting an end to all manner of exploitation and oppression and building a welfare society that would regard the interests of the working masses as absolute.
A free and peaceful new world without exploitation and oppression was the age-long dream and ideal of humanity.
The newborn Soviet government in
It was by no means unreasonable for mankind to regard the
On my return to Wangqing from the campaigns in south and north
These complaints indicated serious problems that we could not overlook.
I saw instantly that the rumours spread by disgruntled people contained some truth.
As I travelled around the guerrilla zone, I learned about the people’s attitude towards Soviet power in greater detail. My constant contacts and candid conversations with hundreds of people gave me a full picture of the consequences of Leftist Soviet policy.
The inhabitants of the guerrilla zone began to be disillusioned by Soviet power from the time when the government, following the slogan of the immediate introduction of socialism, proclaimed the abolition of private property, and brought all personal property and real estate under communal ownership. Everything was communalized, from land and provisions to the farming tools and implements such as sickles, hoes and pitchforks that had belonged to individual peasants. After this sweeping introduction of communal ownership, the Soviet government subjected all the inhabitants of the guerrilla zone-men and women, young and old-to the new order of communal life, communal labour and communal distribution. This was the life of the artel proclaimed by the Soviet radicals.
This policy amounted to sending kindergarten children to university without giving them primary and secondary education. The Soviet government also expropriated, without compensation, all the rich farmers and landowners, regardless of whether they were large landowners, small landowners, pro-Japanese landowners or anti-Japanese landowners, and even confiscated their cattle, horses and provisions.
Those landowners who remained in the guerrilla zone even after the
land of east
One of those progressive landowners was a Chinese named Zhang Shi-ming. At the time of its large-scale “punitive” invasion, in the spring of 1932, the Japanese Jiandao task force even burnt down his grain store. Even though the “punitive” forces ordered a forced evacuation at bayonet-point, Zhang Shi-ming remained in the guerrilla zone, instead of moving to Daduchuan. His previous grievances against the Japanese were augmented that spring. Landowner though he was, he had given unstinting material and moral support to the people in the guerrilla zone.
“Officers and men from the guerrilla army,” he would say to the guerrillas who came to him for contributions. “I am remaining here in this valley because I hate to see the Japanese. Please at least drive them away from Daduchuan!”
The people in the guerrilla zone were on good terms with him.
But the Soviet government drove even this landowner away to the enemy-ruled area. He pleaded with the Soviet government for permission to live in the guerrilla zone, but the Soviet rejected his request.
“The Soviet government has decided to expropriate the property of all landowners,” the Soviet informed him. “It is true that your anti-Japanese spirit is strong and you have given generous support to the work of the guerrilla zone, but you are a member of the exploiting class, and we are obliged to eliminate you. Leave this place quickly.”
All the property of this landowner who had given wholehearted support to the revolution was confiscated there and then and put into a storehouse which was at the disposal of the Soviet government The beggared landowner left in tears to go to Daduchuan, where the Japanese forces were stationed.
Those who obeyed the order to carry out a purge at that time even took the children’s flower-patterned shoes from the chests at landowners’ houses. The Chinese people had an interesting custom according to which, when a female baby was born to them, they prepared the shoes for the children the female baby would have when she grew and married. Such shoes were called “flower-patterned shoes.” They used to make shoes of various sizes for babies younger than one year, for one-year olds, two-year olds and so on upwards, and then store them in chests. The chests contained some shoes as small as thimbles.
Having meekly allowed even these shoes to be taken away, what
thoughts would these landlords carry with them as they left the guerrilla zone?
The Leftist elements even regarded Chinese women’s customs of wearing earrings and wrapping their feet tight to check their growth as evils to be combatted.
During the first half of the 1930s, Leftist abuses were rampant in
They loved people and nourished the aspiration to justice more warmly than others. How was it, then, that these sympathetic and discreet people committed the irretrievable error of advocating and implementing this Leftist policy? We identified the cause in the policy itself and in the ideological immaturity of the people who had determined the line. These absurdities in revolutionary practice were produced by the unrealistic directives issued by people at the top of the hierarchy who, in ignorance of specific circumstances, aped the ill-digested principles of the classics and lessons of earlier experience.
In those years, the blind rejection of people, indiscriminate elimination, overthrow and ostracism were considered to be in keeping with a thoroughgoing class approach, the qualities of the most advanced revolutionaries.
The instance of a widow who lent at a small rate of interest the money she had earned by weaving cloth by hand was labelled as a usurer, so that her promissory note was thrown into fire and even her capital confiscated by some peasants in Wangqing, shows what a sacred cow this Leftist practice had become. Unless they were misled by some of their leaders, the simple peasants could not have resorted to such absurdities.
Once I was surprised to hear how a company commander, Ri Ung Man, had joined the guerrilla army in Wangqing.
In the early days of recruiting, only people from the working class, poor peasantry and hired farm hands were admitted to the armed ranks. Ri Ung Man’s father had owned a little more than three hectares of sterile hillside land, so he had not been considered a poor peasant. He had applied to join the ranks more than once, but his earnest requests had been turned down because he came from an undesirable family. He had been told that a man with more than three hectares was a middle peasant.
After many days of mental torture, he had sold his father’s land without his parents’ knowledge, bought a box of Browning pistols, and taken it to the armed group, begging to be admitted. Only then had he been accepted. He was glad that he had become a guerrilla, but his family was at a loss, left without any means of livelihood.
My resolve to combat Leftist evils grew still firmer after I moved to Jiandao. I have been combatting them all my life ever since. My experience in those days has been of great help in my postliberation struggle to counter Leftist evils and eliminate bureaucratic tendencies.
Under the cloak of slick revolutionary phrases and ultra-party slogans, the Leftists continually mock the masses, abuse and deceive them, in pursuit of their own glory and advancement. From these selfish motives, they depict themselves as tanks or armoured vehicles advancing in the forefront of struggle. Thus counterrevolutionaries make use of the cloak of Leftism. So all communists must always be highly vigilant and not allow the Leftists to get a foothold in their camp.
The Leftist Soviet policy plunged the guerrilla bases into a state of vacillation and confusion which was difficult to rectify. A large number of families, disillusioned and discontented with the Soviet policy, departed for enemy-ruled territory.
One night, on our way to Sancidao where Choe Chun Guk, the political instructor of the 2nd company, was working, my men and I met a middle-aged man and his family who were fleeing from the guerrilla zone. The man was leaving by night for fear of being labelled a counterrevolutionary if he was caught travelling in daylight. The five members of his family were carrying a few bundles or almost empty-handed. The three children were helped by their parents as they hobbled along.
The man, who looked about 50, trembled at the sight of our armed group. He seemed struck with dismay at having been discovered by a guerrilla commander.
“Have you done anything wrong?” I asked in a gentle voice, drawing the three shivering children to me one by one.
“Why, then, are you leaving the guerrilla zone?”
“It is too hard to live here....”
“Where are you going, then? Things will be even worse in the enemy area, won’t they?”
“We have been living here because we couldn’t endure the Japanese atrocities, so why should we go back to them? We are going deeper into the mountains to live by slashing and burning the land where no one will disturb our peace.”
At his words my heart felt weary with oppression. I wondered if they could find the peace of mind they sought in a deeper recess of the mountain than Macun, a recess which offered no guarantee of a livelihood in the days to come.
“The thaw has not yet set in, have you food enough to last until it does?” I asked.
“No. We shall live as long as we can, and we may die.... That’s all there is to it. My very life is a nuisance to me now.”
As she listened to him, the sobs of the man’s wife shook her shoulders. The three children who were in my arms also burst into tears.
I fought back my own tears as I was standing blankly in the darkness. If all the people left one by one in this manner, on whom could we rely in making the revolution? Why had our revolution entered this dead end? The consequences of the reckless Soviet policy had been too destructive.
“Things will be put to rights soon. So don’t feel too discouraged. Let’s wait till things are smoothed over.”
I sent him and his family back home with an escort of my men. I changed my plan of staying overnight in the barracks of the 2nd company and called on old man Choe Ja Ik at Xidapo. The heart-rending incident of the miserable family prompted me to try to dig into the depths of the people’s minds. Choe Ja Ik was the father of Choe In Jim, who, after joining the Wangqing special detachment, had been promoted to company commander and then to regimental commander of an independent brigade before he fell in battle. Whenever I visited Sancidao, I had paid a call on Choe Ja Ik.
Being a well-informed man, he had even served as secretary of the northern political and military administration headed by So Il. Moreover, he was open-minded and candid, and told me many instructive things whenever I met him.
“Old man, how are you getting along these days?” I greeted him.
“I think I am living just because I am alive,” he said bluntly in reply to my greetings.
Believing that his intonation expressed the people’s mind, I asked again, “Is your life in the guerrilla zone so hard?”
At this question, the old man flew into a rage and began to grumble, saying:
“I put up with the Soviet government when it took away my work
animals and farm implements. I guessed that we were following the example of
collective farming in
If the father of a commander of the guerrilla army could spat on Soviet policy, there was clearly no need to probe the attitude of other people any further.
Later, during the terrible days of the ultra-Leftist struggle against the “Minsaengdan,” and during the sad days when the soldiers and the people were bidding a tearful farewell to one another prior to the break-up of the guerrilla zones, I often recalled the old man lamenting over the things that were happening, pounding his breast with his fists, at the time when I met him.
Less than half a year after the establishment of the Soviet government,
the relations between the Korean and Chinese peoples had deteriorated again.
Most of the landowners who had been expropriated were Chinese, so it was
natural that a situation similar to one at the time of the May 30 Uprising
should recur. The Chinese nationalist army, which was opposed to the Japanese,
once again became hostile to the Korean communists. The national salvation
army and Chinese landowners were now our enemies, in addition to the Japanese
The anti-Japanese guerrilla army found itself once again in the restricted circumstances of the days of its establishment, when its small units had to hide in the back-rooms of other people’s houses. The guerrillas once again had to be billeted cautiously on Korean settlements. It was quite impossible to rename ourselves as Chinese special detachments. Whenever they met us, the national salvation army units would attack us, calling us “gaolibangzi” (a Chinese derogatory term for the Koreans-Tr.). Guerrilla activity was effectively reduced to a semi-underground struggle.
Everything that had been built up by our year-long struggle was being brought to nought.
Our comrades began to develop divergent opinions of Soviet policy.
Some of them said that, since things had come to this. we should go to Russia
to learn the methods of revolution and then make a fresh start; some of them
insisted that, since the way the people in Jiandao were doing things would make
a mess of the revolution, we should return to our own ground and fight in our
own way; and another man let slip that it would be better to go home and fulfil
his filial duty to his parents than to fight for something which was not much
like a revolution. The Chinese comrade who wished to go home was allowed to do
so, and another Chinese comrade who wished to study in the
Even in this state of affairs, the people in charge of the
guerrilla zone could not bring themselves to change their policy. The east
Somebody had to smooth over this chaotic situation and save the guerrilla zone from collapse, even at the risk of being stigmatized as a Rightist. This task required determination and the formulation of new theses capable of countering the Leftist Soviet line. It was about this time that I wrote a thesis on eliminating factionalism and strengthening the unity of the revolutionary ranks and published it in a pamphlet.
I had made up my mind to take issue with Tong Chang-rong at Macun
over the type of government to be established. However, county party secretary
Ri Yong Guk and a few others dissuaded me from doing so. They said it would be
useless to argue with him because the “Decision of the
Kim Paek Ryong was working as a member of a county party committee
When he heard that a Soviet government was going to be set up in
the district, he said that it was premature to have it in east
In the winter of 1934, two years after I heard the story of his
case from Ri Yong Guk, I met Kim Paek Ryong at Badaohezi,
He recollected with sadness the incident in the autumn of 1932 in which he had been branded as a Rightist capitulator because of his statement that a Soviet government was premature. By the time I met him, the Leftist Soviet policy had been rectified, and the people’s revolutionary government had long been administering the guerrilla zone, so he did not hesitate to criticize the proponents of the reckless. Leftist Soviet line. In my talk with him I found him an extremely intelligent and upright man.
I asked him why he had said that it was premature to establish the Soviet.
“The reason is simple,” Kim Paek Ryong replied. “When I was in Gayahe, I talked with a lot of peasants and found that they did not even know the meaning of the word Soviet. So I said it was premature to create a Soviet which was beyond the people’s comprehension.”
In fact, the people in those days did not understand the meaning of the word, and this fact indicated their lack of preparedness.
The old people in Gayahe who participated in the election to the district Soviet took the word “Soviet” to mean soksaepho (automatic gun-Tr.).
“I watched the platform after the election,” one of them remarked, “for I had been expecting automatic guns from the Soviet, the guns that would kill many Japanese. But it produced only a red flag.”
Some of the people from Macun, who attended the ceremony for the establishment of the Soviet at Wangqing district No. 2, mistook the word “Soviet” for soebochi (tin pail-Tr.). Another villager was said to have asked voters to take a close look at the Soviet and see whether it was large or small. Some other villagers were said to have gone out with baskets to gather wild vegetables, because they had nothing special to offer the Soviet, an important guest.
These subjective interpretations of the meaning of the word or comical mistakes were due, of course, to the people’s ignorance, and in particular to ineffective propaganda on the part of their leaders. The titles of public lectures, for instance, were full of loanwords such as Soviet, kolkhoz and kommuna which were beyond the people’s comprehension. As for the Soviet itself, the propagandists themselves had no clear idea of what it was.
After the establishment of Soviet power everywhere, the radical elements who had been poisoned with Leftist ideas swaggered about, shouting loudly about the dictatorship of the working class, poor peasants and hired farm hands, as if the revolution had already been carried through.
In spite of the advice of the comrades at Wangqing, I did challenge Tong Chang-rong to a debate about the appropriate form of government.
“The birth of the revolutionary government in Jiandao and its proclamation is an event to rejoice at. But, Comrade Tong Chang-rong, I cannot remain a silent onlooker when our policy of the united front is being encroached upon by the Soviet line.”
Tong Chang-rong looked at me in surprise.
“It is being encroached upon? What do you mean by that?” he asked.
“As I told you at Mingyuegou, we have adopted the line of rallying
all the patriotic, anti-Japanese forces, who are interested in our revolution,
into a strong political force, and we have striven to implement this line at
the cost of our blood in the homeland and
Tong Chang-rong smiled, patting me on the wrist.
“That is quite possible, but it is not a matter of great importance. What is important is that the Soviet government has met all the requirements of the people. The revolution is triumphing. The workers and peasants, the vast majority of the masses, are following the Soviet government. What is there to be afraid of? I believe that, with the support of the workers and peasants, we can carry out whatever revolution we need. We have to be prepared to lose a minority, don’t we?”
“I admit that there may be losses. But why should we reject people who can be won over? Our general strategy is to isolate the enemy as far as possible and win over as many people as possible. That is why we have risked our lives working among the anti-Japanese nationalist forces over the past year. We communists have managed to recover the prestige that was damaged by the May 30 Uprising, and we have resolved the discord between the Korean and Chinese peoples by dint of painstaking effort. But now there is the danger again that the results of these great efforts may be brought to nothing overnight.”
“Comrade Kim Il Sung, surely you are too pessimistic?”
“No. I am in the habit of always looking on the bright side. The
revolution will, of course, continue its victorious advance. But, Comrade Tong
Chang-rong, I cannot help being deeply worried about the negative consequences
of the Leftist policy in east
“So you mean that the policy should be reconsidered?”
“Yes, the policy should be reconsidered as well as the form of government that shapes the policy.”
Tong Chang-rong frowned disapprovingly and then said, “Comrade Kim Il Sung, there may indeed be errors in the policy of the Soviet government, but the form of the government is inviolable. The policy concerning the establishment of Soviet power comes from the centre.”
The argument continued.
He persisted in his opinion, describing the Soviet as an absolute. He was a man of moderate character and kind heart, but a die-hard. He was well-informed, but dogmatic in his thinking and practice.
We resumed the argument on another day, when the point at issue was whether to maintain the Soviet or abandon it, and if it was to be discarded, what form of a new government should be adopted.
I said that, since life had proved that the Soviet was not suited to the guerrilla zone in east Manchuria where the task of anti-imperialist, anti-feudal democratic revolution should be addressed, the Korean and Chinese communists must resolutely change the form of government, and adopt a policy capable of meeting the requirements of the people in order to calm down the chaotic situation.
In reply to my cogent argument, Tong Chang-rong said, “I, too,
admit that the Soviet does not suit the specific situation of east
I was pleased by this change m the opinion of the secretary of the ad hoc committee. He was no longer the same die-hard who had insisted that the Soviet was the only type of government for the communists at the high tide of revolution when the masses were in buoyant spirits.
“The Commune and the Soviet are the only forms of working-class government that mankind has ever discovered, aren’t they?” Tong Chang-rong asked, and gazed at me. His eyes seemed to suggest that, if I had a form that might convince him, he would not choose to object to it.
“If that is so, then let us make up a suitable one for ourselves,” I said.
“For ourselves? I’m afraid that I’m not such a great genius. How can we make up things that are not mentioned in Marx’s classic works?”
I could not agree with this view or attitude which regarded things as immutable and absolute, from which one could not deviate.
“Comrade Tong Chang-rong, did the French working class refer to any classics when they created the Commune? Was the Russian Soviet proposed by the founders of Marxism in their classic works? How can you regard the Soviet as the brainchild of a genius? If the people had not required it, if the Russian situation had not required it, I think the Soviet would not have emerged in the arena of history.”
Without giving any sign of what he thought, Tong Chang-rong produced a large tobacco pouch from his pocket, filled his pipe and set it between his lips, then offered the pouch to me. He used to carry the tobacco pouch and the pipe in his hand while inspecting the guerrilla zone. When he met a peasant on the way he would fill the pipe and then offer it to the peasant. He was a man of peculiar character, and this simplicity of his won him love and respect from the people in the guerrilla zone. In winter he went about in a fur cap like those worn by local peasants.
His silence vexed me, but the fact that he refrained from further argument was a good omen.
Following my conversation with him, I met Ri Yong Guk, Kim Myong Gyun, Jo Chang Dok and some other military and political cadres, and discussed with them the question of replacing the Soviet with a new revolutionary government. We debated the matter seriously for several days.
For purposes of a smooth discussion, we emphasized the importance of a criterion for defining the form of the government.
I asserted that we must not make the criterion too complicated, and that, since we were all fighting for the people and were their faithful servants, determined to dedicate all our lives to their cause, we must draw the criterion from the character of our revolution at that stage, laying emphasis on whether the government we were going to establish would be able to champion the interests of all sections of the population and whether it would enjoy their enthusiastic support.
