One day early in 1923 my father told me to sit at his side\and asked me what my intention was having finished my primary education.
I said I wanted to go to secondary school. That was also my parents’ long-cherished desire,\and I wondered why he was asking such an obvious question.
He said with a serious look that I should go to the homeland\and continue to study there.
This advice was unexpected. Studying in Korea meant leaving the care of my parents, something I had never considered.
My mother who was sewing was surprised\and asked if I couldn’t study somewhere nearby for I was still young.
My father seemed to have made a determination. He repeated that I must go, though we might miss one another for a time. He would never change his decision without a proper reason.
He said in earnest: You have suffered a lot of hardship, moving with usrom place to place since your childhood; you may find yourself in a worse plight when you are in Korea again; nevertheless, I am determined to send you there; a man born in Korea must have a good knowledge of Korea; if you get to understand clearly while you are in Korea why she has been ruined, that will be a great achievement; share the fate of the people in your home town\and experience how miserable they are; then you will see what you should do.
I said that I would do as he told me to do. In those days the rich people in Korea were sending their sons to study abroad. They believed that the United States\or Japan was the place to seek modern civilization\and academic pursuits,\and that was the trend of the times. So I was going to Korea while others were going abroad.
My father’s way of thinking was unique. As I recollect the event, I think he was right in sending me to Korea. Anyhow, he was no\ordinary man to send his scarcely 11-year-old son on a 250-mile journey alone through a then uninhabited land. His character served me as an encouragement\and filled me with confidence.
To be frank, my feelings at that time were not simple. I was happy to hear that I was to study in the homeland, but I didn’t want to leave my parents\and younger brothers. However, I was eager to see my home town. I spent several restless days with mixed feelings of yearning for my homeland\and reluctance to leave the sweet family atmosphere.
My mother asked my father if it wouldn’t be better to send me when the weather was warmer. She was afraid of sending her young son on a 250-mile journey alone.
My father did not agree with this suggestion, either.
Though anxious over her son’s long journey, my mother spent the nights making me an overcoat\and socks so that I might start on the date appointed by my father. She did not dispute her husband’s decision, as was her trait.
On the day of my departure my father told me that it was 250 milesrom Badaogou to Mangyongdae\and asked me whether I could walk all the way alone. I replied that I could. Then he drew the route in my pocketbook, marking off the names of the major places on the way as well as the distance between them, for instance,rom Huchang to the next place,rom Hwaphyong to the next,\and so on. He further told me to send him two telegrams— onerom Kanggye\and onerom Pyongyang.
On the last day of the first lunar month (March 16 by the solar calendar) I left Badaogou. A snowstorm was severerom the morning. My friends in Badaogou accompanied me for 7.5 miles to the south of Huchang across the River Amnok to see me off. They insisted on accompanying me the whole way, so I had trouble to persuade them to return home.
As I began my journey, various thoughts flooded my mind. For more than half the 250 miles of my journey I would have to walk over steep, craggy mountains which were virtually uninhabited. It would not be easy to cross them alone. Even in full daylight beasts of prey prowled about the woods on both sides of the roadrom Huchang to Kanggye.
I suffered a lot during the journey. I really had a hard time of it while crossing the Jik Pass, Kae Pass (Myongmun Pass)\and the like. It took me a whole day to cross the passes in Mt. Oga. When I had crossed one pass another would appear. It seemed there was no end.
As I crossed Mt. Oga, I got blisters on my feet. At the foot of the mountain I fortunately met an old man who cured my blisters by burning them with matches.
After Wolthan\and Mt. Oga, I passed through Hwaphyong, Huksu, Kanggye, Songgan, Jonchon, Koin, Chongun, Huichon, Hyangsan, Kujang, arrived at Kaechon\and then proceeded to Mangyongdae by rail.
A narrow-gauge railway service was availablerom Kaechon to Sinanju; a light train pulled by a small English locomotive Nikisha covered the route.rom Sinanju to Pyongyang a wide-gauge railway as we have today was working. At that time a rail ticketrom Kaechon to Pyongyang cost 1 won 90 jon.
