[Reminiscences]Chapter 17 4. Photographs\\and Memory > 회고록 《세기와 더불어》

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 17 4. Photographs\\and Memory

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작성자 편집국 작성일20-08-20 19:50 댓글0건



[Reminiscences]Chapter 17 4. Photographs\and Memory





4. Photographs\and Memory 


 It was probably on the Diyangxi plateau, Changbai County, that we posed for a photo for the first time during the anti-Japanese armed struggle. Towards the end of our joint celebration of the army\and the people, many soldiers suggested having their photographs taken in memory of the reunion of the three units. Luckily, the 4th Division had a camera. We collected the machine-guns rom all units, placed them in front of us for display\and sat for a photograph. Everyone was happy, as if he had won commendation.

Nevertheless, the younger guerrillas were not satisfied with having only one picture taken. They wanted to have individual\and group photos of squads; they also wanted to pose with friends in other units, whom they had met after a long separation. Some guardsmen were keen on having a picture taken with me alone as well.

But the unwilling photographer packed the camera\and walked away, probably quite embarrassed: there were too many applicants\and too few dry-plates to meet all their demands. The younger men went back, sulking. I thought of calling back the photographer, but I had no time to spare for it.

I understood the feelings of younger men who were disappointed not to have their photographs taken. At their age everyone wants to have his picture taken. I was no exception.

I did not have many pictures rom my childhood. I could hardly afford to eat my fill of coarse gruel, how could I think of having my photo taken? In those days there was no photo studio in\or around Mangyongdae, one had to walk nearly eight miles to Pyongyang city\or to Ppaengtae Street if one wanted to pose for a photo. Once in a while photographers came rom the city to the outskirts with tripod cameras to earn money, but even then they came only as far as Chilgol, not taking the trouble to come to Mangyongdae, an out-of-the-way village.

Once when I was a little boy, my grandfather gave me 5 jon. As it was the first money I had ever received, I walked many miles to Pyongyang city. I was fascinated by the flourishing city. The shops\and bazaars on both sides of the street were filled with fancy goods. I was almost deafened by hawkers shouting, “Buy my goods!” But I ignored them\and made for a photo studio with the intent of having my picture taken.

However, it was naive of me to think I could pose for a photo for only 5 jon. When I saw ladies\and gentlemen in modern suits counting what seemed like wads of bank notes in front of the cashier, I realized that I had come to the wrong place. I hurried out, aware that it was a pipe-dream think one could have a taste of civilization with 5 jon. On walking away rom the studio, I had a mental vision of the whole world sinking under the weight of money. I felt crushed by the vision,\and since then I avoided photo studios whenever I went to the city.

In my days in Jilin, too, I tried to keep away rom photo studios. Sometimes I went to cinemas, but I avoided photographers. The Jilin Yuwen Middle School was full of rich people’s children. They spent money like water in the town’s more entertaining quarters,\and in restaurants\and amusement parks. Their way of throwing around money for gourmandism\and merrymaking astonished me. I barely managed to pay my school fees with the money my mother sent me, which she had earned penny by penny. My most awkward moment was always when they suggested going to a restaurant\or to a photo studio. I invariably turned down their suggestion on some pretext\or other. Once I received a letter rom my mother with a notice of remittance. “I’m sending you some money,” she wrote, “so that you could have your picture taken on your birthday\and send it to me. That way, whenever I miss you, I can see you in the picture.” I could not but comply with her request. My younger brother, Chol Ju, had told me that she would bury her face in my worn-out underclothes\and shed tears whenever she missed me. Proof of how much she was missing me lay in this extra expense for her,

paid in addition to the school fee!

So I had my picture taken\and sent it to Fusong, the only solo photograph I posed for in my days at the Jilin Yuwen Middle School still extant. It was later kept for decades by Chae Ju Son, one of my close acquaintances in Fusong\and a member of the Women’s Association. She finally gave it to a group of our visitors to the old revolutionary battlesites in northeast China. She had taken a great risk in keeping it for so long under the enemy’s surveillance.

