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북녘 | [Reminiscences]Chapter 8 6. Arsenals in the Thick Forests

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 8  6. Arsenals in the Thick Forests

  

   


 

6. Arsenals in the Thick Forests 

  

When I was in Macun I often visited an arsenal which manufactured arms\and munitions. At that time we simply called the arsenal an ironworks. There was an ironworks of this kind in every county in Jiandao.
In the early days one\or two people sent by the\organization made small weapons such as swords\and spears, heating with bellows the charcoal-fired furnace in the ironworks which was sometimes called Macun Arsenal\or Xiaowangqing Arsenal.
Just before Operation Macun I visited the ironworks\and found no fewer than seven\or eight people working there. At that time Kim Sang Uk was managing the ironworks in place of Pak Tu Gyong, who had been transferred to the post of head of the food department of the district government. Those I still remember among the people working there are O Hak Bong, Choe Sang Mun, Yang To Gil, Kang Hae San, Pak Yong Bok\and Ri Ung Man. Of these, Kang Hae San was the only man who had joined the ironworks already possessing the technical skill of a blacksmith. The others had almost no experience of handling iron;
they were rank beginners who had never repaired weapons before. But some time later these novices were manufacturing bombs, pistols, rifles\and ammunition which we had thought could be made only in a modern munitions factory,\and furthermore they made the gunpowder needed for them in a rural smithy which had no lathe, drilling machine, shaper\or milling machine. This was a miracle achieved only in the war against the Japanese, a miracle worked by the unshakable will\and the revolutionary self-reliant spirit of the Korean communists, who believed that victory in this war depended upon the independent efforts of our own nation.
The naive people of Jiandao once planned to build a hand-grenade factory in the guerrilla zone with the help of the Soviet\union. This was the time when communists all over the world looked to the Soviet\union in humble reverence as a beacon of hope for the emancipation of humanity. The thought of getting assistance rom the country which had carried out a revolution before any other gave rise among the people to a spirit of dependence on others. While the idea of depending on others\and the aspiration to make a revolution with the support of others engendered the idea of adulation of capitalist powers among the nationalists, it was also the root cause within the communist mentality of reliance on the Soviet\union. At that time we considered it a natural internationalist duty for the communists of the Soviet\union, the first country to have succeeded in a revolution, to support the communists of the less developed countries.
 
But the Soviet\union sent no reply to our request, neither a promise to comply with it, nor notification that she could not do it\or was not in a position to assist us. It was at this time that we resolved firmly to rely only on ourselves. The silence rom the Soviet\union confirmed us in our belief that self-reliance was the only way to live, that the decisive factor in promoting the revolution was to enlist our own forces to the maximum\and assistance rom others was an auxiliary factor.
We therefore paid special attention to the work of the arsenal\and concentrated our efforts on it. When Pak Tu Gyong was the manager of the arsenal, we had made sure that the arsenal was equipped with such tools as anvils, hammers, pliers, sledges, bellows, files\and a boring machine. With these tools the workers in the arsenal repaired damaged weapons\or made new weapons for the guerrilla army\and the paramilitary\organizations.
The most noteworthy of the weapons manufactured in the arsenal was a single-loaded pistol made by cutting down the barrels of shotguns\and Model 38 rifles that had been damaged. These pistols were not supplied to the army, but to the members of the self-defence corps\or the Children’s Vanguard. Single-loaders made by the Yulangcun guerrilla unit were supplied mainly to the political workers,\and they enjoyed a great popularity among their users. Cartridges were also renovated by removing the detonation caps rom the empty cartridges used by Model 38 rifles, putting new caps in their places\and charging them with powder.

Gunpowder was the most urgently required of all the materials necessary for the manufacture of munitions,\and it was difficult to keep up with demand. At first the arsenals in the guerrilla zones made bombs\and renovated bullets with powder sent by miners\and underground workers. But this route of acquisition was always dangerous\and exposed the revolutionary\organizations we had formed with much effort in the mines to considerable risk. Many people lost their lives in their attempt to obtain this gunpowder. A typical example is the incident which had occurred at a pond near Longshuiping, a village close to a mine in Badaogou. Kim Chol Ho, Choe Hyon’s wife\and comrade-in-arms, had developed into a revolutionary in this village, in front of which there was a deep pond with thick reeds. The people living in Longshuiping cultivated rice by using the water rom this pond, but this pond, the lifeline of the peasants in the area, was turned into a sea of blood in a single day. When the fiendish Japanese military police discovered 20 miners rom the Badaogou Mine who had sent gunpowder to the guerrilla zone, they killed them mercilessly at the pond.

