I was releasedrom prison at a time when the situation in Manchuria was dangerous. In the streets of Jilin the atmosphere was tense, as if martial law had been declared, as at the time of the incident of the anti-Japanese reading circle in the autumn of 1929. At every road junction\and around the government buildings, gendarmesrom the military control station were stopping\and searching passing people. Armed soldiers\and policemen could be seen searching houses in the back streets.
Things were unimaginably dreadful with the whole of Manchuria suffering due to Li Li-san’s Leftist line. At that time the May 30 Uprising was at its height in Manchuria.
The struggle which is called the May 30 Uprising by Korean historians was referred to as the “Red May struggle” by the Chinese people. We call it the May 30 Uprising because it began on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the massacre that had taken place in Shanghai on the 30th of May\and also because it was at its high point on the 30th of May.
Li Li-san, who was at the helm of the Chinese Communist Party at the time,\ordered the whole party to ensure that the working class, students\and citizens throughout China should go on strike\and, at the same time, develop the struggle in the form of an uprising\and raise soviet guerrilla forces in\order to mark the anniversary of the heroic struggle of the Shanghai citizens in May 1925.
On receiving these\ordersrom him, the revolutionary\organizations under the Manchurian provincial committee convened meetings of shock forces throughout Manchuria by mobilizing the masses\and encouraged them to rise in revolt under his slogan, “Victory first in one\or a few provinces!” Leaflets\and manifestoes calling on the people to revolt appeared in the streets of the towns\and farm villages of east Manchuria.
With the outbreak of the revolt, the enemy stepped up their attack on the communists to a degree never witnessed before. The waves of the attack had already reached Jilin.
After my release, I first visited the Rev. Son Jong Do’s house, which was in Niumaxiang. I thought it proper for me to express my gratitude, before I left the town, to his family for their unceasing concern for me over the seven months I was in prison.
The minister received me in delight, as if it were his own son he was welcoming homerom prison.
“We were afraid that the warlords would hand you over to the Japanese. It is very fortunate for you to have been set free without being given any sentence,” he said.
“Minister, my time in prison was much easier than I had expected because you gave me such strong support. I have been told that you gave the warders a lot on my behalf. I feel I must return your kindness. I shall never forget your kindness all my life, Minister.”
The minister was preparing for a journey to China proper. I asked him why he was leaving Jilin so suddenly.
“Even Zhang Zuo-xiang has become powerless, so there is no influential person whom we can expect to protect\and support us in Jilin,” he said, heaving a deep sigh\and with a sad smile on his face. “If he cannot help us Koreans, we have nothing to fall back on when the Japanese army comes to attack. I thought that once the three\organizations were merged, the independence movement would advance without a problem. But when I see the unceasing tug of war among us I don’t feel like staying here any longer.”
In China proper he had friendsrom his days as the vice-chairman\and chairman of the political council of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai1, as well as his former fellow members of Hungsadan. I imagined he had made up his mind to go there in\order to get in touch with them again\and work harder for independence.
He asked me what I was going to do at a time when the Japanese imperialists might invade Manchuria at any moment.
“I am going to raise a large army\and fight a decisive battle with the Japanese imperialists,\and that’s all,” I said.
“To fight the Japanese with guns!” he exclaimed, looking at me in surprise.
“Yes. There is no other way, is there?”
“Remember that Japan is one of the five world powers. The Righteous Volunteers\and the Independence Army were nothing when confronted with Japan’s modern weapons. But if you are determined, you must be bold.”
I was very sad to experience the cold\and depressed atmosphere at the minister’s house, something I had not noticed when visiting there in my early days in Jilin. Previously I had heard the sounds of a gramophone\and the animated voices of the independence fighters discussing the political situation. I used to be able to see pious figuresrom his congregation\and hear the plaintive melody of Don’t Blow, You Wind! sung by the members of the Children’s Association. But all these things had vanished.
The minister’s close associates who frequented his house had all gone into hiding in Liuhe, Xingjing, Shanghai\or Beijing. The gramophone which had emitted the doleful songs, The Site of the Old Palace\and A Vagabond, was now silent.
The minister himself went to Beijing later\and stayed there for some time. Beijing was\where Sin Chae Ho (alias Tanjae), a renowned historian\and writer\and his companionrom the early days of his term of office in the Shanghai Provisional Government had been active. In that city the minister had many other comrades.
When the minister arrived in Beijing, he found that Sin Chae Ho had been arrested while landing on Taiwan for the purpose of working with the\oriental\union\and had been sent to Lushun (Port Arthur) prison. Beijing without Sin Chae Ho seemed very lonely\and dreary to the minister, for they were such close friends.
