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[Reminiscences]Chapter 6  8. On the Heights of Luozigou

  

   


 

8. On the Heights of Luozigou 

 

The entry of the Japanese troops into the town of Antu was close at hand. The pro- Japanese landlords had prepared flags to welcome the Japanese. The national salvation army could no longer stay in Liangjiangkou. Regiment Commander Meng was\ordered to retreat in the direction of the Luozigou\and Wangqing areas,\where there were grasslands surrounded by mountains. In view of the rapidly changing situation we decided to leave Antu with the national salvation army troops. This decision was taken at a meeting of the committee for work with soldiers convened at Liangjiangkou. Our general plan was to shift our operational base to Wangqing, but we decided for the time being to encamp in Luozigou\where the retreating national salvation army units were assembling\and continue our work with the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units. The troops of Commander Yu, too, withdrew rom Antu to Luozigou.


While we were busy preparing for our departure for north Manchuria, my brother Chol Ju came to see me in Liangjiangkou.

“Brother, I would like to go with your unit. Without you I cannot live in Tuqidian any more,” he said before I could ask him why he had come.



I could understand what he meant when he said he wanted to go with our unit. It must have been unbearable for a sensitive boy of his age to be living off someone else in a remote village in Xiaoshahe after the death of his mother.

 

 “If you leave Tuqidian, what will become of Yong Ju? The boy won’t be able to bear it alone.”


“The embarrassment is too much for me to endure. I feel that the two of us are hangers-on. If only Yong Ju stays with the villagers, it will be better, I think.”


While I thought that he was right in what he said, I could not agree to his request. He was 16, so he might come with the unit\and serve as a soldier, provided he had a gun. He was big\and sturdy for his age. But still he was no more than a boy\and might be a burden to the guerrilla unit. Moreover, he was shouldering a heavy responsibility in improving the work of the Young Communist League in the Antu area.


“If you ask again in two\or three years’ time, I will readily agree. But I cannot allow it now. Even if your situation is difficult\and you feel lonely, endure it for a few years more. While working as a farmhand\or doing seasonal labour, work hard to promote the work of the Young Communist League. Underground work is no less important than the armed struggle, so you mustn’t neglect it. Look to the Young Communist League\and then, when it is time, join the revolutionary army.”


I soothed\and humoured him to convince him. Then I took him to an inn by a pond. We entered a room. It was bleak in the room with the paper flaps at the edges of the window frames making dreary sounds in the cold draught of air. I\ordered wine\and some food. We were served with two plates of frozen bean curd\and a bottle of wine. Seeing them, my brother’s eyes filled with tears. Knowing that I was sober in my habits, he seemed to realize the significance of drink.


“Chol Ju, forgive me for refusing your request. Do you think that I don’t want to take you along? Because I must leave you behind, I feel my heart is breaking. But Chol Ju, we must part here, though it is sad.”


I said this under the influence of the wine; I could hardly have said it otherwise. But I could not suppress the tears welling up in my eyes. I got up to leave, fearing that Chol Ju might see my tears, but he rose rom the table, too, leaving his half-finished drink behind.


“Brother, I understand.”


With this, he came up to me rom behind\and silently took my hands in his for a moment. That was how I parted with my brother, never to see him again. Whenever I recollect the dismal\and dreary autumn by the pond, I deeply regret that I did not hold his hands longer\and more warmly that day when he quietly took my hands for a moment before leaving. Looking back now, it was too sad a parting. If I had granted his request at that time my brother might not have died so young, before reaching 20. His life was but a flicker of light.


As soon as he reached ten years of age, Chol Ju began to follow the revolutionary\organizations. In Fusong he was in charge of the propaganda work of the Saenal Children’s\union,\and after going to Xiaoshahe he worked as the secretary of the district committee of the Young Communist League. After parting with me in Liangjiangkou, he trained many Young Communist League members\and sent them to join the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. He took on the difficult task of working with the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units of his own free will. He took part in the assault on the town of Dadianzi with the soldiers of a Chinese anti-Japanese unit. The Chinese anti-Japanese unit under the command of Du Yi-shun with which my brother had established contact fought well against the Jiandao punitive detachment of the Japanese army, it was reported.

