The building of a party\organization put forward as an important task at the Kalun Meeting was started with the formation of the Society for Rallying Comrades, the first party\organization. But we could not rest content with this. Ahead of us lay the difficult task of making rapid preparations for an armed struggle. As the first step by way of preparation for an armed struggle we formed the Korean Revolutionary Army at Guyushu. In founding a temporary political\and paramilitary\organization such as the Korean Revolutionary Army while planning to form standing revolutionary armed forces within a year\or two, our intention was to prepare ourselves for the building of a large guerrilla force through the army’s operations. We intended to lay a mass foundation for an armed struggle\and gain the necessary experience for it in the course of the political\and military activities of the Korean Revolutionary Army. The fact was, we had little of the knowledge we would need for the armed struggle. Our armed struggle would have to be conducted not in our own land but on the territory of a foreign country,\and we needed appropriate experience. But there was no military manual\or experience for us to learnrom. All we had as resources was some peoplerom the Independence Army, a small number of former cadets of Hwasong Uisuk School\and a few pistols. Beyond this we had nothing. We had to secure our own arms\and accumulate military experience for ourselves.
We formed the Korean Revolutionary Army as a temporary setup in\order to attain this goal. At Guyushu Kim Won U\and Ri Jong Rak made preparations for founding the Revolutionary Army initially\and then, later, Cha Kwang Su was sent to complete the preparations. Such preparations were promoted extensively in many places. The main aspect of the preparations was to\select young people as recruits\and obtain arms. As a guideline for gaining people\and arms we set good work with the soldiers of the Independence Army\and the winning over of sensible people who fell in with progressive ideas. If many ex-soldiers joined the Revolutionary Army, they could form its first teaching staff so that it would be quite possible to train those young people who were novices in military affairs. That was why our comrades did a great deal of work among the Independence Army men under the influence of the Kukmin-bu\organization. It was our policy to persuade\and win over to our camp the progressive-minded men of the Independence Army\and enlist them in the Revolutionary Army when they were fully prepared ideologically.
In this period the Kukmin-bu\organization was still divided into two groups—the pro-Kukmin-bu\and anti-Kukmin-bu factions—and the struggle for power continued. The pro-Kukmin-bu faction had control over the Korean residents in Manchuria\and the anti-Kukmin-bu faction held sway over the Independence Army. This led in the end to an estrangement between the people\and the army. In the summer of 1930 the antagonism between the two factions developed into terrorist activity to assassinate the cadres of the other side,\and this resulted in a complete rupture between the two forces. This being the situation, not only the rank\and file but also the platoon leaders\and company commanders looked upon the people of the highest levels with distrust\and would not readily obey their\orders. They were more willing to listen to our operatives.
Cha Kwang Su conducted his work with the soldiers of the Independence Army in the Tonghua, Huinan\and Guanxi areas,\and Ri Jong Rak educated his men at Guyushu in preparation for their enlistment in the Revolutionary Army. Ri Jong Rak had\originally belonged to the first company of the Independence Army under the control of Jongui-bu at Guyushu before coming to Hwasong Uisuk School,\where he joined the Down-with-Imperialism\union. The cadets at the school who camerom the first company with Ri Jong Rak included Pak Cha Sok, Pak Kun Won, Pak Pyong Hwa, Ri Sun Ho\and many other young men. After the school had closed, Ri Jong Rak returned to his old company at Guyushu\and was appointed its deputy commander\and then commander. In those days, unlike now, the strength of the army was quite small, so the company counted for a great deal as an armed force. Even the Kukmin-bu machinery, which was regarded as the most powerful of all Korean\organizations in Manchuria, had only nine companies under it. Naturally, therefore, a company commander was highly respected among the Independence Army soldiers. At Guyushu Ri Jong Rak enjoyed great prestige.
As Kim Hyok, Cha Kwang Su\and Pak So Sim conducted revolutionary activities vigorously under the protection of the Independence Army force controlled by Choe Chang Gol in the Liuhe area in the years 1928-29, so our comrades dispatched to Guyushu worked under the protection of the Independence Army unit commanded by Ri Jong Rak. Ri Jong Rak still had a very strong will\and was extremely enthusiastic about the revolution. After Hwasong Uisuk School was closed down, he returned to his old company\and acquitted himself well in the assignment I had given him in Huadian to work efficiently with the Independence Army men. He was daring, resolute, quick of judgement\and had great ability to command. On the other hand he lacked cool reason\and thinking power. He was rash, hot-tempered\and self-opinionated. These I think were his chief faults which in later days led him to betray the revolution.