With a view to making our nation’s long patriotic tradition\and brilliant culture known to the younger generation\and inspiring them with patriotism, Sin Chae Ho had devoted enormous time\and effort to describing the history of Korea. He had once applied himself to the work of publishing to enlighten the nation. While in exile in Vladivostok he had published the newspaper Haejo Sinmun which had become popular. Pak So Sim occasionally contributed articles to this newspaper because the editor Sin Chae Ho was renowned among the Koreans abroad\and held in high esteem by them for his remarkable personality\and literary style.
Sin Chae Ho was an advocate of the policy of armed resistance. He considered Syngman Rhee’s diplomatic doctrine\and An Chang Ho’s “preparation doctrine” unrealizable\and dangerous. He asserted that in the life-and-death struggle between the Korean people\and the Japanese marauders, the 20 million Koreans must unite\and destroy the enemy by violent means.
When some important figures nominated Syngman Rhee2 as head of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai, Sin Chae Ho resented it\and opposed it absolutely because he was against Syngman Rhee’s mandate doctrine\and autonomy doctrine.
He said, “Syngman Rhee is a worse traitor than Ri Wan Yong. Ri Wan Yong sold out a country that existed, but Syngman Rhee has sold it out even before we have got it back.”
That was a famous\and stunning declaration made by Sin Chae Ho at a meeting\where the provisional government was being formed. In his “Declaration on the Korean Revolution” which he made after his withdrawalrom the provisional government, he criticized Syngman Rhee severely.
Once, in an occasional recollection of those days, the Rev. Son Jong Do said, “Sin Chae Ho was a man with an incisive mind\and of unrelenting logic. I was secretly delighted when he condemned Syngman Rhee as a worse traitor than Ri Wan Yong. His criticism represented public opinion. We shared his opinion. That was why he\and I broke with the provisional government.”
I think thatrom what he said one can judge the minister’s political view to a certain extent. He had declared both the autonomy doctrine\and the mandate doctrine to be delusions. He had questioned An Chang Ho’s theory of the development of strength, but gave unqualified support to our doctrine that the independence of the country should be achieved by the resistance of the whole nation. This revolutionary inclination of his had led him to believe that it was no longer necessary to remain in the cabinet of the provisional government headed by Syngman Rhee, the flunkeyist\and political imposter. So he had taken a resolute step to break with the provisional government\and move to Jilin.
In Jilin the Rev. Son Jong Do got in touch with the reformists whom the Japanese police had defined as the “third force,”\and took an active part in the independence movement. He mixed well with younger people\and gave them wholehearted support in their struggle. The chapel which was outside the Dadong Gate\and in which he was working as the minister was practically a meeting hall for us. I frequented the chapel, to play the\organ there\and guide the activities of the art propaganda troupe. Because he complied with all our requests\and gave us selfless support in our revolutionary activities, I respected the minister\and followed him as I would have done my own father. The minister on his part loved me as if I were his own son. It was he who had masterminded the scheme for my release by bribing Zhang Zuo-xiang. He treated me not only as his friend’s son but also as a revolutionary with my own independent political view. He did not even hesitate to bring a family problem to me for my advice, a problem which had been discussed in vain by his fellow independence fighters.
The minister’s problem concerned his eldest daughter Son Jin Sil’s marriage to Yun Chi Chang. The independence fighters in Jilin all objected to it. The minister himself was displeased, believing that his daughter had chosen an unsuitable husband. He thought that her marriage to the man would disgrace the family name. Yun Chi Chang was a younger brother of Yun Chi Ho, a pro-Japanese comprador capitalist. While the minister was annoyed with his daughter because he was unable to dissuade herrom marrying the man, a conservative grouprom the Independence Army detained the man for a week in\order to extract fundsrom him.
“So, what is to be done?” the minister asked me. I hesitated for a while because I was afraid of poking my nose into the matter of a marriage between my elders, before saying cautiously, “They have fallen in love with each other, so there is no way of separating them, is there? I think the best thing to do is to leave them to their own devices.” Then, I persuaded the conservative grouprom the Independence Army to release Yun Chi Chang.
The minister returned to Jilin in the year following his visit to Beijing. Some people said that he had returned at the request of the radicals such as O In Hwa\and Ko Won Am, but I am not sure whether this was true\or not. Judgingrom the fact that he then remained in Jilin until the last moment of his life, the independence movement in Beijing had not been promising. It also appeared that he was not in good health. When I met him after my releaserom prison, he had said that I looked haggard, but I had found signs of illness in his face\and worried about him. Because of his recurrent chronic disease, he had not been eating properly.