On hearing this, my comrades cheered, saying that everything was now clear to them, that a government which was to champion the interests of all sections of the population must be a united-front government, since the term “all sections of the population” would mean not only the workers and poor or hired peasants, but other broad sections of the people, that a united-front government would suit the character of the anti-imperialist, anti-feudal democratic revolution, and that they would welcome such a government with open arms.
I again emphasized that the united-front government must be a people’s revolutionary government based on a worker-peasant alliance. Nowadays, this is known in the history books as the line on the establishment of the people’s revolutionary government.
There is no need to mention the result of our vote, for they believed that the form of people’s revolutionary government we chose suited to east Manchuria, where Koreans were the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants, was ideally suited to the character of the Korean revolution which was directed at democracy and against imperialism and feudalism, and that it met the requirements of the people. We discovered the criterion for the form of government in the people’s requirements and in a means of championing and representing the people’s interests.
After deciding on the form of government, we agreed to set an example in one district and, if the result was accepted as good, to extend the example to other revolutionary districts. District No. 5 was chosen as the unit in which to set an example.
Ri Yong Guk, Kim Myong Gyun and I visited Wangqing district No. 5
and attended the meeting to elect the district committee of the people’s
revolutionary government. The meeting was held at the
Jo Chang Dok, chairman of the fifth district Soviet government, showed us into the office of the Soviet, where I talked to about 20 peasants from Gayahe.
“We have decided to set up a new government to replace the Soviet government. It must represent your will. What kind of government would you like to set up?” I asked.
An old man rose and answered, “If the government to be set up will make our life easier, we’ll ask for nothing more.”
I declared excitedly that a people’s revolutionary government would be established in place of the Soviet government, and that the new government would be the first genuine people’s government in the world history of political power.
“This government will represent and champion the interests of all the people who love their country and their fellow people. It will fulfil their most cherished desires. What are your cherished desires? The people’s revolutionary government will fulfil all of your desires to own land, to have the right to work, to educate your children, and to have equality for all.”
The people from Gayahe fully supported the line of the people’s revolutionary government which I explained to them.
Prior to the ceremony to proclaim the establishment of the people’s revolutionary government, we saw to it that all expropriated private property was returned to the former owners. In order to compensate for what had been damaged or consumed after expropriation, Ryang Song Ryong even organized an armed raid on a lumber station. The cattle and horses captured from the enemy in that battle were used by the peasants to cultivate the land distributed to them in the spring of that year.
At the meeting I made a speech to the effect that the people’s revolutionary government was truly a people’s government, and then the government’s ten-point programme was announced.
This programme was later incorporated almost without amendment into the Ten-point Programme of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland.
Still vivid in my memory is the image of the county party secretary, Ri Yong Guk, during the meeting at the village in Sishuiping. While everyone was enjoying themselves dancing together, he sat in a corner, shedding tears.
I slipped away from the dancing party and walked over to him.
“Comrade Secretary, why are you sad when everyone is dancing?”
Without even attempting to dry the tears trickling down his cheeks, Ri Yong Guk heaved a deep sigh.
“I can’t see why these people do not spit at me. The Wangqing people have suffered from Leftist evils entirely because of me. But they thanked me. Commander Kim, you are the man who should receive thanks from them.”
“Our people are generous and good-natured. The fact that instead of settling accounts with you the people thanked you. Secretary, means that they have accepted the line of the people’s revolutionary government wholeheartedly. From now onwards, let us give our minds only to the future.”
“I have not been living in my right mind, but in some other man’s. You have opened my eyes to a truth of genuine value. Let us live for the people! What profound meaning there is in this simple motto! I will remember it all my life,” Ri Yong Guk firmly resolved, squeezing my hand.
He was not able to live up to his pledge, for the east
The charge that Ri Yong Guk had belonged to the M-L group was not
true. When involved in youth work at Xilinhe he had been recommended for the
post of secretary of the Young Communist League under the east
I stated on several occasions that he had been neither a factionalist nor a “Minsaengdan” member.
However, while I was in Luozigou for negotiation with
I still do not understand why it was necessary to label such a faithful and honest man a “Minsaengdan” member.
Not long after the establishment of the people’s revolutionary government in the district No. 5, Tong Chang-rong came to me and said, with a pleasant smile on his face, “Comrade Kim Il Sung, we are going to discuss the matter of a change in me political line before long, with the participation of a man sent from the Comintern. I hope that you, Comrade Kim Il Sung, will make the keynote speech, since you have the experience of having established the people’s revolutionary government in the district No. 5.”
In the summer of that year, an important meeting was held to discuss
the change in the political line. The meeting was attended by a man who had
been sent to east
At the meeting I proposed the line of a people’s revolutionary government as a united-front government based on a worker-peasant alliance, and explained once again the draft of the governments policy, which included land reform and other democratic measures to be implemented by the government in the fields of the economy, education, culture, public health and military affairs. Our policy was in agreement with the new line formulated by the Comintern. The man from the Comintern expressed his full support for and approval of the line on the establishment of the people’s revolutionary government.
The meeting, which lasted many days in an atmosphere of serious debate and ideological struggle, adopted a decision to reorganize the Soviet in accordance with our line of the people’s revolutionary government and to combat the evil consequences of the Leftist Soviet line in all the guerrilla zones.
After the meeting, all the Soviets in east
The people’s revolutionary government, which was run by the people, its masters, implemented democracy for the popular masses, the overwhelming majority of the population, and exercised dictatorship over the enemy.
The establishment of the people’s revolutionary government in
Gayahe and the meeting that had adopted the changed line led to the emergence
of a people’s revolutionary government in every district of the revolutionary
organization in east
This was the embryo and prototype of the people’s government to be established in the liberated homeland.
The people’s revolutionary government distributed land to the peasants
without compensation and enforced an eight-hour working day in all the
guerrilla zones. In those days there were approximately a thousand workers in
the Xiaowangqing guerrilla base. Most of them were lumbermen, raftsmen and
charcoal burners. Five hundred of them worked at Sancidao, the administrative
centre of the district No. 2, and the other five hundred at the foot of the
The people’s revolutionary government took stringent measures to ensure that private entrepreneurs doubled the workers’ pay.
The government also placed the forests in and around the guerrilla zones under its control and prohibited the felling of trees without its permission.
In these circumstances, the Japanese manager of the Qinhe lumber station at Daduchuan and Chinese lumber dealers came to the guerrilla-zone authorities to negotiate permission for timber-felling. The matter was settled so that the purchasers paid one yuan for a piece of lumber, but payment was made in kind, in items such as clothing, food and other consumer items.
The people’s revolutionary government established the Children’s Corps schools and gave the children free education, and it ensured that all the population received free medical care at the hospitals at Lishugou and Shiliping in the guerrilla zone. A law on women’s equality was enforced and women participated in public life and work, on a basis of equal rights with men.
Printing works, tailors’ shops and weapons repair works were operated in the guerrilla zone.
Cultural activities in the guerrilla zones produced many famous
songs of lasting significance for our people, and theatrical art flourished,
producing many original works, which later developed into such masterpieces as
The term “Soviet,” symbolic of inhumanity and expropriation, remained only a memento of the past. The people who had fled to the enemy-held area from the evils of the Soviet policy began to return to the guerrilla zones one by one or in groups. Old people freely visited their neighbours, carrying their pipes at their waists. The guerrilla zone rang once again with the laughter of a large and harmonious community of people who trusted, loved and relied on one another.
The valleys and mountains of Wangqing, which had withstood the severe winter, began to be adorned with various kinds of rustling flowers: the throbbing of a new life was in evidence.
This life roused such envy that the son of a landowner, who had been held hostage at Xiaowangqing by Commander Chat’s unit, begged to be allowed to live in the guerrilla zone.
In April 1933, when our struggle against the Leftist deviation was at its height in the guerrilla base, Tong Chang-rong came to see me in the company of a middle-aged man dressed in dabushanzi. The man appeared like a gentleman and had a gentleman’s manners. Seeing me from a distance, he smiled and raised his hand above his head in a gesture of greeting. His eyes were shining in such delight, I might have taken him for an old acquaintance of mine.
On shaking hands with him, however, I found him to be a stranger. But strange to say, I still had the feeling that this stranger was an old acquaintance. So I received him kindly, with a smile.
This mysterious guest was Manchurian provincial party committee member Pan, an inspector from the Comintern. Just as Wei Zheng-min used to be addressed as Old Wei, this man was addressed as Old Pan. Pan is the Chinese pronunciation of his surname. According to Chinese custom, an elderly or respected person was given the title “Old,” which was used as a polite way of addressing him. Few people called him by his real name Ri Ki Dong or by his nickname Pan Qing-you.
Inspector Pan was renowned as a revolutionary and party worker
among the communists in
I first heard of Pan from Wang Run-cheng. When Pan worked as
secretary of the Ningan county party committee after the September 18 incident,
Wang Run-cheng was a member of the committee for propaganda under him. Wang
said that he was put in charge of propaganda on that committee on Pan’s
recommendation, and he was very proud of the fact. According to him, Pan was a
veteran who graduated from the
Wang’s respect for him was quite exceptional.
Hearing about him from Wang, I was delighted at the fact that able revolutionaries like Pan were working in our local areas.
I later heard more about Pan from Choe Song Suk and Jo Tong
These previous contacts led us to spend much time on recollections of our common acquaintances Wang Run-cheng and Choe Song Suk.
“Is Comrade Choe Song Suk from Ningan well?” Pan asked at the beginning of our conversation.
His inquiry made it clear to me what Choe Song Suk had meant when she said that Pan’s consideration for his subordinates was his particularly good point, and I was deeply moved.
“Yes. On her arrival from north
“Does she go about on horseback over here, too?”
“So I have heard, but I have never seen her riding a horse.”
“She learnt to ride, and resolved to join the cavalry of the revolutionary army. She is a bold and determined girl.”
“Then we Wangqing people are very fortunate! Don’t you regret having sent her to us?”
“Why should I regret it? Her family is in north Manchuria, but I
told her to come to east
Though I was grateful to Pan for acknowledging east
However, I set great store by Wang and Choe’s opinion of Pan. They often emphasized that Pan, being an experienced man, had never suffered from prejudice against his subordinates and dealt with every matter on the basis of his own conviction, with fairness and prudence. Moreover, Pan produced a good impression on me when I first met him.
That day’s conversation allowed me to get to know him. We parted with a promise to have more serious talks later.
The visitor from the Comintern had timed his visit badly for me, for I had to go to command my unit in the fight to repulse thousands of “punitive” troops who were attacking us in waves.
“Then I must go with you to fight,” he said. “Please give me an old rifle at least.”
Pan insisted on taking the field with us for at least one day,
saying that as an envoy of the Comintern, if he returned without so much as seeing
how we were fighting in east
“Comrade Pan, bullets do not make exceptions for inspectors from the Comintern. There will be many chances to see battle, so please rest from the fatigue of your journey today.”
After I had dissuaded him, I went to the battlefield.
The enemy had surrounded the Xiaowangqing guerrilla zone on three
sides, and had been attacking us persistently for three days. In stubborn
defensive tactics, we mowed him down. The enemy suffered hundreds of
casualties before he retreated. The “punitive” forces, which had invaded the
guerrilla zone in the direction of Guanmenlazi and
His appearance in Wangqing provoked different reactions among the inhabitants.
Those who, regarding the Leftist Soviet line as the Comintern’s policy, had placed themselves at its beck and call, thought that Old Pan would support their position, and that his appearance would, therefore, be a good opportunity to apply sanctions against the proponents of the line of the people’s revolutionary government and brand them as Rightists, so that they would no longer dispute the form of government.
On the other hand, those who, denouncing the Soviet line as Leftist, had worked all along for the establishment of a new form of government in accordance with the line of the people’s revolutionary government, watched Old Pan’s every action closely, apprehensive that their anti-Soviet position might be rejected by him or that, in the worst case, they might even be punished in the name of the Comintern. Many of them foretold that Pan’s visit would complicate the situation in the guerrilla zone, which had just begun to shake off the grip of the Soviet line.
The former group was in triumphant mood; the latter was in a state of mental defeat. Both attitudes sprang from the fact that they regarded the Comintern’s authority as absolute. The Comintern, which was capable of disbanding a party or trying a man for his crimes, seemed as awesome to them as an international supreme court. They thought that the Comintern could redeem or destroy the fate of a revolutionary as it pleased.
Pan’s appearance placed a strain on the guerrilla zone. I, too, could sense the strain in the atmosphere at every moment.
The attitude which Pan would take towards those of us who had supported the line of the people’s revolutionary government against the Soviet line of the Comintern and denounced the Soviet measures as Leftist abuses was a matter of serious concern for us.
I thought it fortunate for our revolution that the Comintern had
sent its representative to east
Nobody had yet given any assurance that the Comintern would support our position. But I was determined to lodge a protest to Pan against the directives that had been issued in turn by the Comintern, the Manchurian provincial party committee and other organizations, directives which did not suit the actual conditions in the guerrilla bases. I was also ready, if necessary, to argue with him about theoretical questions, in order to rectify the ultra-Leftist tendency in the implementation of the Soviet line and the anti-”Minsaengdan” struggle. I was not in the least afraid of punishment or sanctions. In short, I believed that the decisive moment had arrived.
During those days certain
disgruntled comrades apparently sent a letter of complaint to the Comintern,
requesting it to settle the dispute in east
When I came back from the battle in defence of Xiaowangqing, Pan came to see me again. His expression was not so radiant as it had been when I first met him. From the inspector’s expression, which betrayed heavy anxiety behind his vague smile, I judged that he had finally found himself faced with a choice between the grim realities on which political philosophies had become entangled. It seemed that he had clashed with Tong Chang-rong over the issue of the political line.
I saw to it that Pan stayed at old man Ri Chi Back’s house, the largest one in Macun, and spent some ten days talking with him in the front room of the house.
Pan spoke Chinese fluently, and he spoke in Chinese from the start, so I was obliged to do the same. We talked mainly at night and early m the mornings. During daylight hours I had no time to spare to talk with him because I was commanding my unit. Pan travelled around the guerrilla zone during the day, busily acquainting himself with the actual conditions there.
People who have frequently stayed away from their homes will understand very well how intimate travelling companions who share the same lodging can become, despite the inconvenience, and how charming and interesting stories become woven through their intimate relations. Pan and I, too, became intimate during those ten days, so intimate that we became like members of one family.
Although Inspector Pan was my elder by more than twenty years, as well as being a veteran revolutionary with a rich experience of struggle, he never put on airs or betrayed any awareness of his seniority. He talked to me frankly and enthusiastically, placing himself on comradely terms with me.
First we introduced ourselves, tracing our pasts, but avoiding formal matters relating to revolutionary practice. I did this first, and then Pan followed suit And then we took turns in filling up the blanks in our past experiences or relating our impressions of the events we had experienced, not noticing that the night was passing.
Pan became very curious about me when he learned that I had been in prison four times before I was even twenty years old.
“So you are my senior. Comrade Kim, in terms of imprisonment, aren’t you?”
He said that he, too, had some experience of prison life in
“People realized after a few lashings in prison that we had organized the demonstration clumsily and belatedly. By organizing it in the streets of the county town we actually exposed party members to enemy repression at a time when we should have sent the organization deeper underground and prepared it for an armed struggle!”
Whenever he mentioned the demonstration he was angry with himself. But he admired the demonstration we had organized against the Jilin-Hoeryong railway construction project. He was the type of man who is fair and generous in assessing other people’s achievements while underestimating or even denigrating his own success.
“You say you celebrated your twenty-first birthday a few days ago, so you are only half as old as I am, but I must say. Comrade Kim, that you are my senior not only in terms of imprisonment, but also in terms of life experience,” Inspector Pan said when he had heard my personal history.
I could not help feeling awkward as he repeated that I was his senior.
“Comrade Pan, if you praise me to the skies, I am afraid you will make a fool of me.”
He shrugged his shoulders in the way Russians do.
“I should like you to know that it is discontent with my own life which underlies my admiration of you. I am a man who has not led a satisfactory life. At my age of forty-three I can say that the prime of my life is past, but I have done nothing which I can be proud of. That is my sorrow.”
“Don’t be too modest. You have experienced the scorching sun in the south and the snowstorms in the north; your life has known laughter, anguish and tears. To be frank, I am not fond of people who look down upon themselves. How can you say that the prime of your life is past at only a little more than forty?”
He was not displeased by my criticism. I thought he was too modest
with himself. The meritorious service he had rendered as secretary of the
Ningan county party committee and the Suining central county party committee,
and the role of a midwife he had played in the birth of the Ningan guerrilla
forces, not to mention his activity in southern China-all these could never be
ignored. The Suining central county party committee was a very large
organization that had been formed by the merger of the Muling, Ningan,
Dongning, Mishan and other county party committees. Once rumour had it that Pan
was to receive honourable promotion to the post of a senior cadre in the
eastern area bureau of
Our conversation proceeded with an exchange of information and opinions concerning the current political questions of mutual interest.
The first subject of our discussion was the Comintern and the international communist movement. This discussion was extremely valuable to me, for although I was in touch with the workers of the Comintern’s liaison office, I had never had candid and serious talks with them.
I explained to him the efforts made by the Korean communists to implement the decisions of the Comintern, and then clarified our position and attitude towards its line and directives.
“We consider that the Comintern fulfils the role of the General Staff of the international communist movement excellently. Over the past years it has achieved a great deal by rallying the communists throughout the world into an international alliance and struggling against imperialism, for peace and socialism. In the clear understanding that the Com-intern is the international centre which performs the function of centralized control of the communist movement, we will, in the future as in the past, remain loyal to its rules and its line. But, Comrade Pan, I would like to take the liberty of telling you something else about the activity of the Comintern.”
The final part of my statement immediately made him tense.
“How should I take what you have said? You don’t happen to hold any opinion opposed to it, do you?”
“Perhaps an opinion, or a complaint. I have wanted to tell to the Comintern a few things for a long time.”
“Speak up, whatever you have on your mind.” He gazed at me with curiosity.
I believed the time had come when I should speak out to the Comintern.
“I do not support any faction, but I very much regret the Comintern’s decision in the past to disband the Korean Communist Party. Factions existed not only in the Korean Communist Party; the forging of signatures by means of potato stamps was also practised by the Indochinese Communist Party and other parties, wasn’t it?”
A look of surprise, rather than tension, flitted across his face. My words had taken the inspector by surprise, a man who had been through all manner of bitter experiences.
