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북녘 | [Reminiscences]Chapter 23 3. Greeting the Spring in a Foreign Land

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작성자 편집국 작성일20-09-27 21:18 댓글0건





[Reminiscences]Chapter 23 3. Greeting the Spring in a Foreign Land



3. Greeting the Spring in a Foreign Land 


 Visitors to the Korean Revolution Museum find themselves attracted to a photograph, which bears an inion by the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung: “Greeting the spring in a foreign land.”

On a visit to the museum, he stopped in front of the photo\and said that he valued it the most.

When he recollected the anti-Japanese revolution, he often spoke about his memories of Comrade Kim Jong Suk. She was cherished in the great leader’s heart as his dearest comrade, a never-to-be-forgotten comrade-in-arms.

I posed for this photo when I was in Camp South. It was a temporary base near the town of Voroshilov for the units of the KPRA\and the 1st Route Army of the NAJAA in their early days in the Soviet\union. It was also called Camp B.

We spent a winter there\and, then moved into Manchuria\and the homeland for small-unit actions. In the summer of 1942 we settled down in Camp North after forming the IAF along with the NAJAA\and units of the Soviet army to cope with the rapidly-changing situation in which the Soviet-German War\and the Pacific War had broken out.

Camp North was located near Khabarovsk. It was also called Camp A by the anti-Japanese fighters.

After the Khabarovsk conference I went to Camp South.

Choe Hyon, who had arrived there earlier, came out a long way to receive us. He looked wide-eyed at me, as I was wearing a fur cap\and fur overcoat. He burst out laughing, saying, “I was wondering who this gentleman was,\and it turns out to be you, General Kim.”

I still remember that occasion. He hugged me so tightly, I felt like choking. He said jokingly that he had heard that I was in a conference at Khabarovsk,\and asked why the meeting had taken so long.

A short way rom Camp South to the east there was a small railway station on the line between Khabarovsk\and Vladivostok.

The soldiers of the KPRA assembled in the camp built more barracks, houses, stores, kitchens\and ablutions. The barracks were of the dug-out type, with bunk beds like those in the present barracks of the Korean People’s Army. My men worked hard to construct them. They laid out a wide sports ground in front of the barracks.

In Camp South we studied political affairs a lot, while making preparations for small-unit actions in the homeland\and Manchuria. In those days most of my men saw films for the first time in their lives.

There we had no need to worry about food supplies. We were each served with about 200 grammes of sliced bread at every meal. At first, the meals were not to our taste, as we were not accustomed to Western food\and the side dishes were not very good.

There was a truck in the camp which brought supplies to us rom a nearby farm. Its driver was a Russian. Ri O Song followed him like a shadow to learn how to drive. Sometimes he followed him to the farm. In the course of this, he learned how to drive,\and also how to drink. Apparently the driver was very fond of drinking. With this experience, Ri O Song worked as a driver for some time after liberation. He was mad about driving. But one day he ran into a fence while driving my car. After that, he was banned rom driving.

Once after liberation the Soviet comrades who had been in Camp South visited our country. The driver was among them\and met his old friend, Ri O Song, in Pyongyang.

I will never forget the year when we spent the winter\and greeted spring in the Far East region of the Soviet\union.

The year 1941 witnessed a great change in our revolution\and great events breaking out all across the world. In June the Nazi army invaded the Soviet\union,\and in December the Pacific War broke out with Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour. Indeed, in 1941 mankind was plunged into innumerable sufferings\and calamities. It was a year of misery, a year of conflagration, when human civilization that had been built up for thousands of years was crushed under armour\and artillery fire.

Viewed rom the spring of that year, however, the Soviet-German War\and the Pacific War were still in the future. We greeted 1941 full of optimism\and confidence in the future. The time for the Korean revolutionaries to carry out the sacred mission they had assumed for the times\and history, for their motherland\and nation, was near at hand.

