북녘 | [Reminiscences]Chapter 12.To Hasten theLiberation of the Country 1. Th…
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[Reminiscences]Chapter 12.To Hasten theLiberation of the Country 1. The Birth of a New Division
Chapter 12.To Hasten theLiberation of the Country
1. The Birth of a New Division
When we left Mihunzhen, our company comprised less than twenty people. Two young\orderlies, ten guards including O Paek Ryong, Kim San Ho\and the old man “tobacco pipe”, who had followed us\and in so doing had given up teaching at a village school in the secluded land of Helong. These were all members of my company. One companyrom the Wangqing Regiment, who had followed usrom Guandi, left us towards Yilan County to join some units in north Manchuria.
Although my company on the journey was small, I was indescribably happy at the thought that my long-cherished dream would come true.
“I must go to Fusong quickly. The soldiers of the Second Regiment will be waiting for me at Maanshan. I must make them the backbone of a new unconquerable division.” This was my intention, as I left Mihunzhen.
It was imperative to\organize a new division to carry out the Juche line of our revolution.
Nobody would now dare to dispute\or interfere with our concentration on the Korean revolution. There would be no more obstacles to the Korean revolution, along the path we had long sought\and paved. If we ran straight ahead along this path, we would be able to liberate the homeland\and build a country, a land of bliss for the people.
To this end, we had to prepare a strong engine\and train, which would run along this path\and also had to build a powerful headquarters.
What engine would lead the Korean revolution? This meant the division to be\organized as the main force of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. The future Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland might be compared to the train, which would be pulled by that engine. Mt. Paektu,\where we soon established ourselves, would act as the headquarters of the Korean revolution. We had to grapple with these tasks straight away.
The new division we planned to\organize at that time was not a conventional division, set aside exclusively for military operations to destroy the Japanese imperialist army\and police. As well as conducting military operations, this division planned to advance to Mt. Paektu, our destination,\and expand the network of Party\organizations throughout the homeland, rally all the people behind the ARF\and other anti-Japanese\organizations\and rouse them\and lead their resistance against the Japanese. Consequently a political potential was needed to perform these tasks. Of course, other divisions also had to perform these tasks, but an elite division to lead other divisions in this undertaking was essential. Consequently I compared the elite division to an engine.
How was this powerful division, the engine of the Korean revolution, to be\organized?
Most of the people I discussed this matter with proposed the recall of all Korean soldiersrom different units of the Anti-Japanese Allied Army\and the formation of a large force\and then a move to Mt. Paektu. Some others insisted that sturdy guerrillas be\selectedrom different units of the 2nd Corps to form the division. Although their idea was sensible in some respects, none of them had considered the destiny of our Chinese comrades, who were fighting with us against the common enemy,\or the prospects of a joint struggle. Their proposal was motivated by their impatience to witness the birth of the new division, without regard to everything else,\or by a self-centred approach as it is called nowadays.
In the end I decided to divide hundreds of soldiers, who had been under my command during the north Manchurian expedition, among the units operating in Weihe,\and go to Fusong to\organize a new main force, with the 2nd Regiment operating there as the backbone, by recruiting excellent young peoplerom east Manchuria\and the homeland.
When we left Mihunzhen, Wang De-tai gave us twenty\or so horses, which had been capturedrom an enemy’s timber mill.
“Commander Kim, I am sorry to see you leaving, following the transfer of all the men you have trained with painstaking effort to units in north Manchuria. I hope you will accept these horses in exchange for your men\and make them your companions. They will be useful because they seem to have been trained.”
We made a southward journey on these horses. We almost lost three of the horses during a stop on the march. We had allowed them to graze,\and they disappeared into the forest beyond our view. I ascertained that there was no enemy around\and told my\orderly to fire a few shots. At the sound of gun shots, the three horses appearedrom different directions\and ran towards us.
On our way we met evacueesrom the Chechangzi guerrilla zone on a mountain,\and gave them these horses for use as draft animals.
The marchrom Mihunzhen to Maanshan was the most difficult part of the whole southward journey of over six monthsrom Xiaojiaqihe valley in north Manchuria to Sobaeksu mountain valley on the northern tip of Korea.
The enemy appearedrom all directions\and detained our small force. After leaving Mihunzhen, we had to fight one\or two battles every day, sometimes three\or four battles. Now\and then the enemy did not even give us time to cook\or mend torn clothes. Battle was so frequent that the old man “tobacco pipe”, who could allegedly skip meals, but not smoking for a single day, was not able to smoke all day for several days. We could only cook\and dry wet shoes at night in a shelter. But we could not relax at night. Our men were so few in number that it was difficult to post guards. At least one man was needed for the gate guard, two at the foot of the mountain\and another two on the top of the mountain for each shift, but we did not have enough men to relieve them, if the wounded\and nurses were excluded. Consequently I also stood guard now\and then in place of the soldiers. During his patrol one night Kim San Ho saw me standing as sentry,\and made a great fuss as if something serious had happened. He meant that the commander was too indulgent to his men. It was very hard to soothe him, when he was complaining. I persuaded him to think of the young men.