“As a Korean communist like yourself. Comrade Kim, not as an
inspector from the Comintern, I regarded the disbandment of the Korean
Communist Party as a disgrace, and share you in your regret that the Comintern
had declared its disbandment. But there is one thing you must understand in
this matter, and that is, why the Indochinese Communist Party remains in
existence, while the Korean Communist Party was disbanded. It is because a
prominent figure like Ho Chi Minh represented
His view that one of the major reasons for the party’s collapse was the absence of a leader or a centre of leadership shocked me, for I had considered factional strife within the party to be the primary cause of its disbandment. It took Pan’s cogent analysis to discern that the disbandment of the Korean Communist Party was due to the absence of a leader, a man of world renown acknowledged by the Comintern, who could resist his party’s disbandment.
In addition to the matter of the Comintern, we also had a valuable discussion concerning the practical questions arising in the Korean revolution.
Inspector Pan said that the Korean communists must work hard to found a new party of their own, instead of living in a state of frustration, and sharing lodgings with the party of another country because most of their party members were in exile after the party had ceased to exist.
“I am not saying this because I am a Korean revolutionary, but I do believe that the Koreans must have their own communist party. If the Korean communists regarded the disbandment of the Korean Communist Party as depriving them for good of the chance to rebuild their party, that would amount to suicide. It is the legitimate and inviolable right of the Koreans to have their own party. One may share another man’s room for a couple of years, but not for ever.”
Pan’s conviction that the Korean communists must rebuild their party completely was in agreement with our policy of founding a party, which had been adopted at the Kalun meeting.
“You are right,” I said, encouraged by his words. “If a Korean does not strive to rebuild the party, he should be regarded as having abandoned the Korean revolution. We must not be like a man who shares another man’s room, studying his expression, and wasting time. On the basis of this point of view, we put forward a new policy of forming grassroots party organizations first, and then establishing the party from bottom to top by expanding and strengthening them, and we established a party organization, the Society for Rallying Comrades, three years ago in line with this policy.”
I went into the details of the historical background to the formation of the first party organization, as well as describing my own involvement in this work and its expansion.
Pan listened to me with close attention.
“Comrade Kim, I may be a man of fancy, but you are a man of thorough practice. It is simply marvellous. But, look here. It’s a problem that there are too many factions in the Korean communist movement. So you must not recognize the factionalists, but make a fresh start among young people. You can do nothing with factionalists around you. Many of them have become dogs of the Japanese. And many of the confirmed factionalists who are not Japanese dogs are involved in a tug-of-war struggle for hegemony, instead of working for the revolution. In order to combat factions, we must fight the Japanese successfully. If our ranks grow stronger, and the hardcore elements are united in the course of the struggle, they will lay the foundation for the establishment of the party.”
His words excited me greatly. They were, of course, not new to me. The basic policy we had maintained was that the party should be formed with young people who had not been infected with factionalism.
I renewed my resolve to found the party by uniting the Korean people and building up its core, so as to accomplish the basic task of national liberation.
It was fortunate that Pan and I had the opportunity to discuss questions
concerning the international communist movement, the Comintern, and the
founding of the party in
Our conversation naturally turned to the issue of Soviet power, which had been occupying everybody’s attention in Jiandao. I was honestly eager to hear Pan’s opinion of the Soviet government to which the people had turned their backs, at which they had spat, and from which they stood aloof.
“Old Pan,” I said casually, “what is your impression of the guerrilla zone you have looked around on your first visit to Jiandao?”
“I would like to pay my respects to the people of Jiandao and the revolutionaries who have built a wonderful society on this barren land,” Pan said in a loud voice, unbuttoning and opening the front skirts of his gown. “The people here have done a lot of work and endured tremendous hardships. But I must say that it is a matter of great regret that an unwelcome spectre is hovering over this marvellous land.”
From his emotional tone, I could tell that he was greatly excited.
“A spectre? What do you mean by that?” I asked.
He picked up a large pinch of cut tobacco from the pouch which old man Ri Chi Baek offered and began to roll a thick cigarette.
“I mean the Leftist Soviet line. It is pulling down the tower which has been built by the strenuous efforts of the people of Jiandao. I can’t understand this at all. How is it possible for the revolutionaries of Jiandao, who pioneered the Manchurian revolution, to take leave of their senses to such an extent?”
‘To tell you the truth, I find the Leftist deviation so upsetting that my hair may turn white.”
“How can they be so blind and stupid?... I talked with them, and
they were totally ignorant of the Soviet government in
“What a preposterous mistake! It is clearly no accident that letters of complaint were addressed to the Comintern. You have had plenty to worry about, I expect.”
He glanced at me in commiseration.
“I wouldn’t mind personal distress, no matter how great. My heart ached at the sight of people who were suffering under Leftist high-handedness.”
Pan puffed at his cigarette nervously and continually, as if to give vent to his anger.
“I have encountered a stroke of good luck in the midst of misfortune, which is that the line of the people’s revolutionary government was born of the soil overgrown with Leftist weeds, the government which enjoys the people’s support and will save our revolution from the crisis. Comrade Kim, a short while ago I informed Comrade Tong Chang-rong that your proposal is marvellous.”
“Do you mean to say that you also support the line of the people’s revolutionary government?”
“If not, why should I have said so to Comrade Tong Chang-rong? He has also expressed his support for the line. He seems to have been strongly impressed by your statement that anything the people like is good. Let us now work better, with firm confidence in ourselves.”
Pan grasped my hand in an unconscious but significant gesture, and then released it.
In this way the Comintern’s support for our line on the people’s revolutionary government was confirmed.
Pan said it was a remarkable success for us to have gained the freedom
of activity of the guerrilla army by forming a special detachment and improved
relations with the national salvation army of the Chinese nationalists. He
encouraged us revolutionaries in east
Saying that our line on the people’s revolutionary government was basically in accord with the line of the revolutionary masses’ government proposed by the Chinese party, he explained the Chinese line briefly.
The Chinese line proposed a new and clear strategy on the Manchurian issue, centring on the switchover of their political line. It had been formally issued in the name of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, but was in fact drafted by the Comintern. It could be said, therefore, to represent the will of the Comintern.
Their idea of forming peasant committees as organs of rural government attracted our attention. The proposal was that the peasant committee should manage relations between the peasants and the guerrilla army, supplying food to the army and organizing armed self-defence guards on a routine basis, and that the party should ensure that hired farm hands and poor peasants become the leading force in the peasant committee, and thus rally the masses of middle peasants around them.
In other words, the Comintern had recognized the irrationality of the Leftist Soviet line in the question of political power, and had acknowledged the need to replace it with a new form of government. After all, this was the confirmation of the correctness of the line of the people’s revolutionary government which we had proposed.
However, Inspector Pan was very concerned about the name of the
peasant committee. Although peasant committees were better suited than Soviets
to the situation in
“What does it matter whether we call it a peasant committee or a people’s revolutionary government? All that is required is to satisfy the people’s desires. A people’s revolutionary government will do in a place where we can put up such a sign, and a peasant committee will do where a committee is more suitable, won’t it?”
In this way, I tried to calm the inspector’s anxieties, but he was still not at ease.
“You are right in general, but the name of the government must cater to the people’s preferences. In any case, I must bring the matter to the Comintern.”
I am not sure whether he did express his decision in a letter to the Comintern or not.
In the wake of these events, the Soviets in all the guerrilla zones in east Manchuria were replaced by people’s revolutionary governments or peasant committees, the Worker-Peasant Guerrilla Army was renamed the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army, and the Red Guards were reorganized as the Anti-Japanese Self-Defence Corps.
The inspector’s visit raised a whirlwind that swept away the outmoded
political order of the guerrilla zone. The Juche-orientated revolutionary
policy which we had maintained since our days in
The most doubtful aspect of the Comintern’s strategy and the steps it had taken were its views on, and its manner of dealing with, the Korean revolution as a link in the overall chain of the world revolution.
When the October Socialist Revolution triumphed in
In response to the requirements of the times, Lenin established the Third Communist International in 1919. Its historic mission was to organize the struggle of the working class and the oppressed nations of the whole world to free themselves from imperialist oppression and the chains of capital, and to develop this struggle on an international scale. This was a militant mission that differed from those of its predecessors, the First and Second Internationals, and fitted with the requirements of new times.
One of the major tasks of the Comintern at me time was to safeguard
and defend the
These relations, which were historically inevitable and essential, supplied grist to the mills of those who opposed communism and lent plausibility to the reactionary bourgeois theoreticians who denounced the communist parties of various countries which implemented the orders of the Comintern as “stooges of the Soviet Union” or traitors to their own nations.
The communists in every country should have learned a lesson from this and combined their national and international duties in an appropriate manner. The Comintern should also have regarded this matter as highly important. If it was to fulfil its mission satisfactorily, the Comintern, while emphasizing the defence of the positions of victorious socialism, should have given sincere support to the communist movements in other countries, and should, in particular, have championed the interests of the lesser nations suffering under imperialist oppression and assisted their revolutionary struggles.
The Comintern, however, paid little attention to this need. Some
officials of the Comintern talked loudly about the revolutionary movements in
large countries, but dealt in a slighting or arbitrary fashion with matters
relating to the revolutions in small countries. They discriminated too much in
their views and their attitudes towards the revolution in different countries,
in proportion to the share they could contribute to the building of an
international bulwark for the defence of the
Certain individuals and theoreticians occupying important posts in the Comintern spread the view that victories for the revolutionary movements in large countries would automatically lead to victories for the revolutionary struggles or independence movements in the adjacent small countries. Figuratively speaking, they held the view that1 if the head ripens, the ears will also ripen of their own accord.
This view gave rise to a sycophantic tendency among communists of small countries, who abandoned the independent position that one’s own effort and the efforts of one’s own people were the motive force of revolution, and began to rely on large countries. It also produced a chauvinistic tendency among the communists of the large countries, who ignored the communists of small countries and restrained their independent activities.
Thus it was not fortuitous that the revolutionaries’ confidence in, and unsullied devotion to, the Comintern and the international communist movement became stained, despite the fact that these communists from different countries had been tremendously inspired by the great events of the birth of the socialist state and the foundation of the Corn-intern, and looked up to them as an ideal and a beacon-light as they advanced through the flames of struggle, After the victory of the October Socialist Revolution and the foundation of the Comintern, loving support and a yearning for communism surged across the face of the world in an inexorable wave.
Renowned persons in all parts of the world were quick to join me
ranks of those who espoused communism. Many of the major figures of the time,
regarding communism as the only idea that represented the future of mankind,
made efforts, through different channels, and regardless of their political
affiliations and religious beliefs, to establish contact with the newborn
Many of the nationalists in
Hyon Sun was a minister of high reputation in
Of course, I am not sure how deep an understanding he possessed of the new idea of communism, or how warmly he sympathized with it, but it seems that he expected a great deal from the Comintern.
Ri Tong Hwi, the first Prime Minister of the Korean Provisional
The reformist force of Chondoism also sought alignment with the Comintern.
Choe Tong Hui, a son of Choe Si Hyong, the second leader of the
Chondoist religion, and a grandnephew of Choe Je U, the founder of Chondoism,
represented the reforming wing of Chondoism. In his capacity as chairman of
the foreign affairs committee of the Emergency Supreme Revolutionary Council of
Chondoists, he spent some time in
Choe Tong Hui even sent a letter to Chicherin, at that time
People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the
Ryo Un Hyong, alias Mong Yang, also visited
People would not believe it if they heard that an anti-communist
element such as Syngman Rhee once supported Soviet Russia. But it seems to be
true. There is information that he once visited
I was annoyed most of all by the fact that we lacked the strength to oppose or correct the attitudes and activities of the Comintern with which we disagreed, and were unable to control the way in which the Comintern’s work was organized and its chronic malady of red-tapism, although we knew this might lead to the sacrifice of the Korean revolution or place a stumbling block in the path of its Juche-oriented development.
We, the communists of the new generation, longed for the Comintern to understand the problems of the Korean communists and march in step with our aspirations and our unshakable resolve to carry out the revolution in our own way.
Pan’s appearance in east
Pak So Sim introduced me to Marx’s Capital, Shang Yue taught
me the Dream at the Red Mansion, and now Inspector Pan had given me
sincere support, encouragement and sympathy and so strengthened my conviction
that Koreans must not forget
In all history of my revolutionary struggle against the Japanese
imperialists I never discussed the fate of the Korean revolution and me
political line of this revolution so enthusiastically, sincerely and so seriously
as I did with Inspector Pan. He was a rare theoretician, with an unshakable
commitment to the revolution. Had he been alive to work with us when we
advanced to the area of
My acquaintance with Pan opened my eyes to the vital need for a theoretician capable of guiding and steering the practical struggle, in addition to the man of practice who was also important in the revolutionary struggle.
Following our unforgettable discussions at Xiaowangqing, Pan became
my most intimate friend and comrade. Although he was more than twenty years
older than me, we forged a relationship as friends and comrades in a matter of
ten days, and this friendship and comradeship were as intimate as those of ten
years duration. But they were not cemented by any material or personal
interests. This exceptionally warm friendship was derived from a common,
long-cherished desire for the liberation and freedom of
The depth of a friendship cannot be measured by the length of its duration or by the number of conversations. A long period of association does not necessarily indicate a deep friendship, nor does a short period of association mean friendship is shallow. The essential thing is the viewpoint and attitude one maintains in approaching man and his destiny, in approaching one’s nation and its destiny. Depending on this viewpoint and attitude, the warmth of friendship may be redoubled or it may cool. Love for man, love for one’s fellow people, and love for one’s country are the touchstone of friendship.
When Inspector Pan was leaving Xiaowangqing, I saw him off on horseback
as far as the boundary between Wangqing and
During our ride we talked a lot, and during a two days’ stopover at
The subjects we discussed at the time would be good material for the plot of a novel. Ri Pom Sok’s military academy was in that village, the O Jung Hwa’s famihwere taking refuge there.
Pan even touched on his own family life. He said his wife was only half his own age. I don’t remember exactly whether he called her O Yong Ok or O Pung Ok.
I asked him why he had only married when he was over forty.
“Ha, ha!” he laughed, “no need to ask why. I did not have the charm a husband needs, so girls stayed away from me. Who would ever love a lame man like me? If it were not for Madam 0,1 might have remained an old bachelor.”
He seemed to have teen born with a low opinion of himself. I sympathized with him deeph for his delay in marrying.
“I expect Madam Ohas a sharp eye for a man. I have heard that she is a rare beauty. Late love must be as sweet as honey.”
“Of course, but strangely enough, it was she, not I, that proposed. Anyway, late love is indeed exceptionally sweet.”
“Rumour has it that she is the envy of all in north
“But, Comrade Kin, I hope you will not take so long as I did, if only for the sake of male dignity.”
“Well, I, too, may be late. It does not depend on what I wish.”
We chatted and laughed, sitting in a grass field near the
Pan said that he had become deeply attached to Wangqing, and regretted parting with me. His next destinations were Hunehun and Helong.
“Comrade Kim, I will carry your image in my memory all my life. I am very happy to have net you in Wangqing, Comrade Kim Il Sung,” he said, with a serious look his eyes brimming with tears, his hand squeezing mine, as he crossed the border. “So am I. I am most fortunate to have met you. Comrade Pan, Frankly, I don’t want to bid you farewell.”
“How could I wish to part? I wish that after this journey I could
come to east
With these words, Inspector Pan took his leave of Wangqing. When he was some distance away, he turned round and raised his hand above his head. Looking at his hand as I had when I first met him, I felt as if a long time had passed. The details of his expression seemed to have been imprinted on my eyes to remain there for decades.
Feelings of loneliness and sorrow at parting from a man with whom I had forged a friendship in so short a time gripped my heart as he looked back at me, and I wondered why the farewell was so sad. Pan was smiling, but he, too, looked sad. His smile lay heavy on my heart. If he had not smiled, my heart would have been much lighter. He left me, wishing that he could return but died in Hunchun and we never met again.
He was murdered by Pak Tu
When I heard the news, I locked myself up in the front room of Ri Chi Back’s house, where Pan and I had discussed the revolution and the meaning of human life, and wept over his death all day long.
I was intending to leave out this anecdote, because I considered a war-horse too insignificant to be given a space in the memoirs of my eighty years of life, in which there were so many heroes, so many benefactors and so many events that should be remembered.
But my affection for this horse seems to tint my memory of it too strongly, and the impulse to make it known to the public is too strong for me to keep it to myself. Moreover, the animal is unforgettably linked with many people by the bonds of human feelings. The stories of these people are also too valuable to be consigned to oblivion.
In the spring of 1933 I came into possession of a horse.
One day an official of the people’s revolutionary government of
Shiliping came to see me with some guerrillas, and brought me a white horse. In
those days, the headquarters of the Wangqing guerrilla battalion was located in
The visitors hitched the horse in the front yard of the headquarters, and then announced their arrival.
“Commander Kim, we respectfully wish to present a horse to you, who have to travel many rugged miles. Please accept this gift,” said the official, speaking for his company.
I was embarrassed at the sudden appearance of the delegation and at their solemnly decorous manner which seemed more appropriate to some grand function. Moreover, I was immediately surprised by the size of the group, larger than a squad of soldiers nowadays.
“I am afraid I am not worthy of such rich consideration as to allow me to ride about on a horse at the age of just twenty,” I said, attempting to express my thanks modestly. The elderly official gesticulated in surprise.
“Rich consideration? The Japanese battalion commanders ride around pompously on horseback to show that they are fine officers. Why should our guerrilla commanders be any worse than them? I have read a book which says that Red-gowned General Kwak Jae U commanded his cavalry on horseback. A military commander needs dignity before everything else.”
“Where did this horse come from? It’s a draught horse from a peasant’s family, isn’t it?”
The government official waved his arms in denial.
“No, it isn’t. It’s a pet horse. Do you remember the old man, a former farm servant, who was elected to the government council at Shiliping the other day?”
“Of course. I even spoke in his support.”
“This is a present to you from that old man.”
“I can hardly believe that he had such a wonderful horse,” I
remarked, looking closely at the horse with its saddle and stirrups hanging on
both sides, while I stroked its back. There was really no doubt that it was a
farm horse. I could not make myself believe that any peasant in the mountain
The official insisted that it was a pet horse, probably because he was afraid I might refuse to accept it if he admitted the truth.
I don’t remember the old man’s full name, but his surname was Pak.
Old man Pak had a reason for making a present of the horse to me. It is a moving story which should be told here.