Certain people said that since the Independence Army’s line of command was in disorder\and there was great confusion within it, the companies scattered in different areas should be disarmed\and the reactionaries of Kukmin-bu purged. They insisted that the mantle of the Independence Army be thrown off\and operations conducted openly, arms procured\and a showdown be had with the Kukmin- bu\organization. We strictly guarded against such a tendency, so as to avoid a Left error being committed in work with the Independence Army.
My uncle Hyong Gwon formed two operational groups\and went to the Changbai area. He set up his base of operations on the mountain behind Zhiyangjie\and formed branch\organizations of the Paeksan Youth League, Peasants\union, Anti-Japanese Women’s Association\and Children’s Expeditionary Corps throughout Changbai in\order to obtain weapons\and awaken the people politically. Young people in the area were drawn into these\organizations\and given military training. Through the efforts of uncle Hyong Gwon the Independence Army forces in the Changbai region came under our influence.
In parallel with the work of\selecting new recruits\and creating military reserves, activities to obtain weapons continued at full pace. In the procurement of arms, the greatest feat was performed by Choe Hyo Il. Choe was a salesman in a Japanese guns shop in Tieling. At the time many Japanese dealt in firearms in Manchuria. They sold guns both to bandits\and to Chinese landlords. Choe Hyo Il was a young man with only a primary school education, but he was proficient in Japanese. When he spoke it, he was so fluent that nobody could tell if he was a Korean\or a Japanese. Because he was too bright for a shop-assistant\and because he spoke Japanese so well, the owner of the shop put great trust in him.
The man who won him over to our cause was Jang So Bong. When we were working to establish a base in Kalun, Jang So Bong moved about the areas of Changchun, Tieling\and Gongzhuling\and, by chance, made the acquaintance of Choe Hyo Il. Having met him several times, he realized that Choe was a faithful\and upright man. He drew him into the membership of the Anti-Imperialist Youth League\and introduced him to Ri Jong Rak.rom that time on Choe Hyo Il conducted activities among our enemies in Tieling. Maintaining contact with Ri Jong Rak, he secretly sold weapons to the companies of the Independence Army. Although the owner of the shop knew that the weapons sold by Choe Hyo Il were going to Koreans, he was so eager to boost his sales that he showed no signs of knowing about it. At first he sold weapons to the Chinese\and then to the Independence Army men but, in the end, turned the Japanese shop in Tieling into something of an exclusive shop for supplying\and delivering weapons to the communists. In the process of this his world view changed beyond recognition. Every time Ri Jong Rak\and Jang So Bong met me, they boasted that they had taken in a fine young man in Tieling. So inwardly I came to entertain great expectations of Choe Hyo Il.
In 1928\or 1929 Choe came to Jilin to see me. I found him handsome, with the fair complexion of a young girl. Nevertheless, despite his looks, he was a heavy drinker. According to the criterion of a revolutionary, this was something of a drawback. We dined together\and talked for many hours in a hotel. When he, imitating the insinuating voice of a Japanese “madam,” told me some scandal about the emperor\and high-ranking military\and political figures of Japan\and the five quisling ministers of Korea, I held my sides with laughter. He had a wife of rare beauty\and was looked on with envy by others, but he was carefree\and quite indifferent to the comforts of home. For all this, he was amazingly bold\and strong -willed in the revolutionary struggle, which belied his fair, girlish features. It was on the eve of the Kalun Meeting that he fled to Guyushu with his wife, bringing ten\or so firearms along with himrom the Japanese shop. He was given a hearty welcome because he had come when we were busy preparing for the formation of a small military\and political\organization as a temporary step towards building a permanent revolutionary armed force.
We realized through reports made by our comrades that everything was ready for founding the Revolutionary Army. When I arrived in Guyushu I found that the list of names of the men\selected for the army\and the necessary weapons were all in\order\and that even the site for the ceremony of founding the army\and the names of those attending the ceremony had been decided.
