In the autumn of 1929 Kukmin-bu held a meeting in Wangqingmen, Xingjing County, in\order to merge the General Federation of Korean Youth in East Manchuria\and the General Federation of Korean Youth in South Manchuria. This meeting was known as the Conference of the General Federation of Korean Youth in South Manchuria.
In the belief that the dispersion of the youth movement should be prevented\and unified guidance ensured in the movement in view of the situation in which the three “bu”\organizations had been merged, the leaders of Kukmin-bu sponsored this meeting in an attempt to form a single\organization called the Youth League of Korea. They tried, through this meeting, to prevent the infiltration of a new ideological trend into the youth\organizations\and to bring all the Korean youth\organizations in Manchuria under their control.
As we were independent of such youth\organizations, we had nothing to do with that conference. But we could not leave this meeting exclusively in the hands of Kukmin-bu. Because the two Korean youth\organizations in east\and south Manchuria were greatly influenced by the factionalists, their internal disputes were extremely severe. A slight provocation in this meeting might aggravate such disputes\and lead them to greater division.
We thought it necessary to take part in this conference on our own initiative in\order to prevent the young peoplerom being divided\and to exercise a positive influence on the representatives of the youth\organizations.
I decided to participate in this conference as a representative of the Paeksan Youth League\and left Jilin with Kim Sa Hon, who was going to Wangqingmen to attend a meeting of the Korean Revolutionary Party. He paid my travel expenses. The Korean Revolutionary Party was a party formed by the Independence Army leaders on the basis of the charter of Kukmin-bu after it had been established. The nationalists called Kukmin-bu an autonomous administrative body\and the revolutionary party the one\and only party of the nation to guide the nationalist camp as a whole, but this party was merely Kukmin-bu in another form.
I had intended to go directly to Wangqingmen, but I changed my plan because I wanted to see Kim Hyok, Cha Kwang Su\and Choe Chang Gol on my way. So I passed through Liuhe County\where they were working. They had been working well, expanding the\organizations of the Anti- Imperialist Youth League in Liuhe\and the surrounding area. Cha Kwang Su had\organized a special course at Tongsong School in Gushanzi\and there trained some communists. A special course was advertised there, but really it was an institute of social sciences. A branch of the AIYL worked in this institute. They\organized such institutes not only in Gushanzi but also in several of the rural communities in south Manchuria, educating many young people\and enlisting them in the\organizations of the YCLK\and the AIYL.
It was not until I had gone there that I realized that my comrades working in Liuhe had achieved a greater success than they had reported. When I left Liuhe after finishing my business there, Cha followed me, saying that he would not feel easy if I went alone as the leadership of Kukmin-bu were so watchful over the movements of young sympathizers with communism. When we arrived in Wangqingmen, the representatives of the Jilin Youth League, the Kilhoe Youth League\and the Samgakju Youth League\and other youth\organizations were already there.
On my arrival I called on Hyon Muk Kwan. Hyon had left Jilin after the formation of Kukmin-bu\and was staying in Wangqingmen. He told me that the headquarters of Kukmin-bu was expecting a great dealrom me, so I should play a major role in the conference. He hoped that I would stay at his house during the conference,\and discuss with him the future of the youth movement.
I was grateful for his kindness, but I declined his offer\and instead put up at the house of Kang Hong Rak, a distant relative of mine on my mother’s side. Hyon’s house was so frequented by the members of the preparatory committee for the conference that I decided that staying there was not a good idea for me.
An intellectual belonging to the Leftist group of the nationalists, Kang Hong Rak was teaching at Hwahung Middle School. Hwahung School, like Taesong Middle School in east Manchuria, taught nationalist ideas for the Independence Army. No matter how hard it tried to imbue its students with nationalism, it could only produce communists. The form of its education was nationalistic\whereas its content was communistic.
O Sin Ae, Kang’s wife, was a modern woman with a beautiful face. She sang so well that members of the\organizations in south Manchuria called her the “nightingale” instead of using her real name.
Before the conference Kukmin-bu held a preliminary meeting attended by the representatives of the youth\organizationsrom various areas\and elected the members of the preparatory committee for the conference. Several of our comrades, including Choe Pong, were involved in the committee. I had become acquainted with Choe at Hwasong Uisuk School. In those days, as a leadership member of the General Federation of Korean Youth in South Manchuria, he would make speeches as he travelled around the Korean settlements. His speeches were popular at Hwasong Uisuk School, too. He was very clever, well-prepared theoretically\and also enterprising. Later he became friendly with me\and inclined towards communism.