In later days I had my picture taken on various occasions, but most of them were lost. The photograph I posed for in dabushanzi with Ko Jae Ryong was discovered a few years ago\and made public in my memoirs.

And yet the photograph I had had taken in my days in the Jilin Yuwen Middle School fell into the hands of the enemy through a channel I did not know. The enemy police used it in their search for me. Once an enemy spy came as far as Kalun, carrying my photo,\and asked the members of the Children’s Expeditionary Corps, who were standing guard, whether they had not seen the man in the photo. The children told me about this in time for me to stay out of harm’s way. The spy was killed by men of the Korean Revolutionary Army. After that, I refrained rom sitting for a photo for some time.


This did not mean that I entirely gave up being photographed. When I had an unexpected reunion with comrades,\or at moments of separation\or joy, I wanted to imprint those moments so as to remember them. There were many dramatic instances worthy of photographing in my underground\and guerrilla activities\and there were many impressive events during my life at the guerrilla base.

However, not a single one of these events remains in the form of a photograph. It could not be helped: In those days none of us could afford to leave a memento\or a symbolic piece of evidence for the future. As our struggle was arduous\and pressing, more important\and immediate tasks occupied us, we had no time for more extravagant thoughts.

As the saying goes, life exists even on a deserted island,\and there was no reason for the guerrillas to live an austere life at all times.

When I saw the young guerrillas so eager to have their pictures taken, I felt dismay. The fact that my unit had no camera, while the 4th Division had one, made me reflect upon myself. It was a great surprise to me, who had been camera-shy for so long, that the guerrillas, who lived on the mountains\and knew nothing but the revolution, were as eager to sit for a picture as were other people. Their interest was quite unusual.

That day when I returned to my quarters I mentioned to some of the commanding officers that our young guerrillas had been following the photographer of the 4th Division around, trying to win his favour. I added that we should have a camera of our own: I merely mentioned it in passing, but my words had an exceptional result.

One day in the summer of 1937, when we were away rom Changbai, staying at the secret camp in Liudaogou, Linjiang County, Ji Thae Hwan, who was working underground in Changbai, came to see me. While making his work-report to me, he said all of a sudden that he had obtained a camera\and had brought it along. I was beside myself with joy.

It was a cabinet camera on a tripod, just like the one the 4th

Division had. He brought a middle-aged photographer with him.

Evidently Ji had kept my passing remark in mind.

Ji had been picked, trained\and sent to my unit by Kim Il,\and like Kim Il, he was reticent\and practical. Whenever he was entrusted with a task, he carried it out in silence, like a steadfast peasant. Kim Il\and Ji Thae Hwan were very much alike in their character, in their work attitude\and behaviour.

Ji told me how he had gone about capturing the camera. It was a veritable adventure story:

At first Ji, together with a guerrilla named Kim Hak Chol, called on Ri Hun, head of Shijiudaogou,\and seriously discussed the matter of the camera. The village head also worked out the way to get one with the local members of the ARF. One day Ri Hun informed Ji that the police had brought a camera to their branch station in Ershidaogou in\order to take photos of the residents for their resident cards\and registration. He added that it would be like killing two birds with one stone if they got hold of the camera, for not only would it be useful to the guerrillas, but also removing it would delay the fuss of resident-registration for a long time.

In West Jiandao the Japanese imperialists attempted to enforce the system of internment villages\and the medieval “collective culpability system”18 on hundreds of households, a system they had introduced in eastern Manchuria. It was for this purpose that they began the registration of households\and photo-taking for ID cards. On top of this, they tried to issue passes\and licenses for purchasing goods so as to bind the people hand\and foot even further.


People between the ages of 15\and 65 could neither become residents nor move away without a resident card\or a pass, nor could they buy grain, cloth\or shoes without a license for purchasing goods. If a person was revealed to have bought goods without the license, he\or she was arrested for “having contacts with the bandits”.

The point was how to get the camera, which was standing in the yard of the strictly guarded police branch station. Ji Thae Hwan\and Ri Hun discussed the matter for a long time.