 

After that Chol Ju assumed the heavy responsibility of working as the revolutionary\organization’s operational chief for work with the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units in Antu\and worked with the anti-Japanese unit commanded by Xu Kui-wu which was stationed at Lupai, Zhangzaicun in Fuyandong, Yanji County. Xu Kui-wu was a perverse\and stiff-necked leader who proclaimed himself to be an anti-Japanese champion but was hostile to all the Korean communists. At first, he had been on friendly terms with Koreans. But after the members of the Anti-Japanese Women’s Association in Fuyandong had rescued a Korean girl, a member of the Young Communist League, who had been detained by him as a concubine, he began to turn away rom the Korean communists. She had been detained when she went to his unit with a group of entertainers to give a propaganda performance. Once she was captured by the man, no woman could get off unhurt unless she satisfied his desires. Xu Kui-wu had often used such means to change his women. After the girl member of the Young Communist League had been rescued by the Women’s Association, the Koreans could no longer maintain contact with his unit. Even those who had been on good terms with him would not go near him. Xu Kui-wu, maddened because of his unsatisfied lust, made his men maltreat\and suppress Koreans.


Then my brother Chol Ju visited the unit of Xu Kui-wu, accompanied by Comrade Rim Chun Chu, a licensed herb doctor.

“I’ve heard, sir, that you are seriously ill, so I’ve come to inquire after your health,” said Chol Ju courteously in fluent Chinese.


But Xu Kui-wu did not deign to look at him. He hated the sight of Koreans\and did not want to talk to them.

 

“I’ve come with an able doctor to cure your illness. Please allow him to treat you.”


When Chol Ju said this, he became more interested\and said that he would try it if the doctor was skilled. After a few days’ acupuncture treatment by Comrade Rim Chun Chu, he said with great delight that he had been suffering rom migraine, but Doctor Rim had driven the motley ghosts out of his head. Chol Ju took the opportunity to stay on in the unit of Xu\and work openly with the Chinese anti- Japanese soldiers. In later days Xu Kui- wu, having joined our route army, was appointed commander of the tenth regiment\and fought courageously to the end. Previously he had led a decadent life saying that he could not live even for a single day without opium\and women. But after joining the revolutionary army, he was even admitted to the Communist Party. When I, on behalf of the unit, congratulated him on his admission to the party, he said, “Comrade Commander, today I am thinking of your brother. But for Chol Ju, I would never have seen this day.” Then he told me of how Chol Ju had come to him with Comrade Rim Chun Chu\and cured him of his illness\and how he had persevered in leading him back onto the path of the anti-Japanese struggle.


In June 1935 Chol Ju died heroically in the battle around Chechangzi. I was at Lake Jingbo when I received word of his death. That is probably why even now whenever I see a large river\or lake, I think of my brother.


After Chol Ju had been killed in battle, my youngest brother was completely without family. After the family of Kim Jong Ryong had gone to the Chechangzi guerrilla base, he wandered rom place to place earning a living by baby-sitting\and running errands for other people. The Kwantung Army was taking into custody anyone related to me in\order to use them to bring me to “allegiance,” so my brother had to roam aimlessly, under a false name\and by concealing his identity, about cities\and villages all over the three provinces of Manchuria\and even in China proper. He once stayed in Beijing for a while. After liberation I saw some documentary material concerning the search for my brother in the archives left behind by the Japanese police. When he was working at the Xinjing brewery, he became so homesick that he returned to the homeland\and spent about three months there. He turned up in Mangyongdae wearing a black suit\and white shoes. His appearance was so dashing that our grandfather even wondered if his youngest grandson had got a high public post\and made his fortune. My brother wanted to set the minds of his grandparents at rest, so he told them he was attending university in Changchun. Since the police had a dragnet cast for him,\and photographs of him had been distributed, he could not stay at Mangyongdae but stopped with my aunt. Then he returned to Manchuria.


After leaving Liangjiangkou, the 40 men of the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army moved northward in the direction of Nanhutou along mountain ridges, via Dunhua\and Emu. On the way we stopped at Fuerhe\where I had spent my days as a “farmhand”\and conducted political enlightenment work among the inhabitants. Also, our unit fought a fierce battle with a convoy of the Japanese army that was constructing the Dunhua-Tumen railway near Haerbaling, Dunhua County. After that battle I met Ko Jae Bong at Toudaoliangzi in the same county. He had left Sidaohuanggou\where the enemy was riding roughshod over the people\and come to Toudaoliangzi,\where he was teaching at the peasants’ school run by the underground\organization. It was only 7 miles rom Toudaoliangzi to the county town of Dunhua. At Toudaoliangzi I met his mother, too. We distributed to all the houses there the flour we had captured in the battle with the Japanese army convoy. Then we prepared some food with it\and had a meal with the people. The cotton cloth we had captured was handed over to the peasants’ school to make uniforms for the pupils. Leaving Toudaoliangzi, our unit went farther north\and conducted enlightenment work with the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units near Guandi\and in the Nanhutou area. Then we moved into the Wangqing area,\where we studied the activities of the party\and Young Communist League bodies\and mass\organizations\and made the acquaintance of people rom all walks of life. This might well be called foundation work for establishing an operational base in Wangqing.