That spring I thought a lot about our small-unit activities\and future joint operations,\and exchanged opinions with my comrades. At that time Kim Chaek\and Zhou Bao-zhong stayed at Camp South for some time,\and I frequently consulted them.

After the Khabarovsk conference we decided to form small units\and dispatch them to the motherland\and Manchuria. I made preparations to leave in command of a small unit.

Pending our departure, Kim Jong Suk helped us in our preparations. By that time she\and I were married.

Fighting for the revolution, we had got to know each other,\and while sharing life\and death on Mt. Paektu, we had become friends, comrades,\and life companions.

It was around the time of the Dahuangwai conference that I first saw her. I am not sure whether it was during the meeting\or after it, but I went to Sandaowan in Yanji County. The Party secretariat was located in Nengzhiying, Sandaowan. I met her at a meeting of the officials of the secretariat held in Nengzhiying. She was working with the secretariat at that time.

Later, I met her again in Maanshan, as she had been enrolled in my unit. She, along with Kim Myong Hwa, greeted me in Manjiang,\and I was very impressed with her appearance. That day I talked a lot with her. Through our conversation I learned that she had no one to rely on except her comrades-in-arms.

From that time on, she fought shoulder to shoulder with us.

In my unit she took part in the Battle of the Fusong County Town,\and fully demonstrated her audacity\and intelligence.

I should say that I owe my survival in that fierce battle to her. With seven\or eight other women soldiers, she was preparing the morning meal on a col not far rom the battle site. In the depression was a house in which they could cook, as the smoke rom the chimney could not be seen by enemy observers. But the enemy pounced upon the col all of a sudden. If this strategic spot were to be occupied by them, we could be attacked rom both sides. Sensing the critical nature of the situation, Kim Jong Suk drew her Mauser\and, with the other women soldiers, delivered heavy fire at the enemy, mowed many of them down\and beat the rest back.

The battle made her the favourite of her comrades-in-arms.

That year (1936–Tr.) we operated in Changbai. Then in March the next year we set out on an expedition to Fusong. I have often mentioned this arduous expedition. Frankly speaking, everyone, including myself, was tired out. Every night most of the exhausted men fell fast asleep. But Kim Jong Suk would sit up all night by the campfire, mending the torn clothes of her comrades. As they marched through rugged mountains, their clothes were easily torn. Ma Tong Hui, a recruit at that time, had a hole burnt in his cap rom a campfire spark. Kim Jong Suk mended it neatly. As I learned later, she made everything tidy with the utmost care. That night I was moved by her kind heart, by the fact that she could not sleep in peace before she had helped others. This fact gave me a deep understanding of the woman.

That was why I readily agreed to the proposal of some commanding officers to assign her to an underground workers’ group to be sent to Taoquanli. She did a lot of work in Taoquanli\and Sinpha.\and it was at this time that I found in her uncommon skill\and ability as a revolutionary. She had an unusual ability to motivate the masses, awakening them to consciousness\and enlisting them in action. The “testimonial for a good citizen” which hundreds of people in Taoquanli\and its vicinity are said to have submitted to the police with their signatures when she was arrested by the Jingan army soldiers showed their affection for her.

How could she enjoy such trust rom the people?

Because she had worked with her full devotion. Whatever she did, she threw herself into it heart\and soul, unafraid of death.\and this was why she could survive any danger.

She was afire with love for the people. She thought her sacrifice for others was not in the least wasteful. It was her nature to go through even fire\and water if it was for the sake of her comrades.

In April 1938 we had an encounter at Shuangshanzi on our way back rom attacking the enemy in Liudaogou. The battle was so fierce, I myself took a machine-gun on the firing line\and mowed down the enemy. As the enemy was closing upon us rom all sides, we had no way out, nor even a chance to take a meal.

