[Reminiscences]2. My Father \\and the Korean National Association > 회고록 《세기와 더불어》

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[Reminiscences]2. My Father \\and the Korean National Association

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작성자 편집국 작성일20-05-06 22:59 댓글0건


[Reminiscences]2. My Father\and the Korean National Association



2.   My Father\and the Korean National Association



“Jiwon” (Aim High!) was my father’s lifelong motto.

He used to write this motto in large strokes on the walls at Sunhwa\and Myongsin Schools\and in many other places, as well as at his home.

Some of his writing still remains,\and it demonstrates that he was quite good at writing with a brush.

In those days calligraphy was celebrated,\and it was the fashion to obtain handwritings rom renowned people\and famous calligraphers\and keep them in scrolls, in frames\or on screens. As a little boy I thought that this was normal for calligraphy.

My father used to hang up his handwriting without decoration in places which attracted public attention.

When I was old enough to understand the world, my father began to teach me how I should love my country, saying that in\order to become a patriot I should aim high.

“Aim High!” means what it says.

There is nothing extraordinary about a father who teaches his son to aim high. One cannot succeed in a venture unless one has a noble ideal\and a high ambition\and works tirelessly.

But “Aim High!” has nothing in common with worldly preaching about personal glory\or a successful career; it implies a revolutionary outlook on life in which genuine happiness is sought in the struggle for one’s country\and nation,\and an unbreakable revolutionary spirit to liberate the country by fighting through the generations.


My father told me a great deal to explain why I should have a noble aim. What he told me amounted to the history of our people’s struggle against the Japanese.

... Once Korea was a very strong country, he said. Korea, having developed her military art, had seldom been defeated in war,\and her brilliant ancient culture had spread across the sea to Japan. However, her strength waned because of the corrupt government during the 500 years of the Ri dynasty until finally she lost her sovereignty.

Before you were born, he continued, the Japanese conquered our country by force of arms. The five ministers6 of the feudal government who sold out the country to the Japanese invaders in the year of Ulsa (1905) are now condemned as traitors.

These traitors, however, could not sell the Korean spirit.

The Righteous Volunteers fought with spears in hand against the Japanese marauders in\order to win back the sovereignty of their country. The Independence Army, armed with matchlocks, fought to destroy the invaders. Sometimes the people rose in revolt, cheering\and throwing stones at the Japanese invaders,\and appealing to human conscience\and to international justice.

Choe Ik Hyon7 was taken to Tsushima as a captive but, as a protest, he refused to eat the enemy’s food until he died with honour. Ri Jun demonstrated our nation’s true spirit of independence by ripping his own belly open before the representatives of the imperialist powers at an international peace conference. An Jung Gun8 demonstrated the mettle of the Koreans by shooting Ito Hirobumi9 to death at Harbin Station\and cheering for independence.

Even Kang U Gyu who was in his sixties threw a bomb at the Japanese Governor-General Saito. Ri Jae Myong took revenge on traitor Ri Wan Yong by stabbing him in the back.


Min Yong Hwan, Ri Pom Jin, Hong Pom Sik\and other patriots called for the regaining of national sovereignty by committing suicide.

At one time a campaign was launched to pay back a loan of 13 million won which Korea had received rom Japan after the Russo-Japanese War. To this end, all the Korean males gave up smoking,\and even King Kojong10 joined the no-smoking campaign. The women cut down their expenses on food\and sold their trinkets. The girls offered articles they had prepared for their marriage. Rich men’s servants, seamstresses, cake sellers, vegetable sellers\and even straw sandal sellers contributed their hard-earned pennies for the payment of the national debt.

Nevertheless, Korea failed to maintain her independence. What is essential is to rouse all the Koreans to a determination

to win back the lost sovereignty of their country\and develop sufficient strength to repel the invaders. With an unshakable determination you will be able to develop your strength,\and if you develop your strength you will be fully able to defeat even the strongest enemy. If we are to recover our nation’s sovereignty, we must rouse the people throughout the country to the struggle, but this cannot be done in a day\or two. That is why I tell you to aim high....