In Wangqing, too, we did not relax the work with the Chinese anti-Japanese units. I went to Lishugou to meet Guan Bao-quan’s unit which had been attacked by a special detachment led by Ri Kwang for a few rifles. But Guan Bao-quan had abandoned the anti-Japanese cause\and gone away. Frankly speaking, I had decided that, when I met Battalion Commander Guan, I would apologize to him on behalf of our comrades in Wangqing\and discuss ways to conduct a joint struggle with him\and thereby resolve the temporary discord\and antagonism that had been created between the Korean\and Chinese armed units. Although Guan Bao-quan had disappeared, I sent a message in the hope of meeting the other people who remained behind. Some 100 men of the Chinese unit came to us to see what kind of a unit was the Kim Il Sung unit which had smashed the Japanese troops at Dunhua county town. I admitted to them that it had been an unfriendly deed on the part of our Wangqing special detachment to have acted so outrageously against the soldiers of the unit of Battalion Commander Guan for the purpose of obtaining weapons,\and spoke frankly about the joint struggle of the Korean\and Chinese peoples\and the mission of the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units. My speech was received well by the men of the Chinese unit. A commanding officer named Kao Shan said after my speech that he had been thinking of abandoning the anti-Japanese struggle like Guan Bao-quan, but that he would follow the right path rom then. After that he fought well on the anti-Japanese front as he had pledged to. Our relations with the Chinese anti-Japanese unit in Wangqing, which had been a great headache, were settled amicably in this way.


With the object of eliminating the Left deviation revealed in the work with the Chinese anti-Japanese units\and bringing more of these units into the anti-Japanese united front, we called a meeting of the anti-Japanese soldiers’ committee in Luozigou. At that time the national salvation army units concentrated in Dongning county town were preparing to retreat to China proper through the Soviet\union. We decided that the national salvation army must by all means be stopped rom fleeing across the border\and that they should join us in the anti-Japanese front, otherwise, our guerrilla struggle might face grave difficulties; the enemy’s “punitive” forces that were scattered everywhere to destroy the Chinese anti-Japanese units would be concentrated on our guerrilla force that was no more than a few hundred strong\and might destroy at a stroke our armed force that was still in its cradle. The balance of forces could turn decisively in favour of the enemy. At the time the Japanese army was stepping up its offensive against the anti-Japanese armed forces everywhere with the intention of occupying all the small towns in Manchuria. They even sought to seize all the county towns.


The meeting was attended by some 40 people, including me\and Ri Kwang, Chen Han-zhang, Wang Run-cheng, Hu Jin-min\and Zhou Bao-zhong. Ri Kwang\and I represented our country\and Chen Han-zhang, Wang Run-cheng, Hu Jin-min\and Zhou Bao-zhong, China. The main item on the agenda concerned the measures to stop the desertion of the national salvation army\and strengthen the anti-Japanese united front.


The meeting first discussed the mistake of the Wangqing guerrilla unit. The mistake had resulted rom the Kim Myong San incident, which had happened in the Wangqing unit. Kim Myong San was a Korean who had served in the “guard corps” in the days of Zhang Xue-liang’s army before defecting to the Wangqing guerrilla unit with six Chinese soldiers after the September 18 incident.\originally a master hunter, he was a good combatant. When he defected to them, the comrades of the Wangqing unit were overjoyed, welcoming his arrival as an unexpected fortune. But once one of the six Chinese men was sent on a scouting mission to an enemy-controlled area. He ate a plate of fried buns in a cookshop at Dakanzi without paying for it, having no money. After returning to the unit, he reported the fact honestly. The Left elements in the leadership of the county party committee labelled the Chinese soldier as an evil man who brought disgrace on the guerrilla unit\and shot him to death. The number of Chinese guerrillas executed in Wangqing on the decision of the military department of the county party committee was more than ten.