I said to him: “Look how exhausted the men arerom march\and battle during the day\androm guard duty every night! How many times can I stand guard for them? When we arrive at Maanshan, we shall have a number of people\and I will have no opportunity to stand guard.”
Aware that I would not listen to him, Kim San Ho went away in silence.
“Let’s go to Maanshan quickly!” I said to myself.
I thought that the embrace of many comrades-in-arms\and a comfortable shelter was in store for us in Maanshan\and that our hardships would end there. Such hope strengthened\and encouraged all of us who were exhausted by the march\and battles to continue without proper food\and rest.
Every valley\and mountain ridge of Antu\and Fusong on our route to the south were familiar to me,\and each plant\and tree evoked in me strong memories. Songjiang, Xinglongcun, Shiwuli, Xiaoshahe, Liujiafenfang, Fuerhe, Dadianzi, Liushuhe, Nandianzi, Dujidong, Wanlihe, Naitoushan\and other places were closely connected in different ways with my younger days. Treading on familiar ground, I was stirred by irresistible emotions.
When we climbed on the hill west of Daxibeicha, a striking scenery unfolded, which awakened deep emotions in my mind. The out-of-the-way village at the foot of the hill was an unforgettable place,\where I had worked underground in the guise of a farmhand, preparing the foundation of the guerrilla army. On this very hill I would meet the members of an underground\organization at that time. Each of the plants, trees,\and rocks was a memento of those days.
Scanning the stretch of rolling southern hills\and recollecting my bygone days, I glimpsed a distant view of the Xiaoshahe hill,\where I had declared the foundation of the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army four years earlier. My mother’s grave was located on a sunny place, a little way downrom the top of the hill.
A lingering desire to trace the familiar lane back to her grave\and bow to it before proceeding to Fusong arrested my step. Four years had passed since I left the Tuqidian valley, after bidding farewell in tears to my mother’s grave which was sparsely sodded. Four years was enough for the turf to strike deep roots. My heart suddenly throbbed with a desire to talk to my mother in the grave, even for just one moment\and press my cheeks against the new shoots, which might be sproutingrom under dry leaves. I remained on the ridge of the hill, unaware that my men had already climbed down the hill. Apparently the memory of my mother was ever stronger as the day when foods are offered to ancestral tombs was approaching. I heard that Mr. Kang Je Ha’s family visited my father’s grave in Yangdicun twice a year to perform ancestral sacrifices\and weed it, but I had never heard what had happened to my mother’s grave at Tuqidian valley.
“General, why don’t you come down the hill?” inquired Choe Kum San, turning backrom descending the hill.
I only now awakenedrom reverie\and quickened my pace. “General, what are you thinking about? I have heard that your mother’s grave is near here. Probably...” He asked in a whisper cupping his hands to my ear. This young\orderly’s penetrating insight compelled me to open up my heart.
“That’s right! I was thinking about my mother.”
“General, surely you should pay a visit to your mother’s grave?” “Yes. But I have no time.”
“Nevertheless, it would be too unfeeling not to. It is only a hailing distance to Xiaoshahe. I was told that your younger brother is living in Tuqidian valley.”
“Even if time allows me to, I cannot. My mother herself does not want me to.”
“That’s strange. Why not?”
“As her last wish, she said that I should not move her grave before Korea gains independence. I do not call at her grave, because I respect her last wish.”
Choe Kum San cocked his head, as if he were not satisfied.
“Will Korea fail to gain independence if you call at the grave? General, her last wish is a last wish, but please pay her a visit.”
“No, I can’t. I was not an obedient son in her lifetime, so I want to be obedient, at least after her death. Don’t tell me what to do. I haven’t done anything great yet, so how can I visit her grave?”
Kim San Ho\and O Paek Ryong joined the battle to persuade me to visit Xiaoshahe, but I declined. Deep in spirit, however, I was by my mother’s side.
Climbing down the hill I said in my spirit, “Mother, I cannot visit you at the Tuqidian valley, because I am on a hasty journey. Treading the soil of Antu, I am very sorry that I haven’t added a handful of earth to your grave\and never weeded it, while you were exposed to the cold snow\and cold rain through all seasons. I also haven’t taken care of my younger brothers. I heard that Chol Ju fell in battle last year, but I do not even know\where he is buried.