The next day Ri Hun appeared in the office of branch station chief, wearing a long face,\and grumbled, “I’m so angry. I can no longer work as the village head. I told the peasants time\and again they can have their pictures taken if they go to the branch station, but they are too ignorant to believe me. They trembled even at the sight of me, as if I were a police officer. How can I work under these conditions?”

The chief of the branch station said nothing, only licked his chops.

Ri Hun continued, “Even the influential villagers are grumbling that it’ll take until the end of autumn for the hundreds of households on the 25-mile stretch of Shijiudaogou to go to Ershidaogou to have their pictures taken. They say they have to give up harvesting\and eat photographs. I don’t know what to do.”

Then he plumped down on a chair. The chief was annoyed:

“How tactless you are! What do you expect rom me to do?

Think up your own method of dealing with the problem!”

This was what Ri Hun had hoped the chief would say. After pretending to be racking his brains for a few minutes, he said, “It is true that the people are afraid of this branch station; it’s also true that it is far away rom Shijiudaogou. What about doing it at Ri Jong Sul’s house in Shijiudaogou? The yard of his house is large enough for taking pictures.”


Ri Jong Sul was the enemy’s running dog. As he used to treat the policemen\and other officials to a drinking bout whenever they visited his house, they were willing to go there on any excuse. The branch station chief leaped at Ri’s suggestion, calling it a bright idea. In this way the camera was moved rom the strictly guarded police branch station in Ershidaogou to Ri Jong Sul’s yard,\and the villagers of Shijiudaogou gathered in the yard.

The police chief went to Ri Jong Sul’s house in the company of his men. Needless to say, Ri Jong Sul prepared a drinking bout. The chief posted a policeman in the yard\and sat down at the table. A few minutes later the policeman standing guard joined the others.

When they were roaring drunk, a member of the underground\organization in the village abruptly opened the door\and shouted that the “bandits” were taking away the camera. He made a great fuss, saying that they were all over the surrounding mountains. The station chief went pale, drew a pistol\and assumed a posture of charging forward, obviously under the influence of alcohol.

Ri Hun restrained him, saying, “The ‘bandits’ are not just a few. How can you match them by yourself alone? Save your own skin. They say that a dead lord is no better than a living dog.”

He led him to the backyard, pushed him into a pigsty\and covered him with straw. Other policemen hid themselves as best as they could.

Meanwhile, the guerrillas came to the yard\and made a stirring speech in front of the people who had come to pose for their photos,\and then went quietly away with the camera.

When we heard the story rom the soldier who had been there in person, I laughed till I cried.

The Japanese imperialist secret documents entitled Case of the Situation of the “Bandits” across the River\and Judgement of the Hyesan Incident read in part:


“Around 1:30 p.m. when the photographer was taking photos of 100 people in Xiaopudaogou, men armed with pistols, believed to be Kim Il Sung’s unit, appeared\and said, ‘What are you taking their photos for? You are living off photography, so we will let you go if you give us the camera.’ Then they left with the camera\and a dozen dry-plates.”

The dry-plate is something like film for today’s camera. The cameras of the old days used glass plates instead of film.

All in all, Ji Thae Hwan, along with Kim Hak Chol\and Ri Hun, had made my wish come true.

Ji took the photographer with him rom the enemy-ruled area, a man by the name of Han Kye Sam. The guerrillas called him Ri In Hwan. He was nearly 40 years old. Tall\and strong, he was fit for a guerrilla.

I resolved to learn photography rom this man so as to take the pictures of my men when necessary. I was sincere in my wish to learn the art, but he could not understand why I took time out for this trivial thing.

He taught me how to capture a good image when taking a picture\and how to expose the plate. He was very kind\and meticulous.

After he had found out who I was, he unlocked his heart to me. What still remains most clearly in my mind of what he told me is “strings of mushrooms”. He said that as soon as he had arrived at my unit, he had looked for “strings of mushrooms”. I asked him what he meant by this strange expression,\and he answered that it meant strings of dried ears. According to him, the enemy was spreading propaganda that the revolutionary army cut the ears off the people they captured\and dried them in strings, as one would do with mushrooms. He said that the Japanese imperialists had strategic bodies they called “pacification squads,” which had a variety of sections under them\and advertised that the guerrillas


were savages with red faces\and horns on their heads. He said he had believed it to be true until a few days before.

