[Reminiscences]Chapter 11 4. My Comrades-in-Arms to the North; I to the South > 새 소식

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 11  4. My Comrades-in-Arms to the North; I to the South

  

   


 

4. My Comrades-in-Arms to the North; I to the South 

 

The wind was howling fiercely on the morning when we left Xiaojia-qihe for the area around Mt. Paektu after the meeting at Nanhutou.


I remembered more than anything else on that southward journey, as I braced myself, the Korean maxim, “A journey of thousands of miles begins with the first step”. We made the first prints of the march on the fresh snow with our feet when leaving the yard of the log-cabin in Xiaojiaqihe.


Our company included Wang De-tai, Wei Zheng-min\and some other Chinese military\and political cadres. Even Wei Zheng-min, who had been in a Soviet hospital, owing to a relapse of his heart ailment, walked with a light step that day, exchanging interesting pleasantries with Wang De-tai. Although the weather was cold\and inclement, we made good progress.


To advance towards the Mt. Paektu area, in accordance with the decisions of the Nanhutou meeting, we should have taken the straight road rom Xiaojiaqihe to the south, to Mt. Paektu, via the Laoyeling Mountains, Erqingpai, Mingyuegou\and Antu; but we marched north towards Emu at the start, taking the roundabout route rom Xiaojiaqihe via Qinggouzi\and Guandi in Emu County, Antu\and Fusong Counties.

 

The detour was twice as long a journey as it would have been along the straight route.


We had to take the roundabout path northward, because our com-rades in the second expedition to north Manchuria with me were waiting for the results of the Nanhutou meeting, at a secret camp in Qinggouzi, Emu County,\where we had established ourselves. The guerrillas, the aged, weak\and sick as well as the\orphans who had come all the way rom east Manchuria to see me, were expecting me there.


The decisions of the Nanhutou meeting, which condemned all ultra-Leftist stupidities committed in the guerrilla zones in Jiandao during the struggle against the “Minsaengdan”,\and declared the Korean people’s right to independence\and their right to carry out the Korean revolution, would also provoke enthusiastic cheers in the secret camp in Qinggouzi. While fighting bloody battles, trekking over the vast tract of land in east\and north Manchuria for years, they yearned to see their homeland\and press forward towards it. But most of my comrades-in-arms in Guandi\and the secret camp in Qinggouzi had to go farther to the north\and fight, in conjunction with the units in north Manchuria, rather than advance with my company to the south, the homeland.


Ever since the Nanhutou meeting, which marked a turning-point in the Korean revolution, the idea of launching the armed struggle deep in the homeland rom Mt. Paektu was uppermost in the minds of the Korean communists. However, as we were the ones who had defined the joint struggle with the Chinese people as a major strategic task of the anti-Japanese revolution\and engaged in unremitting efforts to implement it, we could not run the risk of abandoning the cause of joint struggle\and leave for Mt. Paektu. If we had been preoccupied with the Korean revolution\and moved all the Korean soldiers to Mt. Paektu, the guerrilla struggle in northeast China would have faced great difficulties.


The units in north Manchuria, which were in dire need of military\and political cadres\and hard-core men, frequently requested joint action with the units in east Manchuria. We had made two expeditions to north Manchuria in compliance with their requests. Around the time of the Nanhutou meeting in Xiaojiaqihe, army corps in north Manchuria had asked us for manpower support. This situation required the raising of the matter of assistance for the Anti-Japanese Allied Army units, fighting in north Manchuria as a secondary item on the agenda at the Nanhutou meeting\and the implementation of practical measures to provide support for them.


Consequently, when we were about to advance to the Mt. Paektu area, I had to take a journey up north\and part with my comrades-in-arms, who had shared life\and death, weal\and woe with me for several years. The historic advance to the Mt. Paektu area involved painful farewells with my comrades-in-arms\and no promise when we would meet again, people I had trained for a long time with such care.


What would their feelings be, when they had to go northward farther away rom the homeland, instead of going to the Mt. Paektu area in my company? This question haunted me, as I left Xiaojiaqihe.


In retrospect, I experienced such painful partings on innumerable occasions during the revolutionary struggle. I had been compelled to part with the people of my home town of Mangyongdae at the age of 13,\and with comrades of the Down-with-Imperialism\union immediately after its foundation in Huadian, when we had just become friends. This farewell was followed before long by our reunion with passionate embraces\and handshakes. The first members of the DIU I had bid farewell to in Huadian met me again in Jilin\and began to rally young people\and students under the banner of the DIU. Those who rallied under this banner were stout, brave young men\and women, who would go through fire\and water. Each one was worth his\or her weight in gold\and was dearer to me than my own flesh\and blood.


On my release rom prison, I had to move the theatre of my operations rom central to east Manchuria, which made me part painfully with these comrades once again. My comrades, who had been working in groups of three\or five took leave of each other again, as they all dispersed to continue new assignments all over the vast areas of central, south\and north Manchuria. This farewell, unlike the one in Huadian, was really serious\and more distressing, as there were no promises of meeting again.