My father used to tell me these things rom the days when he would lead me by the hand up\and down Mangyong Hill. Everything he said was permeated with patriotism.

Once my father said to my grandparents, “What is the use of living if I cannot win my country’s independence? Even if I am to be torn to pieces I must fight\and defeat the Japanese. If I fall in battle, my son will continue the fight; if my son cannot accomplish the cause, my grandson must fight until we win our nation’s independence.”


Later, I remembered these words when the anti-Japanese armed struggle, which I had believed we would win in three\or four years, dragged on. As I lived through the long years of tragedy caused by national division after liberation, the division that compelled the north\and the south to take opposite courses, I reminded myself of my father’s profound words.

What he said always reflected his idea of “Aim High!”, his conviction\and his thought\and aspiration for national liberation.

In spite of his family’s poverty, my father went to Sungsil Middle School with a strong resolve to achieve his idea of “Aim High!”

During the period of a little more than a decade rom the reform in the year of Kabo (1894)11 to the signing of the treaty in the year of Ulsa (1905), a lot of work was being done to establish a modern educational system, though belatedly, on the strength of the trend towards political reform in our country. At the time when in Seoul Paejae Haktang, Rihwa Haktang, Yugyong Kongwon\and similar schools were being set up to teach Western culture, Sungsil Middle School was established in west Korea by American missionaries as a part of their religious effort.

This school took pupils rom all parts of the country. Many young people who wished to receive modern education came to the school. History, algebra, geometry, physics, hygiene, physiology, physical training, music\and other subjects of a modern education offered by Sungsil Middle School attracted the young people who wished to eliminate national backwardness\and advance in step with the new world trend.

My father said that he attended this school in\order to receive a modern education. He had no desire to learn the difficult Nine Chinese Classics that had been taught at Confucian schools.

Apart rom the educational aims set by the missionaries, the Sungsil Middle School produced many renowned patriots who, in subsequent years, worked hard for the independence movement. For instance Son Jong Do who became the first Vice- Chairman\and then the Chairman of the political council of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai came rom this school. Cha Ri Sok who was a member of the state council of the provisional government towards its closing years was educated at the school.

Yun Tong Ju, a talented patriotic poet, also attended it, but left it early.

Kang Ryang Uk, too, attended the specialized course of the Sungsil School. In those days the specialized course was called the Sungsil College. Sungsil Middle School meant the secondary course of the school in those days. The Japanese called the school the source of anti-Japanese thought because it produced so many fighters for independence against the Japanese.

“Learn to read\and write for Korea’s sake! Learn technology also for Korea’s sake! Believe in a Korean God, if you believe in one!”, my father used to say to his schoolmates as he rallied the young patriots\and pupils together.

Under his guidance a reading circle\and a single-hearted friendship association were formed at Sungsil Middle School. These associations inculcated patriotism in the pupils\and, at the same time, worked hard to enlighten the popular masses in Pyongyang\and the surrounding area. In December 1912 they\organized a school strike against the inhumane treatment\and exploitative practices perpetrated by the school authorities.

During the school holidays my father used to travel around Anju, Kangdong, Sunan, Uiju\and other places in North\and South Phyongan Provinces\and Hwanghae Province, enlightening the masses\and recruiting comrades.

The greatest achievement made by my father at Sungsil Middle School was to find many comrades with whom he could share life\and death.


Many of his classmates were not only friends of my father but also ready to take up the common cause with him in\order to shape the destiny of the country\and nation. They were all young men with foresight\and a high reputation, men of great ability, wide knowledge\and outstanding personality.

Ri Po Sik was one of them. He came rom Pyongyang\and participated in the work of the reading circle\and of the single-hearted friendship association, made a major contribution to the formation of the Korean National Association,\and played a significant role in the March First Popular Uprising.