“When the guerrillas appeared in the yard of Ri Jong Sul’s house, I was scared stiff\and shook like a leaf, even with the dark cloth over my head. This is the end, I thought\and clasped my hands to my ears. But I found your men to be kind-hearted people.”

Learning that he had several children, I advised him to return home. But he would not listen to me\and begged that he should be allowed to stay with us, for his wife could easily take care of the children. He was so sincere\and adamant, I admitted him into the guerrilla army. He was overjoyed at his new military uniform,\and that pleased me.

After the battles of Liukesong\and Jiaxinzi we admitted a large number of workers into the army\and\organized several squads with the recruits. Ri In Hwan was leader of one of those squads.

He took many photos of our fighters. He carried some developing solution with him\and developed the negatives soon after he had taken a photo. He fought bravely, so everyone respected him, valued him\and liked him.

Once he fell ill rom influenza. We put all we had into nursing him. As he slept, many of our men put their overcoats over him. I, too, covered his head with my blanket\and stayed up all night beside him, reading a book.

When awake, he squeezed my hands\and said in tears, “Why all this care when I am a nobody? How can I repay your kindness?”

He said that while staying with us, he had been treated as a man\and now realized the true meaning of life for the first time in his life. He had decided that he preferred living like a man, even if it meant eating grass roots in the guerrilla army, to leading the life of a servant to the Japanese, even though that meant eating rice.


One day the photographer set up his camera in front of me\and adjusted my pose, saying, “Please allow me to realize my wish today. I’m going to take your photo, General.”

He wanted to take this photo of me to the homeland in person to show it to the compatriots.

“Thank you for your sincerity, but, making one’s photo open to the public is against the discipline of the army. When the revolution emerges victorious, we can take as many photos as we want. When the country is liberated, please take my photo first,” I said.

He smiled amidst tears. It was the first time I had seen such a delicate smile. It is still vivid in my memory.

As we were switching over rom our large-unit activities to activities by smaller units after the meeting at Xiaohaerbaling, I again advised him to go back home, but he insisted on remaining. To the great regret of the entire unit, he was killed soon after.

When I sit for a photo now, I often have a vision of Ri In Hwan approaching me with his camera of the old type\and adjusting the focus....

Although he was killed, some of the photos he took remain as a miraculous history of the guerrillas. The photo taken in the secret camp in Wudaogou, Linjiang,\and that of the women guerrillas, taken on the River Hongqi, were done by him.

The group picture was taken in the secret camp in commemoration of the return of Kim Ju Hyon’s small unit after operations in the homeland. That day I had tried to take their photo, but the guardsmen insisted on posing with me\and Ri In Hwan pushed me forward, telling me to sit with them, as he would press the shutter. I sat with them, wearing the black-rimmed spectacles I wore when disguising myself.

To my regret, most of the photos Ri In Hwan\and I had taken were either burned\or lost. Whenever they got hold of our photos, the enemy used them for their scheme to track us down. The photos my guardsmen\and I had kept were lost when Rim Su San raided the secret camp in Hwanggouling at the head of the enemy’s “punitive” force.

Decades after, we learned that Kato Toyotaka, a former high-ranking Japanese policeman in puppet Manchukuo, had some of the photos. According to him, he had kept three of our photos, but now had only two of them, one having been lost. He made public the two photos.

In an article entitled Important Photos of the Police of Manchukuo, Collection of Documents, he wrote under the subtitle, Mysterious Anti-Japanese Hero Kim Il Sung.

“...the photos of Kim Il Sung\and the cadres of the Communist Party of China, used for tracking them down, are extremely important\and rare.”

On the back of one photo were the words, “All the members of the Headquarters of Kim Il Sung’s unit”, written by a member of the “punitive” force.