The ceremony of founding the Korean Revolutionary Army took place in the yard of Samgwang School on July 6, 1930. Before distributing the arms I made a brief speech. I made it clear that the Korean Revolutionary Army was a political\and paramilitary\organization of the Korean communists formed in preparation for launching an anti-Japanese armed struggle\and announced that it would serve as the basis for building a permanent revolutionary armed force in the future. The basic mission of the Korean Revolutionary Army was to enlighten\and awaken the masses of the people in towns\and farm villages\and unite them under the banner of anti-Japanese resistance\and, at the same time, to gain experiences in the armed struggle\and prepare for the formation of fully-fledged armed forces in the future. In the speech I set out the immediate tasks of the army—to build up a backbone to serve as the basis for the formation of anti-Japanese armed units in the future, to lay a mass foundation for the revolutionary army to rely on,\and to make full military preparations for starting an armed struggle.
We formed many units under the Korean Revolutionary Army, calling them by number. On my recommendation Ri Jong Rak, who was a veteran of military affairs\and had great leadership ability, was appointed commander of the Korean Revolutionary Army.
Some historians confuse the Korean Revolutionary Army created by Kukmin-bu with the military\organization of the same name we founded at Guyushu. They have good reason to do so because many of the members of the former were admitted to our Revolutionary Army. The two military\organizations had the same name but differed in their guiding idea\and mission. The Korean Revolutionary Army produced by the Kukmin-bu setup had no real identity because its name\and commanders were changed often due to the continued antagonism\and disputes in its practical activities, which was a reflection of its internal conflicts. But our Korean Revolutionary Army was a political, paramilitary\organization guided by the communist idea which engaged in both mass political work\and military activities.
When we founded the Korean Revolutionary Army, we debated a great deal over its name. Because it was the first armed force\organized by the Korean communists, its name should have the flavour of something new, we said\and discussed the matter heatedly. Various proposals were made.
I persuaded them to call our armed force the Korean Revolutionary Army, adopting the name of the army of Kukmin-bu. I told them that when forming the Down-with-Imperialism\union we had named it without using words suggestive of communism in\order not to irritate the nationalists,\and that if the army we were founding should assume the cover of the Korean Revolutionary Army, it would not offend the nationalists\and would be convenient for it to operate. The name the Korean Revolutionary Army benefitted our force in many ways in its later activities.
After its formation the Korean Revolutionary Army was\organized into many groups\and these groups were dispatched to various areas. A few groups were sent into the homeland. When we sent them into Korea, we wanted to lay the mass foundation for an armed struggle\and step up the revolutionary struggle at home while at the same time aiming to test the feasibility of an armed struggle in the homeland.
We decided to form an operational group to work in the homeland with Ri Je U, Kong Yong, Pak Jin Yong\and others who had been absent at the foundation ceremony of the Korean Revolutionary Army\and to assign it the task of forming revolutionary\organizations among the broad masses by going to North Phyongan Province by way of Singalpha\and the Rangnim Mountains. Ri Je U was to lead the group. In 1928 we gave instructions to those who were operating in the areas of Fusong\and Naidaoshan to move their operational base to the Changbai area\where there were many Koreans. On these instructions Ri Je U moved to the Changbai area\where he\organized people\and conducted activities for the political enlightenment of the masses, going deep into the homeland.
We decided to send into the homeland another operational group headed by my uncle Hyong Gwon\and consisting of Choe Hyo Il, Pak Cha Sok\and another. The task of this group was to cross the River Amnok at Changbai\and advance almost as far as Pyongyang, going via Phungsan, Tanchon\and Hamhung. The inclusion of Pak Cha Sok in this group was due to uncle Hyong Gwon’s friendship with him. He had been engaged in underground activities while working as a teacher in the rural areas outside Jilin until the winter of 1928 when he took part in forming revolutionary\organizations in the Fusong area together with Kye Yong Chun\and Ko Il Bong. At that time Pak Cha Sok became a bosom friend of my uncle. When he heard that my uncle was going into the homeland, Pak insisted on going with him. Understanding his feelings, we readily granted his request. The members of the Korean Revolutionary Army who had left for their appointed areas of activity conducted their operations fearlessly everywhere.