When we were living at Ponghwa-ri, many times he visited my father who was teaching at Myongsin School.

Among my father’s classmates rom North Phyongan Province was a man named Paek Se Bin (Paek Yong Mu) rom Phihyon. When my father was travelling around North Phyongan Province, Paek Se Bin frequently served as his guide. He was an overseas correspondent of the Korean National Association. When the Central Council for Independent National Reunification was formed in south Korea in December 1960, Paek Se Bin worked as its member.

Pak In Gwan stayed in the same hostel as my father in their days at Sungsil Middle School. For some time after he began attending school my father stayed at the hostel.

While teaching at Kwangson School in Unryul, Hwanghae Province in the spring of 1917, Pak In Gwan joined the Korean National Association. While out rallying comrades in Songhwa, Jaeryong, Haeju\and other places he was arrested by the Japanese police\and sent to Haeju prison for a year. Compositions written by his pupils at Kwangson School under the title “The Peninsula in Relation to Us” are even now on exhibition at the Unryul Museum of Revolutionary Activities. The compositions provide a glimpse of


the ideological trend\and spiritual world of the pupils at the school which was under the influence of the Korean National Association.

Of all the independence fighters O Tong Jin was the most intimate with my father.

It was in my father’s days at Sungsil Middle School that O Tong Jin would visit our house frequently. He was then attending Pyongyang Taesong School that had been established by An Chang Ho. Since they were not only on friendly terms, but also in ideological harmony, they were sincerely\and ardently associated with each other rom the start. It was at the athletics meeting held on the military drill ground at Kyongsang-gol in the spring of 1910 that O Tong Jin first sympathized with my father’s opinions, so I was told.

The athletics meeting was attended by more than ten thousand young people\and pupils rom Pyongyang, Pakchon, Kangso, Yongyu\and other places.

At the debating contest held at the end of the athletics meeting, my father became the focus of attention by claiming that our country should be modernized by our own efforts, in opposition to some pupils who asserted that, if our country was to become a civilized country, it should adopt Japanese civilization. Among the audience was O Tong Jin, who later became the head of Jongui-bu. Whenever he recollected the event, O Tong Jin used to say with deep emotion, “Mr. Kim’s speech that day made a great impression on me.”

In the guise of a trader, rom around 1913 he travelled around Seoul, Pyongyang, Sinuiju\and other major cities in the country\and to China, visiting my father whenever he had the opportunity, to discuss the future of the independence movement.

At first I took him for an honest businessman. It was only when we had moved to Badaogou\and Fusong that I learned that he was an important fighter for independence.


By that time he enjoyed such a high reputation that there was no one who did not know his name, O Tong Jin (alias Songam). Judging rom his property status\and background, he could afford to live comfortably instead of taking the thorny path of revolution, but he took up arms\and fought the Japanese.

O Tong Jin respected my father highly\and loved him dearly. Many people visited his home in Uiju. The outbuilding of his house was wholly reserved for such visitors. He had so many visitors that he had to keep a cook exclusively for them. But he met my father in the main building\and the mistress of the house herself used to cook for my father, so I was told.

Once O Tong Jin\and his wife visited us. My grandmother gave them a brass bowl as a souvenir. I am writing about him in great detail not only because he was a friend\and comrade of my father’s, but also because he played an important part in my younger days. rom my childhood I felt greatly attached to him. He was arrested by the Japanese imperialists while I was studying in Jilin. Many years later, that is, in early March 1932 when I was travelling around Jiandao in\order to\organize the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army, he was put on trial at the Sinuiju local court. I had been greatly surprised to hear that the record of Gandhi’s preliminary examination amounted to as many as 25 thousand pages, but I was told that the record of O Tong Jin’s preliminary examination numbered as many as 35 thousand pages,\or 64 volumes.