Thanks to the photo, a historical fact was made public in a picture. The photos show the true appearance of the revolutionary army, whose officers wore the same uniforms as the rank\and file, not the nasty “bandits,” “devils”\or “savages” the enemy had made them out to be.

Many of our officers\and men were killed in battle without leaving photos of themselves behind. Things nowadays are different. When a soldier is killed in action, we give him a commendation according to his military service, send the death notice to his hometown\and arouse the concern of society over the death. But, in the days of the anti-Japanese war we could not send the notice of the death of a guerrilla to his family, nor could we set up a tombstone over his grave. As the enemy were always at our heels, we heaped up snow\or stones on his grave,\and when we had no time to do that we covered his body with pine boughs before leaving in haste.

When burying fallen comrades, we felt bitter at the thought of burying their hot youth in a desolate land,\and felt a handful of earth to be as heavy as a large rock. How many martyrs passed away like that without leaving a photo?

Bidding farewell to fallen comrades was heartrending,\and taking leave of living comrades was also painful. How good it would have been if we had been able to sit for a photo together in exchange for those moments!

Seeing women guerrillas dying without leaving their pretty faces in photos was beyond endurance. When they fell, we felt as if our hearts were torn to shreds.

They left only their packs behind in this world. In the packs used to be small pieces of embroidery of the rose of Sharon on the map of Korea. Could a giant build mounds over their bodies covered with this embroidery, without his hands trembling?

Time wears too many things away\and buries them in oblivion. They say that all memories, both happy\and sad, fade away with the lapse of time.

However, this seems not to be the case with me. I can never forget any of my fallen comrades-in-arms, probably because the farewells between the dead\and alive were such bitter events. Their images are vivid in my memory as if on hundreds\and thousands of clear prints. It is natural that photographs should get discoloured\and memories grow dim with the passage of time; somehow, however, for me their images grow fresher with each passing minute\and wring my heart\and soul.

When building the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery on Mt. Taesong, some people suggested erecting a grand monument\and engraving the martyrs’ names on it. On my part, I wanted to show their images. I wanted to have the individual images of the anti-Japanese heroes reproduced so that they could meet the coming generations. But most of them were killed without leaving any photographs behind. I finally described their appearances in detail to the sculptors, so that they could reproduce their images.

Reading the document of the “Hyesan incident” the Japanese imperialists had dealt with, I saw the photos of many fighters in it.

Gorky said that the photo of a poor man is carried in a newspaper only when he breaks the law; our fighters left the first\and yet last photos of themselves pictured in shackles.

Thanks to Ji Thae Hwan who had obtained a camera, we have a small number of photos of us in the days of the anti-Japanese revolution. But Ji Thae Hwan did not sit for a photo even once. An indefatigable\and skilled underground political worker, he was arrested at the time of the “Hyesan incident”\and left his photo only in the enemy’s document.

He was photographed, bound with a rope; he turned his indignant face aside\and his sharp eyes were downcast. As he was a man of unusual self-respect, how furiously his blood must have boiled! Although he was sentenced to death, he remained calm. He guffawed, saying, “I made the Japanese imperialists pay by the blood I shed. I’ve nothing to regret even if I die now.”

I have many sleepless nights, not only when I have many things to do, but also when the images of the martyrs, who left no keepsakes\or photos behind, pass through my mind.

Probably for this reason I do not slight photography as I grow old. When I visit a factory\or a rural village, I pose for a photo with working people\and women. When I call on an army unit, I have a picture taken with the People’s Army soldiers. One year, when I\dropped in at Yonphung Senior Middle School, I took photos of the students for some time.

As the present system is excellent, there is no difference in men\and jobs; when a man renders good service, he enjoys distinction\and is praised by everybody. One can enjoy a varied\and abundant cultural life everywhere. The songs\and dances created in labour are staged on squares on holidays\and during the festivities; at nights the happy people walk endlessly through the brightly-lit streets\and parks.

Half a century ago, this was a Utopian dream. Most of the anti-Japanese fighters passed away before seeing the life of today. If it were not for the historical path they paved with blood by laying down their lives, could there be a today\or a tomorrow for our generation?

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