I was also elected a member of the preparatory committee. The members held serious discussions\and drew up a draft resolution for the conference which everyone would be able to accept readily. Other documents, too, were prepared as we intended.
From the day after my arrival I worked among the youth representatives. As the first part of this work I held a meeting of a few youth\organizations in the playground of Hwahung Middle School. I used this opportunity to get to know them\and influence them. If they were not warned, they might be ideologically affected by the leadership of Kukmin- bu. At this meeting I emphasized that Korean young people must unite in ideology\and purpose to achieve true cohesion in their movement,\and such cohesion must be based on the new, progressive thought.
Apparently my speech was brought to the notice of the Kukmin-bu leadership a short time later. Kim Ri Gap informed me of the fact that they had become nervous\and were watching my activities. So it was natural that Cha had been worried about me when I was leaving Liuhe.
Kim Ri Gap, one of the first members of the DIU, stayed at the house of Chon Kyong Suk, his fiancee, not farrom Wangqingmen, after Hwasong Uisuk School had been closed,\and he was making this area revolutionary. He was a man of courage\and with a strong drive; he did his work boldly. It was not easy to infuse communism into people in the area\where nationalists shouted anti-communist slogans whenever they had the chance.
He was staying in Wangqingmen to attend the conference as an observer. The day after I made a speech at the school he called on me\and invited me to dinner at his fiancee’s house. He said he wanted to share past experiences with me, but in fact his aim was to inform me of the attitude of Kukmin-bu. He told me that the people of Kukmin-bu were plotting to arrest all the members of the preparatory committee. He said that I had better escape as soon as possible before they started the arrests\and expressed his intention to leave Wangqingmen that night if the situation got worse. Hyon Muk Kwan, he said, had proclaimed to the Kukmin-bu cadres that Song Ju had a different idea, so they should end their relation with him.
I, however, did not hurry to escape, as I thought that they would not dare to arrest me who had done nothing against Kukmin-bu. It was unreasonable for Hyon to accuse me because of my communist propaganda. All the nationalists in Jilin knew that I had joined the communist movement. Of course, Hyon must have known this because I had stayed at his house for a while. So, why was he trying to arrest me now? We had not advocated the overthrow of Kukmin-bu; we had only appealed for the unity of all the Korean young people on the basis of the new idea. This was no reason for persecution.
I was determined to negotiate with the Kukmin-bu cadres if necessary. After I had returned to Kang Hong Rak’s house, his wife O Sin Ae came home\and told me more unhappy news, that the soldiers of Kukmin-bu had already arrested some members of the preparatory committee, including Choe Pong. She said that I had better escape as soon as possible because I was one of those for whom they were searching.
I could hardly control my surging indignation. Since the first day of our stay in Wangqingmen we had tried our best to make the conference an important occasion for forming a united front with the nationalists. The draft resolution of the conference stated this aim. This notwithstanding, the leadership of Kukmin-bu was answering our sincerity with terrorism.
I made up my mind to see Ko I Ho who was in charge of youth affairs in Kukmin-bu\and talk to him. On hearing of what Kukmin-bu was doing, Cha Kwang Su had come to Kang Hong Rak’s house with some members of the AIYL. They insisted that the members of the preparatory committee, the objects of the attack, should leave Wangqingmen before anyone else.
However, I could not escape simply because I was in danger. I thought: Now that our aim cannot be attained through this conference, the only method remaining is to hold talks with the terrorists of Kukmin-bu\and clarify our just stand. We must open our minds to them\and have a heart-to -heart talk with them in\order to cooperate with them. Threatening as the atmosphere is, it is a golden opportunity. Someone had to go to rescue our comrades who were under arrest. I was the someone.
After talking to my comrades, I entrusted Cha with future affairs,\and went to see Ko I Ho. Ko was the most conservative of all those in the conservative group in Kukmin-bu. He was known as a “theoretician” in the nationalist camp. When I entered his room, he was so embarrassed that he could not speak. He had never thought I would come to see him. I asked him outright why they had arrested Choe Pong\and other members of the preparatory committee. With an air of innocence he replied that they were looking for them. I became more indignant at his inconsistent behaviour, but I tried to talk to him with composure.
“Kukmin-bu convened this conference for the sake of the unity of the youth movement, but you have arrested the representatives, frightened by the draft resolution, even before listening to their opinions. That is reckless\and arbitrary behaviour. I was told that you arrested them because you were not happy with the conference memoranda. So please tell me which item you are unhappy with. They are all drafts so they can be amended. Since you are the sponsors of the conference, you should discuss with the young people on the items you do not agree with. How can people imbibe new thoughts\and train themselves into staunch anti-Japanese fighters when you are arresting innocent people?”