“But, mother, the prospects of the Korean revolution have become bright. I am going to\organize a large division in Maanshan. As commander of this division, I will fight a decisive battle, centring on Mt. Paektu. If I fail to liberate the country, I will not visit your grave as you so desired. But trust me\and wait for me, mother. I will liberate the country without fail\and take you to Mangyongdae.”
We hastened our march towards Maanshan. We expected a great deal of our journey to Maanshan. Consequently, when a saddle-shaped mountain came into view beyond a sea of forest, all of us shouted, “That’s Mt. Maan!”
We first came upon an insam (ginseng) field. The edge of the field was covered by two shabby\and empty log-cabins. In dusk we found another small log-cabin in a deep valley. Two\or three men lived in seclusion in this cabin. Here we met Kim Hong Bom, the head of the political department of the 1st Division, who was eating baked potatoes.
“Where is the Second Regiment?”
“It moved to Jiaohe on an expedition early this month.”
Kim Hong Bom’s casual answer acted as a thunderboltrom the blue. The absence of the 2nd Regiment meant that it was impossible to\organize the new main force which we had planned at Nanhutou. I felt as if I had lost a trusty prop.
As it was operating as an Independent Regiment, it had been one of the pure Korean units renowned as the “Koryo red army” for its high combat efficiency. This regiment was composed of companies which had been\selectedrom each county guerrilla zone in east Manchuria including Yanji, Wangqing\and Helong. Most of its soldiers were closely connected with me. Kwon Yong Byok, Kim Ju Hyon, O Jung Hup, Kim Phyong,\and other hard-core elements of the regiment, to say nothing of regimental commander Yun Chang Bom\and its political commissar Kim Rak Chon, had been trained by me.
I last met the 2nd Regiment in May 1935 when it arrived in Tangshuihezi, Wangqing County, on my call. During the ten days I spent with the soldiers, I got them to study, gave them training\and sometimes committed them to battle. They developed as quickly as men under my personal command. They were the very heroes who defended the Chechangzi guerrilla zone to the last\and thereby created the legend of the “indomitable Chechangzi”.
When we were on the second north Manchurian expedition, the 2nd Regiment evacuated the Chechangzi guerrilla zone\and advanced towards south Manchuria\and then moved early in 1936 to Maanshan, Fusong County, via Naitoushan, Antu County. The regiment was due to stay in the Fusong area in the winter with its headquarters\and supply base on Maanshan, waiting for us. This was all we had known in Nanhutou about the activities of the 2nd Regiment. When I left for Maanshan, I transferred the men on the north Manchurian expedition to other units, as I believed that if the 2nd Regiment came under my command, I would be able to\organize a new division using it as the backbone.
“Didn’t you receive the message we sent to the Second Regiment?” On my arrival in Mihunzhen, I had sent a liaison man over here, with
the instructions that the 2nd Regiment should wait for me.
“No, we didn’t get the message. After the Second Regiment departed on expedition, nobody has come here.”
Then, something must have happened to the messenger on the way.
Even if he arrived without accident, he would have not met the 2nd
Regiment which had left.
“Why did the Second Regiment move to Jiaohe?” “I don’t know....”
“Didn’t they say when they would be back?”
“No, they didn’t.”
“Who led them?”
“Regimental commander Zhang Chuan-shu\and its political commissar Cao Ya-fan.”
“Are you alone here, then? What are you doing here?”
When I asked, Kim Hong Bom replied, much to my surprise:
“There are more than one hundred ‘Minsaengdan’ members in the Sampho secret camp. I am remaining here to watch them.”
“Why are there so many ‘Minsaengdan’ members? I found the log-cabin on the edge of the insam field empty.”
“‘Minsaengdan’ suspects have now gone to Mayihe, Linjiang, to obtain foodstuffs.”
“If they can be sent on such a mission, how can they be ‘Minsaengdan’ members?”
“We can hardly starve them to death, can we?”
“Have you any evidence to indicate that they are ‘Minsaengdan’ members?”
“There are files of evidence for each of them. Written confessions, written statements, examination records....”
Kim Hong Bom produced a big bundle of documentsrom a dark corner of the room.
“These are the documents.”
This bundle of “Minsaengdan” documents was the first reception at Maanshan for me, who had come all the way, despite all the hardships, to meet the 2nd Regiment. There were so many document bundles that they filled up a whole room.
When I received the musty bundles of criminal records, instead of loud cheers\and exciting embraces, I trembled as if I had been deceived\or mocked.
A mere mention of “Minsaengdan” made my blood run cold, but this “Minsaengdan” devil running wild in guerrilla zones was still torturing a lot of people. How had these old document bundles come to be brought here?