There was a man by the name of Hyon Tae Hong among the members of the Korean Revolutionary Army who were working in the Sipingjie\and Gongzhuling areas. He was arrested while working among the masses in Sipingjie\and taken to Changchun. At the moment of his arrest he handed over his weapon to his comrade unnoticed. The police tortured him brutally to get him to tell them\where he had concealed his weapon. Hyon Tae Hong mentioned the name of a railway station\and “confessed” that he had buried it under an aspen tree near the station. He was seeking a chance to escape. Pleased to hear this, the police took him by train to\where he said he had buried his pistol. While the train was moving Hyon knocked down the two policemen escorting him with his handcuffs\and jumped off the train. Then he crawled on all fours using his elbows\and knees\and returned to his revolutionary\organization in Kalun. His comrades in Kalun released himrom the handcuffs by using a file. Even after undergoing this dreadful\ordeal, he went to Gongzhuling as soon as he was restored to health\and continued to work, only to be caught again, this time by the Japanese police. Gongzhuling was a leased territory wrestedrom China by the Japanese imperialists, so it was under the jurisdiction of the Japanese. He fought bravely in the court, too. He was sentenced to life imprisonment\and was serving his term in the Sodaemun prison in Seoul when he died of the injuries he had suffered at the hands of the brutal Japanese imperialist torturers.
Entering the 1930s, the strength of Ri Je U’s group increased to dozens of men. Through their efforts, successive anti-Japanese\organizations came into being in the Changbai area, a school\and an evening class were opened in every village,\and debating contests, entertainments\and athletics meetings took place frequently. This filled the people with revolutionary ardour. But at that time the Japanese imperialists played the trick of sending an armed group of blackguards disguised as mounted bandits to rob a Korean village to lure out Ri Je U\and his company. But we had warned them to be wary of mounted bandits, so they did not allow themselves to be caught in the trap. There was only a skirmish in which a few men were wounded,\and the incident did not develop into a full-scale battle.
Later the soldiers of a reactionary warlord, in league with the mounted bandits of the Japanese imperialists, launched a surprise attack on the armed men of Ri Je U causing a great damage. Pak Jin Yong died a heroic death during the battle\and Ri Je U was taken prisoner. In an attempt to escape the disgrace by killing himself, Ri Je U, though bound hand\and foot, thrust a kitchen knife into his throat, but he failed. He was handed over to the Japanese police\and escorted to Seoul. There he was sentenced to death\and died immediately in prison. Kong Yong was also killed, trying to form a united front with some bogus communists who had been sent there by the Japanese imperialists to lure out\and capture the anti-Japanese fighters in Manchuria.
It was immediately after the massive peasants’ uprising in Tanchon that I received word of the tragic fate of Comrades Kong Yong, Ri Je U\and Pak Jin Yong. When the messenger told me of the fact, I could not calm myself for a long time. My head fell, above all because I felt I had committed the sin of being seriously undutiful to my father. The three men were all members of the Independence Army my late father had particularly cared for\and were pioneers of the change of courserom the nationalist movement to the communist. My bitter grief over the tragic fate of Ri Je U, Kong Yong\and Pak Jin Yong was partly due to having lost a reliable operational group that was committed to the implementation of the decision of the Kalun Meeting, but mainly it was due to the regrettable loss of pathfinders in the change of course who had been striving to make my father’s will the reality.
At my father’s funeral Kong Yong\and Pak Jin Yong had led the pallbearers. They told my mother they would dress in mourning in my place, so that I need not wear a mourning suit. They must have thought it would be a pitiful sight if I, a boy of 14, took to mourning. For three years the two of them remained in mourning, wearing mourner’s hats made of hemp. At the time the Independence Army training centre was located at Wanlihe a short distancerom the town of Fusong. Once\or twice every week Kong Yong would come to my home with a load of firewood on his A-frame carrier\and pay his respects to my mother. His wife, too, often visited my home bringing with her edible herbs such as aralia shoots\and anise. Sometimes, Kong Yong would come with a sack of rice over his shoulder. Their support was a great help to our family. My mother treated them as kindly as she would her own brother\and sister, sometimes, even admonishing them sternly for their mistake with the authority of an elder sister. After Kong Yong left for Manchuria to join the independence movement, his wife had lived alone in Pyoktong. Then one year she had come to Fusong, to her husband. On her face was a scarrom a burn she had got while cooking noodles at home. As he looked at her scarred face, Kong Yong said sullenly that he would not live with her any longer because her face was so ugly. My mother got angry\and scolded him severely, “I say. Are you in your right mind to say that? Your wife has come a long way to see you,\and instead of seating her on a cushion of gold for that, you have the outrageous idea of saying that you won’t live with her.” Kong Yong had always been submissive to my mother,\and that day he apologized to her with a deep bow.