“On top of the country’s ruin I am ill, so I sigh day\and night,” the minister said. “Even the Omniscient\and Omnipotent is not kind to me. My exile seems to be taking a heavy toll of me.”
While propagating his religion in Manchuria in 1912 he was arrested, suspected of being involved in the assassination of Katsura Taro,\and exiled to Jin Island,\where he wasted two years. Probably he had contracted the illness while in exile. I do not believe in superstition, but people who are loved\and spared by the public seem to be vulnerable to attack by illness.
At Mingyuegou in the spring of the following year I heard the shocking news that the minister had died of his illness. The man who told me of his death said that he had died before his time at the\oriental Hospital in Jilin.
At first I took the news as a rumour. I could not believe that the minister had died so soon. It seemed to me impossible that the life of the minister who had been walking\and talking about the future of the independence movement when I met him only six months before had been snuffed out like a candle in the wind because of a gastric ulcer. But the news, though unhappy, was true. According to information I receivedrom an underground source he had died after vomiting blood on his first day in hospital.
Many people in the Korean community in Manchuria considered his death to have been murder. The first reason for such a conjecture was that the minister, just prior to going into hospital, had not been in such a critical condition. Another convincing reason was that the\oriental Hospital\where he died belonged to a Japanese. The common view of the Koreans in Manchuria was that, since the Japanese were capable of using Koreans without hesitation as guinea-pigs in experiments on biological weapons, they could commit acts even worse than murder. The most convincing argument was that the Rev. Son Jong Do was a renowned patriot. He had been under constant\and strict surveillance by the Japanese police. Apartrom being suspected of involvement in the assassination of Katsura Taro, he was a thorn in the side of the Japanese police because of his life-long record in the anti-Japanese struggle as the chairman of the political council of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai, its Director-General for Transport, a member of the Association for the Promotion of Political Strategy,\and of Hungsadan\and a councillor of the Worker- Soldier Association. How close an eye the Japanese had kept on the minister is illustrated by the fact that immediately after his sudden death the Japanese consul-general in Jilin compiled a special paper “On the Death of the Rebellious Korean Son Jong Do”\and sent it to his foreign minister.
As some people said that his nickname Haesok (a submerged rock—Tr.) reflected his personality clearly, so the Rev. Son Jong Do was an honourable\and honest fighter who dedicated his whole life to the noble struggle against the Japanese. In Jilin, in cooperation with the radical group of Jongui-bu, he made tireless efforts to change the direction of the independence movement which had merely been swimming with the tide,\and to unite the patriotic forces. At the time when we were forming the Korean Children’s Association in Jilin\and the Ryugil Association of Korean Students, he had proposed the formation of the peasants’ mutual assistance society in Manchuria\and had been working hard for its success.
The Rev. Son Jong Do had bought 50 hectares of land by Lake Jingbo in Emu County in the name of his younger brother (Son Kyong Do)\and had run an agricultural company. This could be termed a part of the “ideal society” advocated by An Chang Ho. The area around Lake Jingbo had been considered by An Chang Ho to be a particularly suitable place for the building of an “ideal society.” The minister had intended to use the incomerom his company for the independence movement.
The minister’s funeral was held solemnly, according to Christian custom, at the Fengtian Public Hall. Apparently, because of obstructions by the Japanese police, only a little over 40 people attended the funeral to mourn the death of a man who had dedicated decades of his life to national independencerom the days before the annexation. Considering the fact that in his lifetime the minister had been surrounded by so many people\and had inspired the spirit of patriotism in them, his farewell was too quiet\and lonely. Since open mourning had not been allowed even at the funeral of the father of the nation in those days, could the mourners weep at a funeral under police watch?
At Jiandao I looked up to the sky above Jilin\and wept without cease, praying for the soul of the deceased minister. I grieved over the death of the Rev. Son Jong Do\and of my own father. I made a firm pledge to liberate the country, come what may, in\order to safeguard their souls\and take vengeance on the enemy. I believed that liberating the country would repay my benefactors’ kindness, relieve them of their suffering\and break the people’s shackles.
Since then, the minister’s family\and I have travelled different paths. The tragedy of division that still continues now at the turn of the century has been cruel enough to keep the barrier of a wire fence\and concrete wall, as well as wide oceans, between us. We did not hearrom one another for over half a century, I living in Pyongyang, Son In Sil in Seoul\and Son Won Thae in Omaha (in the United States). But I have never forgotten the Rev. Son Jong Do\and his family. My memory of them has never been dimmed\or stained by the passage of time\and distance. The worse the national tragedy became\and the higher the barrier of division grew, the greater our yearning for our benefactors\and forerunners who shed their tears\and blood for the sake of this land has grown in our hearts.