Frightened by the atmosphere of terror, the other Chinese men who had defected with Kim Myong San deserted rom the unit\and joined the unit of Guan Bao-quan stationed near Macun. They spread the rumour that the guerrillas were killing Chinese at random. Alarmed at this, Guan Bao-quan moved his unit to a deep mountain recess a long way rom the area\where the guerrilla unit was stationed\and watched for an opportunity to kill Korean communists. On the anniversary of the October Revolution, the people of Wangqing gathered to celebrate with primitive weapons such as spears\and sticks in their hands. They carried such crude weapons in\order to create a festive atmosphere. Thinking wrongly that the people were gathering to attack his unit, Guan Bao-quan flared up\and had many Koreans shot to death. Among the dead were Kim Un Sik who, as chief of staff under Guan Bao-quan, had been enlightening the national salvation army men\and promoting the united front movement,\and other political workers including Hong Hae Il\and Won Hong Gwon who had been dispatched rom the guerrilla unit. It was a counterattack which, as the saying goes, “Sow the wind\and reap the whirlwind.”


Afterwards, Guan Bao-quan’s men who had renounced their struggle, began to go by twos\and threes to the area under enemy rule. The Wangqing guerrilla unit, on the pretext of stopping the surrender of the men of Guan’s unit, disarmed them. Then, finally, they killed a few of the unit who had surrendered on the ground that they refused to give up their arms meekly.


With this incident as the start the members of Guan’s unit went on a war of vengeance against Korean communists without discrimination. Whenever they met young Koreans who they imagined were involved in the communist movement, they caught them\and shot them. The Wangqing guerrilla unit, which was only a few months old, suffered a great loss after being surrounded by the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese unit.


The tactlessness\and indiscretion they revealed in their relations with the Chinese anti-Japanese unit rapidly undermined Korea- China relations\and created an insurmountable pit in the way of the Korean revolution.


The people attending the meeting mercilessly criticized the commanders of the Wangqing guerrilla unit who had spoilt relations with the Chinese anti-Japanese units without being aware of the grave nature of their mistake\and who were still insisting on taking reprisals. After a long debate they reached a common understanding on the principles\and rules of action to be abided by in the work with the national salvation army.


The next question we discussed at the meeting concerned how to keep the national salvation army in Manchuria\and induce it to continue with the anti-Japanese struggle.


At the time this army was tens of thousands strong,\and yet they considered themselves incapable of standing up to the Japanese army. Taking at face value the story of the “invincibility” of the Japanese army spread by the Japanese themselves, they believed there was no force on earth which could match Japan\and no army equal to the Japanese army,\and they virtually gave up fighting. All they cared about was how to avoid being killed\or captured by the Japanese troops\and how to escape to safety beyond Shanhaiguan\where there was as yet no spark of war.


The Japanese army intended to concentrate its attack on the forces of Wang De-lin in Jiandao. Once its attack started, it seemed that Luozigou would fall into its hands sooner\or later.


The people attending the meeting resolved to defend Luozigou at all costs together with the national salvation army. To defend Luozigou, it was necessary to dissuade Wang De- lin rom fleeing to the Soviet\union. The national salvation army planned to go to China proper via the Soviet\union. It was then common practice among the leaders\and soldiers of the Chinese anti-Japanese units to flee across the Soviet-Manchurian border. Li Du\and Ma Zhan- shan who had tens of thousands of men under their command had fled to China proper by way of the Soviet\union. The only way to prevent the national salvation army rom taking flight was to gain a crushing victory over the Japanese army so as to rid them completely of their illusions\and fear of the “invincible imperial army.” Of those present at the meeting Zhou Bao-zhong was the right person to take on the job of talking to Wang De-lin. Zhou Bao -zhong had been authorized by the Comintern to work as adviser to Wang. I told Zhou to prevail upon Wang to stop his retreat\and form a united front with the guerrilla units. I said:


“We are capable of a long-drawn-out guerrilla war based on the Korean population in east Manchuria. But this depends on the national salvation army,\and you must persuade Wang De-lin to convince his men to remain in Manchuria\and continue with the war of resistance to the last man. When they say they are going to the Soviet\union, they are not intending to make a socialist revolution in Siberia but hoping to make off to China proper by way of the Soviet territory.”


On hearing this, Zhou Bao-zhong shook his head\and said that it was a difficult problem to solve.

“You talk like that because you don’t have sufficient inside knowledge,” he remarked. “The national salvation army is a horde of cowards. I tell you they are a gang of fainthearts who will sneak away trembling at the mere sight of a Japanese plane that has come to\drop leaflets. There is no way I shall be able to make them fight a battle. I have never seen such a dastardly rabble in my life. You are dreaming if you think that you can strike at the Japanese army in an alliance with the national salvation army.”


