페이지 정보작성자 편집국 작성일20-06-12 20:53 댓글0건
[Reminiscences]Chapter 6 2. The Last Image
2. The Last Image
One day when our unit was busy preparing for its expeditionary campaign my younger brother Chol Ju came to Xiaoshahe to see me. The news of the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army’s raid on a puppet Manchukuo army convoy led by a Japanese noncommissioned officer at Xiaoyongziling had spread widely, going beyond the bounds of Antu\and as far as Dunhua\and Yanji,\and everywhere our victory was the topic of conversation. The revolutionary\organizations in Songjiang, Dadianzi\and Liushuhezi went so far as to send people to Xiaoshahe to discover the truth about the Xiaoyongziling battle.
At first I merely surmised that my brother had come on a similar errand\and met him in a matter-of-fact way. But contrary to my expectation, he asked nothing about the Xiaoyongziling ambush. He spent the whole day in silence watching the footdrill of the guerrilla men\and then making straw sandals in company with the men chosen for the expeditionary campaign in the room next to the headquarters. Straw sandals were one of the items stipulated by the headquarters as equipment for the campaign. I changed my mind\and decided that my brother must have come to Xiaoshahe to help in the preparations for our campaign. At nearly suppertime, when I came back to the headquarters after meeting the head of the peasant\organization in the village, Chol Ju told me he was going home. I told him he should have supper with me before going. But he refused\and insisted on going. He looked as though he wanted to say something to me, but never did. Then he nervously studied my face with a somewhat curious expression. My sixth sense told me that my brother had not come to Xiaoshahe to help in the preparations for the expedition\and that he had some cause to come to see me. If he had some cause, it must have been something which had happened to my mother\or to himself. So I did not go inside the headquarters but walked with my brother as far as the entrance to the village to see him off, asking him point-blank:
“Has something happened in Tuqidian?”
By Tuqidian I meant my home. Somehow I was afraid to say “at home.”
“No, nothing has happened,” he said, forcing a smile. A clever actor\and irresistibly humorous, my brother could easily crack a smile to deceive me. But his smile then was doleful\and his mouth became twisted at one corner. Avoiding my eyes, he stared over my shoulder at the distant sky.
“If there is anything amiss, you should tell me directly. If you leave without telling me, I shall be anxious, shan’t I? Don’t keep it to yourself. Come clean right away.”
Chol Ju heaved a deep sigh before reluctantly opening his mouth:
“It appears that mother’s illness has become critical. She hasn’t even eaten a spoonful of food for two days.”
His words struck me like a bolt out of the blue. I felt faint inside on hearing that my mother was not eating anything. I knew she had been ill for a long time. When we were living in Badaogou, I had scarcely seen her ill in bed. But after my father had passed away in Fusong\and I had left for Jilin to go to secondary school, my mother would often be ill. Chol Ju would sometimes tell me of her infirmity in his letters. At first when I received such letters, I was afraid that she had contracted Shuitu-bing, a local disease. Many of the people in the Fusong area sufferedrom it. When someone caught it his hands became crooked, his finger joints grew thick\and his throat gave him trouble, so that he was disabled. Moreover, it was said, he would die before reaching 30 years of age. This local disease was one of the reasons why, after my father’s death, O Tong Jin came to Fusong\and advised my mother to move out to Jilin, so that our family should not be harmed. When I came home for the holidays I found my mother ill notrom the disease butrom fatigue. It upset me to think that her life of overworking, living in destitution, had at last come to tell upon her health. But I was relieved to learn that it was not the horrible Shuitu- bing. After coming to Antu she sufferedrom heartburn. In those days heartburn was called a “lump.” My mother would complain that she felt as if something big were pushing upwards in her chest. Looking back now, I think it might have been stomach cancer. The doctors diagnosed it as a “lump in the stomach,” but were unable to find a remedy. No medicines were effective. When she felt a movement in her chest, she would lie down in her bed\and skip her meals\or take a few spoonfuls of thin gruel for a meal. That was the only cure. My friends went to a lot of trouble to find a cure for my mother’s illness. All my friends who were engaged in the work of the Young Communist League would send medicines to her. When they came across an advertisement for a medicine in a newspaper\and thought it might be good for my mother’s ailment, they bought it no matter how expensive it was\and sent it to her by parcel post. Such postal packages camerom Jilin, Shenyang, Harbin\and Longjing. Traditional herb doctors in the Antu area, too, spared no efforts to treat my mother. The herb doctors in Dashahe treated her free of charge.
