[Reminiscences]Chapter 6 7. Autumn in Xiaoshahe > 회고록 《세기와 더불어》

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 6 7. Autumn in Xiaoshahe

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 6  7. Autumn in Xiaoshahe

  

   


 

7. Autumn in Xiaoshahe 

 

When we returned to Liangjiangkou, we summoned those who had not taken part in the expedition to south Manchuria which had started rom Xiaoshahe,\and reviewed our work during the six months since the foundation of the guerrilla army. Of course, the main part of the review was related to the expedition to south Manchuria. The guerrillas were unanimous in recognizing that our armed ranks had grown\and developed rapidly over the six months\and that, in the course of this, they had come to believe that they were able to defeat the Japanese imperialists through a guerrilla war.


In\order to take the guerrilla struggle onto a new stage, at the review meeting we set our unit the following tasks:

First, to move the base of the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army to the area of Wangqing.

Secondly, to conduct in greater depth the work with the Chinese anti-Japanese national salvation army.

Thirdly, to give correct guidance to the guerrilla struggle which had started to expand rapidly in east Manchuria,\and hasten the establishment of the revolutionary base\and firmly defend it.


The matter most heatedly discussed of these three matters was that of moving the operational base of the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army to Wangqing.

 

We discussed this one question repeatedly over several consecutive days with the military\and political cadres who had come rom Antu, Yanji\and Helong.


Those rom Antu objected to moving the operational base to Wangqing. They expressed their disapproval by saying: “The guerrilla army which has been founded in Antu should remain in Antu. Why should it go to Wangqing? If the guerrilla army goes to Wangqing, what will happen to Antu?” This was naive obstinacy permeated with regional feelings.


On the other hand, those rom Yanji\and Helong said that for the Antu unit, the seed of the guerrilla army, to move to the centre of Jiandao\where Koreans were concentrated was natural\and timely both rom the strategic point of view\and rom geographical requirements. They asserted that if the Antu unit, which had the strongest fighting power, went to Wangqing, there would also be a great change in the activities of the guerrilla units in the neighbouring counties such as Yanji, Hunchun\and Helong.


All those rom Antu also admitted that Wangqing was the best place geographically. Above all else, Wangqing was good because it was near the homeland. The area of the six towns on the other side of the river had been greatly influenced by Jilin. So this area would be a reliable source of manpower\and material support for the guerrilla struggle in the future. With the area of the six towns as our foothold, we could lead the revolution in the homeland to an upsurge. The masses in the area of Wangqing had remarkable fighting ability\and revolutionary spirit. This they displayed to the full in the Battle of Qingshanli\and the Battle of Fengwugou which can be regarded historically as the zenith of the armed struggle of the Independence Army. Wangqing was the base of operations for the political\and military administration in northern area,\and all the hundreds of the soldiers of the Independence Army\and cadets who were operating there lived on food made of the grain grown by the people in the area.


But we could not move to Wangqing without making prior arrangements just because it was a good place. Therefore, day after day we deepened our discussion in two ways; whether we should establish the base in Antu County\and conduct the guerrilla struggle by our own efforts,\and whether we should continue our legitimate activities with the Chinese national salvation army, while surreptitiously building up the units of Koreans.


I considered that, although we would have to be somewhat restrained in our activities because of our joint action with the national salvation army, it was important to consolidate still further the legitimacy of the Anti -Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army which we had risked our lives to gain\and show our Chinese brothers who regarded the Koreans in Manchuria as the second Japanese that our nation was neither the lackey nor the scout of the Japanese imperialists,\and that the armed group of the Korean communists whom they regarded as being pro-Japanese were thoroughly anti-Japanese.


Finally we adopted the proposal that we should continue to defend the legitimacy of the guerrilla army at the same time as conducting activities together with the national salvation army for the time being\and that we should also increase our armed ranks by expanding our influence through a practical struggle\and then, after the ranks had expanded, unite them.


After we decided on this plan we\selected people\and sent them to various parts of east Manchuria. We sent them to Yanji, Helong,\and Hunchun\and also dispatched many able political workers to the units of the national salvation army in Luozigou. We also formed a flying squad\and dispatched it to Wangqing. We left Kim Il Ryong in Antu. Our unit, which had amounted to well over a hundred people, was reduced to some 40 again.