Many people insisted on the impossibility of an alliance as Zhou Bao-zhong did. So differences arose,\and criticism was levelled at the people who clung to the belief that it was impossible. Everyone posed as a hero, a genius\and a leader. The committee for work with soldiers of the national salvation army was a temporary\organization consisting of people who were engaged in political work in the provinces\and, therefore, had no definite leader. But at the meeting I took the chair,\and it was conducted according to all due formality. I chaired the meeting not because I was a superior but because the Chinese comrades recommended me, remarking that Kim Il Sung was the best hand in dealing with the men of the national salvation army. That was the Luozigou Meeting. It was the last meeting of the committee for work with soldiers of the national salvation army. After the meeting the committee was dissolved.


According to the decision of the Luozigou Meeting, we—Ri Kwang, Chen Han-zhang, Zhou Bao-zhong, Hu Jin-min\and I— divided between us the work with the units of Wang De-lin, Wu Yi-cheng\and Chai Shi-rong. Wu Yi-cheng\and Chai Shi-rong were subordinates of Wang De-lin. Later we received a report rom Chen Han-zhang who had gone to Wu Yi-cheng’s unit. Wu Yi-cheng had promised to follow the line laid down at the Luozigou Meeting, which was good news. While I was negotiating with the unit of Wang De-lin, the Japanese army moved to threaten the Luozigou area. Alarmed at the prospect of our main unit forming a common front with the unit of Wang, the enemy pressed on with their attack in large numbers. Wang De -lin did not think of fighting but fled rom Luozigou. Tens of thousands of troops rushed towards the Soviet-Manchurian border to escape the attack of the Japanese army like so many fallen leaves being blown away by a gust of wind in the autumn.


A guerrilla force of only a few dozen men could hardly defend Luozigou. Therefore, we retreated towards Dongning County together with the men of the national salvation army. Even as we went to Dongning County I wanted to induce them to turn round. During our retreat we had to fight fierce battles against enormous odds, ours being a negligible force. So our retreat was difficult. As it was the eleventh month of the lunar calendar, many of the Chinese anti-Japanese soldiers perished rom the cold.

 

As we retreated with the national salvation army, I persevered in trying to persuade Wang De-lin to change his mind. If he had listened to me, we could have formed a common front\and waged the anti-Japanese armed struggle successfully in Manchuria. But he did not agree to my suggestion. He ran away to China proper via the Soviet\union.


We abandoned the negotiations with Wang\and altered our course, heading towards the Wangqing area, which was our final destination. I had walked nearly a hundred miles rom Luozigou, until I was in sight of the Soviet-Manchurian border, but I had to turn away without managing to persuade him. I felt indescribably depressed\and gloomy. Now that the national salvation army tens of thousands of men strong has fled, finding it impossible to face the Japanese army, what shall our unit of only 18 men do to survive the winter? By what ingenious means can we get over the difficulty? I reflected. Eighteen men might well be regarded as next to nothing, “a\drop in the ocean,” which was an expression used by the Japanese. Our unit of 40 men had shrunk to 18 men for a variety of reasons. Some had been killed in battle\and others had left due to illness. Yet others had been sent away because they were physically unfit\or sent back home because they had confessed that they could not continue the struggle. The elderly people rom the Independence Army\and some young men rom farming districts had succumbed to the difficulties most easily. The comrades who had been in the Young Communist League\organization\and engaged in the revolutionary struggle since the time of Jilin stayed on in the unit to the last. What I realized once again as I headed for Wangqing, risking my life with my 18 men, was that only men who had been steeled in an\organizational life could hold to their faith to the last\and discharge their moral obligations as revolutionaries, however great the adversity.

 

On our way to Wangqing we happened to meet Wu Yi-cheng’s\orderly\and he joined us. His name was Meng Xiao-ming. Initially our men questioned him, unsure of his identity. Because spies of the Japanese were prowling about everywhere, we were very wary of unidentified strangers. Meng Xiao-ming had a membership card of the Anti-Japanese Association issued by the agreement of the committee for work with soldiers of the national salvation army\and the anti-Japanese nationalist army units. This membership card had been issued both to the guerrillas\and to the soldiers of the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units. People with this card were entitled to the protection of\and assistance rom both sides. In addition to the card, Meng had a letter rom Wu Yi-cheng to Wang De-lin requesting reinforcements. Thus he convinced us that he was Wu Yi-cheng’s\orderly. He was going to Tianqiaoling with good reason. He said:


“The fact is, I’ve been to Dongning to convey this letter, but it was a waste of effort because Wang De-lin had fled. When I returned to Wu Yi-cheng, I discovered that he had withdrawn in the direction of Hongshilazi, leaving only a battalion behind at Laomuzhuhe.\and just fancy, I was even told that the battalion left behind at Laomuzhuhe had moved off in the direction of Xiaosanchakou (Tianqiaoling). So I’m now going after the battalion. I’ve to fight against Japan even if it should cost me my life.”