My separation rom Han Yong Ae, who had accompanied me as far as Harbin, was as painful as were my farewells with Choe Chang Gol, Kim Won U, Kye Yong Chun, Kang Pyong Son, Pak So Sim, Choe Il Chon, Ko Jae Bong\and Pak Il Pha.


As I left Harbin, after getting in touch with the liaison office of the Comintern, Han Yong Ae came to see me\and entreated me to take her to east Manchuria. She begged me not to refuse her earnest desire to work for the revolution under my personal guidance as she had done in Jilin. She had already been given two assignments, which had not been carried out yet by that time; one was to re-establish contacts, while staying in Harbin, with the\organizations, which had been destroyed. The other involved dealings with the inspector rom the Manchurian Provincial Party Committee.


I left Harbin with conflicting thoughts; although I was anxious to take her to east Manchuria, I had to refuse because of our work. As I was then chief secretary of the YCL in the eastern region of Jilin Province, I parted with her with the optimistic thought that I would meet her again in at least two\or three months’ time. I appointed her my special representative to the Harbin area against her desire, because I had confidence in her high sense of responsibility, which she had displayed in all the easy\and difficult assignments given her by the\organization,\and because such a high sense of responsibility was imperative in promoting the revolutionary work in Harbin\and its vicinity. Strangely enough, I had to leave my close comrades-in-arms behind\or send them, against their wishes, to distant places. Consequently, I came to the south, leaving Han Yong Ae behind in the north. My farewell to her at that time was a sorrowful one. Leaving her at a place in north Manchuria, I waved goodbye to such a loyal comrade with stirring emotions. She used to share half her portion of pancake with me.


After all, separation had shadowed me every time the revolution had entered a new stage. To maintain\and consolidate the revolutionary\organizations I had developed with all my efforts, I had to leave those trained in the struggle there while I myself had to go to new places to lay the groundwork for training new fighters. Figuratively speaking,\whereas continually I broke up virgin lands, my comrades transformed them into fertile farmlands\and\orchards.


This revolutionary requirement made our separation inevitable. However, the devoted comrades, who were ready to lay down their lives, if so\ordered, frequently disobeyed me\and worried me, when we had to part.


Han Yong Ae was not the only one to importune me like a child to take her along when I moved to east Manchuria. For that matter, how can a farewell between blood-sealed comrades, who had shared joy\and sorrow for several years, be as simple as that between people who have just met each other on a business trip? I reasoned with them\and even reproached them, but they would not listen. Even Cha Kwang Su, who should have understood me so well, followed me for five miles\and, worried me, asking passionately, “Have we shared life in the shadow of death to part in this way? Why not try to find the best way of fighting for the revolution without a need to part?”


This separation was so painful for Mun Jo Yang that he cried like a woman.


I often asked myself: “Is revolution really so cruel? Is there no way of making a revolution without parting with one another, as Cha Kwang Su claimed?”


But it was actually impossible. Therefore, I tried to persuade them, saying, “We’ll soon meet again. Separation is only temporary. Let’s endure the sorrow of parting by looking forward to our reunion. Let’s part with smiles, rather than tears. According to one saying, every separation has its end.”


Reality, however, frequently betrayed my prediction; only a few survived to see me again. Even those men would leave me to go to the world of no return.


Some people say that life is an endless cycle of farewells\and reunions, but many of us bid farewell to one another never to meet again. To be candid, therefore, I often felt uneasy\and had ill-boding thoughts at partings.


Again I had to say goodbye to my comrades-in-arms at the secret camp in Qinggouzi, without making any promise as to when we would meet again, to the comrades I had fought shoulder to shoulder with in east Manchuria for years. This sorrow lurked in our happiness, as we marched towards the Mt. Paektu area.


Noticing the sad look on my face, at a time when I should be happier than anybody else over the advance to the Mt. Paektu area, Wei Zheng-min asked me if anything was wrong.


I said no, as I could not express all my thoughts in one word\and did not feel like showing my state of mind to others.


Wei guessed the reason for my sad mood in his own way\and said, “By the way, Comrade Kim Il Sung, you only heard recently the news of your younger brother, Chol Ju, who died last year, didn’t you? What a pity! But don’t grieve too much. Brace yourself, please.”


For that matter, the pain of my loss was unbearable. At that time I did not even know the\whereabouts of my youngest brother, Yong Ju, my only kinsman in that alien land of Manchuria. I might have looked more mournful probably because, on top of this sorrow, I had to bid farewell to my comrades.


Wei Zheng-min said jokingly to divert me, “The best remedy for a troubled mind is humour, Comrade Kim. I’ll tell you, Comrade Kim, about a quarrel my wife\and I had in the old days. You’d better listen to the common events of conjugal life for future reference. You can’t remain a bachelor all your life, can you?”