This incident forced the leaders of the guerrilla bases\and the workers in the munitions sector to reconsider the conventional method of acquiring powder solely through\organizations in mines\and to seek out a new way. Each gram of powder with which the arsenals in the guerrilla zones charged the bombs\and cartridges was the crystallized flesh\and blood of the fighters.

We decided to produce our own powder. Some people said this was like building a castle on sand, but I thought that if a man was determined enough he could do anything,\and we could surely succeed, just as our ancestors had succeeded before us. With this thought I began studying in earnest the history of gunpowder manufacture\and everything relating to it. In the course of this study, I came to the conclusion that nitre, the basic raw material of gunpowder, could be made manually.
Nitre could be made in any place inhabited by people,\and we could see it every day. One sunny day I took the workers of the arsenal to the yard of Ri Chi Baek’s house,\where ashes\and compost were piled up. I pointed to a substance like white salt which had formed on the pile of compost,\and told them that it was nitre. When they heard this, they burst into laughter, saying that they had been like an old man looking for the pipe he was holding in his hand. We could obtain nitre rom the sites of old toilets\and rom the earth at the bottom of cowshed\and stable manure piles.
It is well-known that in the Koryo period Choe Mu Son invented gunpowder\and thereby made a great contribution to the defence of the nation. The firearms he manufactured were installed on warships. The naval forces of Koryo inflicted wholesale slaughter on marauding Japanese when they used these firearms in the sea-battle off Jinpho. It is said that he refined ashes\and dust he gathered around his house to obtain nitre for making gunpowder. Some people have claimed that the gunpowder of the Koryo period was not the invention of Choe Mu Son, but a product he made by applying a method learned rom a foreigner. They alleged that our country offered no theoretical\or technical foundations on the basis of which he could have invented gunpowder. I did not regard it as a fair assessment. Historical records show that, at the time of the Three Kingdoms, Silla already used firearms.
Our self-respect has been injured by the flunkeyistic\and nihilistic attitude of those who, on hearing of an invention of another country, would praise the exceptional brain-power of the people of that country, but shrug their shoulders in doubt when they heard that a Korean had invented something.
The workers in the arsenals obtained nitre by a simple method. They used earthenware, tin\and ceramic containers with perforated bottoms. They filled these containers with dirt collected rom the floors of stables\and toilets\and rom underneath manure piles,\and then poured water into them. They caught the water dripping out through the holes at the bottom,\and then boiled it down in a cauldron. The white crystal remaining was pure nitre. The upper layer of crystals obtained in this way was called the horizontal formation,\and the lower layer, the vertical formation. The vertical formation of crystals, which was deemed to have the characteristic of exploding in one direction, was used for the cartridges of rifles\and pistols, while the horizontal formation, which was thought to explode in all directions, was used mostly for bombs.

The raw materials needed for making gunpowder were obtained through the efforts of the masses. Sulphur, an essential material, was obtained rom the insulators on the enemy’s telephone poles. Gunpowder must contain an inflammable substance like alcohol; Chinese white spirit was substituted for pure alcohol.
 
Our first experiments were not successful, but we were not dispirited by failure; we repeated the experiments\and at last discovered the ideal proportions for compounding the powder.
I cannot forget the people who had participated in the manufacture of gunpowder at that time. One of them was Son Won Gum. I was not acquainted with him, nor had I met him before.\and yet I knew his personal history\and his record of activity as well as if he were my intimate friend.
Pak Yong Sun was the first man to acquaint me with Son’s accomplishments. When he came to Macun to give a short course on bomb-making techniques, he\and I spent a few days together, talking about the events taking place around us everyday. Every now\and then he would mention the name of Son Won Gum with warm affection\and respect. I began to listen with curiosity whenever Son became the subject of our conversation. Pak was his comrade-in-arms\and had supplied a reference for his admission to the party.
A man can achieve sudden fame for his exploits, his talent\or for an incident in which he is involved. In 1932 Son Won Gum was well known among the revolutionaries of the Jiandao area for his escape rom a police station. He was arrested by the police while acting as a messenger travelling rom village to village carrying a fiddle\and disguised as a drug peddler. He escaped rom the station through a manhole of a sewer waist-deep in effluent, painfully dragging a body injured all over by torture,\and then spent a full day in a river. It was amazing that he managed to escape safely through the strict enemy cordon; even more admirable was his endurance in supporting his bleeding body in the water for an entire day.
He later joined the guerrilla army\and the Communist Party,\and his sincere efforts made him a conspicuous figure. A rise in the Suribawigol valley of Xinchengde hill in Jingucun was the site of the Helong Arsenal, managed by Pak Yong Sun. The workers of this arsenal were the first to produce a bomb known as the noise bomb. The noise bomb was later developed into a chilli bomb\and then into a powerful bomb called the Yongil bomb.
The production of Yongil bombs required a lot of materials,\and the workers of the arsenal had to go to considerable extremes to obtain these materials. Son Won Gum always led his company in their efforts to find solutions to this knotty problem.
“We once encountered great difficulty in making the noise bombs, because we were running short of the paper\and cloth to make the powder holders. Everyone racked their brains to find a solution. Then Son hurried to the village before anyone knew what he was doing,\and returned with the paper he had torn away rom the doors of his house\and cloth rom his only quilt. I felt rather ashamed, when I saw him returning, panting, to the arsenal at midnight.” Pak Yong Sun told me this in Macun.