As we frequently sent people rom our unit to other counties like this, the cadres of the east Manchuria special district committee were pleased. On many occasions they had requested that, because ours was the main unit, we should choose good people rom it\and strengthen the guerrilla units in other areas.


Four months had passed since our unit left Xiaoshahe\and started on its expedition to south Manchuria. The autumnal tints were growing richer\and richer with each passing day in the rivers\and streams, fields\and mountains of Liangjiangkou. Fallen leaves lay everywhere\and were covered with frost, warning of the approaching severe winter of the area.


With the season changing\and the weather getting cold, I was inwardly worried about my mother who was in her sickbed. But I only thought of her\and did not dare to visit Xiaoshahe.


Although I eagerly desired to visit Tuqidian I continually put off meeting my mother.

With the approach of the day of our departure for north Manchuria, Cha Kwang Su brought me a packet of herb medicines\and advised me to visit Tuqidian, taking it with me. When I hesitated, he criticized me, saying that it was not like Kim Song Ju to do so. He said that he would never again talk to me if I, their leader, neglected my mother.


So I left for Xiaoshahe.


Even as I walked with the package of herb medicines in my hand, I was anxious about one thing, that my mother, upon seeing the medicines, might again reproach me for being concerned about unnecessary things. However, I thought that my mother would be delighted to hear that the medicines had been procured for her by Cha Kwang Su.

 

The one mal of hulled millet which I had bought for her when I was in Xiaoshahe must have run out a long time before. My mother being unable to work, I wondered how\and with what money she was now maintaining the household. Saying that spiders do not weave a web in a living mouth, my mother had told me flatly not to think of my family\and to assume that I had neither a mother nor any younger brothers. However, it was not so easy for a man to forget his mother who had given birth to him,\and his younger brothers,\and not to think of his family.


Walking towards my home with the packet of herb medicines, my steps for some reason gradually became heavier as I approached Xiaoshahe. It was true that I felt uneasy for fear that my mother’s illness might have grown worse. However, what I felt most uncomfortable about was the fact that I had returned rom south Manchuria without forming a united front with Commander Ryang. I thought that my mother would be very sorry to learn of this. Although my mother was gravely ill, she had urged me to go to south Manchuria. I think this was because she was pleased\and satisfied over the fact that her son was going to collaborate with a man who had been his father’s friend. My mother was not pleased with the fact that the young people were on bad terms with their seniors in the independence movement\and found fault with their belief.


The most important thing was what my mother’s condition was like. When I was leaving home my mother could not digest even thin millet gruel like\ordinary water. If she had not improved during my absence, she might be in a critical state by now\and in greater pain than before. I could not know what had happened.


Although I was quickening my pace, I could not dispel my anxiety. Even as I crossed the familiar log bridge in Tuqidian I could not rid myself of my uneasiness.

 

Each time I had crossed that bridge, my mother used to fling open the door of our home. My mother had a special sense by which she could tell which of her sons it was when she heard our footsteps. But, that day the door did not open,\and no smoke was rising rom the chimney, smoke indicating that my family was preparing supper; nor did I see my younger brothers going in\and out of the kitchen with either firewood\or a large bowl of dirty water.


Feeling such fear\and tension that the blood in my heart seemed to freeze, I struggled to pull the door handle. No sooner had I opened the door than I almost fell down on the earthen verandah. My mother’s bed was empty. The thought that I was too late flashed across my mind. Then, all of a sudden, Chol Ju came silently up to me\and thumped me on the shoulder with all his might.


“Brother, why have you come only now?”


My younger brother was sobbing into my chest. He cried out bitterly in a hoarse voice, like a child.

Then Yong Ju, my youngest brother, appeared\and took my left arm.

Dropping the packet of herb medicines on the earthen verandah, I hugged my two weeping brothers. Their sobs explained everything. So there was no need at all to ask whether my mother was alive\or dead. I thought: “How can it be that this misfortune has happened during my absence? Couldn’t our mother enjoy even the final happiness of seeing the face of her son at her last moment? My mother, who was born into a poor family\and lived all her life in poverty! My mother who, at the thought of the misfortune of the ruined country, bit her lip\and gulped down her tears even when her husband died! Our mother who has passed away after dedicating herself body\and soul not for herself but for the happiness of others!”