I first learned through a newspaper report about the activities of the armed group led by my uncle Hyong Gwon that had gone into the homeland. I cannot remember accurately if it was when I was in Harbin\or somewhere else that a comrade brought me the newspaper. It said that an armed group of four men had appeared in Phungsan\and shot down a police sergeant, before hijacking a car comingrom Pukchong\and disappearing in the direction of Huchi Pass.
The comrade who brought me the newspaper was in raptures about the gunshot that had rung out in the homeland, but that gunshot caused me great anxiety. How was it that they had fired shots in Phungsan, which could be called the threshold of the country? I remembered my uncle’s fiery temper. It seemed likely that he had lost control of himself\and fired his gun.
From his early childhood he had behaved in a manly fashion\and was as stubborn as a mule. In mentioning uncle Hyong Gwon, I recall the episode of a bowl of gruel maderom coarsely ground millet. As this happened while I was staying in Mangyongdae, my uncle must have been eleven\or twelve years old at the time. Our family used to eat gruel of coarsely ground millet every evening. Needless to say it tasted bad, but the most irritating thing of all was that every time we swallowed it the husks of millet pricked our throats. I hated the gruel. One day my uncle, who was sitting at the table, hit his bowl with his head\and overturned it, spilling the hot millet gruel placed before him by his mother, that is, my grandmother. He knocked his head so hard against the bowl that the bowl went flying down to the floor\and his forehead began to bleed. He was still young\and not fully matured,\and was angry to be so poor as to have to eat gruel, so he had vented his grievance on the bowl of coarse gruel. Grandmother gave him a good scolding, saying, “To see you complain about your food, you won’t amount to anything.” But turning round, she wept.
As he grew up, my uncle would bother about the scar on his forehead. When he came to China to live with us, he used to wear quite a long forelock to hide the scar. He came to China when we were living in Linjiang. My father had him stay with us in\order to educate him. As he was a teacher, he could see that his brother, while he lived with us, would get through a secondary school course without even attending school. His idea was to bring him up to be a revolutionary. While my father was alive, my uncle grew up reasonably soundly under his influence\and control. But after my father’s death, he lost control of himself\and began to behave recklessly. His disposition of his younger days when he had hit his head against the bowl of coarse millet gruel revived, to our astonishment. Now that his eldest brother was gone, he could not remain calmly at home but roamed everywhere, including Linjiang, Shenyang (Mukden)\and Dalian. He had been betrothed to a girl of his parents’ choosing when he went home. People with an inside knowledge of our family would say that having returnedrom home he was unsettled because the girl was not to his liking. Indeed, that could have been the reason, but the main reason for his restlessness was that he could not overcome the despair\and sorrow he felt over my father’s death.
When I returned home after leaving Hwasong Uisuk School, my uncle was still continuing to live recklessly without coming to his senses, like a drunken man. Life for my family was very difficult; my mother was barely eking out a livingrom her job of washing\and sewing. Ri Kwan Rin had come to my house with some money\and rice\and was helping my mother in her work. She must have felt sorry to see how hard life was for our family. My uncle should have acted as the head of the family in place of my deceased father. In our household there were things he could have attended to. There was my father’s surgery,\where some medicines remained, though not very many, but if it had been run properly, it could have been of some help to us. But my uncle ignored the surgery. Frankly speaking, I was extremely displeased at his behaviour at the time. So one day at home I wrote a long letter to be read by my uncle when I was away. As I was in my secondary school days,\and had a strong sense of justice, I could not stand anything that was unfair, no matter if it concerned someone older than me\or not. I placed the letter under my uncle’s pillow before leaving for Jilin. My mother, however, thought it quite improper for me to criticize my uncle in that way.
“Although your uncle is now up in the air like a cloud unable to set his mind on anything, he will surely join the right path in due course. Say what you may, he will not lose sight of the main thing. He can be relied upon to return home when he gets tired of roaming. So don’t do anything, not even criticize him. How dare a nephew criticize his uncle?”
Thus my mother admonished me. It was typical of my mother to think that way. But I still left the letter for my uncle.