From the bloodshot eyes\and dismal expression of Chol Ju I guessed that my mother’s illness was in its last stage. When I asked if there was any grain in the house, he answered that it was almost all gone. The next day I bought a large mal of foxtail millet at Xiaoshahe with money my comrades had given me\and set out for Tuqidian. I reckoned one mal of food grain would last the family of three (mother, Chol Ju\and Yong Ju) for a month\and that in that time we would have returnedrom south Manchuria. A large mal of grain was about 15 kilogrammes. For our family struggling along on gruel in those days 15 kilogrammes of grain was a great deal, enough for a feast. But that one mal of grain hardly satisfied me. The straps cut painfully into my shoulders, but I did not feel the weight of my load of grain. It seemed as light as a feather compared with the love my mother had shown for me.
My father had once told me the story of Ri Rin Yong, the commander of the Honourable Righteous Force of the 13 Provinces. The story of this man’s appointment as the commander was dramatic\and instructive. When the heads of the Righteous Volunteers units in the eastern regions called on Ri Rin Yong to ask him to lead their units, he was tending his sick old father who was near death. Declining their request, he said: Someone else can command the Righteous Volunteers, but I cannot see my parents again once they have passed away. How can I leave my home\and my old father when he is at death’s door? I do not want to be an undutiful son. But on the fourth day he accepted their request. The Righteous Volunteers hastened to rally under his commandrom all parts of the country. Their number reached 8,000. Some time later the units of Ho Wi\and Ri Kang Nyon joined them, so that the strength of the Honourable Righteous Force swelledrom 8,000 to 10,000. They were further reinforced by 3,000 troops of the old national army of the Ri dynasty armed with rifles. The heads of the Righteous Volunteers unitsrom all regions of the country hailed Ri Rin Yong as the commander of the Honourable Righteous Force of the 13 Provinces,\and under his command they advanced to Seoul. The ultimate goal of the Righteous Volunteers was to storm into Seoul\and crush the Japanese residency -general\and abrogate the Protectorate Treaty. According to this plan of operations, the Righteous Volunteers units were closing in on Seoul when Ri Rin Yong received word that his father had passed away. He handed over the command to another man\and went off to his home. His departure, along with the defeat of Ho Wi’s troops sent out as the advance force, demoralized the men\and led sadly to the collapse of the whole army.
When I was involved in the student movement in Jilin, I had an argument with members of the Ryugil Association of Korean Students on the subject of Ri Rin Yong’s decision to leave for home on hearing of his father’s death. Many of them accused him of being a spineless commander. They argued furiously that, because he, the commander of 10,000 volunteers, went home just because of his father’s death when he had before him the great task of leading his army to Seoul, he could not be called a man\and a patriot. But not everybody criticized Ri Rin Yong. Some expressed their approval of his act. They said it was right, proper\and natural that a man should return home\and go into mourning when his father died,\and even praised him as a dutiful son. At the present time a dutiful son means a man who is both faithful to his country\and devoted to his parents, but in those days he who was devoted only to his parents was considered a dutiful son. I refuted them by saying that Ri Rin Yong’s behaviour should not be taken as a model of genuine filial piety. I argued:
“Only a man who loves both his country\and his family can be called a truly dutiful son. If he merely thinks much of his family and shows little concern for the national calamity, how can such a man be called a dutiful son? Now it is high time we were correcting our Confucian sense of value on filial piety. If Ri Rin Yong had, after fulfilling his duty to the country\and achieving his aim, visited his father’s grave\and, pouring a cup of wine\and burning incense, bowed before it, his name would have been honoured more by posterity.”