“If this is true, then he is a true revolutionary with wonderful qualities,” I said, frankly expressing what I felt about him.
Pak went on to say, “Son always led the others in doing everything. Once the manufacture of bombs was interrupted for lack of wire, so he travelled many miles to Nanyangping\and brought back 300 metres of telephone line he had cut there. He also obtained sulphur, scraps of iron\and tin plates.”
One snowstormy night Son came to the arsenal carrying a heavy load of tin plate\and iron pieces, followed by a strange old woman who was carrying an iron cauldron on her head. The old woman’s unexpected appearance startled the workers.
As he helped the old woman set down the cauldron, Pak Yong Sun asked him, “What’s all this, Won Gum? Why on earth did you bring this grandmother all the way here when the Siberian wind is cutting our flesh to pieces?”
Setting down the load rom his back, Son shook his head\and said meaningfully, “I did not bring her, she followed me on her own accord.”
Pak Yong Sun asked the old woman, “How come you followed him, grandmother?”
“He’s an old acquaintance of mine. We got to know each other when I was living in Neifengdong. When we could not afford to buy any medicine for my daughter-in-law who was seriously ill, this young man, who was selling medicine\and advertising it by playing a fiddle, gave us some medicine\and rice for nothing. So my daughter-in-law was saved. I was sorry that I could not repay him for his kindness. Then, as luck would have it, he came to our village today\and asked every household for scrap iron. So we thought this was our chance to repay his kindness. This is the largest cauldron we have. I hope it will be of some help.”
 
She looked down dubiously at the cauldron she had set beside the furnace.
Feeling embarrassed, Pak Yong Sun told her, “Thanks for your offer, grandmother, but we don’t take new cauldrons; we only accept the damaged ones. Please take this back.”
This made the grandmother angry. She said, “Don’t say that. The Japanese swines burnt my two sons to death. I won’t regret giving up this piece of iron.”
The workers of the arsenal made no more attempts to persuade her.
On hearing Pak’s story I felt the urge to go to Helong there\and then\and see Son Won Gum. The essential element of his image which so captivated me was his iron-willed spirit of self-reliance.
I said excitedly to Pak Yong Sun, “You should have brought him here now. His experience is a good lesson. How happy everyone would have been to hear about his experience! You should tell them about it for him.”
After the short course in Macun, Son Won Gum became known throughout east Manchuria.
When Pak Yong Sun was leaving Macun after the short course I said to him, “When you’re back in Helong, tell Comrade Son Won Gum that his experience had a very good influence on the participants in the short course.\and tell him that one day we will meet\and talk about our feelings.”

But I never did meet him. In fact, he lost the sight of both eyes in an explosion in the course of his work.
Manufacturing gunpowder was always dangerous. One could even lose one’s life. The most dangerous work was charging the bombs\and cartridges. Pak Tu Gyong, Pak Yong Sun\and Kang Wi Ryong all suffered serious wounds while making gunpowder.\and yet, in spite of this, they did not leave their workplace.
Though deprived of his eyesight, Son Won Gum neither lost heart nor became pessimistic. Instead, he inspired his comrades, by saying, “Don’t feel sad, comrades. I’ve lost my sight, but I still have my heart, two arms\and two legs.” As he cut wire\and assembled bombs by touch, he sang the Internationale. He had buried his father, elder brother\and sister in the wilderness\and now he himself was blinded–a young man who had not yet lived half his lifetime. When the guerrilla zones were evacuated, he left his unit lest he should be a burden to his comrades-in-arms,\and went to Jingucun. Everyday he heard the enemy propaganda slandering the guerrilla army\and the Communist Party, claiming that “The guerrilla army has been annihilated in the mountains,” “The people in the guerrilla bases have all been starved to death,” “Go to Chechangzi,\and you will find nothing but skulls there,”\and “The Communist Party’s politics is destructive. You’ll get nothing rom that party.”