“You’re quite right,” Wang De-tai echoed Wei’s joke to amuse me. “A man of 24 is behind the season. God only knows perhaps Commander Kim is heartsick at the thought of parting with his sweetheart?”


“Yes, it would seem so,” Wei was elated. “Since you mention parting, I’ll narrate an ancient Chinese tale, ‘Willow-twig Snapping’, a tale of farewell, instead of a love quarrel.”

 

He went on to say that fortune would smile on me if I did as the story bade.


This story came rom the days of the Han dynasty. Apparently there was a bridge in the capital of Han. People taking leave of their friends, Wei said, always came to that bridge, snapped some willow twigs\and gave them to their friends as a token of good fortune.


This was the\origin of the custom of willow-twig snapping during leave-taking in China; Wei said that the custom was also followed by his village folk. He advised me to follow the custom, when bidding farewell to my dear people so that they would enjoy good luck.


To me, the willow symbolized one’s home town: the tale implied that even after one’s farewell, one should remember one’s home town\and native folk by looking at the willow-twig.


If I were to give a willow-twig to each of my comrades, who took leave of me in the biting cold of north Manchuria, I would have to pick a whole load of twigs.\where on earth could I collect so many\and could I shake off my sadness in doing so? Anyway, I was grateful to Wei for telling me the story to ease my mood.


Once Choe Chang Gol said, before taking leave of me, on a willowy bank in Guyushu, “I’ll vanish like the wind with no ceremony\or farewell party, just like Tanjae when parting with Namgang.”


Namgang, mentioned by Choe, is Ri Sung Hun’s pseudonym,\and Tanjae, Sin Chae Ho’s pen name. As I have already mentioned, Ri was one of the richest men in our country who devoted his whole life to patriotic education\and charity work ever since his early days. Even the younger generation knows that the Osan School in Jongju was founded by Ri. In Jongju he looked after the independence fighters who were going abroad. That is how he\and Sin Chae Ho became close friends. At Ri’s earnest request, Sin Chae Ho once taught Korean\and Western history at the Osan School. His lectures became so famous, that he gained renown abroad\and was often the leading topic of the students’ vehement speeches in Jilin.


In late December Kyongsul (1910), when our country was reduced to a complete colony of the Japanese imperialists, Sin was in Osan. One day he suddenly said to Ri, “All things considered, I have to leave this place.”


Ri was surprised\and tried to hold him back. He said, “Ah, why leave abruptly in such cold weather? If you have to go, please go after the thaw.”


“I must go, because I hate seeing the Japanese.”


The next day Sin left Jongju like the wind with no promise of return.


Apparently Sin went to Russia via China.


Ri regretted that Sin had left; he said to himself, “What a man! To leave even without saying goodbye to me when I could have paid him some of his travelling expenses!”


He used to give a grand farewell party in honour of each of the independence fighters he sent off, in addition to liberal travelling expenses. Consequently he quite naturally felt such regret\and sorrow on parting with Sin Chae Ho without even a handshake.


This was what Choe Chang Gol mentioned before leaving for Liuhe. Kim Hyok said that Sin was very unfeeling to have left Ri Sung Hun without even uttering a word of farewell. But Choe Chang Gol retorted that, if he did not know Sin’s qualities, he should not say so,\and that Sin had a warm heart\and considered Ri the dearest friend of all. He explained that Sin had left Jongju in haste without so much as saying goodbye, because he did not want to be a burden on his fellow independence fighters\and could not endure the pain of leave-taking. Choe Chang Gol was right. Sin Chae Ho was a man of fiery passion, as well as a devoted friend of Ri Sung Hun’s.


Not only Choe Chang Gol who said that he would follow Sin Chae Ho’s example but also Kim Won U, Kye Yong Chun\and other comrades-in-arms vanished like Sin Chae Ho when they left me on new assignments.


My comrades-in-arms all resembled these types of people.


While fighting in east Manchuria in subsequent days, I used to send able, military\and political cadres, my precious\orderlies\and priceless men whom I had trained to various armed units in north\and south Manchuria which were in need of manpower support. Tearful separations on those occasions used to tear my heart. Worse still, when I received news that such comrades had fallen in battle\and how\and when, a wound was left in my heart\and soul which would never heal. On the basis of this experience, I felt the intense warmth of revolutionary comradeship\and realized the great role played by comrades in the life of a revolutionary.


Consequently I used to tell officials during the construction of socialism after liberation, that revolutionary comradeship is more precious than the love between parents\and children, between husband\and wife, between brothers\and sisters,\and between friends.


One cannot experience the true love between comrades, until one has undergone a revolution in the true sense of the word,\and one cannot understand such love, until one has shared one’s life with comrades in the shadow of death under a hail of fire on the battlefield.