This came as a great shock to the people who were steeped in the old way of thinking, their minds soaked in the feudal moral view\and Confucian idea on filial piety. The members of the Ryugil Association of Korean Students, divided into two groups, argued hotly for\and against what I had said. Although it is a simple\and clear question beyond any dispute for the members of our League of Socialist Working Youth\and Children’s\union today, it was quite a controversial problem that was difficult to decide between who was correct\and who was not at the time. It took decades\and a bitter, dearly -bought experience for the entire people of the country to realize\and come to believe firmly that loving both their country\and their family was genuine filial piety.
As I returned to my house in the Tuqidian valley carrying the food grain on my back, I recollected this episode about Ri Rin Yong. For some reason I was reflecting that the behaviour of the commander of the Honourable Righteous Force might have been right. It was strange that I should have discovered some justice in the conduct of a man we had all decried so vehemently as a spineless commander, that I should feel inward sympathy,\and express some understanding for him.
It is difficult, even impossible, for a man to lose sight of his family on the ground that he is making the revolution. The revolution is for the benefit of man, so how could revolutionaries ignore their families\and remain indifferent to the fate of their parents\and wives\and children? We have always regarded the welfare of our families\and the destiny of our country as one\and the same. When the country is in distress, families cannot remain in peace,\and when the families are overshadowed by misfortunes, the country will also be afflicted. This is our theory. Because we were convinced of this we were able to take the step, unheard-of in the history of warfare, of sending a regiment behind enemy lines to rescue the family of a soldier. This was motivated by the sense of duty\and moral obligation which only the communists of Korea could display.
At first I, too, tried to be faithful to this moral duty. After shifting my theatre of activity to east Manchuria upon my releaserom prison, I often visited my house, taking medicines which I thought would be good for treating my sick mother, while moving about in the areas around Dunhua\and Antu. But this offended my mother. As my visits became more frequent, my mother called me to her side one day\and said in admonition:
“If you are to make the revolution, you should devote yourself to the revolution,\and if you are to keep house, then you should devote yourself to housekeeping. Choose one\or the other. In my view you should devote yourself to the revolution without worrying about household affairs since Chol Ju is at home\and we can make a living by ourselves.”
After that my visits home became less frequent. After the founding of the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army I seldom went home. I regret that now. Even though mother might have admonished me, I should have fulfilled my filial duty, I reflected in anguish. It was not an easy thing to be faithful to one’s family\and to one’s country at the same time.
As I approached Tuqidian, my pace became irresistibly faster. But my heart grew heavier with each moment. I felt distracted at the thought that I would be seeing my mother critically ill. In a pool reeds were swaying in the wind. The area had been called a reed field village because of its abundance of reeds. But since a few years before when Kim Pyong Il’s family at the lower end of the village started making earthenware for sale, this sparsely-populated out-of -the-way village had changed beyond recognition\and acquired the name of Tuqidian (earthen- ware shop). The sight of the familiar straw-thatched house met my eyes. The untrimmed bush-clover fence was leaning to one side\and the straw thatch was unkempt, so the house looked deserted. This was my home that had been untended by a male hand for years. No sooner had I pushed open the brushwood gate\and entered the yard than the door of the house opened.
“Mother!” I called, running up to my mother who sat leaning against the door post, smiling.
“I thought the footsteps sounded familiar,” she said, beside herself with joy, as she fingered the straps of the grain sack I had put down on the earthen verandah.
I had been afraid that she would scold me for coming home. But to my relief she said nothing to reprove me for coming. Mother\and I exchanged compliments for a while. As we talked, I studied her complexion, her voice\and her carriage, trying to discover the state of her health. Outwardly she had changed littlerom the previous winter, but she was much weaker than before. Her ample bosom had grown smaller, her neck was thinner\and her hair at her temples was noticeably greyer. I could not help feeling sad at the thought that time had left its lamentable marks so early on my mother’s appearance. That night I talked with my mother until after midnight. Our conversation wandered on endlessly—what place had the Japanese army reached? What would be the guerrilla army’s course of action in the future? How could we join hands with Mr. Ryang Se Bong? What was to be done at the guerrilla base? Mother kept leading our conversation to political topics. When mention was made of the family’s livelihood\or her health condition, she would hastily close the subject\and shift the conversation to other topics. When I noticed how my mother tried to conceal the state of her healthrom me, I decided that her illness must be serious. My intuition told me that my mother’s days were numbered. This made me shudder, sending chills down my spine. I gulped back my tears.