Almost one year had passed since we had repeated those arguments in Dahuangwai\and Yaoyinggou. Only one\and a half months had passed since we had heard about the judgement of the Comintern. The news might not have reached the people here yet. However, it was beyond imagination that the “Minsaengdan” farce was still going on, long after the whole of east Manchuria had condemned the “Minsaengdan” case as fictitious.
Why were they trying to incriminate one hundred stalwart people?
Were they not satisfied with the murders of people like Kim Rak Chon?
I\ordered Kim San Ho to despatch a messenger immediately to Mayihe, Linjiang, to fetch them all. Then, I unwrapped the bundles of “Minsaengdan” documents\and examined them one by one. I went through the papers, foregoing sleep\and continued on the next day, too. The more carefully I examined the documents, the more enigmatic they seemed to me. These papers vividly recorded serious crimes, which nobody could dare deny. I closed the documents. Any examination of the papers could only do harm. If I believed these papers, I would lose so many people. I could not believe what had been written on sheets of white paper, which could absorb all kinds of ink.
After receiving my message, the “Minsaengdan” suspects, who had travelled round Mayihe, Linjiang County, covered more than a hundred miles in only two days crossing the Longgang Mountains\and came to us.
On learning that they had reached the Sampho secret camp, I went to see them with Kim Hong Bom. When I opened the frosted log-cabin door, I found the room crowded with ragged people. It was a strange meeting, which did not arouse any excitement, cheers\or tears. Nobody saluted me\or stood up to report on what they were doing. No single man looked up to me. Only a dead silence reigned over the room—a hushed silence\and quiet. How hard they had been oppressed! They even seemed to think that they had lost the right to glimpse\or greet people. Could a felon be as depressed\and miserable as they were?
“Comrades, you have gone through a lot of trouble.” I could not speak properly, feeling a lump in my throat. “Seeing you, I can hardly ask ‘How are you all?’ But, I am glad to see you. I came here to see you, all the wayrom Lake Jingbo in north Manchuria.”
But none of them responded to my greetings. Still I was met only by hushed silence: there was not a sound of breathing\or coughing. I had never been met by my men like that in the four years of war against the Japanese.
“I came here to see you comrades of the Second Regiment, in\order to set up a new unit\and go to Mt. Paektu to fight there. But I was told here that all the sound people are on an expedition to Jiaohe\and that the people staying here are all bad. I examined the papers which accuse you of involvement in the ‘Minsaengdan’. According to these documents, all of you are ‘Minsaengdan’ members. But I don’t believe that I can judge you by these papers. I can only have a correct view after hearing what you have to say. So I hope you will open up your hearts. Speak frankly without fear\or trying to read another’s face.”
I appealed in this way, but the thickly-frozen silence did not break easily.
I told a man in the first row to reply first, asking him if it was true that he was a “Minsaengdan” member.
He hesitated for a while with his head\dropped low\and then said in a feeble voice, “Yes, it is true.”
I had not wanted to hear such a reply. I had wished him to cry out against the charge in tears\and beat his breast. His reply merely disappointed me.
I asked a tall young man the same question.
“Tell me, Comrade Ri Tu Su, is it true that you joined the ‘Minsaengdan’?”
This young platoon leaderrom Chunchon in Kangwon Province had bitter grievances against the Japanese imperialists. There was a blue scar on his right thigh. Once I had asked him which battle he had been wounded in. He had replied that he had been bitten by a dog.
This had happened when he was ten\or so years old. In a time of spring poverty, before the barley harvest, his family lived on gruel which was not even salted. As the salt had run out, he made three bundles of firewood\and went to the market. He sold them\and bought one toe (1.8 litres—Tr.) of salt. He was returning home in high spirits with the salt sack on top of his A-frame carrier. Passing a Japanese house, a wild dog swooped upon him\and bit his thigh. The Japanese boy, who had set the dog on him, hid in the house\and latched the gaterom the inside. Witnesses of the incident were indignant with the wicked Japanese. They carried the bleeding boy on their backs to the police station, protested\and accused the criminal. His injury was very serious: a piece of flesh was torn off. The people hospitalized him.
Tu Su was treated in hospital, eating rice, for the first time in his life. The boy with dishevelled hair, who hated eating gruel, was happy eating rice. He believed he would prefer to suffer the injury longer, rather than leave the hospital. He never imagined even in his dreams that his hospital life would bring great misfortune to his family\and himself. He thought that the dog’s owner would pay the doctor’s fee.
Later, the hospital authorities declared that they could not continue treatment, unless he paid. The doctor’s fee amounted to 20 won .\where could he obtain such a large sum of money, a boy who had been forced to leave school after attending it for only three months in the first year of primary school, because he could not afford to pay school fees of 20 jon a month?