Son’s blood boiled in fury. He went rom house to house, telling people, “It is not true. The guerrilla army is still alive. It has advanced over a wider area. It is eliminating the enemy in various parts of north\and south Manchuria. The guerrilla army, which at first had only a few dozen soldiers, has now grown to a force of hundreds\and thousands of men armed with heavy guns\and machineguns. Compatriots\and brothers, do not be deceived by the enemy’s propaganda. Let us give stronger support to the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. The war against the Japanese will surely end in victory for us.”
His journeying carried him as far as Yanji\and Longjing, hundreds of miles away beyond the boundary of Jingucun. The Japanese army\and police did not pay any attention to this “blind beggar” who felt his way with a cane as he walked\and carried a fiddle on his back–as he had done before. When he heard the news of the battle at Pochonbo on the road, he went around the streets\and alleys in Yanji, shouting excitedly; “Korean compatriots, General Kim Il Sung\and his army raided Pochonbo on the fourth of June. The Korean People’s Revolutionary Army crossed the Amnok River\and advanced to the homeland which we long for waking\and sleeping. The enemy, scared out of his wits at the revolutionary army’s strength, is now screaming in distress\and terror. Japanese imperialism is doomed.”
His fiery speech set the whole town of Yanji afire. But he was arrested by the Japanese police\and burned alive.

“Listen, everybody! I have no eyes, but I can see the bright, liberated motherland. I beg you, stay firm until the day of victory. Long live the Korean revolution!”
These were his words before he was executed. This pioneer of the spirit of self-reliance ended his days at the age of 25. Whenever he recalled Son Won Gum, Pak Yong Sun used to say, 
“Won Gum died, without even knowing what it means to be married.”
If he was still alive he would have many good things to say about the spirit of self-reliance to the younger generation. His career itself would become a living textbook of self-reliance.
The development of gunpowder production brought about a great change in the production of munitions. As powder became available, the production of bombs increased quickly. A bomb consisted of a fuse\and a tin. Tins were sent by the underground\organizations in the enemy-controlled areas\and semi-guerrilla zones,\and into them was\inserted something like an oil bottle charged with powder, the gap between the tin\and oil vessel being filled with broken pieces of damaged ploughs\and other steel splinters for shrapnel,\and then the fuse was connected. This made a simple bomb.
Since it was produced manually, the bomb was neither convenient nor attractive to the eye. Clumsy handling could easily cause an accident–one guerrilla army soldier lost an arm through igniting the fuse too slowly during an assault on the enemy in Liangshuiquanzi. But this bomb was much more effective than a hand grenade. The Japanese were terrified of our guerrilla army’s bombs.

Once gunpowder became available, we were able to make wooden guns. Wu Yi-cheng’s unit fought using guns similar to the anti-tank guns nowadays which we could not afford. We made wooden guns instead. Shortly after the battle of the Dongning county town the people in Wangqing made the first such wooden gun rom an ash tree. We tested the gun during the assault on Daduchuan,\and its blast produced thunderous results. It would be only natural to doubt the effectiveness of a hand-made wooden gun. But after our first shot rom this gun, the enemy fled in horror. The people in Helong also made wooden guns at the arsenal in Moguyuanzi, Yulangcun. When they fired one of these guns on Qianli Hill the Japanese soldiers\and policemen in Erdaogou, eight miles rom the hill, would create a hubbub–they were frightened out of their senses! When the revolutionary army fired its wooden guns the enemy was stupefied, for it was beyond the\limits of their common sense\and imagination to believe that we could make guns in the guerrilla bases, which had no technical equipment.
The revolutionary zeal, indefatigable spirit\and creative initiative displayed by the workers of the arsenals in making\and repairing
weapons should indeed inspire admiration in the people’s hearts. At that time the arsenals of the guerrilla army had hardly any modern machines\or tools. The people in Wangqing had only one boring machine,\and the workers of the Helong Arsenal managed by Pak Yong Sun had one hand-operated drilling machine they had obtained through a man in Dalazi who worked as a steel forger. My memory is unclear as to whether the Toudaogou\and Nengzhiying Arsenals in Yanji County had any such machines\or not. Apart rom the boring machine\and hand-operated drilling machine, files were the best tools they had. The workers of the arsenals used their files to repair everything. They repaired the cartridge extractor\and firing pin of a rifle by filing, grinding, hammering\and tempering them in fire, water\and clay. Soon they were even able to repair machineguns without any difficulty. There were numerous talented people among the workers in the munitions sector, such as Pak Yong Sun, Son Won Gum, Kang Wi Ryong, Pak Tu Gyong, Song Sung Phil\and Kang Hae San. They were skilled enough to set the eye in a needle.
The secret of all these miracles was quite simply the spirit of self-reliance. If the Korean communists, rom the early days, had not thought solely of relying on themselves, but remained captive to an illusion of help rom communists in other countries,\and if they had not cherished the unshakable belief that relying on themselves was the only way to survive\and to revive Korea, the arsenals would never have sprung into being in the guerrilla zones,\and such powerful weapons as wooden guns\and Yongil bombs would never have been produced. We could have appealed to the people for war funds as the Independence Army did,\or gone to other countries begging\and entreating for help. Once you begin to beg, you begin to fawn on others, sinking to the despicable depths of licking the soles of the others’ feet\or plucking the mucus rom their eyes if they tell you to.