On the day of his trial thousands of visitors thronged the court with the result that the trial scheduled to begin early in the morning started at one o’clock in the afternoon. Then he denied the power of the court\and shook the room by jumping into the chief judge’s seat\and cheering for Korea’s independence.

The confused Japanese judges quickly suspended the trial\and sentenced him without his even being present. At his appeal he was


sentenced to life imprisonment, but he died in prison without seeing the day of liberation.

As we struggled to build up the guerrilla army, the press reported his trial, telling of his unstained honour\and his unbreakable fighting spirit,\and carrying a photograph of his being escorted in a prisoner’s hood to Pyongyang gaol. When I saw his photograph I recollected his unbreakable patriotic spirit with deep emotion.

Many of my father’s close friends in his Sungsil Middle School days became stalwart revolutionaries\and later formed the backbone of the Korean National Association.

My father left Sungsil Middle School early\and began to teach at Sunhwa School in Mangyongdae\and then at Myongsin School in Kangdong, applying himself to the education of the younger generation\and to rallying his comrades. He explained that he had left middle school with a view to concentrating on the practical struggle\and to extending the theatre of his revolutionary activities.

During a school holiday in 1916 he toured Jiandao in northeast China. I do not know whom he got in touch with, but he went to Shanghai rom Jiandao\and there he contacted Sun Yat-sen’s nationalist revolutionary group.

My father had a high regard for Sun Yat-sen as a forerunner of the bourgeois democratic revolution in China. My father said that in China the men’s pigtails had disappeared\and weekly holidays introduced through the efforts of the bourgeois reformists.

In particular my father spoke highly of the Three Principles of the People—the nation, the people’s rights\and the people’s life— proposed by Sun Yat-sen as the programme for the Chinese revolutionary coalition, the Alliance Society,\and of his new three-point policy of alliance with the Soviet\union, alliance with communism\and assistance to the working class\and peasantry which had been formulated under the influence of the May 4 Movement. He said that Sun Yat-sen was a revolutionary of large calibre, strong will\and foresight, but he added that Sun Yat-sen had been mistaken when he had conceded the office of generalissimo to Yuan Shi-kai after the establishment of the Republic of China, on condition that he establish a republican system\and remove Qing Emperor.

In my boyhood I often heard my father talking about the bourgeois reformist movement in Korea. He greatly regretted the failure of the coup in the year of Kapsin (1884) led by Kim Ok Kyun who remained in power for “only three days,”\and said that his policy of human equality, the abolition of the caste system\and the promotion of able people that had been formulated in his reformist programme of the Enlightenment Party as well as his idea of independence that suggested the renunciation of dependence on the Qing dynasty was all progressive.

Judging rom what my father said, I realized that Kim Ok Kyun was a pre-eminent figure\and that, if his reformist movement had succeeded, the modern history of Korea might have been different.

It was much later that we discovered the\limitations in Kim Ok Kyun’s reformist movement\and its programme\and analysed them rom the point of view of Juche.

Most of my teachers in Korean history regarded Kim Ok Kyun as pro-Japanese. The academic circles of our country after liberation labelled him as pro-Japanese for a long time because he had received help rom the Japanese in his preparations for the coup. But we did not consider this estimation of the reformist to be fair.

I told our historians that, although he was wrong to neglect the link between his movement\and the popular masses, assessing him as pro-Japanese simply because he had drawn on the strength of Japan would lead to nihilism, that the aim of his use of Japanese forces was not to effect pro-Japanese reforms but to turn the balance of forces in those days in favour of the Enlightenment Party on the basis of a meticulous calculation of the balance,\and that such tactics were inevitable in the situation in his time.

My father said that Kim Ok Kyun had failed in his attempted coup mainly because the reformists relied only on their supporters within the court, instead of believing in the forces of the popular masses,\and that we must learn a lesson rom his failure.

My father toured Jiandao\and Shanghai to obtain a firsthand knowledge of the independence movement abroad of which he had heard rumours, recruiting new comrades\and defining his policies\and strategies for the subsequent years.