The boy’s grandfather, father\and brothers frequently visited the dog’s owner, the police station\and hospital, begging, protesting\and accusing. But nobody accepted the appeal, protest\or complaint of the victim. They said that the boy who had been bitten by the dog was to blame for the accident. They were all Japanese, who could not take the Korean side. Finally Ri Tu Su borrowed 20 won\and paid the fee.
The interest grew on the loan\and in two years the debt had swollen to such an extent that he could not pay it back, even by selling his house, which had been handed down through generations. His family, which could not live in Chunchon because of the continual demand for payment, left their dear home town secretly at night\and made a northward journey. The money lenders chased his family five miles away\and took by force a roll of silk, the family’s last property,rom his grandmother’s bundle.
The descendants of the Ri dynasty, who had lived in the octagonal mansion with detached buildings for guests\and servants\and had owned several hectares of land, enjoying the respect\and envy of others, became penniless, after losing everything—the dynasty, country, house\and last roll of cloth\and wanderedrom place to place.
The plaintive voice of a steward in the dining-room of a steamerrom Wonsan to Chongjin stirred up the young boy’s heart to feel the grief of a stateless nation\and the sorrow of departing home.
“The sorrow of people like you who leave the homeland for a foreign land can never be assuaged\and the tears of blood shed by you wanderers flood the East Sea. But sighs\and tears will get you nowhere. Please endure your sorrow\and take this meal cooked with the rice\and water of the homeland before you leave.”
The boy, Ri Tu Su, felt his throat contract on hearing the steward’s sympathetic words.
Bidding farewell to the homeland, deprived of his country, his house\and his home town by the Japanese, the boy thought that he could never live with the Japanese under the same sky. He made the firm resolve that once he had grown up, he would not tolerate the Japanese, not even a dog\or cat, stirring under the Korean sky. Even before he had attained manhood, he took up arms\and joined the guerrilla army.
It was evident that such a man would never join the “Minsaengdan”.
But Ri Tu Su answered in the same way as the first man.
“Yes, I did join ‘Minsaengdan’.”
He said the same thing with the same attitude as Hunter Jang, when I called at the “Minsaengdan” prison in the valley of Lishugou, Xiaowangqing.
Repressing my surging resentment, I told him to explain in detail how he had joined the “Minsaengdan”, if he ever had done so. He repeated stammeringly his written confession\and statement. He spoke so logically that he left no room for doubt.
All the “Minsaengdan” suspects unanimously admitted their crimes.
With patience I asked Ri Tu Su again:
“Comrade, because of a Japanese dog, you fell into debt\and lost your house\and home town. A Japanese dog not only bit your flesh off, but also destroyed the livings of your family of more than ten people. Owing to a Japanese dog, you became more miserable than a dog.\and you claim that as such you came to embrace the enemy of your own accord,\and became a mad dog, which kills his compatriots\and bites at his comrades. Can this be true? Is it true that you are acting like a lapdog of the enemy,\and are not even fed?”
Ri Tu Su could say nothing, with tears tricklingrom his eyes. He trembled, sobbing\and biting his lips. An oppressive long silence continued. I left that cursed log-cabin. The fresh air lightened my depressed heart\and cooled my resentment. I felt very refreshed.
During my talks with the “Minsaengdan” suspects, I discovered something I could not understand.
Even when subjected to inhumane torture by the enemy, a torture mostly as cruel as the religious penalties meted in the Middle Ages, our comrades used to flatly deny their alleged crimes. Their resolve never faltered even in the face of death sentence. But these “Minsaengdan” suspects were saying to me, a communist, that they had committed crimes they had not committed. How could I explain this?
Walking up\and down the forest, I wondered why they were giving me such a suicidal answer.
They were not “Minsaengdan” members any more than the sky is the earth. Why, then, were they saying that they had joined the “Minsaengdan”\and admitting of their own accord that they had committed crimes?
Pak Chang Gil, a boy in Gayahe,\and Hunter Jang in Macun also insisted that their false statements were true. What caused this absurd state of affairs?
When they were first suspected, they all denied. But their true statements brought them even greater miseries. Their sincerity was taken for hypocrisy\and their true hearts for deception\and their honesty for craftiness. The more true words they uttered, the more they had been incriminated\and the harder they had been tortured.
What incoherence would take place, when brutal tortures\and mental afflictions reached a\limit?
What was the use of living, distrusted\and ill-treated by revolutionary comrades, who had shared weal\and woe under the same roof for years? If they had wished to escape death, they could have abandoned their weapons, defectedrom the mountain\and signed a surrender document\or become stooges of the enemy. But how could they have, with a communist conscience, turned their coats? They must have abandoned themselves, leaving everything to their fates.