The next day, after an early breakfast, I climbed up the mountain with my brother Chol Ju. I was going to collect firewood. Looking round the house, I had seen only one\or two bundles of fuel. I would feel easier in my mind if I gathered some firewood, if nothing more, now that I was back at home, was my thought. I had wished to collect enough firewood to last a few months, but the circumstances did not allow me to do so. The mountain was not deep, so there were no dead trees. I had to content myself with cutting some shrubs.
“Chol Ju, isn’t there something better than this?” I asked. “Let’s collect anything that comes our way. If mother finds
out, she will be angry,” my brother answered, hitching up his hemp trousers.
He appeared to be an innocent boy, but he was already quite clever. While using his sickle, he was always looking down restlessly towards the village. It seemed he was worried that mother would discover that we had slipped out of the house to collect firewood unnoticed by her. He was also aware that mother would be angry if I bothered about trivial household matters. Taking hold of the branches of some shrubs, I worked my sickle swiftly until my hands were raw. Towards sunset we put the firewood on our A-frames\and went down to the village. When we rounded the bendrom\where we could look out over the reed fields, I saw my mother standing at the edge of the yard.
As I was climbing down the mountain, a stick in my hand, my mind was weighed down by a depressing thought. I felt my heart breaking to think that I would be going off on an expeditionary campaign leaving my seriously-ill mother behind. The way ahead for me looked dark. We had decided we would be backrom the campaign in a month\or two, but no one could tell what would be my fate\and\where our unit would be going. I was thinking: What if I continue with the underground struggle for a few years more? Is it not right for me to do so\and call at my home once every few months to discuss household affairs\and console my mother? Is that not my filial duty to my mother who has lived in hardship all her life\and experienced unusually bitter mental afflictions? If I leave Antu now, only a short time after my grandmother’s departure, how will my sick mother be able to bear up, feeling lonely\and supportless? Yet, for all that, I surely cannot allow my own family circumstances to prompt me to revoke the plan for the south Manchurian campaign that has been decided upon as the guerrilla army’s line of action for a year, can I?
“Why, you are worried we may lack firewood here, is that it?” asked my mother grimly, as she stood by the fence waiting for us.
Instead of answering, I looked at her with a smile, wiping the perspirationrom my face.
“You are behaving strangely. You didn’t behave like this when we were in Fusong,\and I didn’t see you do this sort of thing in Xinglongcun, but recently you have become concerned about the housekeeping,” she said in a thick voice.
“I feel refreshed when I smell the scent of grass after a long time,” I said\and walked into the yard with an innocent look, pretending not to have heard what she said.
That evening we, the four members of our family, sat together round the table for the first time after a long separation. There was a plate of broiled fish called podulchi. They tasted good. When I asked how they had got them, mother said that my youngest brother who had been extremely concerned about the lack of side dishes to serve at the table should I come had caught them\and hung them under the eaves to dry. Each of the fish was as thick as a finger. I was so moved that I could not eat all of them, so I left a few.
After my youngest brother had fallen asleep mother, who had been leaning against the wall, sat up straight\and said to me in a grave tone:
“You seem to have changed a littlerom before. I never thought you would carry a sack of cereal here on your back to support your mother. I suppose you are anxious about your sick mother. I am grateful to you for your great filial devotion, but I am not of the type to be comforted by that. In Fusong I would cross rugged hills, holding your hand, in\order to expand the Women’s Association. Do you think I did so to get this sort of consolation today? You have a greater cause to attend to. Don’t you think you should carry out your father’s will? You know there are many Koreans who are suffering in a worse state than me. Don’t worry about me, but hurry along your own way.”
She trembled with a strong emotion as she said this. When I raised my head, I saw her biting her lip, unable to continue. My mother’s view of life reflected in every word she spoke shook my soul violently like a storm\and went straight to my heart. It was a precious moment for me. After recovering her breath for a few moments, she resumed:
“I can say the same about your gathering firewood. You might well do it if you were a man with nothing else to do.... Forget your mother\and your brothers\and never trouble yourself on account of the family’s affairs. If you acquit yourself well of your revolutionary work awayrom home, my illness may pass. So you should leave at once with your unit. That’s my desire.”