Judging rom the international situation in those days, the national liberation struggles in the colonies were not fully developed. The mode\and method of the independence movements in colonies had yet to be evolved.

When my father was visiting Jiandao\and Shanghai, the Chinese revolution was experiencing difficulties on account of the insidious manoeuvres of the warlords\and intervention by imperialist powers. The United States, Britain, Japan\and other foreign forces created major problems for the Chinese revolution. In spite of this, many of the independence fighters in exile harboured illusions about the imperialists\and wasted their time on empty talk about seeking aid rom some of the major powers.

The situation in Jiandao reaffirmed my father’s belief that Korea’s independence should be achieved by Koreans themselves. After his visit to Jiandao, my father worked day\and night to enlighten the masses\and recruit comrades.

By that time our family had moved rom Mangyongdae to Ponghwa-ri, Kangdong. There he taught at Myongsin School during the daytime\and enlightened the masses at night school, as he had done in Mangyongdae. He used to return home very late.


In a literary exercise at school I made a speech against the Japanese, rom a composition prepared for me by my father.

In those days he composed revolutionary poems\and songs\and enthusiastically taught them to his pupils.

Many independence fighters visited my father at Ponghwa-ri. He himself travelled frequently around North\and South Phyongan Provinces\and Hwanghae Province to visit his comrades. In the course of this, hardcore elements were trained\and a mass foundation for the independence movement was laid.

On the basis of these preparations, he\and other patriotic independence fighters such as Jang Il Hwan, Pae Min Su\and Paek Se Bin formed the Korean National Association at Ri Po Sik’s house at Haktanggol, Pyongyang on March 23, 1917. The young members of the association cut their fingers\and wrote “Korea’s independence”\and “Resolved to give our lives” with their blood.

The Korean National Association was a secret\organization with the aim of achieving national independence\and establishing a truly modern state through the efforts of the unified Korean nation. It was one of the largest anti-Japanese underground revolutionary\organizations of Korean patriots at home\or abroad at the time of the March First Popular Uprising12.

In 1917 there were not many clandestine\organizations in Korea. By that time the Independence Volunteers, the Great Korea Liberation Corps, the Korea’s Sovereignty Recovery Corps\and similar\organizations that had been formed after the annexation had all been disbanded under the repression of the Japanese imperialists. Because underground fighters were indiscriminately arrested,\ordinary people dared not think of joining them in their activities. The situation was such that even those who were determined to fight for independence were compelled to leave the country\and form anti- Japanese\organizations abroad. People who were not brave enough to do this engaged in moderate activities at home with the permission of the government-general, without offending the Japanese.

It was in this situation that the Korean National Association was born.

It was a revolutionary\organization that stood firmly against imperialism\and for independence. Its manifesto stated that, in view of the clear evidence that European\and American forces were heading East\and that they would soon rival Japan for hegemony, the association must, by taking advantage of their rivalry, promote the rallying of the masses\and preparations for achieving Korea’s independence through the efforts of the Korean people.

As is clear rom the manifesto, the Korean National Association, unlike those who pinned their hopes on foreign forces, adopted the independent stand that Korea’s independence should be won by the Korean people themselves.

The Korean National Association drew up a great plan for sending its members to Jiandao\and developing that area into the strategic base for the independence movement.

The association had a closely-knit network of\organizations. It admitted to its membership only well-prepared, tested\and well-selected patriots, had an\organizational system that worked rom top to bottom\and used code words for communications between its members. Its secret documents were compiled in code. It planned to hold a general meeting of its members every year on the day of starting a new school year at Sungsil Middle School. It was thoroughly concealed by means of such lawful fringe\organizations as the School Association, Stone Monument Association\and Home-town Association. It had area leaders under it\and posted correspondents to Beijing\and Dandong for the purpose of liaising with people working abroad.