Stupid misunderstanding\and distrustrom their own comrades-in-arms had driven one hundred stout guerrillas to despair\and self-abandon.
We can say that for a revolutionary collective united ideologically\and morally on the basis of a common ideal, rather than pursuit of money\or profit, confidence in one another is the lifeblood, which guarantees its unity\and solid development. Thanks to mutual trust, communist morality runs high in the collective: comrades love one another, superiors take loving care of their subordinates,\and subordinates respect their superiors.
For Korean revolutionaries, confidence is the starting-point of the communist relationship which links the past, present\and future. In the past we rallied comrades\and people on the basis of confidence\and now we maintain the single-hearted unity of our society on the strength of love\and trust. In our society based on collectivism, trust represents its strong foundation. Our Party members\and working people take the greatest pride in the trust displayed in them by their\organization\and comrades. But, when they think that their\organization distrusts them\and that their comrades shirkrom them, they feel the worst anguish.
Consequently I emphasize, whenever I meet with cadres, that we must work well with people.
Capitalists cannot live without money,\whereas communists cannot live without trust. In our country trust is an integral part of social relations\and the mode of existence of collectivism. Everybody who believes that his\organization\and comrades trust him can display unfathomable energy in the struggle for the Party\and country. I think that the saying that trust produces loyal people\and distrust traitors is based on such a principle.
The bundle of “Minsaengdan” documents destroyed this principle of trust in our rank during the anti-Japanese war, when we waged a joint struggle in a foreign land. One can guess the great sense of confusion\and damage infused by this bundle in the lives of fighters who had joined in the revolution, only with trust in the\organization. In those days there was no distinct borderline between our camp\and the enemy camp. The enemy was everywhere around us, everywhere beyond a pass\and across a river. Distrusted people could run away to the enemy area, saying, “Carry out the revolution yourselves.” There was no way to prevent them. Branding innocent comrades in the revolution as “Minsaengdan” was tantamount to kicking them off to the enemy camp.
I could only save these desperate people by eliminating the stigma of “Minsaengdan”rom them once\and for all. Mere words were not enough to rehabilitate them. Action was needed.
I went out of the forest\and made for the log-cabin again. At that moment a woman soldier appeared suddenly before merom behind a tree. She was tall\and beautiful with lustrous eyes. Apparently she was open-minded, but her face was bathed in tears.
“General, I am not a ‘Minsaengdan’ member!”
Her words surprised me\and rejoiced me beyond measure.
“I was accused of involvement in the ‘Minsaengdan’, because I was married to a ‘Minsaengdan’ suspect. But he is not a ‘Minsaengdan’ member. Nor am I. How could we become spies of the Japanese? Both mother Jang Chol Gu\and I were wrongly accused of being ‘Minsaengdan’ members because of our husbands.”
This brave woman guerrilla was Kim Hwak Sil, who in later days was nicknamed “woman general”\and received a gold ring as commendation for bayoneting six enemy soldiers at a stretch in the battle of Fusong county town.
As daughter of a slash-and-burn farmer, she had joined the guerrilla army in Chechangzi.
The Dongnancha forest of the Chechangzi guerrilla zone was home to an arms repair shop managed by Pak Yong Sun\and a sewing unit run by Pak Su Hwan. Kim Hwak Sil was a cook for 20 members of the arms repair shop\and the sewing unit.
One day an accidental explosion occurred in the arms repair shop. The repair shop was enveloped in flames\and powder fume in an instant. A young man, Kang Wi Ryong, working in the repair shop after his dischargerom the army, stigmatized as a “Minsaengdan” member, fell unconscious at the explosion, caused by mistake when he was salvaging cartridges. At this dangerous moment, frightened workmen rushed out in haste, but Kim Hwak Sil ran into the repair shop through the flames\and took the faint man out of the shop by carrying him on her back. Although Kang’s burns were serious, the surgeon sterilized his burns, removed the burnt skinrom his face, applied vaseline to the burns\and bandaged them. This constituted the only treatment he had received. Then, Kim Hwak Sil nursed him, melting beeswax on paper\and applying it to the burns, removing the gumsrom his eyes\and washing his feet. In the course of her devoted care of this young man, they fell in love with each other. They wanted to marry. But Kang Wi Ryong, suspected as a “Minsaengdan” member, because of the two accidents he had caused, was afraid of marrying for the trouble she might get into. They merely made a secret engagement. Pak Yong Sun\and Pak Su Hwan encouraged them to marry, saying that they should not hesitate, as long as they loved each other. Encouraged, they went to the Chechangzi people’s revolutionary government\and registered their marriage. This marriage became an issue. The purge committee regarded the marriage with a “Minsaengdan” member as a counterrevolutionary act, increasing the number of “Minsaengdan” members\and benefiting the enemy. Leftist chauvinists separated Kim Hwak Silrom Kang Wi Ryong after a fortnight of marriage\and banished her to Wangbabozi. They did not allow her to take part in\organizational life, treating her as a criminal. Finally, they put her in a group of “Minsaengdan” suspects.