My mother had always been afraid that her son would make a mistake in his great work, swayed by personal feelings. Possibly she had died so early for fear that she might be a burden to me in my making of the revolution.


Stroking with my hand the door post which my mother held when she had admonished me for the last time, I thought how good it would be if I could see my mother once again in front of this door, even if I received a severer reprimand than that time.


“Chol Ju, didn’t mother say anything at the last?”


To this question Mrs. Kim, who had entered the courtyard through the brushwood gate, answered instead of Chol Ju:

“This is what your mother said to me, ‘...if our son Song Ju comes after my death, please treat him as I would have done. If he comes when the Japanese are still in our country\and without having achieved Korea’s independence, you must not allow him to open my grave. You should not even let him into the yard. It is not that I am boasting of my son, but Song Ju will not return before the battle is won.’ Having said this, she asked me to open the door. Then she gazed out at the log bridge over there for a long time.”


What Mrs. Kim said seemed to echo rom the distant “celestial country.” But I could clearly understand the profound\and touching meaning of each of her words, without missing anything.


Still holding my two younger brothers in my arms, I looked round at the log bridge.

I tried to imagine my mother’s longing for her son\and how she had felt when she was passing away without being able to see her beloved son. But before I could pass through the gate of imagination, I burst out sobbing.


When I raised my head after weeping for a good while, I found Mrs. Kim looking up at my face with tearful eyes. The expression in her eyes was so tender\and caring that I almost took her eyes for my mother’s.


“Mrs. Kim, you must have had much trouble looking after my mother.”

Thus I recovered rom my heart-rending sorrow\and pain to express my gratitude to Mrs. Kim for keeping my mother company during her last days.


Then Mrs. Kim began sobbing sorrowfully\and said, “Don’t mention it. I failed to come often. As I failed to look after her well she herself had to comb her hair back. Your younger brothers were away rom home, being engaged in revolutionary work. One day your mother asked me to cut her hair short, like a boy’s, saying that her scalp was itching... But I did not dare to take scissors to her hair. How lovely\and luxuriant her hair was! I said I could not do it. She entreated me to do as she asked. ‘If my scalp did not itch, I would feel like flying high into the sky,’ she said. So I cut her hair....” With this Mrs. Kim wept aloud.


It would have been better if I had not heard her story, I thought. I felt as if the story about her sad, last moments was tearing me apart inside. Mother had looked after her children all her life, but had they, who she had brought up in her lap, not the least filial piety to comb the hair of their mother in her deathbed?


When I was living in Fusong, I saw a boy of my age carrying his sick mother on his back rom Nandianzi to hospital in Xiaonanmen, perspiring profusely. When we saw him, we all said that he was a filial boy. Mrs. Kim’s story for some reason reminded me of that boy dripping with perspiration.

 

I had nothing to say, even if I was to blame for being an undutiful son compared with that boy. What had I done for my mother until I was over the age of 20? As a child I invited mother to sit in the warmest part of the room\and breathed on her cold hands when she returned rom the well, to warm them. In the morning I used to feed the hens\and fetch water in a pail to help mother.


I did nothing special for my mother after I embarked on the revolution. The old saying that there is no upward love even though there is downward love may have been meant for me. That there is no upward love is a truly wise remark. I have never heard of sons\and daughters taking care of their parents with filial piety exceeding the love their parents showed them.


“Chol Ju, didn’t mother leave any word with you?”


Thus I asked Chol Ju again, wondering what might have been the last words she left.

Chol Ju replied in a husky voice, rubbing his eyelid with the palm of his hand, “She told us to help you, brother, well. If we help you well\and become revolutionaries like you, she will rest peacefully in her grave, mother said.”


This shows how she expended all her spiritual strength only for the revolution until her last moment.

My younger brothers\and I visited mother’s grave at once. Mother’s grave covered with pieces of grass was on a hillside

with a lonely old elm.


I took off my army cap\and, with my brothers, bowed before her grave.

I murmured, “Mother, I have come. Pardon your unfilial son. I called on you, mother, coming belatedly rom south Manchuria.” As I knelt, murmuring, Chol Ju suddenly knelt down\and


picked up some pieces of turf.