Ko repeated that he was sorry that some young people were going to the extreme\and that, of arresting people, he did not know anything about it.
I went on to say: “Since you were once engaged in the student movement in Seoul\and tried to go to the Soviet\union to shelterrom the Japanese police, you must have a good understanding of the communist idea\and to what extent it is disseminated across the world. None of those who are willing to conduct the revolution is ignorant of communism. Take me for example. I attended Hwasong Uisuk School established by the independence fighters\and stayed at the houses of the leaders of the Independence Army for three years in Jilin. Yet I did not follow the road of nationalism, but joined in the communist movement. We young people adhere to the new thought because we have the firm conviction that the communist ideal will hasten the liberation of the motherland\and bring happiness to our nation in the future. You, a man who is fighting for the independence of the country, how dare you arrest the young people who are struggling for the bright future of the country\and nation, instead of helping them?”
I said in earnest that they should not persecute the young people who aspired after the new thought, but wage a joint struggle against the Japanese hand in hand with them. To tell the truth, the General Federation of Korean Youth in South Manchuria itself could not maintain its existence without young communists.
Sneering at what I said Ko stated that Kukmin-bu would rather abandon the federation than hand it over to the communists. When I asked him why, he took as an example the raid made on the nationalists in Panshi by a terrorist gang known as Cudgel that had been formed by the factionalists of the M-L group. He said sarcastically that they could not join hands with such people.
We had also been aware that, in an attempt to throw out nationalists, some of thoserom the M-L group had made a false report to the Kuomintang police that the Korean independence campaigners were plotting a rebellion in the area around Sanyuanpu in the summer of 1929. They were displeased with us who advocated the united front with the nationalists\and went so far as to mobilize the Cudgel gang to attack the cadres of the AIYL. Because of the violence of this gang, the members of the AIYL in Liuhe\and its vicinity had to work under the escort of an armed group led by Choe Chang Gol.
I explained to Ko that we were totally differentrom such factionalists. I emphasized that he should not judge us together because they were social scum who were fighting with anyone, whether they were nationalists\or our comrades\and, worse still, fighting among themselves in factions.
However, Ko would not accept my sincere opinion. So I warned him, “If you are so stubborn as to dampen the spirit of the young people, you will leave an indelible mark in the pages of history. You may arrest\or kill a few people, but you cannot restrain the thoughts of young people who aspire after communism. So, if you want to, kill me. I am ready to die.”
I thought he might have been affected by my words, but he became more contradictory. At the very night the leaders of Kukmin-bu summoned the Independence Army unit stationed at Wangqingmen\and tried to arrest us.
In\order to prevent any bloodshed, I sent Cha Kwang Su back to Sanyuanpu immediately. There was the danger of the leadership of Kukmin-bu laying their hands on our comrades in Liuhe County. I instructed the YCLK\and the AIYL members gathered there for the conference to leave Wangqingmen that night. I proposed to them that, as Kukmin-bu had called a conference of the General Federation of Korean Youth in South Manchuria\and persecuted the progressive young people, we should break awayrom the conference\and expose their terrorism by making a written protest.
As a consequence, the conference broke up.
I made up my mind to leave Wangqingmen.
Some comrades proposed that we should go to Sanyuanpu, Liuhe County,\where Choe Chang Gol was working,\and draw up a letter of protest there\and send it to various parts of Manchuria before holding a conference of our own. However, it was risky to go to Sanyuanpu\where the Independence Army held sway. I hesitated for a while over\where to go, Sanyuanpu\or Lingjie, before deciding to go to the latter. Our next step could be discussed there. I planned to go to Jilin after resting at Lingjie\and, if the situation in Jilin was not favourable, to go to Fusong\and guide the mass\organizations until the whirlwind of terrorism of Kukmin-bu had calmed down.
That night I went to Kang Hong Rak’s house\and told him, “I may be arrested if I sleep here. I am going to Lingjie. Will you please lend me some money for my journey?”
Heaving a sigh, he said in worry, “How can you escape along a strange road?”
“If I run 20 miles along the road, I will be all right. Don’t worry.”
I said that I would be safe for a while in Lingjie for a comrade of minerom Wenguang Middle School who was working in our\organization was there. Then, somewhat relieved, Kang\and his wife gave me some food\and a few bars of toffee wrapped up that I could eat on my way. My comraderom Wenguang Middle School was Sin Yong Gun, who was working as the schoolmaster at Hanhung School in Lingjie.