During that journey I met many kind-hearted people. Once, when I was sufferingrom sore feet, I was picked up by a peasant on an ox-drawn sleigh. When parting, I offered him some money, but he declined it\and bought me some toffee instead.
The most memorable of them was the inn-keeper at Kanggye.
I arrived at Kanggye late in the evening\and came to the inn. The inn-keeper came out to the gate\and received me cordially. He was a small man who wore his hair in the Western fashion\and dressed in Korean jacket\and trousers. He was affable\and sociable. He told me that he had received a telegramrom my father\and was expecting me.
His elderly mother, referring respectfully to my father as “Mr. Kim,” was as glad to see me as if I were her own grandson. She said, “When you were here with your father 4 years ago on your way to Junggang, you were a small boy but now you are quite grown up.” She served me with beef -rib soup\and fried herrings which she had probably been saving for her own grandchildren. She made a bed for me with new quilts. They showered me with full hospitality.
The next morning I went to the Kanggye Post Office\and sent a telegram to my parents as my father had told me to. The telegram would cost 3 jon for each of the first six characters\and 4 jon each for any more. So I wrote 6 characters “Kang Gye Mu Sa To Chak” (Arrived safely in Kanggye—Tr.).
The next day the inn-keeper went to the bus station to arrange for my transport. On returning, he told me that I should have to wait for about ten days because the bus had broken down. He added that he had made a reservation for me, so I should stay with him. I was grateful for his kindness, but I said I could not afford to wait. He did not hold me back any more but offered me two pairs of straw sandals. Moreover, he introduced me to a cartman who was heading for the Kae Pass.
The keeper of the “West- Korea Inn” in front of Kaechon Railway Station was also a kind man.
At the inn I\ordered a 15 -jon meal, which was the cheapest of the meals they served there. However, the inn-keeper served me with a 50-jon meal. When I said I could not afford it, he told me not to mind the cost.
At night they gave a mattress\and two blankets to each guest for 50 jon. I examined my purse\and found that I could not afford the luxury of sleeping under two blankets. So I\ordered only one blanket. Again the inn- keeper told me not to worry about the cost\and said that he could not be so cruel as to see a boy sleeping miserably when other travellers were comfortable.
Though living in poverty as a ruined nation, the Korean people still preserved their traditional fellowship\and beautiful customs. Up until the turn of the century there were many people travelling without money in our country. Villagers used to provide free accommodation for travellers. This was a Korean custom, which was the envy of the people of the West. My journey made me realize that the Korean people were truly kind-hearted\and morally excellent.
The keeper of the “West-Korea Inn,” like those of the Kanggye\and Junggang Inns, was under the guidance\and influence of my father. As I had experienced on my previous journey to Junggang at the age of seven, my father had comrades\and friends everywhere.
When I saw people receiving\and taking care of our family as their own flesh\and blood, I wondered when my father had made so many friends\and what distance he had travelled to rally such comrades.
With so many friends everywhere my father, when awayrom home, was always helped by them. I, too, benefited a great dealrom their assistance.
An unforgettable memory of my journey was of the town of Kanggye, lit by oil-lamps 4 years before, being flooded with electric light. The townsfolk were happy with the introduction of electric lighting, but I was sad at the sight of the streets because they seemed to be more Japanese.
The profound meaning of what my father had said to me on my departure about learning about Korea came home to me. As I remembered his instructions, I closely studied my unfortunate homeland.
The 250-mile journey was, for me, a journey of learning about my homeland\and my fellow countrymen.
Towards sunset on March 29, 1923, fourteen days after my departurerom Badaogou, I entered the courtyard of my old home.
My grandmother, who was making yarn inside, hurried out to the yard, without stopping to put on her shoes,\and took me in her arms.
“Who has come with you? How have you come? How are your father\and mother?”
She showered me with questions, giving me no time to answer. Grandfather stopped making straw mats\and ran out into the
When I answered that I had come alone on foot, she exclaimed doubtfully, “Oh Lord! Really? Your father is more hard-hearted than a tiger.”
The whole family sat together,\and we talked all through the night.
The mountains\and rivers were familiar\and beautiful as ever, but the signs of poverty in every corner of the village were more conspicuous than ever before.