Then I felt something warm at my side. I felt in my pocket,\and found dumplings in it. Glancing round, I could see Kim Jong Suk running about the battlefield, putting dumplings in the hands of the comrades. We continued fighting while eating the dumplings. The food was cooked by a spring at the foot of a cliff. There was no knowing how she had climbed up the perpendicular cliff carrying a pan full of dumplings.

She carried food to her comrades even running about the battlefield like that, lest they should go hungry, but she herself always went hungry.

Once the unit ran out of cereals,\and had only potatoes to eat. If a man eats potatoes for several meals in a row, he gets tired of them\and loses his appetite. Kim Jong Suk was sorry to see her comrades-in-arms with nothing but potatoes to eat for several days,\and racked her brains about how to stimulate their appetites. She ground up potatoes\and cooked pancakes out of them,\or made cakes out of them stuffed with stewed edible herbs. rom that time on, her comrades ate the potatoes with relish.

Kim Jong Suk lived all her life not for herself, but for her comrades. Her life started with love for her comrades,\and developed on the basis of that feeling. In the course of this, she became a prominent revolutionary who displayed communist moral qualities to the fullest extent. All that she did throughout her life was for her comrades, her fellows\and for the revolution.

She did nothing for her own benefit. She never thought of herself at all.

“I can endure hunger, cold\and pain. I am satisfied if my comrades do not feel hunger, cold\or pain. If I can save my comrades rom danger at the cost of my own life, I will face death with a smile, with no regrets.”–This was her outlook on life.

The story about a blanket is sufficient to illustrate how sincere\and ardent her love for her comrades was.

Some time ago, So Sun Ok, one of her comrades-in-arms, came to Pyongyang rom Yanji, China, to see me. She brought with her a blanket\and a pair of binoculars. She had been a cook for the Headquarters of the main force of the KPRA. Her husband, Kim Myong Ju, had also fought in the main force as an officer for some time. He had been widely known for his nickname “Yanji prison”. He had been in the 7th Regiment when we were operating in the Fusong area.

Choe Hui Suk, on her way back rom underground work in Yaofangzi, brought with her So Sun Ok. So Sun Ok, only 15\or 16 years old at that time, joined the KPRA. Choe also took with her So’s nephew. The recruit whom Om Kwang Ho branded as an enemy spy in the Qingfeng secret camp was this very nephew.

Kim Jong Suk loved So Sun Ok dearly. When camping, she would sleep with So Sun Ok, some years junior to her, under the same blanket. Kim Jong Suk\and So Sun Ok were the only women guerrillas near Headquarters.

The blanket So Sun Ok brought with her to Pyongyang was the very blanket Kim Jong Suk had used with much affection. The blanket had always been on her knapsack. When it was difficult to recognize her because she was hidden by her large knapsack, I could tell who it was by the sight of the blanket. When So Sun Ok was leaving for a base for small-unit actions, Kim Jong Suk gave her the blanket as a memento. At the base were Kim Myong Ju\and Hyon Chol. She must have married Kim Myong Ju at the camp.

On the day of her leave-taking So Sun Ok hugged Kim Jong Suk\and wept without ceasing. Her departure was full of tears as the two women had slept under the same blanket. Kim Jong Suk was worried at that time over what to give her as a memento. Putting the blanket in her knapsack, Kim Jong Suk said, “Well, please take this as a memento. It’s not a new one, but don’t forget that it carries my warmth, the warmth of your elder sister, who has loved you so much.”

The blanket came to me after half a century. Despite the passage of time, I could recognize the favourite blanket of Kim Jong Suk. The pair of binoculars was the one I had given to Kim Myong Ju.

Had she had a thing dearer to her than the blanket, Kim Jong Suk would have given it to So Sun Ok without hesitation. She always said she was happier to give than to receive. It was her philosophy of life that she was much happier giving her tender feelings to others than receiving others’ tender feelings, although the latter was also good.

Her love for her comrades found a most distinct expression in her efforts to help me, with unstinted devotion. Loyalty to one’s commander is in essence an expression of one’s love for one’s comrades.