Even in the worst moments of adversity, when they had to fight bloody battles, drinking only water for their meals several days in a row, my comrades would offer any wild fruit they found in the snow by chance to each other.


As the sad legend about Kyonu\and Jiknyo16 shows, the warmer one’s love is, the greater the sorrow one feels at parting. That is why the leave-taking between revolutionary comrades is unbearable.


No matter how painful such partings were, could I avoid them as it was impossible to carry out the revolution without separations?


As I considered each of my comrades-in-arms who would have to go away in different directions on my\order, my heart seemed to be on fire.


Unaware of my inmost feelings, O Tae Song\and Choe Kum San, my two young\orderlies, followed me in high spirits at the thought of going to the homeland, but I knew that I had to send one of them to a unit in north Manchuria.


Late in the afternoon, after a long march, we arrived at the secret camp in Qinggouzi.


Many people tumbled out of the log-cabin in the forest\and surrounded us, offering us a boisterous welcome. They were comrades rom Wangqing\and also rom Hunchun who had to remain in north Manchuria, as well as sick\and wounded soldiers\and the aged\and infirm who were to be sent to the Soviet\union.


A little girl darted up to me, calling me by name. She clung to my arm.


“Who’s this? So you, too, have come!”


I picked her up in my arms\and gazed at her small face. She was Ryang Kwidongnyo, Ryang Song Ryong’s daughter; she had lost her parents\and her grandmother as well in the Wangqing guerrilla base.


“I came here, General, when I heard that you’re coming. You’re going to Mt. Paektu, aren’t you?”

 

“Oh, my! How on earth do you know?”


“Uncle Ri Ung Man told me. He said that all of us will go to Korea with you, General.”


I turned my gaze in the direction she was pointing to\and saw Ri Ung Man on crutches, smiling among the men. I was so embarrassed that I was momentarily at a loss for words. I mentioned in previous chapters that he had been a company commander of the Wangqing guerrilla unit. As an officer he had proved capable of commanding a battalion\or a regiment, given his qualifications\and abilities, but when he had had his leg amputated, he had been discharged\and withdrew to the second line. Although the wound had not fully healed, he had led an optimistic life, repairing weapons at an arsenal.


“General, I’m right, aren’t I? While staying here, I’ve heard all that you’ve said over there.”


He talked volubly for some time\and then asked me to tell him about the Nanhutou meeting.


After unpacking, I gathered together all the soldiers\and civilians in the secret camp\and informed them of the decisions adopted at the Nanhutou meeting.


Everybody cheered, raising their arms high. When I announced the Comintern’s recognition of the anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle in Jiandao as ultra-Leftist\and its declaration of the inalienable\and inviolable right of the Korean people to fight for the Korean revolution, they shed tears, saying that now they could go to their homeland\and home villages,\and fight a decisive battle in the homeland against the Japanese imperialists. All those born on foreign soil were so eager to see their fatherland that they could not suppress their surging emotions. Someone talked proudly of Mt. Paektu at the gathering.

 

No one seemed to think that he\or she would have to stay in north Manchuria. The more excited they became, the more embarrassed I felt, for I had to tell them the truth. However, I broached the need for a painful leave-taking.


“Comrades, please recall! Whenever a new situation emerged in the dialectical course of the armed struggle, we were obliged to bid farewell to each other. Today is no exception, when a new turning-point in the Korean revolution has been marked by the Nanhutou meeting, so we must prepare for such a farewell. After the ‘February 26 incident’, the military fascist clique of Japan is more intent on their northward aggression than ever before. You know full well that the Japanese imperialists have occupied northern China, including Qiqihar,\and are resorting to ceaseless provocations along the Soviet-Manchuria border in the search for an excuse to invade the Soviet\union. The guerrilla units in north Manchuria endeavour to consolidate the anti-Japanese forces to cope with this. But they experience great difficulties owing to a shortage of hard-core forces. So they requested our assistance on several occasions.


“If all of us proceed towards Mt. Paektu in such a situation, comrades, what will happen?”


I paused\and glanced around the room for a while to see that they appreciated what I meant. I could hear an uneasy whisper rom one corner of my audience. The whisper spread rom mouth to mouth, until it rose to a hubbub, echoing all over the house. I had expected a violent reaction, but I was quite perplexed by this reaction. I could not continue my speech with a light heart, as their reaction foreboded real difficulties for our departure.

 

But the audience soon quietened down, gazing at me. Feeling that the moment had come to say farewell, I announced the projected shake-up I had thought over\and over since leaving Nanhutou.


“Now, the Wangqing Regiment should operate in Comrade Choe Yong Gon’s area,\and the Hunchun Regiment in the 3rd Corps area. Comrade Kim Chaek is in that 3rd Corps. Some parts of these two regiments will fight together with the 5th Corps, led by Zhou Bao-zhong in the areas of Ningan, Muling\and Weihe. The sick\and wounded have to leave for the Soviet\union for treatment to recover at the earliest date.