His determination to fight against Japan was very strong. Deploring the fact that there was no figure in the three provinces of Manchuria capable of saving the situation, he asked me: “Commander, who do you think will win, us\or Japan?”


“I think we will win. A Western writer once wrote that a man is born to be a winner\and not to be beaten. Aren’t you\and I pushing our way through this snow for the sake of winning?”

 

I made up my mind to search, together with Meng Xiao -ming, for the battalion commander who was said to have gone in the direction of Xiaosanchakou. I pinned my last hope of a united front on this one battalion\and decided that I must persuade them to continue with the fight. Meng came as far as Wangqing\and joined us in the battle to defend Yaoyinggou. He was an unforgettable companion who helped us\and went through thick\and thin with us in the time of our direst distress. In 1974 he wrote me a letter reminding me of when we had met on the heights of Luozigou. Through the letter I learned that he, the\orderly of Wu Yi-cheng who had become our friend\and shared hardships with us in the past, was alive\and that he was a farmer at the Dunhua cooperative society.


I think we had the hardest time of it when we went to Laoheishan. Up to Laoheishan the men of the national salvation army, though unreliable, had accompanied us\and, therefore, we had rarely felt isolated in spite of the great hardship. But after they had all fled to the Soviet\union, there were only 18 of us left on the bleak, wild hills. Even Zhou Bao-zhong had slipped away somewhere, taking with him the small troop left behind by Wang De-lin when he fled across the border. We were now completely isolated\and helpless. In the sky aeroplanes were flying around,\dropping leaflets urging us to surrender,\and on the ground hordes of Japanese soldiers mobilized for a “punitive expedition” were closing in on us rom all directions. The sharp frost, not so severe even in the mountainous regions of Korea,\and the waist-deep snow made it hard for our unit to advance. The provisions we had saved up with such difficulty rom day to day, while barely managing to obtain enough to eat, had run out. The uniform I had been wearing since my departure rom Xiaoshahe in May was torn, revealing the skin underneath.

 

Then we met a kind old man named Ma on the Luozigou heights,\and he helped us through our distress so that we escaped death. It was the last day of the 12th month of the lunar calendar when we met the old man. He was ideologically without any fixed principle\and was affiliated to no party, but he detested the politics of the Kuomintang, calling it scandalous. However, he did not support communism either. In short, he was weary of the world. For all that, he was still a good-natured\and humane person, so obliging that he was always ready to do a good turn to other people.


The old man had two houses. We were quartered in the lower house,\and the upper house was occupied by stragglers rom the national salvation army. These people were mostly anti -Soviet\and had stayed behind in Manchuria because the Soviet\union was a communist state. Some of the stragglers had been the men of Battalion Commander Guo left behind at Laomuzhuhe by Wu Yi-cheng. Upon our arrival at the house Meng Xiao-ming volunteered to visit the stragglers in the upper house to sound them out. I told him to find out whether the soldiers of the national salvation army were willing to join hands with us\and act in concert with us\or not. Meng said he had many acquaintances among the men of Battalion Commander Guo\and so, he suggested, he would get their opinion first\and then if there was some prospect of success, I, Commander Kim, could go\and enter into formal negotiations with them. But when he returned after meeting the remnants of the lost army, he said glumly with his shoulders lowered:


“Those villains are worthless,\and there’s no chance of their forming a united front with us. They are talking about becoming bandits.”