History has not closed its eyes to our yearning. In May 1991 Son Won Thae, the minister’s youngest son, a pathologist, who lives in the city of Omaha, Nebraska, paid a visit to our country with his wife (Ri Yu Sin) at the invitation of the Ministry of Reception for Overseas Compatriots. A weak primary schoolboy in his teens who used to beg to be on my side whenever the members of the Children’s Association\and the Ryugil Association of Korean Students divided into the “land”\and the “sea” teams to play at soldiers on the sandy beach of the River Songhua appeared before me as a grey-haired old man nearing his eighties. The persistent work of 60 years of wind\and frost had not erased the distinct features clear below his white hair of his days in Jilin.
“President!” he called me, hugging me, tears streaming down his cheeks, tears that meant more than could be implied in tens of thousands of words. What had kept us apart, when our hearts had been burning with a yearning for each other for so many years until our hair had turned grey? What was it that had delayed our reunion for more than half a century? Sixty years is a man’s lifetime. We had parted in our teens to meet again only when we were nearly in our eighties in a modern civilization\where aeroplanes fly at supersonic speeds! Isn’t the passage of time too cruel\and void, the time that had continued to push us to our old age?
“Mr. Son, how is it that you are so white-haired?” I asked him in an official tone of voice, treating him as an old scientist\and as a citizen of the United States, not as a former member of the Children’s Association.
He looked at me with something of the air of playing on my affection as he used to do in the old days in Jilin.
“My yearning for you, President, has turned my hair white,” he replied\and then begged that I should call him by his first name, reminding me that in his days in Jilin he had followed me as if I were his elder brother\and that I had loved him as if he were my younger brother.
“Then I’ll call you Won Thae just as I used to do in the old days,” I said with a smile.
Our awkwardness vanished,\and we returned to our boyhood. It seemed as if I were talking to him in my lodgings in Jilin, not in my drawing-room in Pyongyang. In those days I had often visited the Rev. Son Jong Do’s house,\and Son Won Thae had frequented my lodgings.
It was surprising that the reticent boy who was slight in build\and used to go about with his head tilted slightly to one side just like Cha Kwang Su, the schoolboy of Provincial Primary School No. 4 who, once provoked to speak, never failed to excite the laughter of his listeners with his volley of witty jokes\and humorous remarks, should appear before me as a pathologist,\and it was also surprising that the boy should have become a white-haired old man in the twilight of his life. I was struck by the unbelievable change that had turned the boy into an old man who was taking me back to our remote boyhood when it seemed only yesterday that we had parted with each other in Jilin!
We talked at length about our boyhood, not only about the activities of the Children’s Association but also about the happenings in the street\where toffee peddlers used to collect the pocket-money of snivelling children. Those peddlers were really cunning. If they wanted to eat some toffee themselves, those peddlers would pick somerom their booths, put it into their mouths\and lick it until they were tired of it\and then put it back in their booths. The children who bought the toffee did not even suspect such a thing. As we talked about these things, we laughed loudly, forgetting all our worldly cares.
Having said that I looked hale\and hearty, contrary to the rumour in the West, he took me by the hand, drew it to him\and looked into my palm for a good while. I was perplexed.
“You have a very long lifeline, so you will enjoy a long life,” he commented with a smile. “You are held in high esteem as the leader of the country because you have a distinct leadership line.” He was the first man ever to read my palm,\and it was the first time in my life that I had heard that there was a leadership line on a man’s palm. When he said that I had a long lifeline, he must have wished me a long life; when he said that I had a distinct leadership line on my palm, he must have meant that he supported our cause.
Without the slightest sense that he was having an official interview with a head of state, he asked me, “President, when will you buy me jiangzi guoji? I also want to eat the bingtanghulu which I used to eat with you, President, in Jilin.”
I felt my heart leap at his request, for this was a request one made only to one’s own brother. He was talking to me as if he were talking to his own brother. It occurred to me that he had no brother. His elder brother Son Won Il who was once the defence minister of south Korea had died some years before. No matter how I feasted him, it would have been impossible for me to give him the love with which his own brother had taken care of him.
Why can’t I meet his wish to eat jiangzi guoji\or bingtanghulu? Jiangzi guoji is a Chinese food resembling a doughnut which is sweetened\and cooked in bean soup\and oil. In Jilin I used to take him\and his little sister to buy them jiangzi guoji now\and then. They used to love eating it. When I thought of my indebtedness to the Rev. Son Jong Do, I had wished in those days to buy them all that my purse could buy. But I could hardly afford to pay even my school fees.