One year we fought many battles in which we had to skip meals, as we had run out of food supplies. When I was commanding a battle someone put something in my pocket. I turned to find that it was Kim Jong Suk. After the battle I looked in my pocket. There were cracked pine nuts wrapped in paper. I asked her\where she had got them. She only smiled. Later, the women soldiers told me that she had climbed pine trees to pick the cones.

She snatched me rom the jaws of death on several occasions. She was always prepared to become a shield herself to protect me rom enemy fire.

During the battle on the outskirts of Dashahe, a critical situation arose around me. A group of enemy troops were approaching me stealthily, yet I was not aware of the situation for I was commanding the battle. But for Kim Jong Suk’s help, I would have been killed. She shielded me with her own body\and shot all the enemy soldiers. So I was saved miraculously. Similar things happened on several occasions.

The padded coat I wore in the mountains for several years was also made by her. Apparently she had heard somewhere that floss-silk was bullet-proof. So she gathered floss whenever it was available\and made a padded coat for me. As the coat she had made, stitch after stitch with the utmost care, sitting up late for several nights, fitted me perfectly, she was overjoyed.

When I sat up all night\or went to sleep at bivouacs, I would spread on the ground the deer skin I was carrying with me\and lie on it, covering my body with the padded coat. Then I would feel warm enough.

Nowadays, women do not do much knitting, I was told. They do not take the trouble, because machines do the job nowadays. Whenever I see knitwear, I am reminded of Kim Jong Suk. She did a lot of knitting for me. I wondered how she could manage to find time rom her cooking duties to knit,\and\where she obtained knitting wool. Anyhow she read books\or did knitting whenever she had time.

It was not easy to obtain knitting wool in the mountains. In those days we had to fight a battle just to obtain a packet of needles. Nevertheless, Kim Jong Suk made padded overcoats\and waistbands, because she worried about my health, as I had to eat, sleep\and march in the open in all seasons, fighting the enemy. She knitted woolen stockings for me every year until the country’s liberation.

I was sorry she took so much trouble for me,\and I once asked her\where\and how she obtained knitting wool. She only smiled. I asked her again if she had woolen stockings of her own. She again did not answer. As I pressed her for an answer, she only said, “You are engaged in a great work, General,\and you needn’t worry your head about such trivial things.”

After liberation she again did knitting for me. If my socks were worn out, instead of patching them, she would unravel them, wind the yarn on a spool\and knit new socks for me. She would work all night\and put them by my bed in the morning. She could of course buy socks better than those in shops\and markets, but she did not buy new ones. If a pair of new socks she had bought was worn out, she would unravel them\and knit them again for me until the yarn wore out. She wanted to knit my socks herself. That was truly a womanly heart.


I once could not help becoming annoyed at her exceptional devotion to me. It was one winter–I cannot remember which year it was–when she gave me my clothes she had washed\and then dried against her own body. She had tried to do it unnoticed by others, but the other women soldiers’ high praise for her deed reached my ears.

Dumbfounded at this unheard-of episode, I called her to Headquarters. I was near tears when I saw her face so pale rom the cold. To think that she had done for me what my mother dared not do in her lifetime, I did not know what to say to her.

The devotion with which Kim Jong Suk undertook of her own accord the thing even my mother had not done, to sacrifice herself! I thought it must have been her warm feeling towards the man Kim Il Sung, as well as her revolutionary devotion to her Commander.

“Comrade Jong Suk, I respect your devotion to me,” I said to her. “I am always grateful to you for it. But why on earth did you do this? What if you catch pneumonia? If I bask in your self-sacrificing devotion, do you think I will feel at ease? Don’t do it again.”

Smiling, she said, “It is nothing at all if only I can see you, General, in good health. ...”

Though I was angry in front of her, I shed tears after sending her back. I don’t know why, but I was reminded of my mother at that time. I felt as if Kim Jong Suk’s kindness for me contained that portion of love my mother could not give me in her lifetime.