Nine months after her forced separationrom her husband she heard that Kang was working at the arms repair shop near her, but she could not meet him, as Cao Ya-fan\or Kim Hong Bom did not approve.
Some time later Kang Wi Ryong was compelled by Cao Ya-fan to go to Jiaohe with the 2nd Regiment. The expeditionary unit needed a man who could repair weapons\and so it took him to Jiaohe.
“If Kang had been a ‘Minsaengdan’ member, I would not have taken him out of the flames, let alone married him. His father\and brothers were killed by the enemy in the ‘punitive’ atrocities. He fought courageously. Even men of the Chinese national salvation army spoke up in his defence at his public trial.”
I was thankful to her for her words.
Kim Hwak Sil, like Jang Chol Gu, was being treated as a criminal because of her marriage.
I entered the log-cabin with Kim Hwak Sil. The people in the cabin did not stir\and their heads remained low.
Looking around the room I said in an emphatic tone:
“Comrades, raise your heads. I have not come here to accuse you of any crime\or judge you. I am here to find comrades who will go with me to Mt. Paektu to fight. I am here to see my comrades-in-arms\and revolutionary comrades. But you comrades claim that you are all pro-Japanese traitors\and reactionaries who cannot become my comrades-in-arms. I refuse to believe this. If you joined the ‘Minsaengdan’, why don’t you go to the Japanese, rather than suffer hardships in mountains without eating\or dressing properly? Why are you suffering all these hardships, instead of living in comfort with your wives\or husbands in a well-heated room, engaging in farming? Tell me why. Have you borne your crosses for years merely for the Japanese imperialists? Have you endured the icy cold\and snowstorms, eating\and sleeping in the open in this desolate land of Manchuria to become a lapdog of the Japanese\and kill off your fellow countrymen\and comrades? Tell me, Comrade Ri Tu Su. Have you
fought through all these hardships to become such an animal, like the Japanese dog which bit your thigh?”
Ri Tu Su burst into tears\and cried.
“How can I... how can I be a Japanese lapdog? No, I am not their dog. I am not a ‘Minsaengdan’ member!”
Then, they all shouted, “No, nor am I.”
They spoke spontaneously, as if at a meeting of indignation, condemning those who had incriminated them\and giving vent to their grief caused by the “purge” campaign.
Everyone gave free expression to their pent-up sorrow, waving their fists\and shedding tears.
Towards the end of the meeting, I instructed Kim Hong Bom to fetch all the bundles of “Minsaengdan” documents\and burn them. Kim Hong Bom was surprised.
“How can we destroy legal documents, without the permission of the purge committee which prepared them? You will get into a great trouble if you burn them.”
Kim Hong Bom was an experienced political worker who had been a full-time Party worker even before joining the army. He was a graduaterom Yanji Normal School. He was well-informed\and experienced, but was incapable of creative thinking\or judging\and dealing with things at his own discretion.
“Don’t plead the law as your excuse: instead go\and fetch the bundles of ‘Minsaengdan’ documents. There is no reason not to do things on our own.”
“These documents were drawn up following the procedure on the basis of the\organization’s decision. How can I answer if asked why I connived at the destruction of the documents? How can I answer when you, General, are gone?”
His face turned pale\and his legs trembled. I did not blame him.
I, too, had never heard that any individual had burnt a legal document at his will with impunity. It would be a rare incident. But I was firm in my resolve to destroy these evil documents, which would bring nothing other than distrust\and desperation to these one hundred “Minsaengdan” suspects.
I knew full well how dangerous my decision was.
In fact, it amounted to a great risk for me to deal with an issue, which could only be handled by people who had\organized the “purge” campaign\and drawn up the documents. The destruction of a piece of written evidence alone was a serious enough offence for me to be punished ten\or a hundred times by the executors of the “purge” campaign, who had unlimited power to ascribe, if necessary, any undesirable occurrence to the work of the “Minsaengdan”\and could invent any story. By way of reprisal, they could punish me as I had brought the issue of anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle even to the Comintern.
I told Kim San Ho to fetch the “Minsaengdan” documents.
My decision to destroy them was really audacious.
I was resolved to do anything to save one hundred men, even if it meant sacrificing myself.