 

“What are you doing?” I said, looking blankly at my brother, a strange thought occurring to me. Then Chol Ju, weeping, silently buried in the grave the packet of medicines I had brought rom Liangjiangkou.


His silent act finally touched off the sorrow smouldering in my heart. I wept sorrowfully for a long time, kneeling down by the grave. I had become an\ordinary man rom a revolutionary. I felt as if all things in the world had been transformed into the grave\and all matters had been compressed into a tragedy, the loss of my mother. But the blue autumn sky over our heads looked down merrily as normal. I wondered how the sky could remain so indifferent to our grief.


So I lost my dear mother. The tragic event happened in the dismal summer of 1932, twenty-two years after the loss of the country. If the country had not been ruined, she would have lived longer. Mother’s illness was caused by the hardships in her life which followed in the wake of the ruin of the country.


Mother went to untold trouble for her sons. If the filial piety I showed mother was taken for ten, mother’s love for me was more than ten thousand.


Once four\or five members of the Young Communist League\and I were surrounded by the enemy when I was conducting underground activities in Fusong. We had to leave the walled city, even if it meant fighting out of the encirclement, but we had no weapons. So I asked mother whether she could fetch some weapons rom our comrades in Wanlihe.


She readily agreed, saying, “I can do that. I will fetch them.” She went\and returned home safely with two pistols rom our

comrades in Wanlihe, who had loaded\and cocked them as she had asked. Mother had boldly approached the gate of the walled town, carrying on her head a wooden basin containing the two pistols hidden in some ribs of beef. When the police standing by the gate pointed at the basin\and asked her, “What’s that?” she replied with composure, “It’s beef.” The police then only lifted up the sheet of paper covering the basin to see inside\and let her pass through the gate.


I was surprised to see the loaded\and cocked guns.


“Mother, you might have got into serious trouble. Why did you have the guns loaded?”

“I asked your comrades to load them. If the police had tried to search the basin, I would have fired at them. Two\or three men at most would approach me, I supposed. I decided that if they came at me I would shoot at least one to death at the risk of my life.”


Mother’s remark was pervaded with a noble spirit which could not be fathomed by our experience\and way of thinking. It was a manifestation of her courage\and genuine love attended by an understanding of\and sympathy with her son’s undertaking.


At one time we were living in a rented room in Ma Chun Uk’s house in Jiuantu. One day when our comrades were cleaning a pistol one of them fired it accidentally\and wounded my mother in the leg. The bullet wound put her life in danger\and required good treatment.


She was confined to bed. If someone asked, she told him that when she had gone out to throw away some dirty water she had fallen\and had broken her leg. She did not show anyone her wound\and lay in bed, covered by a quilt\and being secretly nursed by uncle Hyong Gwon. But she did not think ill of us\or show any sign of displeasure at the man who had accidentally fired the pistol.


The man who had fired it by accident felt so guilty that he even attempted to kill himself. On hearing of this she reproached him, saying, “That will not do. The accident happened because you are no good at handling a gun. But I was lucky. To think that a man attempts to kill himself because of such a trifle! Discard such an idea\and think how you can keep the matter secret. If the secret leaks out, great trouble will befall you\and this house.\and you will fail in your cause.”


More than the bullet wound in her leg, she feared the fact that we had guns might be made known to the police.

Ma Chun Uk’s family, too, never spoke of the accidental shooting to others.

Mother’s noblest trait was that she loved my comrades like her own sons. Mother treated them like me. When they called at my house, she gave them funds for their work. She took this money rom the money she earned by sewing\and washing. The workers at a timber mill\and seasonal labourers who went about to dig up insam (ginseng) often requested her to make clothes for them rom some cotton cloth they had brought. She earned 70\or 80 fen a day making clothes for them. At times she even earned one yuan a day.


Although she found it difficult to live she was liberal with her money. Having set aside money for the purchase of provisions, travel expenses\and house rent, she did not stint the money she earned. When my comrades came, she would buy several dishes of noodles\and several kilogrammes of pork for them\and serve them with Chinese meat dumplings\or soup with wheat flakes in it; she would also give them funds for their work.