I arrived at Lingjie towards lunchtime the next day. Some girl students studying in the advanced course of Hanhung School looked after me. Sin’s fiancee, An Sin Yong, who had been working as a member of the AIYL in Jiangdong\and was now studying at this school, cooked with her friends green-bean jelly\and cold soup for my lunch. I still remember how tasty that lunch was.
After lunch I took stock of the situation at the school, despite my fatigue. Then, I fell asleep because I was deadly tired after walking 20 miles throughout the night. Later I was told that Sin did not ring the school bell so as not to interrupt my sleep,\and beckoned the pupils at play one by one to start their lessons.
During my stay in Lingjie I was informed that the Kukmin- bu people had executed the members of the preparatory committee of the conference they had arrested. They executed six promising young people—Choe Pong, Ri Thae Hui, Ji Un San, Ri Mong Ryol, Ri Kwang Son\and Jo Hui Yon—in a valley at Wangqingmen. They were all in their early twenties. At the last, the six young people accused Kukmin-bu, saying, “We are always ready to die for the working masses. But it is deplorable that we are killed at your hands.” They sang the Revolutionary Song\and shouted, “Long live the victory of the revolution!”
Afterwards the terrorists of Kukmin -bu schemed to arrest\and kill all the families of those six people. Ko murdered even O Sin Ae who had informed me of their sinister plot.
With tears in our eyes, we wrote a letter of protest in Lingjie denouncing the criminal acts of the Kukmin-bu leadership. We had this letter mimeographed in Sanyuanpu\where Choe Chang Gol was active\and published there. We also sent copies of it to the revolutionary\organizations in other regions for them to hold protest meetings. The letter of protest denounced Kukmin-bu which had massacred the vanguard of the young masses merely because they were communists, as a profit-making\organization\and a den of murderous conspirators of a few counterrevolutionaries, as well as a gang of traitors, no differentrom Jiang Jie-shi’s soldiers who had slaughtered the workers\and peasants of China.
After issuing this letter the communists of the new generation came into direct confrontation with Kukmin-bu. Whenever they met our comrades the Kukmin-bu terrorists would slay them without reason. We lost a lot of fine young people in those days. Thus we came to bear an inveterate enmity for Kukmin-bu.
After the Wangqingmen incident I felt my heart rent,\and I could not sleep for several days. I felt deeply resentful that our comrades who had set out on the road of revolution to liberate the country had become the victims of those with the same blood.
Since the day of the foundation of the DIU we had made strenuous efforts to fight alongside the nationalists. When we realized that An Chang Ho’s idea was reformistic, we criticized his way of thinking, but when he was arrested, we did not hesitate to fight for his release. When the meeting to merge the three\organizations had dragged on because of their scrambling for supremacy, we warned the nationalists in a play which showed our sincerity for the unity of the patriotic forces. When the independence\organizations had been merged into Kukmin-bu, we were delighted\and welcomed it.
Nevertheless, the leadership of Kukmin-bu answered our sincerity with brutal atrocities.
At that time in Lingjie I recalled the old man, Cha Cholli, who had said, “The Korean people, even if three of them get together, must unite to fight against the Japanese imperialists.” Many independence fighters had cried out for unity. The popular masses expected all the patriots to join hands irrespective of ideology, affiliation\and religious belief\and rise in the anti-Japanese struggle in unity. However, the Kukmin-bu terrorists had trampled upon these expectations.
Whenever I recall the tragedy at Wangqingmen, it makes my blood run cold, as it did on the day of the bloody massacre.\and whenever I look back on the tragedy, I think that such a merciless, nonsensical massacre should never be tolerated again by our nation. I am sure that Ko I Ho\and Hyon Muk Kwan, if they were still alive, would think as I do. Hyon, though he was on good terms with me, could not follow the road I was following because of our differences in ideals,\and was later killed by terrorists in Changxi. In the long run, he also became a victim of terrorism. The letter his daughter Hyon Suk Ja wrote to her mother at the Pando Hotel in Seoul after returning home with the members of the Shanghai Provisional Government after liberation, is now in the Party History Institute. Her sons\and daughters are now living in happiness in the northern part of their divided country.
The history of the national liberation struggle of Korea proved that the road communists had been following was a truly patriotic road\and that the communists were faithful, steadfast patriots who cherished an ardent love for their motherland\and people.
Whenever I feel that unity is the lifeblood of the nation, in view of the present division of the country\and intolerable foreign interference, I recall the tragedy at Wangqingmen.