The story begins at the time when he left the landowner’s house after serving out his term. When the old man became too old to work, his master released him. In return for his life-long service, the landowner gave him a white foal which was a few months old. Immediately after it was bom, the unfortunate animal suffered serious bruising, when it was stepped on by its mother, and it was ailing in the stable, too sick to romp about outside. It was infirm and undernourished.
The niggardly landowner pretended to show him favour by giving him the sick animal, which might die the same day or the next, which was already as good as dead, Old man Pak came home to his hut with the sick foal in his arms, shedding tears. The sight of this sick foal, given as a reward for all the drudgery he had performed for decades made him feel sad at the absurdity of his whole life and at the hardness of the world.
Nonetheless, the old man, who led a solitary, lonely life, treasured the animal as if it were a precious stone in his hands and tended it with all the care he could muster. The foal grew into a full-fledged horse. Whenever he felt lonely, he would go to the horse, and grumbled to himself, giving vent to his feelings at his sad plight, and grieving over his fate. The horse was a loving son and daughter and friend to him.
Having been mistreated all his life, the old man ranked himself with draught animals and accepted worldly abuses as natural. When on rare occasions he was treated as a man should be, he would feel uncomfortable or awkward.
This old man was elected to the government council for the Shiliping guerrilla zone. There is surely no need to explain how deeply he was moved and how many tears of thanks he shed on that occasion.
This explains why he brought the white horse to the government yard one evening.
“Mr. Chairman, please send this white horse on my behalf to Commander Kim Il Sung. Today for the first time in my life I was treated like a man, thanks to the commander. As a token of my deep gratitude to him I wish to present my pet horse to him, the horse which I have fattened for many years. Please convey my thanks to him.”
On learning why the old man had sent the horse to me, I felt it improper to decline the present.
“I don’t really feel I should accept the gift, but the kindness of the old man’s heart obliges me to accept it. Please convey my thanks to him,” I told the official from the Shiliping government, as I took the tether from him, and then I asked him why so many people had come when one driver would have been sufficient.
“Commander Kim, we wished to see you on horseback, so the guerrillas and the people have sent their representatives. Please mount the horse!” the official said earnestly. The men from the 2nd company, too, insisted that I ride the horse. Only after seeing me mounted, were the visitors satisfied and returned home to Shiliping.
I was very grateful to the old man for his kindness and his respect for me, but I did not ride the horse for many days. I was afraid that., if I went about on horseback, I might appear extravagant in the eyes of the people and my men.
I gave the horse to Ri Ung Man, who was working in the arsenal, me man who had brought a box of Browning pistols in order to be allowed to join the guerrilla army. He was brave, but one of his legs had been amputated after a serious wound.
The leg had been amputated by Jang Un Pho, the doctor of the guerrilla-zone hospital which was located near the battalion barracks at Xiaolishugou. He represented the medical profession in Xiaowangqing, the only doctor, but a man of versatile abilities, practising both medicine and surgery, and treating all cases.
The hospital was managed by a mutual aid society, and patients who needed treatment were required to bring a letter signed by the chairman of the council of the people’s revolutionary government. The mutual aid society acted as a medical council and would often decide that bones damaged by bullets had to be amputated. Drugs were scarce and no other remedies were available, so drastic measures had to be taken.
The doctor had improvised a scalpel by grinding down the spring of a worn-out clock and he used this for surgery. That was how Ri Ung Man had become a cripple and had been discharged from the guerrilla army. After leaving hospital, he stayed at Ryang Song Ryong’s house near the hospital, living under the care of Ryang’s mother for some time.
Ri Ung Man found the white horse very useful. He rode to and from the arsenal, cheerful in his life and work.
In the course of time another white horse came into my hands. It was captured from the Japanese in the battle at Dahuanggou. Some veterans say that it was captured in the battle of Zhuanjiaolou, but I don’t think it is worth the trouble of denying that Where it came from is not essential. The point is that a horse which a Japanese officer had ridden about came into our possession, and it was a perfect war-horse that won everyone’s admiration.
In that battle I had made some of my men lie in ambush, and the Japanese officer on the horse was unfortunate enough to be hit first and he fell to the ground. Then a strange thing happened. The horse, having lost its rider, came running over to the slope where my command post was located, instead of running away to the enemy camp.
When he saw the horse, Jo Wal
“Why insist on driving him away when he refuses to go? Don’t be too cruel,” I rebuked the orderly, and I approached the horse and stroked its mane.
“He’s attracting the enemy’s attention to the C.R,” the orderly shouted in surprise, shielding me with his body. “Take care, please.”
“Ho, ho! They haven’t got time to try to spot the C.R They’re already turning tail.”
In this way the horse came into the possession of the guerrilla army.
The men tried to describe the incident as something extraordinary, the strange story of an enemy horse coming over to our side.
“This animal can tell the difference between Koreans and Japanese,”
said a man who saw its identification tag and discovered it was born in
“The Japanese officer must have been cruel to his horse,” another man remarked, as if seeking a more authentic motive for its action. “Otherwise, it wouldn’t have come over as soon as its master fell.”
On our way back to Macun from the battle, we gave the horse to an old Chinese man to use as a work animal. In Jiandao, horses and cattle were widely used as draught animals.
A few days later, the old man came to us and returned the horse to us. He said that the horse’s pasterns were too slender and weak for a draught horse. Worse still, he added, it was so wild that he could not even approach it or touch it, let alone tame it.
One of my comrades-in-arms said, “This horse is destined to be one
of our company after all.” My comrades advised me to take the horse, since I
was suffering from an ache in my calf muscle. They even warned me that if I
overtaxed the ailing leg in a guerrilla war that might last for years, I might
lose the ability to stand on my feet. The ache in my calf muscle actually
bothered me considerably whenever I was on the march. The problem probably came
from doing too much walking since my childhood. When I was in
However, on this occasion also I declined to accept the advice of my comrades-in-arms.
Then the comrades called a party meeting and adopted a decision to the effect that I should travel by horse from a certain date. The decision was tactfully worded so mat the battalion commander, Ryang Song Ryong, too, should ride a horse. Probably they anticipated that I would doggedly refuse if I was the only one to be mounted.
I obeyed the decision of the organization.
On the day when I first mounted the horse, my comrades surrounded me, clapping their hands in delight.
The horse’s records said that it came from the Kyongwon war-horse replacement centre. Sometimes the sleek horse appeared greyish, sometimes snow-white. His pasterns were as slender as those of a race-horse, and he ran as fast as a tiger.
This horse carried me on his back to battlefields and sometimes through primeval forests for approximately two years, sharing every hardship with me. His image still rises out of my memory now and then, thrilling me with emotion.
My daily routine began with tending of the horse. I would rise early in the morning, pat him on the head and brush his coat with a broom. As I had had no experience of tending a horse, I did just as my grandfather in Mangyongdae had done when he tended a cow.
The horse jerked away whenever the broom touched him. Once when I was struggling with the horse, old man Ri Chi Back gave me a metal comb, and told me to comb the horse’s back with it and see what would happen. I did as I was told, and the horse stood quiet with his hoofs stuck to the ground.
While saddling the horse one day, I discovered a pouch between the saddle-leather and the padding. The pouch contained a small notebook inscribed “Horse’s Record,” a metal comb, a brush, a piece of rug, and a pointed piece of steel. I could guess the use of all of the things except for the piece of steel shaped like a scalpel.
I picked up the steel tool and approached the horse, Now came the miracle. He lifted one leg high, as a circus horse might. This suggested some relationship between the tool and his hoof, but I could not pinpoint exactly what. He circled around me a few times, then approached a stake a little distance from me, and rested one of his forelegs on it. I found dirt, stone splinters, and pieces of straw stuck between his sole and shoe. I removed them from his hoof, and then he lifted another hoof on the stake and looked at me as if in invitation.
While I was learning from guess-work how to tend the horse, a man from a horse-breeding farm in the homeland came to visit a relation in Xiaowangqing. He taught me the skills of grooming and horsemanship before he left for home. A horse detested its body getting dirty and splinters of pottery and similar things getting stuck in its hoofs, he said, so that it should be washed with clean water twice every day, combed, brushed and oiled, and dirt and straw pieces regularly removed from its hoofs. He made a point of wiping the horse well when it had been sweating or had been exposed to the rain.
He also told me that hay and oats were essential food for horses, that barley and beans were also good, that horses must eat a little salt every day as human beings do, and that too much cold water was bad for them after heavy exercise.
In the course of tending the horse as I had been instructed, I got to know him better. He was always obedient to me. I was surprised at the cleverness with which he understood from my glances and hand movements what he should do, and he never failed to serve me to my satisfaction. As I caught glimpses of his character and noticed actions that reminded me of their artistically perfect beauty of human qualities which would win universal admiration, I sometimes wondered if this was really an animal and not a human being.
While he was clever and faithful to me, the white horse was also fierce. He tolerated no one except his master touching him or sitting on him. If some tomfool took his tether out of curiosity and tried to mount him, he avoided him by walking in a circle or kicking or threatening to bite.
After this shameful defeat, the orderly hit upon a bright idea. He took the horse to soft ground, where his pasterns sank into the mud, and while he was grazing, he slid onto his back. He failed again. He was thrown into the mud.
Next the young orderly tied the horse to a tree and gave vent to his anger by whipping him. After the incident, the horse ran away or kicked at him whenever he approached.
The orderly even cried in his exasperation. For all the efforts he had made to tame the animal, he could not even approach him, still less ride him. In the end he said he had to return to his company.
I said to him that the horse rejected him because he did not love him, and that, therefore, he should try to feel warmer devotion for him. I taught him how to tend the horse with great care.
The orderly followed my advice, and the horse naturally obeyed him in proportion to his kindness.
Time has obscured many details of my memories, but I can still picture a few events vividly.
Once I went to Luozigou to carry out political work among the people. O Paek Ryong and his platoon accompanied me. In those days, I used to sleep only two to three hours a day. The day’s battle, training my men, and work among the people usually kept me awake until one or two o’clock in the morning, and sometimes right through the night.
When our company reached the foot of the
As we began climbing the pass, the horse’s gait changed.
The platoon leader O Paek Ryong noticed it.
The horse was scaling the slope carefully with his forelegs drawn in, and pace of the march was so slow that the platoon leader was irritated.
“How strangely he is walking today, this horse which is like an English gentleman!” O Paek Ryong thought to himself.
On the downslope, too, the horse walked with difficulty, his hind legs drawn in. In the meantime, the column far outmarched me, leaving myself on horseback and O Paek Ryong behind. The platoon leader was impatient with the horse, and worried about me, but he dared not lash the horse on which his commander was riding.
When he had climbed down the slope, the horse balked before a fallen tree on the Jiapigou Riverside. Seeing the horse, which normally leapt such fallen trees without any difficulty, hesitating before a small obstacle, O Paek Ryong grew even more suspicious.
“Why does the commander leave this lazy horse alone, without so much as shouting at him or spurring him on?” the platoon leader thought, looking up at me. Only then did he discover that I was dozing.
“What a fine show!” the platoon leader exclaimed aloud, The horse’s foreleg tapped on the fallen tree, and the sound woke me up.
“This white horse should be given a feast today,” O Pack Ryong said, beaming with a broad smile and stroking the horse’s nape. I felt a great change must have taken place in the universe while I was asleep.
“Why a feast all of a sudden?”
The platoon leader explained to me with great enthusiasm how the horse had climbed over the pass and how he behaved when faced with the fallen tree.
“My father said that in ancient times the best horse in the country was called the state horse, so what about calling him that from now on?” the platoon leader suggested.
“Why should we simply call him a state horse? Your story proves that he is more than worthy of being called the heavenly horse....”
“What does the heavenly horse mean?”
“It means the best horse under heaven.”
“Then let us call him the heavenly horse. Brother O Jung Hwa once told me that in some country a high title was awarded to a horse.”
“So I’ve heard. The emperor of that country conferred the title of political administrator on his pet horse. His horse ate from an ivory trough and drank wine from a gold cup, and enjoyed respect from everyone. Shall we give him the title of Ryonguijong (a feudal post corresponding to the modern post of prime minister-Tr.)?”
“Anyway, this is a quite uncommon horse. He has no eyes in his back, how could he know that you were asleep?”
I spurred the horse, and he jumped over the fallen tree and rushed
forward. We overtook the platoon in an instant and arrived at the vicinity of
I drew a circle around the horse on the grass, and then coiled his tether around his neck. I gave the men their assignments for political work among the people at Sandaohezi, Sidaohezi and Laomuzhuhe. After dispatching them to their various destinations, I met the political operatives and the workers in charge of underground organizations who had been waiting for me by the riverside. I talked to them for a long time.
When I returned to the horse after all this talk, I was surprised yet again, for the horse was grazing within the circle I had drawn. It was indeed a rare horse.
The horse also helped to save the life of Hong Hye Song, a woman revolutionary. She had gone through high-school education in the homeland, worked underground along with progressive students and young people in Longjing, and then come to Wangqing which she regarded as the promised land, and was doing political work there.
Her father was a renowned doctor of traditional Koryo medicine. In the guerrilla zone, Hong Hye Song was able to draw on the medical expertise she had learnt from her father to give the guerrillas and the local inhabitants great help by treating scabies. This cheerful, sociable, courageous, and pretty woman political worker with a knowledge of Koryo medicine was warmly loved by the soldiers and people in the guerrilla zone.
One day I was riding on me horse, as I went with my orderly to the
The enemy was shouting and threatening her with blank fire in an attempt to capture her alive.
I spurred my horse on towards her where on the brink of being taken prisoner, she was returning the enemy fire, and picked her up instantly. The horse, sensing my intention, shot off like an arrow and galloped for a couple of miles. Hong Hye Song was saved.
After that the horse became an object of universal admiration to the people in the guerrilla zone.
If she had not been killed in the enemy’s “punitive” action at Baicaogou, Hong Hye Song would now be gratefully sharing with me in my recollections of the white horse.
I rode the horse to Liangshuiquanzi many times when I was building up a semi-guerrilla zone there. Our organizations were active in the villages of Nandadong, Beidadong, Shitouhezi and Kajaegol around Liangshuiquanzi and also in villages in the vicinity of Tumen, as well as in Luozigou, Sandaohezi, Sidaohezi, Laomuzhuhe and Taipinggou.
If I say that I nearly gave up this wonderful war-horse, the reader will not believe me.
It happened when, together with the men of O Paek Ryong’s platoon,
I was working among the people in the
We attacked the enemy near that place on several occasions, capturing food and distributing it among the people. But the amount was too little to meet their need. We ourselves ate sparingly at each meal in order to save food grain for the people. In the circumstances, the horse’s rations also had to be cut to the minimum. Even grain stalks to replace hay were scarce, to say nothing of oats, barley and beans, the nutritious feeds.
My loyal men spared no efforts to obtain feed for the horse. However difficult the situation, they worked hard to find oats and salt for the horse by going to neighbouring villages and even visiting people in the enemy-held areas. Some of the men even went out to glean harvested fields. They threshed the gleanings and put the grain in their pockets to give to the horse when they came back. When they approached the horse, he would poke his nose into their pockets.
They took loving care of the horse for my sake. Their devoted efforts were an expression of revolutionary comradeship and loyalty to me.
I was thankful to them for their friendship and loyalty, but I felt very sad and uneasy. Whenever I saw them working with such great enthusiasm to obtain feed for the horse or care for it, I was haunted by the thought that I should no longer put them to such trouble simply for my sake. I was not used to accepting such services from other people. If anybody were to ask me when I felt most awkward during the years of the guerrilla war, I would answer that it was when I was treated unusually well by my men.
Whenever special benefits or privileges were offered to me, I felt sorry and guilty rather superior or self-satisfied, as if I were being put to the test.
Although the aching muscle in my calf was not cured and I would have to suffer for a few months longer, I made up my mind to give my pet horse to a peasant so as to relieve my men of this burden. If the horse was used as a draught animal in a semi-guerrilla zone, it would not be exposed to the dangers of the battlefield. I thought at first of giving it to the old man who had once been a servant and had given me his white horse, but I dismissed the idea for fear that he might feel embarrassed and upset.
I summoned the duty officer and told him to prepare a special noon meal for the horse even if it used up all the remaining feed.
“Feed the white horse with the best of the provisions today. Take him to the chairman of the Anti-Japanese Association of the village beyond the mountain in the afternoon. The remaining feed should be sent with the horse. Tell the chairman to give the horse to the poorest peasant who has no draught animal.”
“Yes, sir,” answered the duty officer, but he hesitated to leave.
“Go and do as you were told.” I urged him sternly.
When the duty officer was gone, I thought things over, and regretted having given such cruel orders to send the white horse away. I went out of the room to bid farewell to him. As usual, I combed him and brushed him all over and stroked his nape many times. As I looked back upon the thousands of miles I had travelled with the horse, I felt as if my heart were breaking.
Then I was surprised to see tears trickling from his eyes as they were fixed on me. It was really astonishing that he should have a premonition of parting. The horse had evidently read my mind from my look.
For the first time in my life I realized that even in the world of beasts slaved under the lash, there were beautiful emotions that would increase and enhance the beauty of the human world.
“Forgive me, my pet. Though I am sad, I must bid farewell to you. Though the pain of our parting is tearing me apart, I cannot afford the luxury of riding about on you any longer. All the sufferings and hardships you have gone through for my sake will live in my memory as long as I live,” I thought, as I stood with my face buried in his neck for a long time.
Back in my room, I felt lonely for the rest of the day and could do no work. I even wondered whether I had made a foolish decision out of too great concern for saving face. But it would be absurd to change the decision that was already made. I waited for the evening report from the duty officer, hoping that the white horse would be given to a hard-working and kindly man.
But the officer did not turn up at the appointed hour for the evening report. Instead, platoon leader O Paek Ryong brought me my evening meal as dusk was falling. Without any preliminaries, he simply begged me to forgive him.
“I have violated discipline, so punish me, please.” “Violated discipline?” I could not see what he meant. “I have raided a lumber station, without obtaining your approval in advance.”
He hastily explained why he had done it. The duty officer who received my orders in the morning, had gone to O Paek Ryong and told him about the orders, and that he would obey any orders from me except orders about the horse. He had asked him to discuss the matter. O Paek Ryong sympathized with him. He told the duty officer:
“Perhaps the commander gave the orders because he was sorry to see his men taking so much trouble over the horse. But how can we allow the horse to be taken away from our commander, when he is still suffering from the aching muscle in his calf? If we find plenty of feed and then beg him to withdraw his orders, he may reconsider the matter. You should keep the horse out of sight for a while, instead of sending it to the neighbouring village. And I will go to the Qinhe lumber station to get feed. Don’t tell the commander where I’ve gone.”