When my comrades said, “Madam, your family, too, does not lead a comfortable life. If you give us all the money, how will you manage to get along?” she replied, “A man dies not because he hasn’t money but because he is mortal.”


Even when my comrades stayed at our home for several months, she was never displeased\and she always treated them like her sons. So those who, while engaged in the youth movement in Manchuria, stayed at my home for several days did not call my mother “Song Ju’s mother” but “our mother.”


It is no exaggeration to say that she cooked meals for revolutionaries all her life. When father was alive, she was always busy cooking for the patriots, never taking a holiday. When we were living in Linjiang, she prepared meals for our guests every night. When we were about to fall asleep under our quilts, father’s friends would troop in, saying jokingly that it was no time to sleep peacefully\and they slept in the front room. Then she would get up\and again cook meals for them.


Mother herself took part in the revolution while looking after the revolutionaries. She started her revolutionary activities when we were living in Fusong. After joining the Paeksan regional branch of the South Manchurian Women’s Education Federation, she conducted enlightenment work among women\and children. She became engaged in the work of the Women’s Association after father’s death.


Mother’s development into someone who conducted the revolution rom someone who helped it is ascribable not only to my father’s\and my influence, but also to Ri Kwan Rin’s influence to a great extent. When Ri Kwan Rin was living with us, she persuaded my mother to participate in the affairs of the South Manchurian Women’s Education Federation.


If mother had shown me only maternal affection, I would have failed to recall her with such warm affection. The love she showed me was not simply motherly love. It was true revolutionary affection with which she regarded me as the son of the nation rather than her own son\and awakened me to the need to give priority to loyalty to the country over filial piety towards my parents. Her whole life served as a textbook for me in implanting in me a true view on life\and on the revolution.


If my father could be compared to a teacher who implanted in me the indomitable revolutionary spirit of fighting through the generations\and achieving national liberation, my mother was a kind teacher who taught me that a man who has embarked on the revolution should strive to the end to achieve his set aim without being swayed by temporary sentiments\or whims.


If love between a parent\and child is blind, it cannot be called solid love. Only when the spirit underlying the love is sound\and noble can love be eternal\and sacred. The spirit which underlay the love between my mother\and I\and my filial piety towards her in the days of the nation’s ruin was patriotism. For the sake of this patriotism she renounced her right to call on her sons to practise their filial duties towards her.


I left Tuqidian valley without even setting up a tombstone by mother’s grave. It was after liberation that a tombstone inscribed with my mother’s name was set up by the grave. The people of Antu County set up a tombstone in her memory\and inscribed the names of her three sons on it.


My mother’s remains, together with those of my father, were brought to\and buried in Mangyongdae in accordance with their wishes after the liberation of the country.


I failed to see to the graves of my parents for a long time, even after my triumphal return home, the situation in the country being complicated\and giving me too much work to do. In the mountains\and fields of Manchuria in which we had spent our entire youth there were buried not only my parents but also numerous comrades-in-arms who fell in action going through the flames of the revolution together with me. In addition their bereaved children were there. I decided that I would not move the remains of my parents before I had found the remains of my late comrades-in-arms\and brought them\and their bereaved children to the liberated homeland.


Jang Chol Ho came to me\and asked me to have the remains of my parents brought to the homeland.

He advised me to choose a suitable place for their graves in Mangyongdae, saying that he would move their graves. Among those who knew my family in my days in Manchuria, Jang Chol Ho was the only one who knew\where my parents’ graves were. He must have gone to a lot of trouble to move the remains of my parents.


While I was waging the armed struggle, the enemy searched persistently for the graves of my parents to exhume them. But the people in Fusong\and Antu deceived the enemy\and defended\and tended the graves of my parents until the day of national liberation. Twice a year, on the 105th day after the winter solstice\and on Harvest Moon Day, Kang Je Ha, my teacher rom Hwasong Uisuk School,\and his family visited my father’s grave in Yangdicun, taking an offering of food with them, held a memorial service\and cut the grass on the grave.


After mother’s death I became the guardian of my two younger brothers\and the head of the family. But the revolution did not allow me to play the part of a guardian\and head of family. I left with a heavy heart for desolate north Manchuria, leaving my younger brothers weeping in sorrow in Xiaoshahe\where the reeds swayed plaintively in the wind, giving them no promise to return.

 


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