After staying for a few days at Mangyongdae, I started in the fifth year of Changdok School\where my grandfather on my mother’s side was the head teacher. This was the beginning of my education in the homeland.rom that time on I stayed in my mother’s maiden home in Chilgol to attend school.
My mother’s parents were in no position to support me. They were having a difficult time because my mother’s brother, Kang Jin Sok, was in prison. After his arrest, the police kept the family under strict surveillance, bothering them\and, worse still, my uncle was in poor health. The whole family worried about him. The family were living in dire poverty, eating gruel maderom coarsely ground grain\or boiled rice mixed with ground beans. They always ran short of farm produce\and my younger uncle had to carry goods on a cart for hire to eke out a livelihood.
However, they did not reveal any signs of poverty in my presence\and supported me wholeheartedly while I attended school. They provided me with a separate room furnished with a kerosene lamp\and fine floor mats. They were kind to my friends who used to visit me at all times.
Changdok School was a progressive institution established by my grandfather on my mother’s side\and other far- sighted peoplerom Chilgol\and the surrounding area\and aimed at promoting the restoration of national sovereignty as a part of the patriotic movement for cultural enlightenment.
Towards the end of the Ri dynasty\and after the “annexation of Korea by Japan” a brisk patriotic education movement was launched as a link in the whole chain of the national -salvation movement. The pioneers\and patriots, who attributed the shameful loss of national sovereignty to the backwardness of the country, regarded education as the foundation of\and fundamental factor in self-development\and clearly realized that, unless education was developed, neither the independence of the country nor the modernization of the society could be achieved, so they established private schools throughout the country.
This movement was led by patriotic fighters An Chang Ho, Ri Tong Hwi, Ri Sung Hun, Ri Sang Jae, Yu Kil Jun, Nam Kung Ok and others. The learned societies formed in all parts of the country also pushed ahead with the education movement.
At the height of the educational\and cultural movement that swept the country, thousands of private schools sprang up, awakening the intellect of the nation that had slept in feudal fetters. It was around this time that village schools which had been teaching the doctrines of Confucius\and Mencius were transformed into institutions for modern education\and encouraged the younger generation to kindle the spirit of patriotism.
The leaders of the nationalist movement, without exception, regarded education as the starting-point of their independence movement\and concentrated their financial power\and energy on the undertaking. Kim Ku14, who was the mastermind behind the heroic ventures undertaken by Ri Pong Chang15\and Yun Pong Gil16, with terrorism as his major policy for the independence movement, had been engaged in education in Hwanghae Province in his early years. An Jung Gun, too, was a scholar who had established a school in the area of Nampho to teach the younger generation.
Among the private schools established in west Korea Taesong School in Pyongyang supervised by An Chang Ho\and Osan School in Jongju financed by Ri Sung Hun were famous. These schools produced many famous patriotic fighters for independence\and intellectuals.
My grandfather used to say that it would be an honour for Changdok School if it could produce only one great man such as An Jung Gun\and that I should study hard to become a prominent patriot.
I replied that, even though I might not become such a praiseworthy martyr as An Jung Gun, I would become a patriot who would not spare himself for the independence of the country.
Of the private schools established in west Korea Changdok School was fairly large\and modern with more than 200 pupils. A school was in a position to promote the enlightenment of the people in its vicinity. Therefore, the people\and public-spirited men in the Pyongyang area attached great importance to Changdok School\and spared nothing in support of it.
Paek Son Haeng, too, contributed a vast amount of money to this school. This woman, better known as Widow Paek than by her real name, was popular in Pyongyang before liberation for her charitable efforts. Widowed before the age of 20, she remained faithful to her dead husband until the age of 80, becoming rich by saving every penny she earned. Her way of making money was so bold\and unique that she was the focus of public attentionrom her early days. It is said that the site of the present limestone mine belonging to the Sunghori Cement Factory was once her property. She had bought the rocky mountain which nobody cared for at a low price\and sold it to a Japanese capitalist for dozens of times more than she had paid.
This woman, who did not even know how to use an abacus, had made this fabulous profit in a deal with the Japanese capitalist at a time when public resentment was running high at the traitors who had sold out the whole country to the Japanese imperialists with the signing of a paper. That was why people took pleasure in talking about her as if she were a great war hero.