The lumber station was a little more than ten miles from Xiaowangqing. One of the foremen was an acquaintance of O Paek Ryong. They had probably got to know each other during the foreman’s frequent visits to the guerrilla zone to fell trees.
The platoon leader went to the lumber station with a foraging party of several men. Saying that if he gave the feed to the guerrillas he might get into trouble, the foreman told the platoon leader to raid the lumber station instead.
Realizing that the foreman’s suggestion was reasonable, O Paek Ryong arrested the sentry, then broke into the office where the other sentries and supervisors were gambling, and disarmed them instantly. The raiding party returned safely to base carrying with them four or five sacks of oats and beans.
I put aside my evening meal and went out of the room. The horse was in the stable, having been brought back from the hiding place.
He snorted, and nodded his head towards me as if in thanks.
I felt my nose tingle. I was glad to see the horse again. But how
should I deal with the duty officer and O Paek Ryong who was reckless as a bear
The irony was that I, who never compromised with principle, could not assert principle at the moment. I brushed the horse lightly on the back, and, when I saw him nodding with tears in his eyes, I did not feel like rebuking the platoon leader for disobeying the orders.
Moreover, his stubborn attitude made me disinclined to force him to send the horse away.
“Comrade Commander, please punish me or demote me, but I hope you’ll understand that the horse must not be sent away anywhere as long as I am alive.”
Having pronounced his ultimatum, he snorted as if he just fought a major battle.
I suppressed the impulse to hug him and pat him on the back in a show of thanks. More than once had I been moved by the loyalty of this peerlessly courageous platoon leader who had not hesitated to plunge through fire and water for me. He had followed me and respected me as he would his own elder brother, saying that it was Kim Il Sung who taught him to read and write the Korean alphabet, and it was Kim Il Sung who had opened his eyes to the things of the world.
I had also loved him and cared lovingly for him as I would for my own brother. This platoon leader whom I myself had trained had now raided the lumber station at the risk of his own life in order to save the white horse for me.
But for all this, he had committed a gross violation of discipline by foraging without approval from his commander. If he was forgiven, he might commit even a graver mistake. What was to be done? A commander needs to make a wise decision at such a moment.
“The soup is getting cold,” he said worriedly looking down at the steaming bowl. “Please take your meal and punish me quickly.”
I held back the hot tears in my eyes. I felt a lump in my throat at his staunch readiness to accept punishment.
When he was a member of the Children’s Vanguard, O Paek Ryong had crossed to Onsong in the homeland with a pijikkae (matchlock) pistol he himself had made, shot a policeman at the customs house and snatched a rifle from him. He was as audacious as that as a boy. He had experienced all the hardships of life; growing up in a family of seventeen, he had sympathized sincerely and passionately with suffering people from his childhood. For this he was loved by all his comrades.
From his days in the Children’s Vanguard, he was eager to Join the guerrilla army. His antics included an episode involving empty cartridges: He once heard that an applicant for the guerrilla army needed a trustworthy reference or a rifle the applicant himself had captured from the enemy, or at the very least a stick grenade as a substitute for a reference. So he went to a battlefield where fire had just been exchanged. He tied the bottoms of his trousers with string, and then he held the waist of his trousers open with one hand while he gathered cartridges, live and empty, with the other hand and filled the legs of the trousers with them. Then, he came to the guerrilla army base, sweating all over. As he untied the legs of his trousers, nearly a gallon of cartridges poured out.
“How about that?” he said, looking elatedly at the company commander. “Is this enough for me to be accepted?”
Instead of the answer he expected from the company commander, he saw the guerrillas burst into roars of laughter.
“Look here, Paek Ryong!” the company commander said, laughing. “What did you bring these empty cartridges for? They’ve already been used.”
O Paek Ryong had thought that the empty cartridges could kill the enemy. When he realized his mistake, he sorted the live cartridges from the useless ones. The number came to hundreds.
So, the cartridges did serve as a reliable reference for him to join the guerrilla army.
Since enlisting he had fought courageously to take vengeance on the Japanese “punitive” troops for the deaths of his parents and brothers. As a raw recruit, he had many distressing experience. Once, while cleaning his rifle, he had let off an accidental shot and been punished for it.
The political instructor who punished him was an enemy spy. He had
got himself promoted to company political instructor by worming his way into
the confidence of factionalists who held important posts in the east
The punishment he meted out to O Paek Ryong for the accidental shot
was brutal and barbarous in terms of the code of discipline and morals of the
revolutionary army. As punishment he sent O Paek Ryong to the walled town of
O Paek Ryong, however, went off to the town, which was 25 miles away from his company, and came back safely with the flag.
After that the spy in the guise of political instructor watched for a chance to do away with O Paek Ryong. He even went so far as to start an argument with the men who ate their rice in water. He preached that soldiers should eat solid food, without soup.
Once the company butchered a cow. The men, tired of eating “dry food,” were delighted at the thought of eating their fill of beef soup that evening.
That evening, however, the dastardly political instructor had appeared again and said that if the men ate beef soup when they were not used to it, they would have loose bowels, and ordered them to eat only rice and meat, not the soup. So the men were denied the chance of eating the soup which they had been looking forward to.
Only O Paek Ryong and one other man disobeyed the orders and ate the soup. The wife of O Paek Ryong’s second eldest brother, who was a cook, brought them the soup in secret. As bad luck would have it, O Paek Ryong was caught by the political instructor in the act of eating the soup behind a stack of firewood in the yard of the barracks. This incident gave the spy a pretext for labelling him a “Minsaengdan” member. Had it not been for the references given by his comrades-in-arms, O Paek Ryong would have been executed on the false charge of belonging to the “Minsaengdan.”
The spy’s identity was later discovered and he was executed by O Paek Ryong.
O Paek Ryong had virtually been condemned to death penalty and it still rankled in his mind. If he was subjected to another penalty, wouldn’t it leave an even worse scar?
“Comrade O, I am grateful to you for taking the risk of raiding the enemy camp for the sake of the white horse. But your breach of discipline is a grave error that must not be repeated by a commanding officer. This sort of thing must not recur. As I understand your feelings, I will not send away the white horse. Well, are you satisfied?”
“Yes, I am satisfied,” the platoon leader replied with a grin on his face. Then he scampered off to his quarters like a child.
I settled his case with these few words of remonstration.
In the years that followed, the white horse served me as faithfully as ever.
I still remember an event that took place when the battle to defend
Xiaowangqing was raging. At that time the enemy was invading Hwanggarigol at
the end of the
I spent every day galloping about on my horse, commanding my men in
the battle, in the thick of the fire. One day I organized the defences on
In the barrage of fire, even the fur lining of my overcoat caught fire. The flames could have enveloped me in an instant, but I did not notice it. As my horse was galloping against the wind, the flames on the skirt of my coat flew out behind me.
It was only when the horse began to run with the wind that I discovered the flames on my coat. I had no time to pull it off, and if I jumped from the rushing horse, I might collide with a rock and kill or seriously injure myself.
At this critical moment, the horse slowed down in front of a snow-covered depression and then slid into it sideways, with his forelegs folded in. I stumbled into the snow, and the fire on my coat was put out as I rolled over in it.
The horse’s two legs were bleeding.
Had it not been for the horse, I would have suffered fatal bums and not survived to tell the tale.
I marvelled at the horse’s seemingly supernatural powers. How could he sense that I was in a fire? It still remains a mystery to me. His unusual clarity of judgement might be attributed to animal instincts, but to what can one attribute his loyal devotion, the self-sacrificing devotion which led him to save his master, while injuring his own legs? The expression says “a faithful dog and a pet horse,” but I would rather change the word order and say “a faithful horse and a pet dog.”
The white horse became a legend, beloved of all the people in the guerrilla zone. The story of the horse spread to the semi-guerrilla zones around Xiaowangqing and even to the enemy-ruled areas.
Wu Yi-cheng, too, heard the story and coveted the horse.
“Commander Kim, wouldn’t you exchange your white horse for fifty war-horses?” he asked when I was at Luozigou negotiating with him for the formation of a common front with the Chinese anti-Japanese nationalist forces.
I do not remember what I said to him in reply. I only remember that I returned to Macun on the same horse after the negotiations.
The white horse that had carried me over thousands of miles of wet and dry trails for nearly two years, with his shoes changed only occasionally, died at Xiaowangqing in the winter of 1934.
When I returned from the first expedition to north
Seeing how grieved I was, my men suggested firing gun salutes to the horse. But I declined, asking what was the use of a gun salute, for the horse had lived among the roar of guns all his life, so he should be allowed some peace at least in his grave. The grave is somewhere in Wangqing.
One day in the early 1960s, when O Paek Ryong was the head of the General Bureau of Guards, he and I went for a casual ride, and we reminisced about the white horse. Even though several decades had passed, the former leader of a guerrilla platoon could recall every detail of the horse’s story.
Somehow the story became known to writers. Song Yong and Ri Ki Yong. An officer is said to have asked them to write about the white horse, but I am not sure how the matter came up and how it was settled.
The white horse that was born of the flames of the war against the
Japanese and lived through fire all his life appeared on a small piece of
canvas in the
Whenever I missed those loyal orderlies and the white horse, I used to go to see them in the museum.
Nowadays, at the age of eighty, I occasionally picture them only in my memory. The image of my faithful white horse still moves as vividly before my eyes as he did sixty years ago.
If he had been a human being he would have won higher commendation than the most loyal of men.
I made friends with Ri Kwang in
One day Kim Jun and his company from the General Federation of
Korean Youth in
Our comrades had assumed from his appearance in
My first impression of Ri Kwang was that he appeared intelligent and magnanimous, but reticent. In the course of repeated contacts thereafter I learned that he was indeed a young man of exceptional sensitivity, with a kind heart and the ability to form strong friendships.
My comrades were charmed when they met Ri Kwang, and they tried to persuade him to settle in Jilin, even suggesting to him that the Wenguang Middle School would be good for developing his knowledge, that the Law College would give him an ideal start in life, and that the Yuwen Middle School would be best for a man who wished to become a revolutionary.
Ri Kwang himself did not wish to leave
In his early days Ri Kwang had been influenced mostly by the Korean Independence Army leaders, such as Hong Pom Do, Kim Jwa Jin, Hwang Pyong Gil and Choe Myong Rok. The headquarters of an Independence Army unit had been billeted on his wife’s parents’ house at Guchengzi for a long time, so he had met many leaders of the nationalist movement. Ri Kwang was sharp-eyed, quick-witted and modest and he attracted the attention of the Independence Army leaders. They seemed to have tried to make him heir to the cause of the Independence Army, just as O Tong Jin and Ri Ung had tried to make me their successor.
During his boyhood Ri Kwang had learned Chinese characters at the village school which was run by his mother’s father. As his father’s health was poor, he had given up the idea of going to secondary school, and at the age of 14, he began to help his father support the family. At the tender age of 16 he began to manage the household affairs as effective head of the family, and his modern schooling was therefore delayed. After graduating from school he taught at primary schools in Yanji and Wangqing for some time.
Until that time he had been known by his real name Ri Myong Chun.
But from the time he started teaching at Beihamatang in
“It was the Independence Army that guided me to nationalism and it was the independence movement that led me to communism,” he said to me when we first met, recollecting the days in Guchengzi.
His words sounded very strange to me.
“How could that be, did the old men of the Independence Army teach you two thoughts at a time?”
“No, I wasn’t exactly taught. How can I explain? I should really say that they influenced me, and there were both nationalist and Marxist-Leninist influences.”
“The old men must have been double-dealers?”
“I would say they were seeking a shift of direction, rather than double-dealing. While leading the Independence Army movement, they read communist books in secret. When I visited the house of my wife’s parents, I saw in a comer of a room lots of the books the old men were reading. So I began to read them, too, to kill time-but now I simply enjoy reading them.”
I squeezed Ri Kwang’s hand, and said. “I am glad to meet a man who espouses communism.”
Ri Kwang waved his hand in a hasty gesture, saying:
“No. I am not yet a communist. There are quite a few concepts I cannot understand among the communist principles advanced by Marx and Lenin. To my simple eyes, the communist ideal appears somehow too fantastic. You may feel sorry to hear this, Comrade Song Ju, but I hope you will understand that I am speaking frankly.”
I liked his candidness during our first conversation. It was this, more than anything else, which attracted me to him.
At the time Ri Kwang
was neither a nationalist nor a communist. In short, he was in the process of
changing his direction. In the course of his association with us in
An informed source states that when he was coming to
In a letter to his brother-in-law which he sent after he left home, he is said to have expressed the following grim resolve:
“I think I must find a true patriot even if I have to comb the
His determination gives us a glimpse of his character, and explains
why he left his home and travelled round all the major cities and political
Ri Kwang was honest, meticulous and resourceful. He spoke Chinese as fluently as a northeastern Chinese. Therefore, he was competent to perform the job of a headman of ten households, a hundred households, or even of a sub-county in the later days.
It was from him that I, who come from a northwestern
He met my mother when he was returning to Jiandao after studying in
“Song Ju, when I return to Jiandao I wish to drop in at Fusong to see your mother. Do you mind?”
“No. It isn’t like you, Ri Kwang, to ask about such a thing. If you want to see her, you should go to see her. Why should you need my permission?” I was grateful to him for his suggestion.
“So you agree. Good! I will see your mother as I have decided to. Everyone follows your mother’s lead and calls her ‘our mother,’ but I haven’t even made a courtesy call on her. How impolite I have been! Why should she be mother only to Kim Hyok and Kye Yong Chun, and not to me?”
“Thank you, Ri Kwang! Now my mother will have another son. From today we are brothers.”
“Then, we should drink a toast together, or at least make a visit to the noodle shop together, shouldn’t we?”
Needless to say, we did both.
He paid a visit to my mother at Fusong, spending a few days in her
company, before going to Wangqing. In those days his family was living in
After Ri Kwang left Fusong, mother sent me a letter, telling me a lot about him. The letter said:
On the day I received the letter I walked in buoyant mood on the bank of the River Songhua all day long. The joy my mother expressed in every line of the letter affected me greatly. If she was happy. I was happy; and if she was satisfied, I was satisfied. If meeting Ri Kwang gave her such great satisfaction, I was equally delighted.
After Ri Kwang left
Many people assisted me financially while I attended the
My patrons in my
As I have already mentioned, in those days my mother earned only
five to ten fen a day by taking in sewing. If she earned ten fen
a day on average, her monthly earning was three yuan, which was just
enough to pay my monthly school fees at the
She did not send me the school expenses by post, in order to save
the cost of postage. She used to save her daily earnings until she had enough
for the monthly school fees and then send them with someone she knew travelling
I used to accept the money from my mother with mixed feelings. There was a feeling of relief at not having to worry about being disgraced by failing to pay my school fees; but there was also a feeling of concern for my family, who would have to get by without any money.
In fact, three yuan was a trifling amount, scarcely enough
for a rich man’s son to buy himself lunch. Most of the students at the
In this context, the arrival of ten yuan for me, one of the poor students, was a great event.
As I took the money order to the post office, I tried to guess who might have sent it.
But I could not think of any relations or acquaintances who could
send me so much money at one time. The only person who might send money to me
If a person who received a money order could not name the sender at
the post office, the clerk could refuse to pay. On that day, however, the clerk
paid without even asking me the sender’s name. Instead, I asked the clerk who had
sent the order. “It is from Ri Kwang!” the voice behind the partition replied.
I was surprised: I had many closer friends than Ri Kwang, even though we had
become close friends by the time he left
I was deeply moved by his generosity.
While he was in
He used to stay at my mother’s for several days, helping her around the house, and then returning to Wangqing. He became a welcome regular visitor to my family.
Whenever I received financial support I regretted my inability to return the kindness. My family was too poor to pay the money back. I resolved to repay my friends and colleagues by becoming a loyal son of the country and a faithful servant of my fellow people.
In the winter of 1929, Ri Kwang took a train from Dunhua to
Instead of meeting me, he made the acquaintance of Kong Suk Ja, a
waitress at the inn where he was lodging, and from her he learned the details
of the youth and student movement in
Ri Kwang was determined not to marry again, so deep was his grief over his wife’s death. He believed that no woman would make a better wife than her because they had been devoted to each other. Within a year of her death, many women had offered him their hands, but he would not even glance at them.
Whenever we met him, his friends and I tried to persuade Ri Kwang to get married, at least for the sake of his infirm parents and his little son. Dissuading him from his resolution proved more difficult than pressing resin from dry wood. It was only after three years of mourning for Kim Orinnyo that he accepted my advice. His second wife Kong Suk Ja was good-natured, wise and virtuous. She raised the orphaned child with such great care that she won everyone’s admiration. The child, too, regarded her as his own mother. Unfortunately, Kong Suk Ja had no children of her own.
Although he could not meet me when I was in prison, with the help
of Kong Suk Ja Ri Kwang made close friends with young people attending the
Ri Kwang’s stay in
The autumn and spring struggles were important events which proved
the correctness of the lessons he had learned in
After he moved to
I met Ri Kwang again at Mingyuegou in December 1931.
At that time he was occupied with providing bed and board for the representatives to the meeting at Mingyuegou that winter. When I saw him appear at the meeting place with a knapsack full of foxtail millet and with five pheasants hanging over his shoulders, I was moved to admiration, and thought that he was a man worthy of his name.
The starch noodles, a speciality of Jiandao, with a sauce of minced pheasant and chicken were so delicious that we could not resist the temptation of asking for a second helping.
After Ri Kwang and I each ate two bowls of noodles at the same table, we lay in the front room of Ri Chong San’s house with wooden pillows under our heads, talking through the night.
First of all, I thanked him heartily for helping my mother in her household affairs and also for sending me money for my school expenses.
“While I was eating the noodles tonight, I thought a lot. The
efforts you put into preparing the meat sauce moved me to tears. While I was
When he heard me say this, he tapped me on my shoulder.
“Don’t mention it. I have helped your family out of my desire to contribute to the independence movement to which your father dedicated his whole life. How hard you have been working directing the youth and student movement! It’s only natural to contribute a little money to such a patriotic family as yours.... Don’t mention it again.”
He pretended to be angry, and gestured threateningly at me with his hand.
This made me keenly aware of another aspect of his beautiful character.
“Ri Kwang, don’t be too modest. Kindness should be repaid. I must thank you again, and also on my mother’s behalf. Frankly, I had no idea you would give us such wholehearted support.”