The association had a solid mass foundation. It drew its membership rom among workers, peasants, teachers, students, soldiers (of the Independence Army), shopkeepers, religious believers\and artisans—people rom all walks of life. Its\organizational network spread throughout the country\and even reached Beijing, Shanghai, Jilin, Fusong, Linjiang, Changbai, Liuhe, Kuandian, Dandong, Huadian\and Xingjing in China.

In the course of forming\and building up the Korean National Association, my father recruited many new comrades such as Jang Chol Ho, Kang Je Ha, Kang Jin Gon\and Kim Si U. It would be impossible to describe all the painstaking efforts made by my father in\order to discover them. He did not mind walking hundreds of miles if it was to meet a comrade.

O Tong Jin, on his way to Hwanghae Province, one day called unexpectedly on my father. He looked handsomer than usual\and made a great impression on me.

He boasted that he had found a fine man.

“He is a young man named Kong Yong, living in Pyoktong,” O Tong Jin said. “He is well-informed, nine feet tall\and handsome. Being a man of composure\and skilful at Kyoksul (an art of self-defence—Tr.), he would have made a good defence minister if he was living in a feudal age.”

Delighted at the news, my father remarked, “From olden times someone who recommended a good man has been more appreciated than the services of the good man himself. So your recent visit to Pyoktong has been of great benefit to our movement.”

When O Tong Jin had left, my father asked my uncle to make a few pairs of straw sandals. The next day he put on a pair\and set out on a journey.

He returned home before a month had passed. He had walked such a long way that his sandal had worn almost to shreds. Nevertheless, he was smiling as he entered through the brushwood gate,\and showed no sign of fatigue.


My father was extremely satisfied with his interview with Kong Yong.

In my boyhood I learned rom my father the ethics of comradeship.

The Korean National Association was the result of many years of my father’s energetic\organizational\and propaganda activities at home\and abroad after the annexation. He planned to build up the movement on a large scale on the strength of the\organization.

But the\organization was put down harshly by the Japanese imperialists. In the autumn of 1917 the enemy discovered a clue concerning the\organization.

One windy day three policemen fell upon my father as he taught at Myongsin School\and arrested him.

Mr. Ho who had followed my father as far as the Maekjon ferry hurried back to my mother with a secret message rom him.

My mother, as my father had written in the message, climbed up to the attic\and came down with some secret papers which she destroyed in the kitchen fire.

From the day following my father’s arrest the Christians living in Ponghwa-ri gathered at Myongsin School early every morning\and prayed for his release.

People rom Pyongyang, Kangdong\and the surrounding area swarmed to the Pyongyang Police Station with petitions for his release.

On hearing that my father was soon to be put on trial, my grandfather in Mangyongdae sent my uncle to the police station. He wanted to know whether my father wished to have a lawyer to defend him at the trial\or not. When my uncle said that he would find the money to hire a lawyer by selling some household goods, my father flatly refused.


“A lawyer speaks with his mouth,\and I can do the same. So there is no need to waste money on a lawyer. An innocent man does not need a lawyer to defend him!”

The Japanese imperialists tried my father three times at the Pyongyang local court. Each time my father protested against the trial, saying, “How can it be a crime for a Korean to love his country\and work for it? I cannot recognize this unwarranted examination by the authorities.”

As a result, the trial dragged on. At the third trial the Japanese imperialists sentenced him to a term in prison.

After my father’s imprisonment uncle Hyong Rok\and my second uncle on my mother’s side (Kang Yong Sok) came to Ponghwa-ri to take us to Mangyongdae.

But my mother said that she would remain at Ponghwa -ri through the winter. She wanted to remain there in\order to get in touch with the members of the Korean National Association\and other anti-Japanese fighters who might visit there,\and to resolve any problems caused by my father’s arrest.

After dealing with all such problems my mother took us to Mangyongdae in the spring of the following year. My two grandfathers came to Ponghwa-ri with a cart to carry away our household goods.

For me the spring\and summer of that year were miserable. Whenever I asked my mother when father would return, she

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