People respected her because she had helped the community a great deal. Even though she was rich, she did not seek personal glory; she led a simple life, eating frugal meals,\and donated her money unsparingly to society, money she had saved all her life. The money had been spent on building a bridge\and a public hall— the Pyongyang Public Hall—which still remains intact before the Ryongwang Pavilion.
A few days after I began school my grandfather brought me a bundle of fifth-year textbooks. In excitement I took them\and turned over the pages one after another. But, when I opened the textbook titled Mother-tongue Reader, I felt offended. It was a textbook of the Japanese language.
The Japanese imperialists forced our people to use the Japanese language in\order to make them the subjects of the Japanese emperor. As soon as they had occupied our country they proclaimed that the official language of the government\and public offices, courts\and schools would be Japanese,\and prohibited the Korean peoplerom using their own language.
I asked my grandfather why the Japanese language book was titled Mother-tongue Reader.
He merely heaved a sigh.
With a pocket- knife I scratched out the word Mother-tonguerom the title of the book\and wrote in its place the word Japanese. The Mother-tongue Reader became the Japanese Reader in an instant. My urge to resist Japan’s assimilation policy encouraged me to act with such resolution.
After I had been at the school for some days, I found a few children speaking Japanese in the classrooms, streets\and playgrounds. Some of them were even teaching Japanese to other children. Nobody seemed to feel ashamed of this\or criticized it. They seemed to think that our language was disappearing for ever with the country ruined.
Whenever I saw children trying to learn Japanese, I told them that Koreans must speak Korean.
The day I arrived in Chilgol after my return to the homelandrom Badaogou the villagers gathered at my mother’s maiden home to hear about the situation. They said they wanted to hear me speak Chinese as they thought I might speak it well after living for some years in Manchuria. Even children at Changdok School often pestered me to teach them Chinese. But I would refuse, asking them why we should speak a foreign language when we had our own excellent language.
Only once did I speak Chinese in the homeland.
One day my mother’s brother asked me to go sightseeing in the city with him. Because he was usually very busy he seldom went outings, but that day he managed to find time for me. Saying that as I had been away for a long time he would buy me lunch in the city that day, he took me to Pyongyang.
After touring the city we entered a Chinese restaurant in the western part of the city. In those days there were many Chinese restaurants in the area\where the Ponghwasan Hotel now stands.
In\order to earn more money the restaurant-keepers would come out to the door\and receive customers kindly, saying, “Welcome!” They vied with each other to attract guests.
The keeper of the restaurant we went to asked us in poor Korean what we would like to eat.
I\ordered in Chinese, for his convenience, two plates of Chinese pancakes.
Wide-eyed, he asked me if I was a Chinese pupil.
I said that, though not a Chinese pupil, I knew some Chinese because I had lived in Manchuria for some years. Then I chatted with him in Chinese for a while.
The restaurant-keeper was very glad to see me, a young boy who had a good command of Chinese. He said with tearful eyes that he was reminded of his homeland on seeing a pupilrom Manchuria.
He placed dishes we had not\ordered on the table as well as pancakes\and told us to eat plenty. We declined but, as he insisted, we ate everything. After our meal we tried to pay the bill, but he would not even take payment for the pancakes.
On our way home uncle said, laughing, “I took you to the city to give you a treat but instead you gave me a treat.” The whole village heard of this episode.
As I had hoped I joined the class of Mr. Kang Ryang Uk.
I had gone to stay at Chilgol not long after Mr. Kang left Sungsil School\and began teaching at Changdok School. He was very sorry to have left the middle school, but he was unable to pay his fees.
His family was so poor that his wife (Song Sok Jong) left him to stay at her maiden home for a while. It is said that her parents admonished her severely, saying, “You may not be a good wife in time of destitution for lack of grace, but how dare you abandon your husband because you are tired of poverty? How many households are there in Korea which are not as poor as his? Did you expect to eat rice with honeyed water sitting on a golden cushion after you married? Speak no more\and return to him at once\and apologize to him.” I do not think the reader will need further explanation to understand the situation of Mr. Kang’s family.