I answered her promptly:
“I will always bear your wish in mind. Tonight I’ll sleep here\and tomorrow I’ll go to Xiaoshahe\and start immediately with the unit for south Manchuria to see Mr. Ryang Se Bong.”
Tears gushedrom my eyes\and I turned my face to the wall. My mother must also have felt heartbroken, as she pulled to her the sewing box which was lying in a corner of the room\and started sewing buttons on my uniform jacket. Suddenly for some reason I recalled what had happened during my father’s funeral. My mother did not put on mourning dress\or go to the burial ground. She put us three brothers in mourning dress\and sent us to the funeral. Dozens of people, including O Tong Jin, Jang Chol Ho, Ryang Se Bong\and other members of the Independence Army, followed the coffin with my uncle, but my mother did not even go to the burial ground.
The Tano festival came round soon after my father’s death\and we persistently asked mother to visit his grave. She asked us what was the use of her going there,\and sent us by ourselves. She made a package of offerings for us to take to the grave. She taught us minutely how to burn incense, how to pour wine\and how to bow. That she refused to join us in going to the grave, I surmise, was so that her sons would not see her tears. She would visit the grave alone. Only once did she break her resolve, when Ri Kwan Rin, who had been unable to attend my father’s funeral, came to Fusong\and visited his grave. My mother went to the grave with her\and, when she saw her wailing sadly before the grave until she was fit to faint, asked her soothingly to weep no more. My mother was warmhearted but tearless. She was very stouthearted, something rare in a woman. My mother’s amazingly strong character has left a lasting impression on my mind. Because she was a woman of such a type my mother, despite her lonely life in her sickbed, could without hesitation urge her son to go on his way\and, as if she were giving him the rod, admonish him sternly, enough to prick him body\and soul, which would remain an injunction for him all his life. I think my mother was a mother above the common run of humanity. Precisely for the same reason I used to consider the late Mrs. Jang Kil Bu, mother of Ma Tong Hui, to be an uncommon mother. She met me after liberation. But she did not weep. All the other women wept when they met me, but that mother did not. When I told her to live in Pyongyang\where many old comrades-in-arms of her late son were living, she said she was going in search of the foes who had informed against her son\and went back home before anyone knew.
Being unable to sleep, I went outside. I was pacing in front of the crooked bush-clover fence enjoying the cool air when Chol Ju opened the door quietly\and came out onto the earthen verandah. We sat on the bundles of firewood\and talked. He said he had been absorbed in the work of the Young Communist League\and failed to take good care of mother, but thatrom then on he would behave more wisely so that I should not worry about home. I myself, to speak the truth, had wanted to ask this same favour of him, but fortunately he mentioned it first.
In the morning we prepared\and ate some ground-bean mash. After the meal I went to see Kim Jong Ryong, our neighbour behind our house. I wanted to discuss the future of my brothers with him. I told him frankly that, although I had to depart for south Manchuria without delay, I was reluctant to leave Tuqidian because my worries about my family weighed heavily on my mind. Kim said that I should go, leaving all my household cares to him,\and that he would look to everything, take care of my brothers\and attend well to my sick mother, so that I did not need to worry. I returned home\and got ready to leave. As I was fastening my shoelaces, my mother took out four five-yuan notesrom under the wicker trunk\and handed them to me.
“Awayrom home, you will have many occasions when you are in need of money. So keep this. A man must have money in his pocket in case of emergency. Your father would often say that in the closing period of the Qing dynasty in China Sun Yat-sen, who was locked up in a foreign embassy, gave some money to the cleaning man\and escaped with his help.”
I accepted the money, but my hands trembled. I could not put it into my pocket, at a loss what to do with it. I was well aware of how much trouble the 20 yuan had cost my mother. The 20 yuan she had earned\and saved penny by penny by working her fingers to the bone doing washing\and sewing for pay! At that time one could buy a cow for some 50 yuan, so that much money was enough to buy a medium-sized cow\or cereal to last our family of three for a whole year. I stepped downrom the earthen verandah, tottering as if I had lost my balance under the weight of that money,\and bowed my head in farewell to her, “Good- bye, mother! Peace be with you.” I was thinking at that moment that my parting words should be no differentrom those at other times so as not to cause my mother to cry. So I pronounced the words as casually as possible\and in my usual way.