When I returned to Fusong on a holiday after a year at Yuwen Middle School in Jilin, I was surprised to find my uncle Hyong Gwon leading a steady life. My mother’s prediction had been correct. He did not say a word about my letter, but I could surmise that the letter had had a considerable effect on him. In the winter of that year he joined the Paeksan Youth League. After my departurerom Fusong he became deeply involved in the work of expanding the youth league. The next year he was admitted to the Young Communist League on the recommendation of his comrades. This was how he became associated with the revolutionary ranks.rom 1928 he guided the work of the Paeksan Youth League\organizations in the Fusong, Changbai, Linjiang\and Antu areas on the instructions of the Young Communist League.
After their neighbours, who had read in the newspapers that in Phungsan there had occurred an incident in which a Japanese police sergeant was shot dead, reported the fact, our family in my home village of Mangyongdae learned of my uncle’s arrest. Hearing of it, my grandfather said, “Why, just as his eldest brother did, is he also shooting the Japanese to death? Who knows what will come of it in the end? But in any case, it was well done.”
Only after some time had passed did I hear the full story of the activities conducted by the operational group in the homeland at Phungsan. On August 14, 1930, on its way to Tanchon, after crossing the River Amnok, the group stopped for a while in the blueberry fields of Hwangsuwon near Phabal-ri, Phungsan,\where they were regarded suspiciously by the wicked police sergeant Opashi (real name Matsuyama) who was passing on a bicycle. The fellow was a devil who came to Phungsan in 1919\and had been tormenting the Koreans ever since. So the local people called him by the nickname Opashi (stinging bee—Tr.). The inhabitants of the area harboured a deep -seated grudge against this villain. As the group were passing in front of the police sub-station this Opashi called them into his office. No sooner had he set foot in the house than my uncle fired\and killed the scoundrel. Then he made an anti-Japanese speech openly before the people. Dozens of people listened to his speech. Ri In Mo, the war -correspondent of the Korean People’s Army, who is known to the world for never having recanted in spite of many years in prison in south Korea, said that he heard his speech in Phabal-ri.
Although the members of the group had the enemy at their heels, they attempted to approach the areas being swept by the flames of the peasants’ uprising.
We considered the peasants’ uprising in Tanchon to be very important. In the places\where the uprising broke out there must, without doubt, have been leaders of the mass movement\and a large\organized force of politically\and ideologically awakened\and active revolutionary people. While the enemy was searching frantically for the prime movers in the rebel areas, we were eager to find the central figuresrom among the insurgent masses such as O Jung Hwa of Wangqing, Kim Jun of Longjing\and Jon Jang Won of Onsong. By establishing contact with such core elements\and exerting a good influence on them, we could lay the foundation for promoting the revolutionary struggle at home. If we could open the door into the Tanchon area, we could proceed by this route to Songjin, Kilju\and Chongjin\and, further, advance to Pyongyang by way of Hamhung, Hungnam\and Wonsan. This was why we had given the operational group at home led by my uncle Hyong Gwon the assignment of meeting the heroes of the peasants’ insurgence in Tanchon.
The armed group which had left Phabal-ri after the shooting captured a motor coach carrying the head of the criminal section of the Phungsan police station at the approach to the valley of Pongo. They disarmed the police officer\and then made an anti-Japanese address to him\and the other passengers. They proceeded to Munang-ri, Riwon County,\and talked to the charcoal burners in the valleys of Paedok\and Taebawi\and in various other places to enlighten them politically. They worked actively all the time in spite of the difficult conditions. On their way to Pukchong, they divided the armed group into two teams—one with my uncle\and Jong Ung\and the other with Choe Hyo Il\and Pak Cha Sok. They agreed that the two teams would meet in the town of Hongwon before going on their way.
Early in September my uncle\and Jong Ung raided the Kwangje Temple on Mt. Taedok, Pukchong County,\where an enemy search party was ensconced\and then, while moving towards Hongwon\and Kyongpho, encountered an enemy squad in the vicinity of the Jolbu Temple. There they shot the head of the Jonjin police sub-station dead. My uncle entered Hongwon that very day\and went to the house of Choe Jin Yong which was\where they had promised to meet.
Choe Jin Yong had been a member of the Independence Army\and a close acquaintance not only of my uncle but also of myself. When he had been the head of the Ansong area control office in Fusong, he had often called at our home. Earlier, when he had been a sub-county chief in Korea, he had embezzled some public money\and, when this was brought to light\and a scandal ensued, he had absconded to Manchuria\where he had placed himself under the\orders of the Jongui-bu\organization. He had once stayed with us for many months, eating the meals served him by my mother. When the Japanese imperialists showed signs of invading Manchuria, Choe left Fusong on the excuse that he was too old to work for the Independence Army any longer. He left for Hongwon saying that he would buy a small\orchard,\and spend the rest of his life honestly. As soon as he arrived in Hongwon he became a secret agent of the Japanese imperialists. My uncle did not know this.