We called his wife “Sukchon auntie,” for she camerom Sukchon, South Phyongan Province. Whenever I went to his house “Sukchon auntie” would serve me with rice mixed with ground beans. I ate it with relish.
One day after liberation I went to Mr. Kang’s to wish him a happy birthday\and talked to his wife, recollecting what I ate in those days:
“Madam, on occasions I still recall the rice mixed with ground beans you would serve me in Chilgol. You can’t imagine how I enjoyed it. Having been awayrom the homeland for 20 years I could not thank you for it. Please accept my thanks today.”
To this, she replied with tearful eyes:
“My family was so poor that I served you only rice mixed with ground beans, not proper rice. But as you say you are grateful for that, I do not know what to say. Those meals were never tasty.”
Saying that she would make up for her poor treatment of me in my days at Changdok School, she served me with dishes she had cooked herself.
One year she sent me some wine called Paekhwaju, which she had distilled, to wish me a happy birthday. The name of the wine means distilledrom a hundred flowers.
The poetic name of the wine aroused my interest but I could not drink it with a light heart because the vision of her struggling against hunger with no proper meal of boiled rice, swam before my eyes.
For me who had felt to the marrow of my bones the misery of a ruined nation, a tree, a blade of grass\and a grain of rice in the homeland seemed many times more precious than they were before. Moreover, the teacher steadily inspired the pupils with national consciousness, so I was constantly under a patriotic influence at home\and at school. In those days he\organized picnics\and excursions frequently to inculcate patriotism in the pupils.
An excursion to Mt. Jongbang in Hwanghae Province was particularly noteworthy.
After liberation Kang Ryang Uk, as Secretary-General of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly\and Vice-President of the Republic, had many opportunities to meet me in connection with his work. We would recall with emotion the excursions we went on during our days at Changdok School\and how we had seen Songbul Temple\and Nammun Pavilion on Mt. Jongbang.
Another unforgettable event of those days was the music lessons he gave. His music lessons were particularly interesting, so we used to look forward to them.
He had a wonderful voice which sounded better than professional tenors. When that voice sang the Song of Advance\or the Song of the Young Patriot, the whole class listened with bated breath.
I think the melodies of the songs he taught us infused patriotic feelings into our minds. Later, when waging the anti-Japanese armed struggle, I would often sing those songs,\and I still remember their words\and melodies clearly.
Back in the homeland I found that the people were poorer than before.
When spring sowing began, the children of the very poor would be absentrom school, for they had not only to help in the farming but also to gather mulguji, pickpurse, the roots of bindweed\and other herbs to supplement their meals when the grain ran out. There were some boys who would go to the city on market days to sell wild vegetables to buy grain\and others would babysit at home for their parents. Childrenrom poor families would eat boiled sorghum, foxtail millet\or barnyard millet for lunch. Worse still, some had to skip lunch.
In Chilgol\and Mangyongdae there were many families that could not afford a school education for their children. It was a pity to see children cooped up in their homes with no access to schooling because they were so poor.
For such children I would\organize night classes whenever I went to Mangyongdae on holidays. I called them all to the class\and taught them. I began by teaching them the Korean alphabet with the Korean Reader\and then taught history, geography, arithmetic\and songs. It was simple enlightenment that I undertook for the first time in my life.
While visiting the city frequently with my friends, I came to realize that the citizens of Pyongyang were leading no better a life than the people of Mangyongdae\and Chilgol.
Of the 100,000 people living in Pyongyang only a small number of Japanese\and Americans were living well. The Americans in Sinyang-ri, the most beautiful part of Pyongyang, lived in luxury;\and the Japanese made their settlements in Ponjong\and Hwanggumjong, the most thriving places in Pyongyang,\and lived in clover.
In the “Westerners village” inhabited by Americans\and the Japanese settlers, brick houses, shops\and churches increased in number; on the other hand, in such places as the area along the River Pothong\and in Ppaengtae Street the slum quarters were getting bigger.
Now with the construction of such modern streets as Chollima, Kyonghung\and Ponghwa Streets\and of such large buildings as the People’s Palace of Culture, the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium, the Ice Rink, the Changgwang Health Complex\and skyscrapers, no evidence of old Pyongyang can be found, but when I was going to Changdok School, many small slum dwellings with straw-mat doors\and board roofing were huddled there.