I don’t think that Son Won Thae asked me to buy him jiangzi guoji because he really wanted to eat some. He must have wanted to express his yearning for the friendship we had shared like real brothers\and sisters in our days in Jilin.
“If you want to eat some, I will have some cooked next time,” I replied, prompted by my desire to serve some to him, although he had asked as a joke. I felt an urge to serve him with some right away, instead of waiting for the next meal. I was deeply moved by his casual request. Two days later my cooks prepared jiangzi guoji for Son Won Thae\and his wife. Having eaten it before breakfast, he apparently said with tears in his eyes that, thanks to President Kim, he was eating the favourite food of his boyhood again.
Friendship is much stronger than the passage of time. The passage of time can make everything fade away, but not friendship. True friendship\and true love neither grow weaker with age\or stale. Our friendship that had been broken off temporarily because of the divergent courses of our life’s journeys was linked again by bridging over a gulf of 60 years.
Having met after such a long interval, we sang together Nostalgia which we had used to sing in Jilin. To my surprise, I had not forgotten the words of the song\and he, too, remembered it perfectly.
Son Won Thae said that he was ashamed to see me because he had done nothing in particular for the good of the nation, but this was self-effacing of him. When he was a university student in Beijing he, as the head of the inspection department of a students association, took part in the student movement\and in the boycott of Japanese goods. He was a young patriot. Because of his patriotic activities he had later been arrested\and thrown into Nagasaki prison.
I could perceive in this man who had remained outside politics the untainted innocence of the boy in Jilin. It is by no means easy to preserve a clear conscience in the social climate of a battle for survival, in a world which is governed by the law of the jungle.
Son Won Thae expressed his heartfelt sympathy with all the work we had done as well as his great admiration for our country as a “beautiful\and noble country, a land of construction for the well-being of the generations to come.”
I was happy to have a reunion with Son Won Thae, though belatedly,\and to have an opportunity to look back upon our days in Jilin. His image overflowing with love for his country, love for the nation\and love for humanity was that of the Rev. Son Jong Do\and of Son In Sil. Whenever he saw me, Son Won Thae said, “President, please live for many years without growing older!” The look with which he wished me good health reminded me of the Rev. Son Jong Do whom I had seen for the last time 60 years before.
That day, bidding farewell to me, the minister said, “Don’t stay any longer in Jilin\where the situation is dangerous. Things here are very frightening. Take care of yourself; the situation requires it. Even in Jiandao, you had better regain your health in an out-of-the-way spot for the time being.”
I was deeply grateful to him for his kind consideration for my safety. The timeliness of his advice was proved eloquently by the developments in Manchuria after the September 18 incident. The Japanese army\and police that occupied Jilin searched for me first. Checking the list of prisoners in Jilin prison, they demanded that the warlords hand me over to them. Had it not been for the support given me by the Rev. Son Jong Do, Ko Won Am, O In Hwa, Hwang Paek Ha\and other independence fighters, I would not have been released before it was too late\and would have suffered some ten more years in prison in the hands of the Japanese imperialists. So many more years of imprisonment would have made it impossible for me to wage the armed struggle. It is in this sense that I call the minister the saviour of my life.
There would be no end if I were to name all the people who helped me\and gave me wholehearted support in my revolutionary activities in Jilin, among them such independence fighters of the previous generation as Choe Man Yong, O Sang Hon, Kim Ki Phung, Ri Ki Phal\and Choe Il, such forerunners of my contemporaries as Choe Jung Yon, Sin Yong Gun, An Sin Yong, Hyon Suk Ja, Ri Tong Hwa, Choe Pong, Han Ju Bin, Ryu Jin Dong, Choe Jin Un, Kim Hak Sok, U Sok Yun, Kim On Sun, Ri Tok Yong, Kim Chang Sul, Choe Kwan Sil\and Ryu Su Gyong,\and such patriotic children as Ri Tong Son, Ri Kyong Un, Yun Son Ho, Hwang Kwi Hon, Kim Pyong Suk, Kwak Yon Bong, Jon Un Sim, An Pyong Ok, Yun Ok Chae, Pak Jong Won, Kwak Ki Se\and Jong Haeng Jong.
This suggested to me that the situation did not permit me to stay in Jilin any longer. I had more\or less expected this while in prison. The minister was very sorry that he could not take care of me in his house\and had to send me away. Grateful to him for his advice, I had lunch at his house\and then departed immediately for Xinantun.