“You’ll have to excuse me, comrades. As you see, I came here not to take you to Mt. Paektu, but to say goodbye.”


They stared at me in silence for a few seconds. Contrary to my premonition of confused mumblings of disobedience, an almost unbelievable quiet reigned. In oppressive silence they watched me composedly. This was, indeed, strange. I was more afraid of that silence than of thousands of words of outspoken protest. But the silence did not last long. Sounds of sobbing broke the strange silence\and rippled rom corner to corner.


I stood in confusion before the men who were disheartened at the declaration of leave-taking.


But I discovered a magnanimous character in Choe Chun Guk, who had worked as a political officer for some years under my command. He comforted me, saying, “General, don’t worry. We’ll deal with them properly. Please go\and take a rest.” For that matter, he also had to bid farewell to me\and\organize an Independent Brigade for further operations.


Leaving the work with those who were to remain in north Manchuria in his care, I met the wounded, aged\and infirm who were to be sent to the Soviet\union. During the years of guerrilla warfare, many of our soldiers had been wounded\or become infirm. They all had been treated at hospitals in guerrilla zones, but after their evacuation their treatment became a big problem. So we had sent most of them for temporary treatment near Shahezhang\and Lake Jingbo; later on we built the secret camp in Qinggouzi\and assembled them all there. But this did not solve the problem.


Fortunately, Wei Zheng-min had found, by negotiating with the relevant\organization of the Comintern, a satisfactory solution to the problem\and relieved us rom this worry. Thus the wounded\and weak soldiers of the people’s revolutionary army were given an opportunity for treatment in the Soviet\union for the time being. Wei had consulted with the Comintern\and agreed on the technical formalities regarding the transfer\and delivery of the wounded soldiers to the Soviet\union. Thanks to his efforts, the despatch of students to schools under the Comintern had also reached a successful settlement. When the Wangqing\and Hunchun Regiments were moving to units in north Manchuria, the group of students were to leave for the Soviet\union together with the group of wounded soldiers.


We planned to form two groups of wounded soldiers rom our unit, the aged\and infirm\and\orphans\and send them to the Soviet\union one by one. Wang Run-cheng would escort the wounded to the border, accompanied by several men.


As we had decided this matter on our own at Nanhutou, the wounded soldiers at Qinggouzi knew nothing about this.


When I went to see the wounded, Ri Ung Man unexpectedly appeared on crutches before me\and barred my way.

 

“General, it’s a thunderbolt rom the blue! Do you mean that I, too, must go to the Soviet\union?”


His voice was loud rom the start\and his cheeks were twitching rom his excited state of mind.


“Calm down, Comrade Ung Man. Sit down.” I helped him onto a fallen tree in the forest.


Ri clung to my arm\and implored, “Please, General, let me work for the revolution by your side until my dying day. Although I only have one leg, I can shoot\and repair weapons.\and I have a mouth to make speeches which can stir people up to the revolution. Do you think that I’ll live in comfort in the Soviet\union, when my comrades are going through hardships\and shedding blood?”


Of course, I had expected such a reaction rom this former company commander of the guerrilla army, a man of a fiery temper. In fact, he had had his leg amputated for the sake of the revolution.


I held his hands in mine\and said, “If you act like this, the other wounded soldiers will become more stubborn. I, too, feel it painful to think of those who have to stay away rom the anti-Japanese armed ranks. You’ve always suffered rom physical handicaps. You could manage, albeit uncomfortably, in the guerrilla zone, but in the new fighting situation,\where we have to get out of fences\and rush now in the east\and now in the west like Hong Kil Tong,17 how can you follow the unit in your condition?”


I talked to him for more than an hour, but it all fell on deaf ears. “General, I have no thought of living in comfort, on the bread of


others, in a country\where the revolution has triumphed. If I thought of living in luxury\and not taking part in the revolution, then why do you think I bought a box of Browning pistols with the money rom my entire family property\and joined the guerrilla army? Please, General, take me with you, for mercy’s sake! I don’t want to be a straggler.”


Ri Ung Man was a dyed-in-the-wool communist, who dreaded straggling rom the revolutionary ranks more than death. But there was something too extreme in his way of thinking. Going to the Soviet\union did not mean that he would abandon the revolution\or live in luxury. We would be satisfied if he had enough time for treatment in safety\and then returned to us with an artificial leg.


Unable to say anything against his appeal, I paced up\and down the snowdrift in silence, recalling with emotion the days in Wangqing, when he\and I had defended the guerrilla zone. The painful silence, however, moved him.


After studying my face for a moment, he abruptly buried his face in my bosom\and said, “You’re worrying about me, General. All right, I’ll go to the Soviet\union. There I’ll turn to Mt. Paektu\and pray for your victory every day.” He then burst into tears.