In the year when I returned home, there was an epidemic in Pyongyang\and the surrounding area, torturing the people. To make matters worse, the whole city was sufferingrom flooding. Reporting the disaster caused by floods that year, Tong-A Ilbo said that about 10,000 houses,\or half the total number of houses in Pyongyang, had been submerged.
Today 105-storeyed Ryugyong Hotel, the tallest hotel in the world, is being built behind Pothonggang Square, but the younger generation will not be able to imagine the misery their grandfathers\and grandmothers suffered in small slums in the same place in those years.
While living through the miseries I came to aspire to a society\where the toiling masses could live happily\and harbour a bitter hatred for the Japanese imperialist aggressors, landlords\and capitalists.
When I was a pupil at Changdok School there were great earthquakes in the Kanto area of Japan,\and the news reached Chilgol, sparking the anger of my schoolmates. Rumour had it that Japan’s ultrarightists had instigated the army to massacre thousands of the Koreans living in Japan under the pretext that the Koreans, taking advantage of the earthquakes, were planning to revolt. This came as a great shock to me.
But it gave me a clearer understanding that Japan, even though she was preaching “impartiality”\and “Japan-Korea harmony,” despised Korean people, treating them as worse than beasts.
From that time I would not allow Japanese policemen on bicycles to pass with impunity. I would bury spiked boards in their way\and their tyres always went flat.
Feelings of hatred for the Japanese imperialists\and of love for our motherland were reflected in the musical play Thirteen Houses we produced. In this play thirteen pupils appeared on the stage\and sang\and danced while assemblying a map of Korea, each pupil taking a map of cardboard of each of the 13 provinces of Korea.
We staged this musical at a school athletics meeting in the autumn of 1924. In the middle of the performance a policeman appeared in the playground\and\ordered us to stop at once. In those days holding a small-scale athletics meeting required approvalrom the police,\and even an approved event had to have police surveillance.
I met my teacher, Kang Ryang Uk,\and said, “What is wrong in our loving our motherland\and singing\and dancing in praise of it?” I insisted that we continue our performance, come what may.
He, with the other teachers, protested against the unjustifiable conduct of the policeman\and told us to continue the performance. Since we primary schoolchildren had such a high spirit of patriotism\and resistance, is there any need to say more about the adults’ spirit?
In the summer of the year when I returned to the homeland a general strike broke out in the Pyongyang Hosiery Factory. The newspapers gave front page headlines to this event. At the news, I thought, even though Japan was advertizing her deceptive “civil government,” she would sooner\or later have to face resistance greater than the March First Popular Uprising.
Thus I spent two years. One day a few months before I left school I heardrom my mother’s father that my father had been arrested again by the Japanese police. This was a great shock. I felt a terrible anger\and hatred for the enemy. The distressed people of Chilgol\and Mangyongdae seemed to examine my face.
I made preparations for a journey with a determination to fight at the risk of my life to take revenge on the enemy of my father, my family\and my nation.
When I said I would go to Badaogou, my mother’s family advised me to go after finishing at school. My grandfather at Mangyongdae also tried to dissuade me, saying that I should wait a few months until I had finished school\and the weather was warmer.
But I could not wait. I thought: How can I study here when misfortune has befallen my father?; I must go at once to help mother with her young sons; I must do my bit\wherever it means going.
Knowing that he could not dissuade me, grandfather relented\and said that I should do as I was determined\and that it was up to me now that my father was behind bars.
The next day the family saw me off. The whole family wept— grandfather, grandmother\and my uncle. My mother’s younger brother (Kang Chang Sok) who came to Pyongyang Station to see me off\and Kang Yun Bom, my classmaterom Chilgol, also wept in sadness.
My most intimate friend at Changdok School was Kang Yun Bom. He had no one to whom he could open his heart, so he would come to see me frequently. We would often go to the city together.