The slogan of self-reliance that we raised in the early days of the anti-Japanese war,\and the strenuous efforts we had made to implement it ever since were also in accord with the prevailing revolutionary situation. The Japanese imperialists’ invasion of Manchuria had aggravated the contradictions between Korea\and Japan\and between China\and Japan,\and these contradictions inevitably presented the Korean communists with a task of high level combat–an armed struggle. If we had clung to mendicant diplomacy, begging other countries to help us, instead of relying on ourselves, we would not have started the war against Japan immediately after Japan’s invasion of Manchuria, nor would we have developed our guerrilla army into a powerful force within a few short years.
Self-reliance was the slogan which most correctly reflected the people’s aspiration\and the demand to liberate the country by enlisting the nation’s own independent efforts\and its own strength. It was no accident that people quickly accepted this slogan, transforming smithies into arsenals\and building new weapons-repair works in all sorts of places.
Self-reliance\and fortitude was the basic spirit underlying not only munitions manufacture\and repair but every aspect of the anti-Japanese revolution; it was the criterion by which to measure one’s loyalty to the revolution. We did not regard any man who was not self-reliant\and did not strive hard as a true revolutionary, no matter how ardent his patriotism,\or how committed he might be to communist ideology, because self-reliance was the key to success in the revolution. The leaders of the nationalist movement in the past had been attached to dependence on external forces; they accepted the illusion of Wilson’s theory of national self-determination because they were devoid of the spirit of self-reliance.
In Yilangou, Yanji County, there is a village called Nanyangcun. After the harvest\and spring struggle the Japanese army\and police descended on this village, mercilessly slaughtered the innocent people\and young men,\and burnt down their houses. The political workers dispatched to the village gathered the young people\and stirred their spirits by saying, “We conduct a non-violent political struggle, but the enemy resorts to arms. We cannot defeat the enemy with bare hands. The time has now come to take up the life-or-death armed struggle against Japanese imperialism. What do you think we should do, comrades?”
One young man, shaking his fist, said, “Let us make spears out of scrap iron. If each of us had a spear, we could stab the enemy\and capture his weapons, couldn’t we?”
The young man had an old father, Ri Thae Sun, who had been a blacksmith. He went on to say that the tools his father had used were still kept in his shed,\and that they could surely be used to make swords\and spears.
The young people immediately agreed, saying, “That’s right. First let’s make swords\and spears,\and then capture rifles with them.”

Using the hammers\and pliers with which the old man, Ri Thae Sun, had forged farm implements, they began to forge spears out of the metal hoops of cart-wheels over charcoal made rom the roots of birch trees, in a valley beyond the common people’s reach.
 
They put an edge on the forged spears by whetting them on a stone.
The unaccustomed sound of hammering ringing out beyond the village attracted the curiosity of the old smith,\and he came to the valley. The young people hid the spears they were making in the grass\and pretended to be making steel for tinderboxes.
The old man cast a dubious glance over the young people\and asked, “What are you making?”
“Steel for tinderboxes, sir,” they answered in one voice.

“You don’t seem to know what you’re doing. Give that hammer to me.”
In an instant the old man made steel for ten tinderboxes,\and then returned home with the tools.
Next day the young people took the tools again when the old man was away in the field,\and began forging spears. He appeared unannounced at the young men’s open-air smithy as he had the previous day. He asked them sternly, “What have you done with the steel I made for you yesterday, you children,\and why are you making new steel?”
His son replied on behalf of his friends, “Other people have taken them.”

This scene was repeated several times. The old man soon realized that the young men were not making steel for tinderboxes. Why would they take up smithying in the busy farming season just to make steel? One hot summer day the old man approached them unnoticed along the furrows of the maize field\and found them forging spears, learning the skill rom his son.

“I was wondering just what you were doing all the spring\and summer,\and you were making preparations to get killed, you stupid.”
As he fussed\and objected collecting the tools together, the embarrassed young people grabbed him by his clothes, saying, “Why should we sit with folded arms when the enemy is killing young people like flies?”
Dumbfounded, the old man nodded his head\and thought for a while before saying with dignity, “You hammer\and I will hold the pliers.\and keep a strict watch.”
That day he made spears for more than ten young people. But then the young men in the neighbouring village came with scrap iron\and damaged cart-wheel hoops\and exchanged them for all the spears, saying that they should show kindness to people who had no blacksmith.
The old man said that spears could not be made of carbonic steel\and\ordered them to dump the pieces in the furrows of the field. Instead, he forged scores of daggers\and spears rom the high-intensity steel of scores of octagonal chisels which he had been concealing.