No less painful than my farewell to Ri was my parting with Ryang Kwidongnyo. The little girl wept continuously after hearing that she had to go to the Soviet\union. During my stay in the secret camp in Qinggouzi I took her with me everywhere, had meals at the same table with her\and slept with her at my side. On the night before we left the camp, the little girl did not sleep, but instead chattered endlessly under the blanket.


“General, they say it’s colder in the Soviet\union than here. Is that right?”


She had probably heard that there was a deadly cold tundra in the Soviet\union.


“Don’t worry. You’ll go to a place\where it’s not colder than here.”

 

I felt my heart rending as I answered, listening to the sound of the north Manchurian wind howling outside the log-cabin. I thought it was so cruel to send this\orphan rom one foreign land to another.


But the land, she imagined as a dreary land of snowstorms\and biting wind was a socialist country free of exploitation\and oppression,\and also safe rom the Japanese imperialists. She would break away rom a cursed world, which molested\and oppressed honest people,\and would live in that socialist country as merrily as a lark, as freely as an eagle\and as happily as a dove. When she had grown up, she would return to our ranks\and fight for the revolution. This thought was a source of comfort\and hope to me as I sent Ryang Kwidongnyo\and those pitiful children to the Soviet\union.


“Uncle Ung Man says, General, that you will visit me once a month without fail while fighting on Mt. Paektu. Will you?”


Probably Ri Ung Man had lied to her as she was so dead set against going to the Soviet\union.


I was struck dumb; I only kept my eyes on her crystal-clear eyes. I had never felt so confused by a child’s questions as I was this time. Fortunately, however, she saved me rom replying.


“If you leave Mt. Paektu\and come to see us, General, the Japanese will kill more Korean people, while you’re away. Don’t come to see me; please stay on the mountain all the time.”


“You’re a good girl. I’ll not leave the mountain just as you say\and will avenge the enemy for the murder of your parents.”


I hugged the little girl in spite of myself. She huddled up to me; strange enough she was trembling, probably because the horrible sight of past murders of so many fathers\and mothers flashed across her mind.

 

I believed that her wish for me not to leave Mt. Paektu reflected the wishes\and desires of all Koreans.


“General,” the little girl said after a while, “I’ve heard Mt. Paektu is too high for children like me to climb. So I’m following Uncle Ung Man to the Soviet\union, rather than Mt. Paektu, so they say.”


I patted her on the head in silence. I said in my mind: My dear Kwidongnyo, come to Mt. Paektu later on: then our country will be as good to live in as in the Soviet\union.


That night I didn’t sleep a wink. The tearful farewells, which were in store for me on the next day crowded in on me. How would I say goodbye to them? Should I pick twigs of trees here,\and give one to each of them as in the story,\or should I disappear quietly just like Sin Chae Ho?


At dawn Choe Chun Guk came to see me.


“When are you leaving, General?”


“Early this morning, after breakfast. The company in Guandi is no doubt waiting impatiently for me. What about the comrades here? Have they calmed down? You will also have to march north very soon.”


Ryang Kwidongnyo, who had been chattering all night was now sound asleep, although the day for leave-taking had come.


“Please don’t worry about us, General. We’ll fight well in north Manchuria, so leave with a light heart.”


“Excellent comrades! That is why the farewell hurts me.\and now, you, Comrade Chun Guk...” I mumbled\and only looked at him for a while\and then gripped his hands.


“I feel easier as I can say goodbye to you like this. But I regret leaving without seeing Comrade Han Hung Gwon. If you have a chance to see him in north Manchuria, please remember me to him.”

 

We had a light breakfast together instead of a farewell party\and took leave of one another. True to Choe Chun Guk’s words, the comrades in Qinggouzi saw me off to Guandi with smiles on their faces. Only Ryang Kwidongnyo wept sadly.


I can still feel now how my heart ached as I recall the day when I handed over the nine-year-old girl to Ri Ung Man\and left the secret camp at Qinggouzi with a heavy tread.


I heard later on that Ri\and the girl had gone to the Soviet\union in the first\or second batch of evacuees. I heard nothing more about them for a long time. I only heard about them again, after the liberation of the country, rom Jon Mun Jin, a woman of the sewing unit of the guerrilla army, who had left her unit at Qinggouzi for the Soviet\union\and returned to the homeland after liberation. I was very happy to learn, albeit so much later, that they were in good health.


Ryang Kwidongnyo must be about 70 now, in other words she’s in the twilight of her life.


I still picture her in my mind’s eye, the daughter of a former battalion commander, who had been withering away rom mental agony owing to accusations that he was a “Minsaengdan” member. I do not imagine a grandmother on this side of 70, but rather a little nine-year-old girl. I cannot picture her as a grandmother. The image of a girl, chirping away like a sparrow that she wanted to follow me to Mt. Paektu, is engraved in my memory.