“I didn’t suppose you would. But Song Ju, I have my reasons for doing it.”
“What are your reasons?”
“One day your mother told me how she was married to your father, as if it were an old folk tale. She said that arranging the marriage had been by no means easy.”
“I know that. My two brothers and I heard about it from my mother after her husband passed away. It was a really tearful story.”
This story takes us back to the years before the “annexation of
My maternal grandfather was looking for a suitable person for a son-in-law from Namri and the first young man that attracted the old man’s interest was none other than my father. When a matchmaker had begun to come and go between the two houses, mother’s father came first to my father’s house at Namri to see him. However, he returned to Chilgol undecided, because the young man’s family was living in dire poverty, although he thought the young man himself was acceptable. If his daughter was married to such a poor family she would have to suffer hardship all her life, the old man thought. But even after that he visited my father as many as five times.
My father’s family, being destitute, were not able to serve a proper lunch to this person who might become an in-law, on any of his six visits.
Only after the sixth visit did my mother’s father consult with his wife and send a letter agreeing to the engagement.
“Song Ju, this story has given me a better understanding of your family. You will be surprised if I tell you that I knew of the crab incident, won’t you?”
I was, indeed, surprised to hear Ri Kwang mention the crab affair. This was an old family event of which only a few members including mother, grandfather Po Hyon, and I myself knew.
“Oh! How do you know about that?”
“Surely you can guess how close I have become with your family members, can’t you?” Ri Kwang pretended to be elated at seeing me so surprised.
At the age of six or seven, during the childhood days I spent at
Mangyongdae, I began catching crabs. My grandfather used to catch a lot of
crabs to eke out a poor living. The
The crabs improved our meals a lot. Whenever we had a guest, my grandmother would take salted crabs out of a jar to serve the visitor. On such occasions I used to think how good it would be if we could serve them to my mother’s parents. For me my mother’s maiden home in Chilgol was a mysterious world, a focus of infinite love and sympathy. I liked the homely smell of the boiled cattle fodder steaming in the stable, and I loved to hear the twittering of the birds on the branches of the jujube trees in the garden. I also was fascinated by the old tales that were told on the straw mats, as I sniffed at the scented smoke of the moxa, burning to keep away mosquitoes on summer nights.
My mother’s sister would tell me not to forget Chilgol because I was born there. Perhaps my mother spent some time at her maiden home before she gave birth to me. But my grandparents always said that my birthplace was Namri. They said that my mother stayed for several days at her parents’ home at about the time I was born, but that was no reason for me to be known as a boy from Chilgol. A woman might give birth to a baby away from home, they said, but according to ancestral law the home of the child’s father should be considered to be its birthplace.
In any ease, I liked my mother’s maiden home as much as my father’s home, and I felt this very strongly when I was catching crabs.
When I was studying at the
Of course, I should have told him the truth, that I had put aside
half the catch for my mother’s side of the family. But I was not sure whether
he would like it or not, so I hesitated. After I took the mesh bag home for
him, I went to the
One day my maternal grandfather came to Mangyongdae and thanked grandpa Po Hyon for the crabs, which he said were delicious.
At first grandpa Po Hyon was embarrassed by the unexpected thanks, but when he heard the whole truth he was pleased.
Later he praised me for being a very considerate boy.
This was the incident mentioned by Ri Kwang, an anecdote of poverty and a drama of kindness.
However, Ri Kwang seemed to have interpreted this story in a different light, not as an act of kindness.
“After I heard the stories of the marriage and the crabs, I began to feel sympathy for your family,” Ri Kwang said.
I was deeply moved by his consideration.
“Ri Kwang, how do you like the job of sub-county head?”
I had wanted to know this ever since I had come to central
He smiled at my question.
“It is irksome, but I’ve done quite well at it. Last autumn some of our comrades were held in custody at Hamatang by the defence corps, but they were released when I gave them a reference. The authority of a sub-county head seems to have been effective.”
He said jokingly that if he were allowed, he would like to be a sub-county head all his life.
I talked proudly about my home village, and Ri Kwang joked.
“If Mangyongdae is such a beautiful place, I will follow you there with my family after the country becomes independent.”
“Not to Jongsong? I heard that you come from Jongsong.”
“I can make myself at home anywhere so long as I feel attached to a place, even though I was not born there. Anyway, if I do go there, please help me to find a place where I can teach primary schoolchildren. You’ll be a schoolmaster and I will work under you as a teacher.”
“Oh, my! I hate teaching at primary school....”
“Oh, really! I heard that you taught at Antu or Guyushu. And your father was a teacher for many years, I heard.”
Our friendship grew deeper when we were organizing the special detachment.
Immediately after he organized a special detachment at Wangqing on our advice, Ri Kwang came to Xiaoshahe to see me. The hostile activities of the national salvation army against Korean communists and young patriots were a great obstacle to me efforts of our comrades in Wangqing to prepare for the founding of the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army. Even after he had organized a special detachment, Ri Kwang was still left in suspense, unable to decide the future direction of his activities.
At that time I told him about my views on matters of principle and the means of forming a united front with the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units, and I discussed about the goals and methods of the special detachment’s activities with him in detail.
He accepted my proposals with an open mind.
Foxtail millet mixed with sorghum, bean paste soup, and dry wild vegetables were the only food that my mother could afford at that period, but she still accorded him cordial hospitality. And he respected my mother greatly, too. Mother’s warm love moved him and his youthful enthusiasm and his simple and honest mind were a comfort to my mother.
It was while Ri Kwang was staying at Xinglongcun that we founded the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army. Though she was ill, my mother came with Chol Ju to see the guerrilla army. Stroking the rifle which Ri Kwang was shouldering, she said; “With these weapons you can fight in real earnest now. How can the Independence Army fight the Japanese with outmoded weapons? Now as I see your army and the weapons on your shoulders, I feel as if my life-long grievances had been resolved. How glad your mothers would be to see you as you are now! Mothers’ hearts are broken and they weep if their sons act like fools or behave badly, but they would be delighted and moved to tears if they could see their sturdy sons under arms ready to fight for their country.”
Back at Wangqing, Ri Kwang worked hard with the national salvation army.
Our success in achieving cooperation with Commander Yu at Antu provided valuable experience in work with the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units. At first this work went comparatively smoothly and successfully.
Many of these anti-Japanese units were enthusiastic about forming an anti-imperialist united front with us.
We communists took the initiative in forming the united front.
However, the Leftist elements obstructed this work. Their adventurist motto “Down with the upper stratum and win over the rank and file!” was a provocation to the higher echelons of the anti-Japanese units, leading to bitter resistance and resentment, and many of the commanders of these units began to take measures against the communists, repressing or even killing them.
It was something to be wholeheartedly welcomed in this situation that Ri Kwang started working among the anti-Japanese units.
In order to work with these units, Ri Kwang moved from Bei-hamatang to Taipinggou.
In those days I often visited his house at Taipinggou. The
His house was perched on the sloping river-bank, isolated from the
Whenever I went to Luozigou, I used to drop in at Taipinggou to inquire after his parents. At this house, together with Chinese communists such as Zhou Bao-zhong, Chen Han-zhang, Hu Jin-min and Wang Run-cheng, we held the last meeting of the anti-Japanese soldiers’ committee which discussed the question of a united front with the national salvation army.
In the battle in defence of Xiaowangqing and many other large and
small battles, Ri Kwang demonstrated distinct ability and capacity as a
commander. The practical example he set influenced the soldiers of the national
salvation army, and he became renowned as a military and political worker among
the broad masses of east
Wu Yi-cheng, who regarded Ri Kwang’s special detachment as a genuinely anti-Manchukuo and anti-Japanese armed force, appointed him commanding officer of the security squad under the forward headquarters of the national salvation army, and even gave him bodyguards.
After that Ri Kwang established contact with Tong Shan-hao in order to develop further cooperation with the national salvation army against the Japanese.
Though he had taken up arms to fight the Japanese, Tong Shan-hao had degenerated into a bandit. In those days, many people identified the bandits with the mounted rebels as, indeed, they still do.
There had been many mounted rebels in
Unlike the scattered bands of sordid highwaymen, the mounted rebels regarded themselves as just soldiers, acting in accordance with their own code of conduct and refraining from plundering people’s property. The mounted rebels’ society was an insurgent society, far removed from the central political authorities.
The life of the mounted rebels was inconceivable without arms, They
had lived by carrying arms for a long time, and such a life inspired feelings
of envy and admiration. The people in
Naturally, the rebels did not always in fact abide by their own strict code of conduct. Many mounted rebels degenerated into bandits in the course of their outlaw existence. There were many groups of mounted troops, which were difficult to identify as either righteous rebels or mere bandits. Many bandits behaved as if they were righteous rebels. Groups of bandits in the guise of righteous rebels accepted political bribes from imperialist aggressors and warlords, murdering people and committing atrocities beyond all imagination.
When many commanders of the national salvation army became indignant and hostile to the communists because the Leftist tactics of “down with the upper stratum” were applied in work with Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units, the strategists of Japanese imperialism understood this fact very quickly and used it to sow discord among the anti-Japanese forces. They were skilled in the notorious method of getting the anti-Japanese forces to fight among themselves, sniping at and destroying each other.
The Japanese imperialists employed this method when they urged Tong Shan-hao to massacre all the members of Ri Kwang’s special detachment.
At first, they tried to get him to surrender. They put up notices everywhere stating that the person who captured Ri Kwang would be rewarded with lots of money, and that if Ri Kwang himself surrendered he would receive an important appointment. In their judgement, in order to disband Wu Yi-cheng’s army it was imperative to check the influence of the communists on it, and Ri Kwang was the man who wielded that influence. Ri Kwang’s special detachment was regarded as a united-front shock force operating in the heart of the national salvation army. Thus the Japanese intelligence service was aware of his true significance and role.
Tong Shan-hao, the worst of the bandits, was politically an obtuse, brutal and capricious man, and was easily bribed by the Japanese strategists. Knowing the views Ri Kwang supported, he baited a trap by proposing negotiations for a joint operation at Laoheishan, in accordance with a script prepared by the Japanese imperialists.
Ri Kwang made the mistake of taking the bait. Not knowing that Tong Shan-hao had become a running dog of Japanese imperialism, he set out for Laoheishan with more than ten members of his special detachment, including Wang Cheng-fu, the chief secretary of the forward headquarters of the national salvation army. The party organization warned him against the danger of dealing with a blind and brutal bandit commander. Ri Kwang, however, insisted on going to negotiate, even at the risk of his life, saying that if the line of the anti-imperialist united front was not implemented, it would be impossible for the revolution to advance any further.
Tong Shan-hao held a banquet for Ri Kwang’s party and then massacred all of them except one, who narrowly escaped death. When the bandits fled, they left him at the site of the massacre, thinking he was dead like the others. When we got there we saved him. But he, too, died in battle later, in the woods between Luozigou and Laoheishan.
Ri Kwang was killed at the age of twenty-eight in a mountain hut near Laoheishan. His error was lack of vigilance. In order to form a united front with Tong Shan-hao, he needed to transform him ideologically, But he tried to effect a united front merely by making friends with him.
I grieved over his death.
I was on fire with the desire to take immediate revenge on the Tong Shan-hao clique. Had it not been for the voice of reason which told me that organizing a common front with the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units was the duty of the communists at that time, their primary task and general strategy, I would have given way to the impulse and plunged into a bloody battle of vengeance.
The whole of east
Ri Kwang’s death was an irretrievable loss to the communist effort for an anti-imperialist common front. We lost a precious comrade worth more than a thousand enemy soldiers. The enemy had taken away from me yet another prop and mainstay of the Korean revolution.
I felt as if my own flesh had been torn away. I bit my lips to suppress my cries, I was obsessed by my thoughts. In the year since we started the war against Japanese, how many comrades-in-arms had already been taken from my side! Why had my friends departed one after another, never to return, as soon as we became attached to each other? Was this the work of destiny? As I strode with clenched fists, up and down the bank of the River Xiaowangqing, where Ri Kwang and I had discussed the strategy of the great anti-Japanese war, I cursed again and again the cruel fate that had driven me into this abyss of grief. Then I came to a decision:
Ri Kwang’s death must not be pointless. If I succeeded in establishing the united front with the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units to which he devoted such great efforts and so much energy, then he too would be delighted, though in his grave.
Ri Kwang’s death drove me to speed up the negotiations with Wu Yi-cheng. It did not make me flinch from the path to the united front, but urged me on along it.
I had to visit Wu Yi-cheng! If I could succeed in negotiations with him, I would be able to avenge Ri Kwang’s death.
With this in mind, I speeded up the daylight march to Luozigou. I dropped in at Taipingcun to console Ri Kwang’s bereaved family. His wife Kong Suk Ja spread her arms wide to stop me.
“General, you must not go there. It is not the place you should go to. My husband went there and… General, please don’t go there for God’s sake.”
But strangely enough, her tearful warning only urged me on to complete the daylight march.
The woman’s shoulders heaved up and down as she held a seven- or eight-year old boy in her arms, and wiped the tears from her eyes.
The boy in her arms was Ri Po Chon, Ri Kwang’s own son. The boy also stared at me with his eyes brimming over with tears. Whenever I went there, Ri Po Chon, who would be playing on the porch, used to call out to me “Uncle Song Ju!” and come out of the gate. One day he pestered me with a request to make a grasshopper for him.
When I saw Po Chon run out to the road led by her mother, I regretted that I had not done this for him. How good it would have been now if he had clung to me, asking for the grasshopper as he had before!
How much happier I would feel even if the boy had not dared to ask, but simply climbed up on my shoulders like the innocent child of former days, who used to call me “Uncle” and beg me to let him ride on my shoulders! But Po Chon was weeping silent bitter tears. Ri Po Chon at my side was not a friendly, cheerful and mischievous boy, but a downcast and fearful child suffering great distress, a person who had bid farewell to his boyhood and its rainbow illusions. His father’s death had destroyed the boy’s world of playful fancy in which his greatest desire was for a grasshopper. In this way, Po Chon lost both his parents before he was ten years old.
Po Chon would never again ask me for the grasshopper. His tender soul was grieving over the tragic death of his father.
I gazed into his face helplessly.
The words were on the tip of my tongue: “Po Chon, good-bye! I will return soon when I take vengeance for your father on his enemy.”
Instead, I said, “Po Chon, I’m thirsty. Whenever I came here your father used to bring me a bowl of cold water, but today you can do it for your father, can’t you?”
At that moment, his dreamy eyes suddenly became animated and he darted off like the wind, reappearing just as swiftly with a brass bowlful of water from the well with the large dipper. This small event seemed to transform his mental state.
The rippling water in the brass bowl revived Ri Kwang’s image in my mind. The intermingled images of the boy and his father reflected on the surface of the water moved me to tears.
Mentally thanking the boy I gulped the water until the bowl was dry.
Po Chon wiped his nose and glanced at me lovingly as he held the bowl in his hand.
I felt a little light-hearted as I ordered my men to resume the march. Just as I was about to take my leave, Po Chon darted towards his house.
I wondered where he was going.
He ran back quickly, and held out a handful of oats to my white horse. This silent gesture released the tears that I had been holding back.
Po Chon stood there on the riverside as we crossed the river and moved far away. When I turned my head as I sat on the saddle all I could see was a flickering white dot.
“Po Chon, you must grow up to be a revolutionary like your father!”
I held my hand up in salute from afar, wishing him a bright future.
Later, when the guerrilla zones were dissolved and the second expedition to
Po Chon grew up into a revolutionary as I had wished. When he was working at Linkou as a railway worker, he attacked a Japanese military train, but he was captured and served a two-year prison sentence. This was all before he was twenty years old.
With the liberation of the country in 1945 he was released and travelled
to the land of his forefathers via
Feeling an irresistible desire to devote himself heart and soul to
the construction of the country of his father’s friends, he crossed the railway
bridge over the
But this promised land was engulfed in the flames of war five years later, as the young Republic fought a decisive battle for survival.
At the news of the war that was raging far away, Ri Po Chon, now a company commander of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, volunteered for action and joined the Korean People’s Army on the Korean front. To our great sorrow he fell in battle in the autumn of 1950 while fighting as a commanding officer in a mechanized army division.
Later, in the 1970s, Kim Jong Il, Secretary in Charge of Organizational Affairs, who took a particular interest in Ri Kwang’s fiery career and his revolutionary activity, instructed film workers to produce a film entitled In the First Armed Unit, based on Ri Kwang’s life. Since then Ri Kwang’s name has been known to the entire country.
Kong Suk Ja, Ri Kwang’s wife, died while fighting as a member of the sewing unit in the guerrilla army.
Ri Ju Phyong, Ri Kwang’s father, who worked in support of the revolutionary army with an enthusiasm fuelled by grief over the death of his son» and Ri Pong Ju, Ri Kwang’s elder sister, died of illness induced by enemy torture.
We must be grateful that Ri Po Chon left his son with us before his death. The son is advancing stoutly along the path that was pioneered by his grandfather’s generation and transformed into a broad highway by his father’s generation.
Ri Kwang’s family has thus been serving in the revolutionary army for three generations. For a family to have fought under arms for three generations is just cause for noble pride. We must admire Ri Kwang’s grandson for choosing to wear military uniform as heir to his grandfather and father, instead of working in other fields.
When this young officer, whose face, bearing and gait so resembled his grandfather’s, first appeared before my eyes, together with his mother, I felt a lump rise in my throat, for it seemed as though Ri Kwang, who left our side 60 years ago had returned to visit me.
Ri Po Chon’s wife, who lost her husband at the age of 25, has brought up her son, trusting for more than 40 years that he would be a stalwart heir to Ri Kwang’s cause and his revolutionary spirit. Her devotion merits everyone’s highest commendation.
At his meeting with me Ri Po Chon’s son said that he was resolved to dedicate himself and his son and daughters to me and Marshal Kim Jong Il, that they would serve with loyal devotion in military uniform. I know very well that this will not prove to be empty words. Ri Kwang’s family does not use words idly.
What great work Ri Kwang would have done if he had returned alive to the liberated motherland!
Even now I occasionally ponder on this. Ri Kwang’s social activity began, of course, with teaching and at Ri Chong San’s house, at the time of the Mingyuegou meeting that winter, he also expressed an ambition to become a teacher.
But I think that if he had survived, to return to the liberated homeland in triumph, he would have become a soldier like Kang Kon and Choe Hyon, He was a devoted communist who always chose a difficult Job.