“Be off quickly, for it’s a journey you must make,” she said nodding, a smile on her sickly face. As I turned away, I heard the door shut behind my back. I walked forward, but I could not leave the village. I began to walk around my house. The 20 yuan was still in my hand. I went round,\and round,\and round yet again....
As I walked my mind was torn between a thousand\and one thoughts which had gripped me like a vice all night long. When will I step into this yard again? Am I trying to go on my way with any prospect of winning? What is in store for me on the path ahead? Is there any hope of my mother’s illness taking a turn for the better? As I went round the house despondently with these thoughts, my mother threw the door open\and scolded me severely:
“What are you worrying about that you are still here? How can a man who has turned out with a determination to win back his country cope with the great cause when he has such a weak heart\and so many worries about his home? You should be thinking of your uncles who are in prison rather than worrying about household affairs. You must think of your lost country\and its people. It is already nearly twenty-two years since the Japanese burglars seized our country. If you are a true man of Korea, you should set yourself a high aim\and stride ahead, shouldn’t you? If in the future you ever think to come home, anxious about your mother, don’t turn up before this door. I won’t meet a son of that sort.”
Her words struck my heart like thunder. My mother looked totally exhausted after uttering these words, resting her head against the door post. She was staring at me with eyes expressing a mixture of affection, passion\and anger. Her appearance reminded me of her image on the day when I arrived at Badaogou after walking a distance of 1,000 ri (250 miles). Then she told me to leave at once for Linjiang\and pushed me off without allowing me even to stay for one night. At that time I first saw as her son the stout\and noble image of my mother alive with a sense of justice\and radiant with ardour. She looked as though she would be burnt to a cinder in the flames of her fiery sense of justice\and ardour. Until then I had believed I knew my mother, who had born\and brought me up, well. But my mother with her noble spirit\and soul was now looking down at merom a height beyond my reach. Her image at that time was more of a teacher than of a mother. I felt so happy that my heart seemed to burst with pride in my mother who was so excellent\and so kindhearted.
“Good-bye, mother!” I took off my cap\and made a deep bow to her. Then I strode off. After crossing the wooden bridge down the village street, I looked back. My mother in white clothes, supporting herself against the door post, stood watching me. That was the last time I saw my mother.\where in that weak body was her noble\and indomitable soul lurking, the soul that had shaken the heart of her son so violently? If my excellent mother had not been sufferingrom an illness, how light I should have felt in my heart as I was walking down the road? I bit my lip to keep myselfrom weeping.
That was not an\ordinary parting a person experiences thousands of times in his life, but the last parting which has remained a heartrending memory to me\and which would never occur again. I never saw my mother after that.
A few months later, when I heard the sad news of my mother’s death, the first thing I felt in my heart was sharp regret at my failure to speak more affectionately to her at our last parting. But it could not be helped because my mother did not wish for a pathetic parting. Even now, in spite of my advanced age, I cannot forget that scene. People will have similar experiences several times in their life. Each time the slightest difference in their behaviour will bring about a remarkably different result in their fates\and their ultimate destinies will be poles apart. If at that time my mother had betrayed her anxiety about household affairs\or had uttered a single word which could unbend my resolute mind, what impact would it have made on the heart of her son who was ready to spread his wings\and fly up into the sky?
From the day when I left the hill of Xiaoshahe at the head of the ranks of the newly-formed Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army, I travelled the path of bloody battles, the path of severe frost, the path of starvation beyond human imagination, together with my comrades-in-arms for decades. After that, I passed half a century of creation\and construction under the banner of socialism. Each time I ran up against an\ordeal which tested my faith as a revolutionary on the rugged\and thorny path I was following in the cause of my homeland\and its people, I would renew my resolve by recalling the words my mother had said to me as she pushed me off to south Manchuria,\and the last image of my mother dressed in white seeing me off, before seeking recourse to an ideology\or philosophical proposition.
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