When the time came for the train to depart he gave me some boiled rice in a packet\and an envelope. He told me that as he was not sure when he would see me again, he had jotted down a few words for me to read on the train. I opened the envelope after the train had left. In it were a short letter\and 3 won. I was very moved by the letter\and money. No one without a good heart could be so considerate towards his friend. In those days it was not easy for a boy to obtain 3 won. Even though I had started out on the journey, determined to avenge my father, money was a serious problem. He saved merom many difficulties.
It seemed that he had had a great deal of difficulty in getting the money. He came to see me after liberation. The first thing I told him was how grateful I had been for the money 20 years before, to which he confessed that he had had great difficulty in obtaining it. That money was more precious to me than millions of won to a rich man. What can compare with all the pure\and beautiful feelings of friendship that produced that 3 won? Money cannot buy friendship, but friendship can produce money\and everything else.
He said that while I had been fighting in the mountains to liberate the country, he had done nothing in particular. I said that we should combine our efforts\and build a new country,\and that the shortage of cadres was an obstacle to nation-building. I asked him if he could do his bit by helping to build schools. He readily agreed. After a short time he had set up a school in Jochon\and asked me to give it a name. I named the school Samhung Middle School. Samhung means the thriving of knowledge, morality\and physique. In other words, it meant that the school should train its pupils to be knowledgeable, morally sound\and physically strong.
Afterwards he took charge of the setting up of a university. These days building a university is no great problem, but there were many difficulties at that time because we had neither funds, building materials nor skilled builders. Whenever he had a problem with his work he would come to see me\and discuss the problems with me throughout the night, staying in my house.
Kang Yun Bom was an unforgettable comrade\and friend who saw me off on my way to national liberation. I still remember him as he saw me off in tears at Pyongyang Station that day. The letter he gave me read: Dear Song Ju, when parting with you I cannot keep back my tears. When shall we meet again after this parting? Let us remember our days at Changdok School even if a vast distance lies between us. Let us remember our home town\and our motherland.
Encouraged by his friendship\and moral support, I again negotiated one steep pass after another. In the evening of the thirteenth day after my departurerom Mangyongdae I arrived at Phophyong. Having reached the ferry I hesitated to cross the Amnok; I walked the bank of the river restlessly. The mountains\and rivers of my motherland held me backrom crossing over to Badaogou.
I was held back by a vision of my grandmother\and grandfather who had seen me off at our brushwood gate, weeping, stroking my hands, adjusting my dress,\and worrying about possible snowstorms. I felt I could not hold back the tears that welled up if I crossed that river.\and, looking back at my motherland in misery at the bleak border I could scarcely suppress the impulse to rush back to my home town, to the house\where I was born.
I had spent only two years back in my motherland, but I had learned\and experienced much in those years. My most valuable experience was to have acquired a deep understanding of our people. Our people were simple,\and industrious yet brave\and strong-willed. They were staunch people who did not yield, whatever the adversity\or hardship; they were polite\and kindhearted\and yet resolute\and uncompromising against injustice. When the national reformists were conducting the reactionary “autonomy” campaign in the name of the “Yonjong Association,” the popular masses, particularly the workers, peasants, young people\and students, were shedding their blood in resistance to the Japanese imperialists.rom the image of them I felt an undaunted sense of national dignity\and unbreakable spirit of independence.rom that time I believed that our people were the greatest in the world\and that I could liberate the country if I\organized their efforts properly.
While seeing the Japanese army\and the number of police\and prisons increasing with each passing day behind the screen of “civil government”\and looking at the waggons\and cargo ships carrying the wealth plunderedrom our nation, I formed the clear understanding that Japanese imperialism was the most heinous destroyer of the liberty\and dignity of our people\and a vicious aggressor\and plunderer imposing unbearable poverty\and hunger upon our people.
The oppressive situation in the motherland gave me a firmer belief that only through a struggle would the Korean nation be able to drive out the Japanese imperialists\and live in happiness in a liberated country. My desire to liberate my country as quickly as possible\and turn everything into ours, into Korea’s, burned in my heart.
I walked a little way downrom the ferry to the rapids to evade police observation\and set foot on the frozen river. Across the river, which was only 34 metres wide, was the town of Badaogou\and my house which was in the street near the river bank. But I hesitated again, obsessed by the uncertainty of whether I would ever cross back to my homeland to which I was going to bid farewell.