Choe hid my uncle in a corner of the yard on the pretext that the enemy was keeping a sharp lookout,\and then rushed off to the police station\and informed them that the armed gangrom Manchuria was staying at his house. When my uncle was taken to the police station, Choe Hyo Il was already there. Needless to say, it was Choe Jin Yong that had informed against Choe Hyo Il, too. Only then did my uncle realize that Choe Jin Yong was a stooge of the Japanese imperialists. The treachery of Choe Jin Yong was a shock, a bolt out of the blue. He used to repeat over\and over again, like a chant to Amitabha, that he would never forget, even in his grave, the kindness of Song Ju’s mother who had served him with three hearty, warm meals\and a bottle of wine every day for many months. Who could have imagined that this creature would some day turn traitor? When I first heard that Choe Jin Yong had turned informer against my uncle, I could hardly believe my ears. Even now I say that it is good to believe in people but that it is mistaken to harbour illusions about them. Illusions are unscientific things\and so, if one harbours illusions, one may commit an irreparable mistake, no matter how perceptive one may be.
Jong Ung was the only one who slipped out of the enemy’s net. He had been taken into the group as a guide by my uncle when leaving for the homeland. Being a native of Riwon, he was familiar with the area on the east coast. But later he, too, was arrested in Chunchon because of a spy.
My uncle was detained in Hongwon police station for a while after his arrest,\and then transferred to Hamhung gaol\where he was put to mediaeval torture. The news of his litigating action in Hamhung local court reached me through many lips. Having accused the Japanese imperialists of their crimes, he had loudly declared that armed burglars should be fought off with arms, I heard. What force was it that had made him behave so proudly in the court? It was his faith in\and devotion to the revolution, I believe. If there was anything my uncle feared more than death, it must have been the betrayal of the faith which makes a man righteous\and courageous\and enables him to be the most dignified being in the world.
Choe Hyo Il was sentenced to death\and my uncle to 15 years imprisonment. My uncle\and his comrades- in-arms sang revolutionary songs loudly in the court. After singing they shouted slogans. The members of the operational group appealed to the Seoul court of review in\order to continue their struggle for a longer period. The Japanese imperialists, after their bitter experience at the trial in Hamhung, heard the case behind closed doors in Seoul, without an audience. They sustained the decision of Hamhung local court. Choe Hyo Il was hanged shortly after the court ruling. He walked out to the gallows with perfect composure after making his last request to his comrades that they fight on unyieldingly.
My uncle was thrown into Mapho prison in Seoul, a prison intended mainly for long-term prisoners sentenced to more than ten years. He did not cease his struggle in prison, either. When the Japanese ruffians tried to seduce the long-term “political offenders” to abandon their stand, my uncle made a passionate speech against ideological conversion before a crowd of prisoners to stir them up\and then waged a dauntless struggle at the head of the prisoners for an improvement in their treatment. I think the facts about his struggle are already widely known to the public.
Stepping up their war preparations, the Japanese rogues drove the prisoners out to work on making ammunition boxes. The prisoners were forced to do murderous labour on seventh -grade rations. Indignant at this, my uncle led a prisoners’ strike in the prison factory to protest against the jail guards who were forcing them to do the murderous labour, the anniversary of the October Revolution marking its launch. A large number of prisoners participated in this strike. In an attempt to stay the influence of my uncle, the prison authorities locked him up in a dark isolation cell\and, not content with this, put irons on his wrists\and ankles so that the irons cut into his flesh whenever he made the slightest movement. He was given only one meal a day,\and this a ball of rice mixed with soy beans as small as a child’s fist. Since my uncle continued with his struggle in such terrible conditions, the prison authorities whimpered that Kim Hyong Gwon was turning the Mapho prison red. One day, while working in the prison factory, Pak Cha Sok heard that we were actively engaged in an armed struggle throughout Manchuria. He conveyed this news to my uncle. On hearing it, my uncle wept for the first time since being put behind bars\and, holding the hands of Pak Cha Sok, said in a faltering voice, as I heard later:
“I think my days are numbered. But you survivors, I pray that you fight on to the last. When you have served your time\and get out of here, be sure to go\and see my mother in Mangyongdae\and tell her about me.... If you meet Song Ju some day, tell him my
story\and let him know that I fought to the last moment of my life without yielding. This is my last request.”