I can never forget the look of Kim Jong Suk trying, biting her lips, not to reveal the chill she was feeling as she had been deprived of the warmth of her body by the wet clothes.

In the subsequent years, too, she would dry my clothes with her body. All in all, she protected me rom bullets, rain\and snow,\and rom fits of cold with her body.

Our contemporary historians call the road of anti-Japanese revolution we trod an unprecedented path. They are right. The anti-Japanese revolutionary veterans blazed a trail not only in the revolution but in love. Their life was trying beyond imagination, but love blossomed on the hard rocks of Mt. Paektu.

I believe that an important thing in human love–love between parents\and their children, love between husband\and wife, love between sweethearts, love between teacher\and his pupils,\and love between comrades–is the spirit of devotion. Throwing oneself into fire, facing the gallows\or jumping into a hole in the ice if necessary in\order to relieve the person one loves of hunger, pain\and cold, even though one feels hungry, cold\and painful oneself–only this self-sacrificing spirit of devotion can create the most beautiful, ennobling\and sincere love.

When I visited Mangyongdae on my return to the motherland after liberation, my family\and relatives said that they had heard that I had married a good woman when fighting in the mountains. They asked\where we had had the wedding ceremony, how it had been arranged, who had been the best man\and who had provided the wedding feast.

I could not answer. I was suddenly choked,\and found myself at a loss for words to answer these questions. Telling the truth would grieve my grandparents\and make my kinsfolk feel sorry for me.

When we were fighting in the mountains, we could not afford to think of things like wedding feasts. Life was arduous\and trying,\and, worse still, we had not won back the country\and were ashamed of being a ruined nation. So how could we think of things like wedding ceremonies\or birthday parties? None of us wished for such extravagance.

A wedding ceremony in the guerrilla army was very simple. All that had to be done was just to announce that such\and such comrades were married. We could never imagine such a ceremony as giving a party in wedding gowns as the young men\and women do now. When we enjoyed fairly good conditions, a bowl of cooked rice was all that was served. If rice was not available, gruel was served,\and, if even gruel could not be served, potato\or maize was shared. For all that, no one complained. On the contrary, we took it for granted\and regarded it as natural.

After the announcement of the wedding we went on with our usual life in the companies\and platoons we belonged to. There was no exception even for commanding officers. Some couples went into battle immediately after their weddings\and fell in action,\and other couples lived apart, as they were given different missions.

On the day I married Kim Jong Suk, our comrades-in-arms tried to obtain something special for us, but to no avail.\where could they obtain anything when the whole unit had run out of food supplies\and were going hungry?

There was no wedding dress, no wedding cake, no master of ceremonies\and no best man, but I will never forget that event. Kim Jong Suk, too, often recalled the day.

If they hear this, younger people may wonder how it could be so. But it could not be otherwise in the circumstances of those days.

The anti-Japanese guerrillas felt the worth of life in gladly accepting\and enduring today’s hardships for the sake of tomorrow’s happiness. That was their joy of life. They lived in that way for the coming generation, for their motherland as we see it today.

In the days in the Paektusan secret camp\and the training base in the Soviet Far East region, I thought of arranging proper wedding ceremonies for my comrades-in-arms after the liberation of the country. But I found that I could not do as I had wished because, though the country was liberated, the people were not well-off\and the food problem was acute.

One day immediately after liberation Jang Si U called on me\and protested that a veteran guerrilla intended to spend money belonging to the Party committee of South Phyongan Province on a man’s wedding. When I asked him who the veteran was, he said it was Kim Song Guk.

I called Kim Song Guk to my office\and\ordered Ri Ul Sol to disarm him. I then reprimanded him, asking who had authorized him to meddle with the finances of the provincial Party committee.

Almost in tears, he said, “I wanted to prepare a wedding suit, quilts\and a party for Son Jong Jun. As he has no relatives, what can he do if we do not help him?”