Armed with the daggers\and spears the old man had forged, 20 young men of Nanyangcun raided a small unit of the puppet Manchukuo army moving rom Yanji to Jiulongping, capturing lots of weapons\and ammunition. The old man praised their victory delightedly. Under his management the secret smithy in Nanyangcun went on to produce many swords\and spears. Eventually, even bombs were produced in the smithy. The old man devoted his life to producing\and repairing munitions until he was captured\and killed by the enemy.
This is only a single instance demonstrating the vital force of self-reliance. In this fashion, self-reliance opened a new era in the history of the national liberation struggle in our country, the era in which everything was created rom nothing. These vital phases may be regarded as living proof of the correctness\and power of the communist method of solving all problems by allowing full scope to the people’s strength\and wisdom.
Self-reliance was the most important method by which the Korean communists established the principle of Juche in their struggle,\and they could neither think of nor speak about Juche apart rom self-reliance, nor could they imagine the development of the Korean revolution without this quality. Only self-reliance was capable of eradicating once\and for all the worship of great powers which was still a great fetter on the spiritual life of our people in modern times\and allowing us to pave a new way to victorious national resurrection by following the ideal of independence, self-development\and self-sufficiency. Self-reliance was the touchstone with which to distinguish a man equipped with the spirit of Juche rom a man who was not.

We therefore consistently inculcated the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance in the masses rom the very first day of the war against Japan. The idea that, while help rom others would be welcome, we must\and could liberate the country through our own efforts even without others’ help; the idea that, while help rom higher echelons in solving our problems would be welcome, we must find the solutions to all our problems through our own efforts\and wisdom, even without such help–this idea easily won the sympathy of the masses. But quite a few people still retained remnants of the outworn ideas,\and either did not believe in their strength\or underestimated it.
Some of those who had welcomed our appeal to carry through the revolution by placing our faith\and reliance in the strength of our people became dubious\and perplexed in the face of a minor problem such as arming ourselves.
One day, when we were absorbed in the military training in Antu which was part of the preparations for the founding of the guerrilla army, Ri Yong Bae\and Pang In Hyon broke a rifle’s firing pin while cleaning it. In view of the conditions at the time, when each rifle had to be captured at the cost of blood, this was a serious case which could not be allowed to pass with impunity.
After examining the broken pin carefully, I said to them, “I will give you one day; repair it by this time tomorrow!”

They both stared at me wide-eyed. They clearly had not expected me to make such a preposterous demand.
“How can we repair a rifle manufactured in a modern munitions factory? We can fight a battle\or risk our lives, but this is something we cannot even imagine doing with our poor skills, isn’t it?”
“How can we call our undertaking by the sacred name of revolution if it is something that can be achieved simply by picking out the easy jobs to do? I think that the true meaning of revolution\and the pride of a revolutionary lie in doing those things nobody dares to do.”
“But the broken pin is made of steel. Can it be repaired with theory alone?”
Pang In Hyon looked gloomily at the bolt with pin in his hand. Until that moment he regarded my demand to repair it as absurd\and unreasonable. What would be the consequences of a commander revoking his\orders at such a moment? Though I knew my\orders were unusual, I told them again coldly, “If you cannot repair it, you are not entitled to be guerrillas. How can you carry through the complicated enterprise of social transformation when you cannot repair a little pin? If you do not intend to repair it, you may not participate in drill rom tomorrow.”
When I threatened them in this way, they were all startled; they promised me to repair it\and asked me to teach them the method.
“I don’t know the method, either. You must discover it yourselves.”

They left the training ground with the bolt with the broken pin, their faces stained with tears.
Next day they appeared at the training ground, their faces beaming, for they had repaired the pin. It was not repaired perfectly, but it worked as it was meant to. The other comrades were all surprised. Even I, who had given the\orders, could not believe my eyes. How could they, who had said they could not even imagine repairing it because they had no skill, repair it with so little difficulty?
Pang In Hyon hastily explained the repair process:

“At first we thought of making a new pin with wire, but we could not get proper steel wire. So then we heated the broken pin\and extended it by beating it out. We whetted it on a stone\and managed to shape it, but the problem was to make it hard again. We went to Xiaxiaoshahe to see an experienced smith who lives there. He told us to temper it in oil. We did as we were told\and this steel is the result.”
Their experience greatly excited the others. Everyone greeted with excitement the lesson that any one could work wonders if he had faith in his strength\and made effective use of it.
I still remember the bright smiles covering the faces of Ri Yong Bae\and Pang In Hyon as they ran to the training ground with the repaired pin in the hand. The smiles were doubtless an expression of immeasurable pride in their own strength. What ecstasy on earth can be more powerful than the pleasure\and joy a man feels when he finds a strength he thought he did not possess?