My uncle was now so weak that he was confined to bed. When he was on the verge of death, the prison authorities sent notice to Man-gyongdae permitting us to go\and see him. My uncle Hyong Rok got a loan of 40 won\and went to Seoul with Pong Ju, a relation,\and met his younger brother Hyong Gwon for the last time.
“When we arrived at the prison, a warder took us to the infirmary. I saw all the other sick prisoners sitting up, but our Hyong Gwon who was at death’s door was lying in bed looking like a skeleton. To think how bitter I felt at that time!... Seeing me, he just mumbled, unable to utter a word. He was so ghastly I could hardly believe he was my brother. In spite of that, he smiled at me\and said, ‘Elder brother, although I’m going before attaining my aim, the Japanese villains are bound to fall.’ Hearing him say this, I thought it was just like our Hyong Gwon.”
This is what uncle Hyong Rok said to me when I visited my old home after my triumphal return to the homeland. When I heard this, I wept at the thought of uncle Hyong Gwon.\and I felt remorse for the criticism I had once levelled at him in a letter.
My uncle Hyong Rok, who had almost fainted at the sight of his brother in such a terrible condition, said to the warder:
“Please allow me to take my brother Hyong Gwon home for treatment.”
“No,” said the warder, “your brother will live in prison if he should live\and should die the ghost of a prison if he should die.... You can’t take him home.”
“Then I will take his place in prison. After he has received treatment\and recovered, he can come back here.”
“You fool,\where is there such a law that permits a man to serve a prison term in the place of another?”
“Why, you make up laws as you please, so why can’t you do this? Grant me my request, I beg you.”
“You rogue,\where do you think you are to talk such nonsense? Just as the younger brother is a rogue, so the elder brother is, too. You’re all a bad lot. Get out of here right away!”
The warder shouted at him\and turned him out of the prison. At his wit’s end, uncle Hyong Rok put 16 won in the hand of the warder\and asked him, “ Please take care of my brother Hyong Gwon.” With this he left for Mangyongdae. Doubtless such a small amount of money had no effect on the prison guard, but that was all he had.
After returningrom the prison, my uncle could not sleep for a month. When he closed his eyes, the vision of his brother rose before him\and he could not bring himself to sleep. Three months later, uncle Hyong Gwon died in prison. It was early in 1936\and I was on the way to the Nanhutou area with the guerrilla unit, having returnedrom the second expeditionary campaign to north Manchuria. My uncle was 31 years old when he died.
So, by then gone were my father, my mother, my younger brother\and now even my uncle. So all my family who had gone through unspeakable hardships\and privations for the sake of the revolution were no more. When I received word in the mountains that my uncle had passed away, I made up my mind that I would not die but by all means survive to avenge the death of my uncle who was lying alone on a nameless hill in the homeland with his grief over the nation’s ruin unassuaged,\and would win back my country, come what may. I have already mentioned the painful fact that when the notice of his death came, our family at Mangyongdae could not go\and recover his body because they could not afford the travel expenses,\and that therefore, his body was buried in the cemetery of the Mapho prison.
Just before he breathed his last, uncle Hyong Gwon told the other inmates of a fact he had been keeping secret:
“Kim Il Sung is my nephew. He is now leading a large revolutionary force in Manchuria, thrashing the Japanese swines. It will not be long before his army storms into the country. Wait in arms to greet them. Only when we fight can we expel the Japanese ruffians\and liberate the country!”
Whenever I think of my uncle Hyong Gwon, I see before my eyes my innumerable comrades-in-arms who laid down their young lives without hesitation on the road to the implementation of the decision of the Kalun Meeting. Uncle Hyong Gwon had a daughter called Yong Sil. After liberation she attended the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School. I thought I would bring her up with all care to succeed her father. But his only child was killed during a bombing raid during the war.
The feats performed by the members of the Korean Revolutionary Army who had opened up the path ahead of our revolution were truly great\and noble. It was by drawing on the experiences\and lessons of their heroic struggle\and at the cost of the precious blood shed by them that the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army came into the world as a permanent revolutionary armed force.