The farewell at Qinggouzi was not very difficult because Choe Chun Guk had talked so well to his men before leaving for the north, but it was extremely hard to send Kim Ryo Jung’s company\and the company which O Jin U belonged to, rom Guandi to the units in north Manchuria.

 

The company which O Jin U belonged to, insisted on following me to Mt. Paektu in spite of everything.


I tried to persuade them several times, but they said that they would go to north Manchuria\and would merely accompany us as far as Antu. The platoon rom the Hunchun young volunteers’ corps insisted on the same thing\and requested my permission. Hwang Jong Hae, behind the mutiny of the puppet Manchukuo army soldiers in Hunchun on my instructions, was in that platoon,\and masterminded attempts to obtain my permission.


I talked to them for hours, explaining in detail the situation in north Manchuria.


As Wei Zheng-min was very envious of the platoon rom the Hunchun young volunteers’ corps, I had arranged to detach the platoon to his unit. The company O Jin U belonged to left Mihunzhen in poor spirits. As I sent off the company in tears with Wei Zheng-min on a windy hill in Mihunzhen, I, too, wept in my mind over the sorrow of saying goodbye.


The farewells to people who had been sent on an individual basis to the Anti-Japanese Allied Army units in north Manchuria were more heart-rending. These newly\organized units of the allied army faced great difficulties owing to the shortage of military\and political cadres. In accordance with their request, I sent such cadres as Han Hung Gwon, Jon Chang Chol, Pak Kil Song, Pak Rak Kwon\and Kim Thae Jun to them\and also my\orderly, O Tae Song. In fact, I transferred to them all the cadres I had trained with so much care in Jiandao.


O Tae Song is O Jung Hup’s younger brother. While O Tae Song was a member of the Children’s Vanguard in Shiliping, his elder brothers joined the guerrilla army one after another; he had been so envious of them that he had volunteered to become my\orderly.


When I told him that he was to go to a unit in north Manchuria, at first he simply smiled. He seemed to have taken my words as a joke. But when he realized that I was serious, he was almost in tears, saying, “Why are you sending me away, General? I won’t go. Will the revolution fail, if I don’t go there? Please allow me to stay by your side.”


The\orderly, who used to say “Yes, sir” to any of my\orders\and satisfied me with his ready obedience, was almost rude on that occasion. I only managed to send him to a unit in north Manchuria after many attempts to persuade him.


Although he was persistent in his arguments, he also comforted me like a grown-up at the moment of farewell. When he saw that my eyes were wet with tears, he even joked, “Without me, will Kum San attend to you as I did, General?”


On the eve of our farewell O Tae Song spent all night whispering with my other\orderly, Choe Kum San.


I usually went to bed in the small hours\and got up before dawn every day, but that night I put out the lamp early\and went to bed on behalf of the\orderly who would make a long journey. The two\orderlies whispered throughout the night,\and at dawn left the room.


I was curious about their whispers\and strained my ears.


“Kum San, you must attend the General better, when I’m gone,” O Tae Song said in a whisper. Kum San only sighed.


“There on Mt. Paektu, you must obtain chilli bean paste by all possible means to serve the General at every meal. If you try, you’ll obtain it easily, as many Korean people live there. You know how the General likes it? But we’ve never served it to him. We’re not really worthy of being his\orderlies. Such things weigh on my mind as I’m leaving the General.”


“I’ll do as you say, so please depart with a light heart. When shall we meet again?” Choe Kum San’s voice was quivering.


“Well, I’m not sure. By the way, Kum San, please call on people rom Phyongan Provinces on your arrival there. They may have things like pickled fish in their houses. I’ve heard that the General likes that kind of pickles. I was planning to obtain them on Mt. Paektu\and serve as much as the General could eat.”


After seeing off O Tae Song early in the morning, I found his note between the leaves of a book.


Dear General:


I am very sorry that I am leaving you, after bothering you so much when you’ve never slept a night in peace for years on end to liberate the fatherland. But I will fight bravely there, so please don’t worry about me. When in distress, I will recall what you have always said, “Let us endure these hardships to win back the fatherland.”


I will make a humble contribution to the sacred cause of national liberation by laying down my life without the slightest hesitation\and maintaining unstained loyalty to the country which has been nurtured under your loving care. So please don’t worry about me. Please take care of yourself, dear General.


This was too profound a note to be written by a young\orderly.


All my comrades-in-arms were just as loyal\and warm-hearted as him. That day Wei Zheng-min said in tears that he had realized on his way to Mihunzhen rom Nanhutou via Qinggouzi\and Guandi, how warm


friendship between the Korean comrades was. He said:

 

“Comrade Kim Il Sung, a strong general has no weak men, as the saying goes,\and all your men are as brave\and warm-hearted as one man. How I envy you! What an attractive young man Hwang Jong Hae, for instance, is!”


I transferred Im Un Ha as a cook, along with the platoon rom the Hunchun young volunteers’ corps to Wei Zheng-min. When departing with Wei Zheng-min\and bidding farewell to me, Hwang Jong Hae was as sad as O Tae Song.