One of the most serious and pressing problems we faced in our activities after we moved to Wangqing was sharp confrontation with the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese armed forces. In the year 1933, the Japanese imperialists’ persistent machinations, intended to sow dissent, the frequent vacillations on the part of the leaders of the Chinese nationalist armed forces, and the harmful effects of the Leftist Soviet line, brought the relations between the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army and the national salvation army again to the brink of armed conflict.
I have mentioned before that the communists of
Thanks to these efforts the Wangqing guerrilla unit was able to maintain intimate relations with those Chinese nationalist units in the early days. To cite an admirable example, on one side, two armed units-the AJPGA and the self-defence corps-and, on the other side, Commander Guan’s battalion concerted their efforts to repulse an attack by Japanese garrison troops at Tokgol in the spring of 1932.
At that time the Japanese garrison troops in Daduchuan had moved scores of carts towards Tokgol in order to transport timber that had been cut during the reign of the Kuomintang. There were large stockpiles of timber in the valleys of Dawangqing and Xiaowangqing. That day our forces lured the enemy into an ambush, killing most of the force of 40 to 50 garrison troops and capturing many weapons.
The battle at Tokgol marked a turning-point in the work to improve the image of the communists in Wangqing, where anti-communist feelings were deep-rooted, and in the development of relations with the NSA from hostility to cooperation. The battle paved the way for the Korean communists to infiltrate into the NSA. After the battle Kim Un Sik, Hong Hae Il, Won Hong Gwon, Jang Ryong Sam, Kim Ha Il and others joined Guan’s unit.
Kim Ha Il, a crackshot, was appointed communications officer and Kim Un Sik, a man of knowledge, was appointed chief of staff soon after that.
As they had done in the past the people of Macun washed the clothes of the men and officers of Guan’s unit after the battle, and sent them toothbrushes, tooth powder, soap, towels and tobacco pouches as gifts; moreover, they frequently organized artistic performances by Children’s Corps members. The Young Communist League members conducted political work among them with propaganda leaflets.
In general, the NSA soldiers seldom called the communists “tongzhi “ (comrade); however, the officers and men of Guan’s unit always called our guerrillas “tongzhi” whenever they met them.
The guerrillas who joined Guan’s unit were all qualified at least for district party committee members, so they were efficient in working among the officers and men of the NSA unit. Battalion Commander Guan was charmed by the communists’ personalities and qualifications. Winning him over was an event of great significance for the improvement of relations with the other units of the NSA.
The anti-Japanese guerrilla unit in the Hunchun area exchanged information with the NSA units, and they cooperated even in the struggle against the enemy’s lackeys. The guerrillas in Yantonglazi armed themselves with weapons provided by a NSA unit.
The prevailing situation favoured the communists: this turning-point meant that they could establish a united front with the NSA if they worked harder.
However, the “Kim Myong San incident” provoked by the Leftist
adventurists had nullified the friendly relations with Chinese nationalist
units which had been established with so much effort. This incident resulted in
Battalion Commander Guan’s surrender to the Japanese imperialists and in other
NSA units breaking with the communists. At about the same time the guerrilla
unit led by Choe Hyon opened fire with a machinegun on the soldiers of a
Chinese nationalist unit in
In its early days the Wangqing guerrilla unit made quite a few mistakes in its relations with the NSA. Swayed by his desire to obtain a few rifles, Ryang Song Ryong, who was in charge of the battalion, did not implement the line of the united front to the letter. He had a fine personality and was a competent officer who commanded skilfully in battle, but his ingrained military routinism and adventurism led him to slight the united front. We criticized him severely for this.
Only Kaoshan unit, which had been under our constant influence, did not follow the example of Battalion Commander Guan; this unit maintained a lasting alliance with our anti-Japanese guerrilla army. On the Tano day or the fifth day of the fifth lunar month of 1933 the unit, in cooperation with the self-defence corps in Jattogi (the present Taiping-cun) which was led by Pak Tu Song, repelled an attack of the 300-strong Japanese garrison troops and the puppet Manchukuo army, when they invaded Shiliping via Dongnancha from their base in the Dongning county town. Many of the invading troops were killed.
The NSA units neglected long-range observation, posting sentries only directly in front of their headquarters; so the Anti-Japanese Self-Defence Corps maintained long-range observation posts for Kaoshan unit. When he had to send important, urgent messages to other Chinese units, Kaoshan would often ask the paramilitary organizations in Shiliping for help. The members of the Children’s Vanguard were extremely responsible in the way they transmitted these messages for him.
However, this friendly relationship did not extend to other units, and the reckless Leftist tendency prevalent in the guerrilla zone threatened it in this case.
The Leftist Soviet policy helped to accelerate the corruption and degeneration of the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units which only recently had been our allies or sympathizers.
The Leftist opportunists conducted their work with the Chinese units in an ultra-Leftist fashion. They indiscriminately promoted such slogans as “Down with the officers from the landlord and propertied class!” and “Soldiers should mutiny and come over to the guerrilla army!” claiming that we should “establish a united front only with the rank and file” and “make the soldiers of the NSA kill their commanders and rise in revolt.” The only result they produced was the harmful one of destroying our unity with the upper echelons of the Chinese units.
The Chinese nationalist units killed Korean people, saying that they were “Japanese puppets” and “laogaoli gongchandang” (“Korean com-munists”-Tr.).
The Japanese imperialists took advantage of this situation to
launch an all-out offensive to drive wedges between the Korean and Chinese
peoples, between the Korean and Chinese communists and between our
Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army and the Chinese nationalist army. From
the first day of their occupation of
A number of such incidents culminated in the Liutiaogou incident
While spreading rumours, such as “The Korean people will lay claim to Manchuria,” and “The communists are going to disarm the NSA,” the Japanese imperialists gave the reactionaries belonging to the “Minsaengdan” a reason to clamour for Korean autonomy in Jiandao, that is, for the establishment of a “Korean autonomous region in Jiandao” and a “Korean legal autonomous government,” so playing the Korean people off against the Chinese people. At other tunes they would set fire to Chinese houses and spread the lie that the Korean guerrillas had done it.Another reason for the collapse of the united front was that the Japanese imperialists laid schemes for the surrender of the leaders of the Chinese anti-Japanese units, which resulted in the degeneration of the latter’s anti-Japanese consciousness.
In January 1933, Wang Yu-zhen, who was in Tumenzi,
The Japanese imperialists bribed the notorious bandit leader Tong Shan-hao, who was holding the Luozigou area, and instigated him to murder all the guerrillas of Ri Kwang’s special detachment.
The situation was so bad that the guerrilla army, afraid of the NSA’s violence, had to march by night. The Koreans would not be able to keep their heads above ground unless relations with the NSA were improved. Reversing the hostile relations with the NSA and developing an alliance with them was once again a vital task for the Korean communists if they were to continue the revolution.
I made a firm decision to pay a visit to Wu Yi-cheng, the forward area commander of the NSA. Since Wang De-lin left Jiandao, Wu Yi-cheng held the real power in the NSA. I felt confident that if I prevailed upon him, I would be able to put a stop to the difficulties created for guerrilla activities in east Manchuria as a result of the “Kim Myong San incident” and the massacre of Ri Kwang’s special detachment, and at the same time I could possibly break die deadlock in which our revolution found itself.
I had a serious discussion with Pan, the provincial party committee member, about negotiations with Wu. Pan acknowledged that my decision was reasonable, but he advised me not to go to Wu in person. He was of the opinion that it would be difficult for a Korean, rather than a Chinese, to persuade him, for he was too self-important and too prejudiced. He added that in order to win over Commanders Wu and Chai we would have to prevent Ri Chong Chon, the latter’s adviser, from interfering in the negotiations, and that this was a problem.
I insisted on going to negotiate in spite of all the difficulties Pan had pointed out.
I said, “Ri is a Korean; even though he is anti-communist, he will
not place obstacles in our way if we argue persuasively. He is an old
acquaintance of mine. I spoke with him several times during the meeting on the
merging of the three nationalist organizations in
Pan tried his best to prevent my making an adventure, saying:
“What difference does it make now whether someone is an acquaintance or a stranger? Do you think they will treat acquaintances differently from strangers? Worse still, they say Wu is a die-hard. The odds are against us.”
“I once managed to win over Commander Yu in Antu. So why not Wu Yi-cheng?”
“When you were negotiating with Yu, Mr. Liu Ben-cao was his chief of staff. That gave you a good start.”
“I could have a good start in Wu’s unit, too. Chen Han-zhang is working as chief secretary in the unit. The chief of staff, Hu Jin-min, is one of our operatives, too.”
This remark threw myself into consternation. Only a few days before I had received a letter from Chen, whose role as a powerful support I always emphasized, requesting me to take decisive measures to assist him. On the grounds that it was almost impossible to effect an alliance with Commander Wu through his own efforts, he wrote that he “would like measures to be taken by the organization as soon as possible, for only Comrade Kim Il Sung will be able to find a solution to this problem.” Pan, too, knew about this.
“The revolution has a long way to go, and you should not engage in
such an adventure. Please think about it carefully, for mercy’s sake,” Pan
implored. “You must not regard yourself as your own property. One slip and you
could become another Ri Kwang. Don’t forget that. Even if we all die, you must
survive and fight to the last for
Pan’s remark moved me, but I could not abandon my commitment to an allied front.
After Pan had left for
I insisted that I should go. The meeting decided that my journey to Luozigou would be possible only with an escort of 100 guerrillas, and granted permission. The journey to Wu Yi-cheng was no simple one as we have already seen.
In order to negotiate with Wu, I had to find out about the situation there through such people as Chen Han-zhang and Hu Jin-min. However, Chen was Wu’s chief secretary and a serious man; he would not play games, shut away in his office. And if he showed himself outside, he could be misunderstood if he made a contact with Koreans. Nevertheless, he was sure to help me in my work no matter what the risk because in former days he had been a member of the Young Communist League organization in which I had had a part, and we had pledged loyalty to one another at that time.
After writing to Chen and Hu, I sent letters to Wu Yi-cheng and Chai Shi-rong, explaining the purpose of our journey to Luozigou, To make the letters more formal, we stamped a large, square seal beside the name of the sender.
After dispatching the letters we inquired into the reaction’ in Wu’s unit through the revolutionary organizations in Luozigou, and the reports were good. The underground organizations even informed us of the fact that the NSA had set up a placard with the words “Welcome to the Korean Anti-Japanese Guerrilla Army!” at the entrance to the town.
I left for Luozigou with 100 selected men. As they marched along in new uniform, and with new rifles; and leather kit-bags over their shoulders, they were a spectacular sight.
I rode on a white horse at the head of the column.
On arrival at Taipinggou we issued a statement on the AJPGA’s entry into Luozigou and dispatched an orderly, to Wu’s unit; then we settled in for the night, waiting for a reply.
The following day we received notice from Luozigou that they had agreed to the proposed negotiations. Chen Han-zhang’s assurances had proved effective in persuading Wu to accept our proposal. When he received my letter he recommended Commander Kim to Wu as someone he knew well, and said I was a very good-natured man.
As he listened to his recommendation Wu asked him, “He is a communist, how is it mat you know him so well? Are you men a communist, too?”
Chen replied that Commander Kim was his schoolmate and an old acquaintance.
“If he is your schoolmate and a good fellow, then I will talk to him over luncheon.”
We posted a company from Hunchun in the lower
Chen Han-zhang, who came to greet the guerrilla army, guided me to
the headquarters of the NSA. Jo Tong
Wu Yi-cheng was a man of fine presence with a long beard. I had heard a rumour that he was so arrogant he would not stand up even when a visitor called and would talk to him, sprawling on a tigerskin and drinking tea; but on that day he greeted me with all due formality. However, he did not maintain the Chinese custom of offering his guest tea.
At first I greeted him in a humble manner, saying, “We highly appreciate the patriotism of your unit’s joining the anti-Japanese struggle when many units from Zhang Xue-liang’s former Northeast Army were surrendering to the Japanese army.”
My greeting brought a smile to the comers of his lips and he ordered his aide to bring tea.
“I have heard reports that you. Commander Kim. are fighting well against the Japanese. Your army is not great in numbers but you know how to fight; we are not like you, even though we have many soldiers. My men say the soldiers you brought with you have brand-new rifles; will you not exchange some of them for our old ones?”
The negotiations thus began with his words of greeting, which were somewhat perplexing. Facing Commander Wu as he tried to fathom the other party’s thoughts by praising him on and at the same time requesting something difficult to comply with, I judged that he was a competent diplomat and shrewd man who had known both sweetness and bitterness in his life. I did not think that a forward area commander, the leader of thousands of soldiers, would make such a request at the first meeting without forethought, simply out of greed for a few new rifles.
“You say exchange? We can give them free.”
I satisfied his request without any fuss and added in a casual manner, “Is there any need to deal in such petty matters? We’ll have plenty of them if we fight a battle with the Japanese. But since you request it, we will give them as a gift.”
Wu stroked his beard down and then approached me from a different angle, “Well, what is your communist party? That man, Chen Han-zhang, says the communist party is not bad, but I can’t believe him. Zhou Bao-zhong is also a communist and when he was my adviser, I found him not to my liking, always wasting time for some reason, I don’t know why. So I got rid of him. By the way, I heard that you communists destroy the mountain shrines when you pass by them.”
“Why should we destroy the shrines? It is a lie told by wicked people to discredit the communists.”
“Then, do you. Commander Kim, pay tribute at the shrines?”
“I neither destroy them nor pay tribute to them, for it is nothing to do with me. What about you, Commander Wu?”
“Neither do I.”
“Then both of us are the same in that neither pays tribute.”
Dumbfounded, he stroked his beard once again with a smile on his face.
“That’s right. By the way, they say that communists, men and women alike, all sleep under one quilt and they plunder the people of their property. Is this true?”
I realized that the success of the negotiations depended on how I could manage this question and that I must give him an appropriate answer which would give him a correct understanding of communists.
“That is another fabrication of the bad elements. It is true that
some alleged communists have deprived landowners of their lands, regardless of
whether they are pro-Japanese or anti-Japanese, but we don’t regard it as a
good thing. However, the landlords should have had the generosity to give the
sharecroppers who were dying from hunger, some grain. Can it be right that they
regard them with indifference while they feather their own nests? Why should
the poor peasants revolt if they are given food grain? Hungry people have no
way to survive but by fighting. I may he wrong but I believe the Taiping
Rebellion took place in
Wu Yi-cheng nodded his head.
“That seems right. Those who wish to eat their fill and live comfortably by themselves are evil-doers in this chaotic situation,”
Grasping my opportunity, I continued:
“That men and women sleep under one quilt is a lie the Japanese invented to insult the communists. There are many woman soldiers in our guerrilla unit, but such a thing never occurs. If they fall in love, they get married. Our discipline between men and women is very strict.”
“That’s what I mean. It must never happen that several men sleep with one woman in turn.”
“Of course not. There are no men in the world more decent-minded than us communists.”
When our conversation reached this point, Wu began calling me “Commander Kim” and stopped using awkward words.
“Ha, ha! Commander Kim is trying to make a communist of me.”
“I have no thought of making you a communist. Commander Wu. A man cannot be made a communist by someone else. However, I think it advisable to unite our efforts to defeat the Japanese imperialists.”
Wu Yi-cheng gestured nervously with his arm.
“We don’t collaborate with the communists, even if it means fighting on our own.”
“Surely it is good to fight the Japanese in cooperation when we are not strong enough alone?”
“I still don’t need favours from the communists.”
“No one can predict his future. Some day you may ask a favour from us.”
“Well, that may well be possible. God only knows what awaits a man. By the way, may I ask a favour of you? Won’t you join jiajiali ? It is better than the communist party, I think,” he said casually.
Seeing me hesitate, he looked at me in amusement.
I was perplexed to hear the word jiajiali in that context. Commander Wu had puzzled me completely.
Jiajiali is a Chinese word meaning “one family.” It is an organization of the Chinese people which was also called Qinghongbang. It was formed as a union against the emperor by the workers who dug canals and hauled boats, when they could no longer endure their hardships. There was no private property in this organization, and it was a large one for that time.
When people swear brotherhood, they become elder and younger brothers, but people joining jiajiali become fathers and sons. A man who wishes to find a father could join it, but not a man who wishes to find sons. The higher the caste of the jiajiali was, the more dignified its members were and the more authority they possessed. A ceremony was held when a man joined. Kim Jae born (alias Kim Phyong), who had joined a. jiajiali of the 24th generation on our instructions, had said that the ceremony was spectacular. A new member had to bow hundreds of times to those who were to become his fathers and seniors.
Now I had received an embarrassing invitation to join such an organization. If I declined, the negotiations which had gone smoothly so far might be deadlocked; but if I accepted, he would take me to a Buddha and make me bow there and then, which would mean making myself subordinate to Wu Yi-cheng. When preparing for the negotiations, we had not anticipated this kind of situation. Anyway, I had to resolve the dilemma.
“It would be a fine thing for you and I to enter a jiajiali, but before we join another organization we are obliged to obtain permission from the party organization. If it is not granted, I can do nothing. Let us leave the matter until I obtain permission from our organization.”
“Ha, ha! Then, it seems you are a half-baked commander, not a fully-fledged one.”
Commander Wu looked at me with a slightly dissatisfied expression on his face and all of a sudden asked me, “Do you drink, Commander Kim?”.
“I can drink, but don’t even if I want to, lest it hamper me in fighting against the Japanese.”
“Your communist party is agreeable to me. I wish to cooperate with you but I am afraid I would have to imbibe Marxism. Spreading communism among our people is not good.”
“Don’t worry about it. Commander. We have no intention of propagating communism. We will only carry out anti-Japanese propaganda.”
“Your party is very gentlemanly for a communist party. But it was wrong of the communists in Wangqing to disarm Commander. Guah’s battalion. What is your opinion of that incident?”
“What more is there to say about it? It was the most serious mistake of all possible mistakes. So we severely reprimanded the Wangqing special detachment last year.”
“Commander Kim, you are a fair-minded soldier. By the way, some people say that the communist party is right in everything it does. How could that be?”
“A communist is also a man. So how could he make no mistakes? I, too, make mistakes now and then, for I am not a machine, but a man, When one tries to do a great deal of work, one is bound to make mistakes sometimes. So we study hard and improve ourselves so that we shall commit fewer errors.”
“You are right. Lazy men who do nothing will make no mistakes. The communists do many things and this we appreciate. In general, it is amusing to talk to you. Commander Kim. You are candid, so we do understand each other.”