A rifle’s firing pin is not such a big thing. One could easily capture 10 rifles in the time it takes to repair it. But the lesson learned rom repairing it generates a power greater than that of a hydrogen bomb.
Marx\and Engels defined the history of the development of mankind as the history of class struggle\and, needless to say, this is a correct proposition. The history of mankind can also be said to be the history of man discovering, creating\and perfecting himself. In other words, it is the history of the creation of the human being who continuously discovers\and develops in himself the powers\and skills peculiar to himself\and, at the same time, the history of the struggle to defend the independence of the popular masses. It can also be called the history of innovation by a human being who has steadily refined himself in the political\and ideological, cultural\and moral, scientific\and technological dimensions. Through the effort of creation\and innovation, mankind has ushered in the age of the rocket, computers, genetic engineering\and the green revolution.
From this point of view we can say that self-reliance is a powerful force which has driven the development of history. If people had lived simply believing in the grace of God, the “Lord of Creation,” without developing their own strength, they would still be lost in the Paleolithic Age.
When we were operating the arsenals at full pressure in various parts of east Manchuria, Shi Zhong-heng hinted to me that there was a munitions works which had once been managed by Wang De-lin’s national salvation army in the Dongning county town. This information increased my interest in the town. According to Shi Zhong-heng, the works was\organized in the spring of 1932 as an\ordnance repair shop equipped with a few lathes, casting facilities\and sewing machines. rom the latter half of 1932 this shop developed into a comprehensive munitions factory with more than 200 persons involved in manufacturing hand grenades, mortar shells, 25-cartridge automatic rifles,\and the guns known as hog-guns. Since that time the factory had been equipped with new machine-tools\and other means of production. The weapons manufactured in this factory had been supplied mainly to the NSA units in Dadianzi, Wangqing County,\and the Ningan region. Following the Japanese occupation the factory was dissolved, but its equipment\and machines were left intact. If we had succeeded in taking the town completely into our control in the autumn of 1933, the factory would inevitably have become ours\and we could have armed ourselves more adequately with up-to-date light\and heavy weapons.
The experience gained in the munitions industry in the guerrilla bases in the first half of the 1930s was applied\and developed in the arsenals built in the bases on Mt. Paektu during the latter half of the 1930s.
We\organized a sewing unit in each of the guerrilla bases\and thus solved the problem of military uniform by our own efforts. The cloth was obtained, dyed\and sewn by ourselves. We boiled down the bark of oak, black walnut\and Amur cork trees in a large cauldron\and soaked the cloth in the water to dye it khaki. Sometimes the colour of the cloth varied a little with the proportion of the barks rom various species of trees.

The first members of the Wangqing sewing unit were Kim Ryon Hwa\and Jon Mun Jin, who had once been a nurse at a hospital in the village of six households. There was also a male designer, but I cannot remember his name. The unit was later reinforced with Ri Il Pha, Kim Myong Suk\and Kim Sun Hui. It also employed temporary workers when it was short of hands.
Jon Mun Jin made my uniform in the days in Xiaowangqing. When I went rom Antu to Wangqing, the women in the unit said they would make a fine uniform for the young general\and they sewed a full uniform set, including an overcoat, for me. The material was\ordinary cotton cloth dyed by hand, but each stitch eloquently declared warm\and delicate care of the makers’ hands.
The Xiaowangqing sewing unit, with only two\or three sewing machines, made all the uniforms needed for a battalion\or a regiment\and even full-dress uniforms to the\order of battalion\or regimental headquarters for the officers\and men of the Chinese nationalist units. A full-dress uniform included coat, trousers, cap, puttees\and cartridge belts. The amount of work assigned to the unit by far exceeded its capacity. When they were overburdened with work, the diligent\and faithful sewing-unit operatives would press on with their work without sleeping at night. When they were sleepy, they dipped their faces in water\and sang to keep awake. They sang so much that they all learned scores of revolutionary songs by heart.