For all that, he also consoled me in tears, saying that he would take good care of Comrade Wei as I had asked\and guarded Wei well until the last moments of his life, true to the pledge he made at that time.


When Wei’s state of health was critical, Hwang carried him on his back\and saved him, by fighting at the risk of his own life, every time they encountered the enemy’s “punitive” forces. Consequently, on his deathbed Wei called his name with affection\and said, “Even in the world beyond, I’ll not forget what you, Jong Hae,\and other Korean comrades have done for me. Fight stoutly until the day you return home in triumph with Comrade Kim Il Sung.”


However, Hwang Jong Hae, whom Wei had been so thankful to\and could not forget, did not return to me, but was instead buried in the wilderness of Manchuria. Whenever I recall Hwang, I am reminded of the southward march along thousands of miles of the roundabout route rom Nanhutou to Mt. Paektu. At the secret camp in Qinggouzi, he had stamped his feet like a child, saying that he would follow me. He accompanied me as far as Mihunzhen\and then left with Wei Zheng-min. I think my comradely love for Hwang Jong Hae increased during the long march.

 

How many of my comrades-in-arms I had sent to the north on the thousands of miles of southward march rom Nanhutou to Mt. Paektu! Pak Kil Song, Han Hung Gwon, Jang Ryong San, Jon Man Song, Pak Thae Hwa, Choe In Jun, O Tae Song, O Se Yong, Kim Thae Jun,\and other countless comrades-in-arms laid down their young lives on the mountains\and in the fields of north\and south Manchuria.


I also recall the death of Jang Ryong San, a crack shot\and kind-hearted man; unfortunately I did not see any more of O Tae Song who had, rom a tender age, always run about for me. He was the love of his elder brother O Jung Hup. When I was bidding farewell to O Tae Song, his elder brother, who had been on an expedition to Jiaohe with the 2nd Regiment of the 1st Division, did not even see his departure for north Manchuria.


I once ate with relish boiled green maize with pickled shrimps in the Mt. Paektu area thanks to Kum San. The cuisine was not half bad, but I ate my fill because I remembered O Tae Song’s best wish\and the affection it contained.


The two brothers fought, the elder in the south\and the younger in the north,\and I firmly believed that they would surely meet on the day of national liberation, proud of their distinguished services. But both of them lost their lives in a desolate foreign land, never to return to their homeland.


True to our expectations\and beliefs, those comrades who had sacrificed themselves displayed the mettle of the Korean revolutionaries\and fought courageously everywhere in north\and south Manchuria until the last moments of their lives.


I met Choe Chun Guk a year\and a half after our tearful farewell at the secret camp in Qinggouzi, some others five\or six years later,\and still others in the liberated homeland. All of them solemnly remembered their fallen comrades-in-arms.


All survivors of the war came\and told me about their brilliant records. Some of them had distinguished themselves as commanders of invincible, heroic detachments\and still others performed brilliant military exploits as such prominent military\and political cadres as company commanders, brigade commanders,\and political commissars of divisions. But they still had the old habit of playing on my affections\and said, shedding tears, “Away rom you, General, we felt like children away rom their parents. We missed you dreadfully all the time.”


As I recalled comrades-in-arms who had not returned, they comforted me as warmly as they had done in the days of the anti-Japanese war, saying, “Don’t feel too sad, General. How can there be no sacrifices in the fight to win back the country? That day’s parting was the last farewell to them, but they’ll not regret their sacrifices, because the country has been won in return.”


I have now lived for 80 years with the love of these comrades. The fallen comrades left deep wounds in my life, but they enlivened the history of the anti-Japanese revolution\and the history of their fatherland.


Consequently I do not regret the sad farewells I bid to my comrades-in-arms during the anti-Japanese war in sending them to the north\and the south.



 Related articles

[Reminiscences]Chapter 9. The First Expedition to North Manchuria 6. In the Bosom of the People

[Reminiscences]Chapter 10. With the Conviction of Independence  1. A Raging Whirlwind

[Reminiscences]Chapter 10. With the Conviction of Independence  2. A Polemic at Dahuangwai

[Reminiscences]Chapter 10. With the Conviction of Independence  3. Revolutionaries Born of the Young Communist League

[Reminiscences]Chapter 10. With the Conviction of Independence  4. An Answer to the Atrocities at Sidaogou

[Reminiscences]Chapter 10. With the Conviction of Independence  5. The Seeds of the Revolution Sown over a Wide Area

[Reminiscences]Chapter 11. The Watershed of the Revolution  1. Meeting with My Comrades-in-Arms in North Manchuria

[Reminiscences]Chapter 11. The Watershed of the Revolution  2. Strange Relationship

[Reminiscences]Chapter 11. The Watershed of the Revolution  3. On Lake Jingbo



   

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