Saying this, Wu wound up the negotiations for the moment. He took me politely by the hand and then released his grip. I was sure the negotiations were going well. On the spur of the moment he said good-humouredly that Chen Han-zhang, a friend of Commander Kim, helped him with his writing and that without him he was as good as blind.
Wu asked me whether I knew Hu Jin-min. I answered that I did not know him, for I was afraid the nature of our relations might be revealed if I answered in the affirmative. He called Hu Jin-min and politely introduced him to me. Hu and I said, “How do you do?” to each other as if we were strangers. Chen Han-zhang told me that it was very rare for Wu to introduce his staff officers to visitors in this way; he said confidently that I could regard the negotiations as successful.
That day we agreed with Wu Yi-cheng to establish a standing body
called the Joint Anti-Japanese Army Coordination Commission which would keep
the AJPGA and the NSA in touch with each other and coordinate their actions.
We also discussed the membership of the commission. Wang Run-cheng, a Chinese,
was appointed a representative of the Chinese units and Jo Tong
Wu Yi-cheng invited us to luncheon. Chen Han-zhang informed me that this also was special treatment.
The conversation over luncheon also took place in a friendly atmosphere.
Whenever the Japanese imperialist occupation of
“They are indigenous bandits, not our sort. That Tong Shan-hao was certain to become a cat’s paw of the Japanese! That his ilk has harmed your army is a cursed crime. I am ashamed that such a devil can be one of our Chinese nation.”
This remark gave me a glimpse of another side of his personality.
I was satisfied with the result of the negotiations and Wu Yi-cheng’s hospitality. Wu put on airs, and he was tainted with the ideology of the Kuomintang, but that was not the fundamental point. What was important was his exceptionally strong anti-Japanese spirit and his great commitment to national salvation. Cooperation would have been inconceivable if only our distinctions had been asserted, the ideology, class and nationality which separated us. The goal of an allied front permitted us to scorn such limitations.
That same day I sent a liaison man to Xiaowangqing with a letter saying that cooperation with Commander Wu had been successfully arranged, that the question of Chai Shi-rong was still outstanding, that we would try to approach him gradually, and that the unit should make full preparations for action because we needed to attack a large walled county town like Dongning in order to step up the united front.
After our success in the first contact with Wu Yi-cheng, we immediately tackled the work of winning over the unit of Chai Shi-rong, the most obstinate force among the NSA units, to the anti-Japanese united front. Chen Han-zhang said Commander Wu seemed to be quite determined, but Commander Chai posed a problem; he was anxious to find a way of expelling Ri Chong Chon. Commander Wu had only one brigade. Commander Chai had a larger force.
I suggested negotiations to Ri Chong Chon, but he declined. On the contrary, he incited Chai to disarm the communist army. But Chai, who would normally heed any advice from Ri, objected to that trick. He said that if he were not careful, he could get into serious trouble, since Commander Wu Yi-cheng had dined with Commander Kim and that, moreover, Commander Kim was in command of the Wangqing unit, which fought bravely. Ri Chong Chon worked so hard to incite Chai against communism that we could not even meet him face to face.
The only way of solving the problem was to separate Commander Chat’s unit from Wu Yi-cheng. The method used to separate Wu Yi-eheng, who had agreed to cooperate with us, from Chai Shi-rong was to bring Shi Zhong-heng’s brigade, Wu Yi-cheng’s main force, under our influence. If we dealt with the brigade commander properly, we could further consolidate our initial success in the negotiations with Wu Yi-cheng.
I inquired about the composition of his brigade; most of the
soldiers were of lower class origin. Shi Zhong-heng himself had been a swineherd
for a landowner at the age of 9 and then joined the army to support himself. He
had served under Wang De-lin in the
I went to see Shi Zhong-heng with a letter of introduction from Hu Jin-min on the day Hu wrote it. When I requested an interview, Shi complied without ceremony, setting all his other business aside. He treated me warmly, like a friend, saying that a visit to his unit by Commander Kim who fought the Japanese so successfully was an auspicious occasion. He was neither against communism, nor was he like a warlord; he was open-hearted and gentle.
Shi said that our unit’s successive victories in the fight with the
Japanese army were a source of pride to the people living in east
He welcomed my proposal for a joint attack on the Dongning county town. He said, “I had long wished for a strong neighbour and friend such as your army, Commander Kim. We are brothers from today. Your enemy is my enemy and your friend is my friend.”
We embraced each other warmly in celebration of the success of our negotiations. From that day we were brothers and comrades-in-arms who shared the days of fierce battle like brothers. Our close friendship remained unchanged until he fell in battle as the commander of the 2nd Independent Division.
The outcome of the negotiations at Luozigou removed the greatest obstacle in the way of the anti-Japanese revolution. While cooperation with Commander Yu was the starting-point of the allied front, the negotiation with Wu Yi-cheng was a historic step towards extending that initial success gained to the whole area of east Manchuria; it was a stunning event which put an end to the meaningless confrontation and bloodshed occurring between the Korean and Chinese nations since the May 30 Uprising and the Wanbaoshan incident and merged the fierce anti-Manchukuo and anti-Japanese tendencies into one raging torrent.
Through the negotiations with Wu Yi-cheng and Shi Zhong-heng we
realized quite clearly that a united front was possible only when our own
forces were strong. Had we not displayed our military strength to the full
through the campaigns in south and north
Since the day I achieved cooperation with the NSA I have regarded it as axiomatic that the best resources for an allied front are one’s own forces and that one cannot fight in cooperation with any friendly army or country without fostering one’s own strength, and I have devoted my entire life to consolidating the motive force of the revolution.
Wu Yi-cheng and Chai Shi-rong also agreed with my idea of attacking the Dongning county town. We held a joint meeting in Luozigou with Wu Yi-cheng, Shi Zhong-heng, Chai Shi-rong and other commanders of the NSA, and mapped out a detailed plan of operations for the battle; then I wrote to our headquarters in Wangqing once again.
Thanks to the successful negotiations with Wu Yi-cheng and victory in the battle at Dongning county town, we became widely known to the guerrilla units of the Koreans, Chinese NSA units and other anti-Manchukuo, anti-Japanese forces. Cooperation with Wu Yi-cheng convinced me more than ever that strengthening the united front was essential to the survival of the anti-Japanese revolution as a whole and the key to promoting the revolution.
Even after I had left Jiandao and moved the theatre of operations to the Changbai area, I looked back with emotion upon the days when I strove to make the negotiations with Wu a success. Wu Yi-cheng, now as a member of the Northeast Anti-Japanese Allied Army, was fighting in those days on our flank, with Fusong and its district as his base. When I heard he was fighting nearby, I was reminded of our old friendship, sealed in the days of the common struggle.
With more than 100 guerrillas, I went to the woods east of Xigang where the secret camps of Wu Yi-cheng’s unit were located. Wu rushed to the edge of the camp and embraced me. We hugged each other as warmly as childhood friends separated for scores of years.
No sooner did I feel Wu’s coarse moustache smelling of gunsmoke on my chin, than a lump rose in my throat despite myself. I could not understand why a meeting with this Chinese man whose character contained so much of the warlord, who was so very proud, should make me choke. Our friendship sealed in the days of battle was quite exceptional, I was greatly moved that Commander Wu treated me quite sincerely like his own brother, disregarding my nationality and age.
No friendship in the world can be more sincere, more ardent and more durable than friendship formed under the hail of fire. Is this not the reason why we call the friendship between the very closest of friends a militant friendship? I could find no trace in him of the former haughty pride which led him to assess people’s ability with his sharp eyes while lounging over a tigerskin. He looked like an old, generous villager rather than a hero of the green forest with thousands of soldiers under his command. He seemed to have lost weight and his eyes seemed less bright.
I stayed for two days in Wu Yi-cheng’s secret camp before returning. As I was leaving Wu Yi-cheng offered to turn over 100 of his soldiers to me. When I declined, he feigned anger, saying, “You obviously lack or want nothing. However, Commander Kim, as a friend I must give you some assistance towards your preparations for a great campaign. Those 100 men must fight under your command rather than following me. As the saying goes-Mugwort grows straight on the hemp plantation.”
I have not met Wu Yi-cheng since then. At the end of the year I
heard that Wu had gone to the
Wu Yi-cheng was not simply a companion of convenience while we were putting together the allied front; he was an unforgettable comrade-in-arms who braved the hail of bullets shoulder to shoulder with us in battle. How Commander Wu spent the latter part of his life and how he met his fate still remain unclear. Worst of all, there is nowhere I can turn for reliable information.
If he remained loyal to the ideal of patriotism until the last moment of his life, then that is enough to satisfy me.
After the negotiations at Luozigou, the Joint Anti-Japanese Army Coordination Commission worked hard among the national salvation army units. Members of the commission even infiltrated the mountain rebels and made strenuous efforts to draw them into the anti-Japanese united front.
Early in September 1933, this commission arranged a joint meeting at which we discussed with Wu Yi-cheng, Shi Zhong-heng, Chai Shi-rong, Li San-xia and other leaders of the Chinese nationalist units at Laomuzhuhe near Luozigou the plan for attacking the Dongning county town (Sanchakou) and finalized the plan of operations. On the recommendation of Commander Wu Yi-cheng the meeting unanimously approved the operation plan as we had drafted it.
We did not attack the town immediately after the negotiations at Luozigou; we allowed ourselves more than two months for preparation, because we attached special importance to this battle. We regarded this battle as a watershed in making our anti-Japanese guerrilla army fully legitimate; we also believed that an agreement on the united front with the NSA units would be brought into effect through victory in this battle. Should we succeed in this battle the united front with the Chinese nationalist units would be put on a rock-solid foundation; if not, the positive outcome of the negotiations at Luozigou would be undermined, and the united front would collapse while still in the stage of formation. Failure in the battle would also stain the military prestige of our guerrilla army which we had built up in the course of bloody battles. It would also cause serious problems if the NSA complained that they had been crushed because of the united front.
This was indeed a tough test for us. Our reconnaissance and information
from our local organizations confirmed that a 500-strong Kwan-tung Army unit led
by Ishida, a puppet
However, Wu Yi-cheng and other people retorted that they had nothing to learn from such silly prattle, which could only make sense in the Japanese military academy that Ri Chong Chon had attended. They criticized such a passive attitude to the battle.
As the NSA had already failed once in an attack on the Dongning county town, it was no accident that some commanders overestimated the enemy’s strength, fearing the Japanese army with its boasts of “invincibility.”
Once a plan was adopted at the meeting, the coordination commission, in collaboration with Hu Jin-min, allocated to each unit the number of troops which should participate in the battle.
We were to contribute three companies, one from each of Wangqing, Hunchun and Yanji to the battle, and we summoned them to Luozigou.
The company I had taken from Wangqing and the company which Paek Il Phyong, the battalion political commissar, led all the way from Hunchun, met amidst great emotion near Luozigou at the end of August 1933.
But to our regret, the comrades from Yanji did not arrive at the rendezvous, for the message had not reached them in time. The Yanji battalion had selected Choe Hyon’s company, which was the strongest. Before starting the march Choe Hyon had ensured that every man was supplied with 150 rounds of ammunition and a new pair of shoes. The company left Beidong and arrived at Macun by forced march in the middle of September, when we were in Xiaowangqing after the battle on the Dongning county town.
As we entered Luozigou with the men from Hunchun, the men and officers of the NSA, together with the local residents, welcomed us enthusiastically. Quite a few peasants from neighbouring villages came to welcome us too. Their warm welcome was a clear expression of the strength of the anti-Japanese organizations in this place.
Behind the crowd who were waving their hands and shouting for joy
at our unit stood the able revolutionary Choe Jong Hwa. Though in the service
Young people who had heard of us jostled each other to see Commander
Kim. They were arguing over whether Commander Kim hailed from
The children were keen to touch the Model 38 rifles and cartridge belts. Each soldier wore three cartridge belts, one on the waist and two across his shoulders. As one belt contained 100 cartridges, every one was carrying a load of 300.
Large numbers of women came and tugged at the guerrillas’ arms, saying, “Men fighting for the country, join us for lunch.”
Even women living several miles away from Luozigou brought lunch and served the guerrillas.
On the day of our arrival at Luozigou, I, accompanied by those working on the coordination commission, paid a visit to Commander Wu Yi-cheng at his lodging.
As old acquaintances, we had an amicable conversation. It was a candid conversation between two men, not a conversation designed to fathom each other’s thoughts, like the first one we had in June.
What had worried me most on my way to Luozigou was whether Commander Wu had given up the idea of fighting the battle or not in the meantime. I wondered whether such people as Ri Chong Chon, who were not pleased with the alliance, might not have persuaded Wu Yi-cheng to abandon the idea of the battle and set back the relations between the NSA and ourselves to the state preceding our negotiations. Those working on the coordination commission had informed me on several occasions of Ri Chong Chon’s ceaseless efforts to get Chai Shi-rong to abort our cooperation. They had been apprehensive that this trick might affect Commander Wu.
But they need not have worried. His commitment to the allied front remained unchanged, and his determination to redeem his previous defeat through the attack on the Dongning county town was as firm as ever.
What Commander Wu felt was most ignominious was the blow he had suffered during the Japanese “mopping-up” operation in Luozigou at the end of 1932. At that time the Japanese had mobilized ten air force fighters and hundreds of troops and crushed the NSA mercilessly. Luozigou had been reduced to ashes and the NSA driven away to Chengnancun, Xintunzi and Shitouhezi.
“To be honest, our numbers were greater than the Japanese. But we abandoned Luozigou and fled to the mountainous area. Whenever I am reminded of the defeat we suffered at that time, I cannot sleep. Even though the Japanese ruffians who occupied Luozigou beheaded innocent people and hung their heads on the south gate, we remained entrenched in the mountainous area without so much as a thought of revenge. We were simply afraid of the Japanese army. What shame! I will make them pay dearly for it at Dongning.”
As he said this, Wu frequently put his hand on the Mauser on his side. As I saw him burning with thoughts of revenge, I realized that his determination had not lessened. It was a good omen for the allied front.
That day I told him the story of my past life in outline, as I had
done id Pan, the member of the
provincial party committee. In return Commander Wu told me his own personal
history. Through the unceremonious talk of that day I learned that his native
district was somewhere near Dongchang in
That day Wu Yi-cheng talked as the rumours portrayed him, lounging idly on a tigerskin. He disliked talking formally, sitting crosslegged on a chair, probably because he was corpulent. So I had to talk to him while I lounged with my arm across a wooden pillow.
Wu Yi-cheng ordered his men to prepare delicious food for lunch as he had a distinguished guest. I told him I had brought my own food and there was no need to take the trouble to prepare lunch for me. The man who accompanied us and carried our meals in those days was a Chinese soldier with a pockmarked face. Wu was very interested in the fact that I was speaking fluent Chinese. The knowledge of Chinese I had acquired thanks to my father proved its worth in my work with Wu Yi-cheng.
In Luozigou, the Wangqing and Hunchun companies discussed on several occasions the tactics for political work among the people.
We stressed the following to the guerrillas; the future direction of the NSA depends on the result of this battle; if our guerrilla army fights bravely in the van the NSA will follow us; if we fail to play our part, they will abandon us; so you must always set an example both in everyday life and in the battle; we are going to fight this battle for the sake of the allied front rather than for a few rifles and sacks of grain; we are staking the future of the allied front on this battle; let the NSA soldiers win all the trophies; let us not care what they take, no matter what it is, even opium; but let us keep in mind that there will be no concessions in the political and moral aspects of our conduct.
Brigadier-general Shi Zhong-heng, one of the leaders of the Chinese nationalist units, supported the plan of the battle most actively. During our stay in Luozigou a friendship transcending nationality and affiliation sprang up between Shi and myself. When the large forces of our guerrilla army and the NSA units were marching towards the Dongning county town from Luozigou he tried to stay near our unit all the time. When bivouacking he tried to pitch his tents near ours and act together with our unit in the battle. During the march of a hundred miles from Luozigou to the Dongning county town, we came to understand each other on a deeper level.
The expeditionary forces which had left Luozigou in early September spent several days on the road. The march was a clear demonstration of the noble revolutionary spirit and sincere humane traits of the Korean communists. The political and moral differences between the AJPGA and the NSA were clearly expressed during the march and in our daily life.
Wherever we went, we behaved as an army of the people. We did not destroy the mountain shrines on our way nor lay our hands on the delicious foods offered in sacrifice; we did not give it a second glance. When we stopped at Chinese villages we held parties, hung posters on the walls and conducted oral propaganda. Other units caused the villagers much trouble, but we helped them in fetching water, grinding grain, threshing and weaving cornstalks for fences. In the villages where Koreans were living we read to them from story-books.
Since we behaved in this way, the people made rice cakes and killed pigs for us, saying that our army really appreciated them. They said that other units were hopelessly bad-tempered and rude, but Commander Kim’s unit was so gentle, affable and warm-hearted that they spared nothing in their efforts to please us.
Whenever he witnessed the sincere loving care we took of the people and the genuine support and welcome the people accorded us, Brigadier-general Shi Zhong-heng praised us profusely, holding his thumb up, and saying that Commander Kim’s army was a unique gentlemen’s army. On several occasions he instructed his men that they should follow the example of the communist army led by Commander Kim.
“At present some villains are disgracing the NSA in the van of our column. You should not follow their example. God will bless you only if your manners are noble. I hereby warn you in advance that if any unpleasant acts such as toying with women, laying hands on others’ property or blustering at people should occur, the man will be strictly dealt with, whoever he may be.”
Shi Zhong-heng’s orders were effective in alerting his men to the need for good behaviour.
Some soldiers of the NSA took flight at the sight of grain stacks on moonless nights, saying that the stacks were Japanese soldiers. After this occurred several times we made our guerrilla army march in the van of the column and the NSA units were made to bring up the rear. This insignificant measure inspired the guerrillas to new efforts. They realized very keenly that victory in the battle did not depend on the NSA soldiers who confused grain stacks with Japanese soldiers, but on themselves, that they themselves were the decisive force driving the wheel of the allied front, and they speeded up the march.
The guerrillas studied even on the march. They sometimes argued about serious political subjects.
“Hey, Comrade Kang, will you please explain the purpose of our attack on the Dongning county town clearly and wittily? When the Commander told us about it in Luozigou it seemed understandable but somehow it seems hard to grasp now.”
The wily question came from a man at the tail of the Wangqing company as the expeditionary forces were nearing Laoheishan. He did not ask it out of ignorance; he wanted to test his understanding.
Kang, who had been asked the question, was also a wily man.