 

The old man Ma told us that the stragglers rom the national salvation army were plotting to disarm us. He said that they were planning to expand their marauding band with arms captured rom us. In this situation we were all obliged to think seriously about our fate\and the future of the revolution. When tens of thousands of soldiers rom the Chinese nationalist anti -Japanese units had been swarming everywhere, we seemed likely to win battles easily if we faced up to the Japanese troops. But now they had all fled\and, moreover, there were only 18 men left in our unit, so we felt entirely at a loss. Even if we went to Wangqing, what could we hope to do with just ten\or so rifles? As for the weapons in Yanji, they would amount to no more than a few dozen. Worse still, those benighted\and shameless stragglers rom the defeated army were seeking to rob us of our weapons. So what should we do now? We had come to a nameless hill in Luozigou,\and we had no clear idea of how to get back to Wangqing. What should I do to cope with this plight? I asked myself. Abandon our weapons\and return to the underground struggle?\or continue with the armed struggle, however difficult that may be? I wavered. If I deny this, it would be perverting the truth\and distorting history. I do not deny it, nor do I need to conceal the fact that not only I but our whole group wavered.


Even steel, when it is rusted, is useless. Man is not steel; he is weaker\and more liable to change. But it can be said that man is much stronger than steel. Steel cannot stop itself rom rusting on its own, but man is capable of controlling\and adjusting changes in his thoughts by himself. The question lies not in wavering but in how the wavering is overcome. Man is called the lord of all creation precisely because he has the unique ability to adjust,\and revolutionaries are looked upon as great people because they are strong-willed, creative\and selfless people who are capable of producing the things they need rom nothing\and turning an adverse tide to their advantage.


I was quite at a loss what to do. Even if the sky should fall\and the earth cave in, the armed struggle had to be continued. But the men who remained with me were all rosy- cheeked youths of under 20. It could be said that I myself was still a greenhorn. When we were moving about in Jilin, writing leaflets\and making speeches, we had all been heroes\and great men. But here in this place we were all beginners. When we were conducting underground work, we had had many devices to resort to. But in a deserted place without our tens of thousands of allied troops\and\where there were only the remnants of a defeated army, finding a way out for the 18 men was a tough problem. The stragglers in the upper house were going to become bandits, but that was something we could never do. Some countermeasure could have been worked out if we had only gone somewhere\where the masses were\organized, but it was about 50 miles to a Korean settlement\and every valley on the way was infested with Japanese troops, so we were told.


The revolution is tough! I thought to myself. We had expected that our revolution would succeed in only two\or three years, so why was it now at the edge of such a precipice? Would our ranks that had started rom Antu in proud array with a flourish of bugles end their advance here on these desolate hills? How many meals I had missed\and how many sleepless nights I had passed to form this unit! Hadn’t I been absent rom the bedside of my mother at the hour of her death\and hadn’t I parted with my beloved brothers with a broken heart for the sake of forming this unit? Hadn’t Cha Kwang Su\and Choe Chang Gol laid down their young lives for these ranks? Cha Kwang Su had been killed while out on a scouting mission in Dunhua. Looking back on the path behind me and thinking of the path ahead, I felt my heart as heavy as if it was weighed down by the whole mass of the Earth. I was sitting in front of the fireplace with my mind assailed by a thousand thoughts when old man Ma came up to me\and asked quietly:


“Are you the person in charge?”


“Yes.”


“So why are you in tears, Commander?”


“I think it’s because I’ve come in the face of the snow\and wind,” I answered vaguely, to avoid an explanation. In fact, I was weeping rom my anxiety about our future, not because of the snow\and wind.


The old man stroked his long beard, his eyes fixed on me for a while.

“You seem to be worried about those ruffians in the upper house, but don’t be disheartened. I’ll take you to a good place tonight. Rest there for a few days. Study\and eat there for about 20 days,\and you’ll find yourselves as bright as Zhu-ge Liang, I assure you.”


In the dead of night when we were fast asleep, old man Ma awoke us all\and fed us with meat dumplings he had prepared for New Year’s Day. Then he guided us to a mountain hut all of 12 miles away. The hut was located in dense forest\and was invisible even to aeroplanes. Its only room was barely wide enough to spread a reed mat,\and there was a shed attached to it. In the shed we found frozen roe deer\and hares the old man had caught, food grain such as wheat\and maize,\and a handmill.


“The room is rather small, but spread it with straw\and it’ll be good enough for you to get through your difficulties, though it might be a little uncomfortable. Shelter here\and recover your strength. I’ll come\and tell you the news rom the outside world once every few days. When you want to leave here, I’ll act as your guide.”