The first leader of the Xiaowangqing sewing unit was Kim Ryon Hwa. The people in Wangqing called her a hoyden. Some even called her a tomboy, since she occasionally smoked a cigarette. But this frivolous woman was very skilful at knitting\and sewing. She began to learn sewing after she got married. Her husband was a misfortunate one-legged man. The first most significant means for earning a livelihood she had found in her hopeless struggle with poverty was doing needlework for others. Her skill in sewing had developed since then. She not only made smart uniforms, but also fine Chinese clothes. Those who had accused her of being a tomboy would now bow their heads in the direction of the valley\where the sewing unit was situated, saying, “Please accept my humble greeting, sister,” when once they had tried the clothes she made for them.
Many of the members of the sewing unit were forerunners of the culture of self-reliance with no less enthusiasm than the arsenal workers. Kim Myong Suk, Jon Mun Jin, Han Song Hui, An Sun Hwa, Choe Hui Suk, Kim Yong Gum, Kim Su Bok, Choe In Suk, Pak Jong Suk, Jo Yong Suk, Pak Su Hwan, Ma In Ok\and Kim Son were all master-hands who accompanied us\and worked hard to produce tens of thousands of uniforms. I cannot find the words to describe adequately the well-known last moment of An Sun Hwa,\and the heroic death of six members of the sewing unit at the secret camp in Ganbahezi.
We built hospitals in each of the guerrilla zones to treat the wounded\and ill. All the medical appliances used in the treatment, such as scalpels\and tweezers, were made by the technicians in the arsenals\and most of the herb medicines were obtained\and produced by the medical workers, with the help of the masses. There were only a few modern medicines.

There was nowhere we could turn for doctors\and nurses, so we had to train them for ourselves. A few pioneers who had been doctors of Koryo medicine trained a great number of assistants. Rim Chun Chu\and Ri Pong Su were not only famous doctors with distinguished records but also qualified teachers who rendered meritorious services in the training of our medical reserves. How many people’s lives were saved by their treatment, so that they could return with joy to their units!
We also solved the problem of food grains by relying on our own resources. It was not in our style to solve this problem by setting the people an amount of food to be delivered\and then collecting it rom them. We proposed the aim of attaining self-sufficiency in food for the army\and the paramilitary\organizations such as the Red Guards, Anti-Japanese Self-defence Corps, Children’s Vanguard\and the young volunteers’ corps,\and issued a strong demand to them to cultivate crops through their own efforts on the arable land in the guerrilla zones. In the latter half of the 1930s, when the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army expanded over a wide area\and was conducting large-scale guerrilla warfare, we sent troops to the rear to farm at the foot of Mt. Paektu, away rom the battle fronts.

Self-reliance was thus essential to the survival of the revolutionary army in the long-drawn-out war against the Japanese. The realization that one could survive only by relying on oneself became a part of the thinking of all the guerrillas; self-reliance became their motto. Those who made this motto their very lifeblood upheld their honour even on an isolated island,\and those who did not surrendered to the enemy\or left their ranks, abandoning their principles halfway.
The seed of self-reliance nurtured by the anti-Japanese forerunners in the snowstorms of Paektu was implanted in the minds of the people of the whole country after liberation, serving as the motive power that kindled the flames of the effort to build a new Korea\and gave birth in this eastern corner of the world to the legendary Chollima. When we began a project to manufacture an electric locomotive at a small factory which had been a repair shop, a foreign ambassador to our country said that he would pass through the eye of a needle if the Koreans made electric locomotives by themselves. The pleasant whistle of the electric locomotive Pulgungi-1, which our workers\and technicians made by relying on their own ability, shattered the ambassador’s complacent prediction.
The spirit of self-reliance that rang out in the hammering of the arsenals in the guerrilla zones drove the pulse of the era of the Workers’ Party\and provided the powerful force that propelled this era forward.
The spirit of self-reliance, born of the tempest of the war against the Japanese, still pulses in the slogans, “Let us live our own way!” “Let us meet the requirements of Juche in ideology, technology\and culture!”–slogans devised by the Secretary for\organizational Affairs, Kim Jong Il–and in the slogan, “When the Party decides, we do everything!” In the final decade of the turbulent 20th century our people are advancing towards new heights singing the March of Self-reliance, as they go.


 Related articles

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

[Reminiscences]Chapter 7. The People`s World 1. The Home Base

[Reminiscences]Chapter 7. The People`s World 2. The Enemy’s Ground by Day; Our Ground by Night 

[Reminiscences]Chapter 7. The People`s World 3. The Choice between the Soviet\and the People’s Revolutionary Government

[Reminiscences]Chapter 7. The People`s World 4. The Man F rom the Comintern

[Reminiscences]Chapter 7. The People`s World 5. The Memory of a White Horse

[Reminiscences]Chapter 8. Under the Banner of the Antl–Japanese Struggle 1. Ri Kwang

[Reminiscences]Chapter 8. Under the Banner of the Antl–Japanese Struggle 2. Negotiations with Wu Yi-cheng

[Reminiscences]Chapter 8. Under the Banner of the Antl–Japanese Struggle 3. The Battle of the Dongning County Town

[Reminiscences]Chapter 8. Under the Banner of the Antl–Japanese Struggle 4. A Comment on Ultra-Democracy in the Army

[Reminiscences]Chapter 8. Under the Banner of the Antl–Japanese Struggle 5. Operation Macun  



      

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