Nevertheless, I criticized him severely.

“I know full well that it would be nice to prepare these things for Son’s wedding. But are we in a position to do so? If you had recalled even once the days when we held weddings without proper food, you would not have asked the Party for money. The country is in dire circumstances, so observe with care\and be prudent in your behaviour, as befits a veteran guerrilla.”

Though I reprimanded him, I felt my heart ache. Frankly speaking, how laudable it was for Kim Song Guk to try to arrange a proper wedding ceremony for a comrade with whom he had shared weal\and woe, joy\and sorrow!

Many of the veteran guerrillas got married in the liberated motherland, but they all held their weddings in a simple way. This always weighed on my heart. This is why Comrade Kim Jong Il arranges parties for their 60th\and 70th birthdays,\and sends gifts to them.

Kim Jong Suk, however, did not enjoy such things\and passed away in her early 30s, leaving behind her this photo. It was by mere chance that she\and I posed for it. But for the care of our revolutionary comrades-in-arms, she would not have been able to leave behind even this photo.

When I was making preparations to leave in command of a small unit, my comrades called on me one day\and suggested having photos taken. They said that as there was no knowing when we would meet again, we should leave photos as souvenirs. They added that all that I needed to do was to pose, because they had borrowed a camera.

Going outside in my uniform, I found Choe Hyon waiting for me. It was still chilly, but spring air could be distinctly felt everywhere.

Leaning on a tree on which spring tints were emerging, I posed with my comrades-in-arms for photo, as souvenir of our meeting in Camp South after a long separation as well as on the occasion of departing on small-unit actions.

Others posed in groups of twos\or threes.

At that time, some women guerrillas, getting wind of our photography session, ran to me\and said they also would like to get their photos taken. So I posed for a few photos with them. They then suggested to me that I should have a photo taken with Kim Jong Suk. Hearing this, she grew shy\and hid herself behind the backs of the women guerrillas. They pushed her forward to my side, smiling all the way. In\order not to miss the moment, a comrade clicked the shutter.

That was probably the first time in my life that I had posed with a woman comrade individually. For Kim Jong Suk\and me, it was as good as a wedding photo.

In those days we were still young\and vivacious. We had many dreams of a bright future. Though we greeted the spring in a foreign land, we were full of confidence\and in high spirits.

For both of us, it was an unforgettable first spring that we greeted after our wedding.

As I wanted to remember that spring forever, I jotted down on the back of the photo: “Greeting the spring in a foreign land, March 1, 1941. At Camp B.”

I never imagined that this photo would remain in history to be displayed in such a large museum as the Korean Revolution Museum. We fought for the anti-Japanese revolution for 20 years,\and it is regrettable that not many photos of this period remain. So, I am grateful to those comrades who suggested photo-taking to me.

Kim Jong Suk wore her hair bobbed, like the other women guerrillas did . But you cannot see her hair style in this photo, for all her hair is covered by her cap. There was a reason for this.

That spring I went to Manchuria\and the homeland with a small unit. As I was passing Hunchun across the Soviet-Manchurian border, I felt my feet growing warm. At first I took no notice, thinking that it was the result of the long march. But at each step I felt something warm\and soft on my soles. So I pulled off my shoes, to find in them liners made with hair. Only then did I remember that Kim Jong Suk had been wearing her cap even indoors,\and I realized that she had cut her hair to make the liners. She must have worn her cap because she was too shy to show her short hair.

Those who posed for the photos with me that day are now all gone–An Kil, Choe Hyon, Kim Jong Suk. There were many of them, but they have gone, leaving me behind.

The young tree which An Kil, Choe Hyon\and I leaned against to pose for a photo must have become a giant tree by now.

I don’t know how Camp South has changed. I should like to take time off to visit it some day.

Even after liberation, Kim Jong Suk attended me with all her heart.

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