The old man said this as he made a fire to heat the room,\and we all wept, feeling a lump in our throats out of our gratitude. We were lucky to have met such a kind\and warmhearted man as old Ma on the bleak\and deserted heights. All our men jested that “Heaven” was keeping its eye on us. We stayed in the mountain hut for over a fortnight, resting, studying\and hunting roe deer. There were many books of the old man’s in the hut. They were stories, political books\and biographies of great men. Although the old man earned a living by hunting in the mountains, he was a man of great learning. We vied with each other to read the books,\and all the books eventually became tattered. We made it a rule to relate our impressions\or hold a debate on a set subject after reading a book. We all became enthusiastic in our arguments, quoting propositions rom Marx\and Lenin. We learned by heart several propositions of the founders of Marxism\and some excellent passages rom famous writers. In those days, whenever young people got together, they even criticized Sun Yat-sen. It was the fashion of the day to worship someone\and also to criticize a great man who was held in high esteem by all. Everyone was his own master. Everyone thought of himself as a genius, a hero\and a great man. In that hut we held earnest discussions about our future course of action, too. Should we break up\and go home? Should we go to the Korean villages in Wangqing\and gather the special detachments there, so that we could expand our unit with them\and continue the struggle? We all resolved to continue our struggle, except for a comrade rom Hailong who said that he did not think he would be able to continue the armed struggle with us because he was weak. It was true, he was not strong enough physically to engage in the guerrilla struggle. We did not cavil at his candid confession\or call it into question.


“If you cannot go, it is better that you say so outright. No one can be forced to make the revolution. The revolution is something which a man cannot be made to do by coercion\or threat. Therefore, if you wish to go, you may go,\and if you would like to continue with the revolution, you should stay on\and fight,” I told the men, making clear my view as the commander of the unit. I gave them all time to decide for themselves. A few days later we sat together again to hear their decision. Of our unit 16 men pledged to go on with the revolution, even if it might cost them their lives. But the other two asked for permission to leave the unit. The comrade rom Hailong wanted to be sent back home, being too weak to continue the armed struggle. But he asked us not to regard him as a coward for all that. Because he could not go with us on account of his physical frailty, we could not ignore his request. I told him: If you find it hard to follow us, then go home. We won’t blame you for that. But you must not go looking as you do now. Your clothes are in tatters\and you look like a beggar. You cannot go home to your parents looking so dreadful, can you? You may go, but go first to a Korean settlement to obtain travel expenses\and get yourself some decent clothes.


The other comrade said he wanted to go to the Soviet\union\and get some education. I told him:

“If you go to the Soviet\union without any sponsor, you cannot tell if they will send you to school\or make you work. You may as well go to Wangqing\and work there for a while,\and then when you have made contact with the other side, leave with a warrant rom an\organization. Isn’t that wiser?”


The two accepted my advice\and said they would do as I had said.

 

After that we left the Luozigou heights safely guided by the old man Ma. He took us up to Zhuanjiaolou in Wangqing County. He really was a kind, considerate\and tenderhearted old man. A few years later, at the height of the guerrilla struggle when we were striking out mercilessly at the enemy rom the guerrilla bases, I visited the Luozigou heights with some cloth\and provisions. But the old man Ma was already dead\and gone. Even now the image of old Ma remains in my memory as vividly as it did 60 years ago. Once I told our writers to create an opera\or a play about the old man. The story of the old man is a good subject matter for an opera\or a play.


It could be called a miracle of all miracles that we escaped death rom hunger\and the cold\and were not killed by bullets in the remote mountain recess of Luozigou that winter. Still now I often ask myself what was the force that made us rise to our feet at that time, what was the force that kept us rom being defeated\or\dropping out of the fighting ranks\and made us continue to uphold the banner of the anti-Japanese struggle until we were victorious. Every time I answer my own question full of pride, “It was a sense of responsibility for the revolution.” If it were not for that sense of responsibility, we would have remained cowering in the snow, never to rise again. At that time I was conscious that if we should be frustrated, Korea could never rise rom the dead. If I had thought there would be people to save Korea after we had died, we would have been buried under the snow on the heights of Luozigou, never to rise again.



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[Reminiscences]Chapter 4. Seeking a New Path 3. The Kalun Meeting

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 4. Seeking a New Path 9. An “Ideal Village” Is Transformed into a Revolutionary Village

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 5. People in Arms 2. The September 18 Incident

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 6. The year of trials 1. To South Manchuria

[Reminiscences]Chapter 6. The year of trials 2. The Last Image

[Reminiscences]Chapter 6. The year of trials 3. Joy\and Sorrow

[Reminiscences]Chapter 6. The year of trials 4. Is a Joint Operation Impossible?

[Reminiscences]Chapter 6. The year of trials 5. With an Ideal of Unity

[Reminiscences]Chapter 6. The year of trials 6. Together with the National Salvation Army

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