To finish off the meeting after preparing to burn the “Minsaengdan” documents, I said:
“It is difficult now to decide who is a ‘Minsaengdan’ member\or who is not, as nobody can prove it. However, I can declare clearly today that there is no ‘Minsaengdan’ member here, as you all denied this fact. I believe what you have said. You must understand that you should start with a clean slate now. Your stained records will no longer exist.
“However, you should bear in mind that the value of a revolutionary is appraised not by his past, but by his actions at present. All of you now have a white paper. The priceless nature of the life\and struggle you record on this paper is entirely dependant on your efforts.
“I believe that you will make a fresh start\and record on this white paper the distinguished service you rendered to your fatherland, your fellow people\and history. By declaring null\and void any suspicion of your involvement in the ‘Minsaengdan’, which troubled you so much, I wish to announce thatrom now on all of you belong to the main force of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army.”
I\selected a few peoplerom “Minsaengdan” suspects\and told them to pile up the documents on the ground,\and then set fire to them.
While setting fire to the documents, I wished to burn away the dishonourable past of “Minsaengdan” suspects\and hatred\and mistrust in human beings, which are the root cause of all social evils.
The destruction of these papers is still vivid in my memory, after much more than half a century, no doubt because I wished for something too great\and serious to be forgotten. When the bundles of papers turned into flames, the men\and women burst into tears. They understood me.
They were born again as new men\and women. Now they trusted, helped\and loved one another. Even Kim Hong Bom became a new man.
Next day, I\organized hunting for recreation. Aware of this fact, Kim Hong Bom brought a hundred rounds of ammunition, which he had kept in reserve for his own security. It was a great event, that he presented all the ammunition to people he had treated as prisoners until the previous day.
Everybody had been given only a useless weapon as taotong\and three\or four rusty cartridges. So their cartridges contained only wooden bullets. Apparently the people who had distrusted\and treated them badly had been afraid that they would retaliate, if they had good rifles\and ammunition.
Kim Hong Bom, looking at the ashes of the “Minsaengdan” documents, said:
“General, when you set fire to them yesterday, I trembled with fear\and meekly left the place. I thought that I would be dismissed as a conspirator in a felony for my mere presence on the scene.”
“Don’t you tremble now?”
“As I believed that death in support of justice was honourable, I could dispel that fear.”
“Thank you for your thinking so.”
“Don’t mention it. I must thank you. General, you’ve transformed me into a new man. You’ve saved me as well.”
I felt awkward at his flattery. He was older than I.
“Don’t extol me, a young man, to the skies.” As I said this, he shook his head.
“No. I’m not extolling you. I truly envy your large calibre\and heart. I’m not flattering you.”
“Enough of your flattery. Won’t you go hunting with us today?” Kim Hong Bom accepted my suggestion in a cheerful mood.
That day, hunting was very interesting. I lent my bodyguards’ rifles to the former soldier suspects, so that each of them could try a shot with a good rifle.
That day we bagged seven\or eight wild boars\and roe deers, thanks to many chasers. In terms of woman soldier, Kim Hwak Sil distinguished herself by killing a roe deer at the first shot.
I made sure that supper was served that day in plenty by cooking the meat of hunted wild animals\and some maize\and wheat flour, which still remained. The dinner was followed by a recreation party.
The dinner\and recreation party held in the dilapidated log-cabin of the Sampho secret camp on Maanshan was simple, but it was a significant event.
Instead of\organizing a new division with the 2nd Regiment as the backbone, the new division was bornrom the flames, which reduced the iniquitous documents of distrust into ashes.
News that the “Minsaengdan” documents were burnt\and that a new division had been formed, spread quickly. Consequently, people in hiding came to usrom everywhere. The Anti-Japanese Self-Defence Corps menrom Helong, who were taking refuge in the Dajianchang valley, were the first to appear. They included Paek Hak Rim who became an\orderly of the Headquarters later, as well as Kim Hye Sun, a renowned singer, nicknamed “oriole”.
Pak Rok Kum (real name Pak Yong Hui) also joined us at that time. She was the first commander of the women’s company, which provisionally existed in the new division.
The young men, who sufferedrom typhoid in Laomudingzi, Fusong County, were enlisted in the new division. I\organized a platoon with them\and appointed Kim Jong Phil its leader. Kim Ju Hyon\and his fellows, who operated in the forest near Wudaoyangcha, Antu County, also joined us. Kim Thaek Hwan’s small unit came to usrom Chechangzi.
I\organized regiments\and companies with all the requisite formalities. I appointed Ri Tong Hak, nicknamed “hasty man”\and Kim Thaek Hwan as company commanders,\and Kim Ju Hyon as political instructor. Kim San Ho, who assumed the duty of regimental political commissar of the main force always smiled happily.
We were about fifteen, when we arrived in Maanshan, but our unit increased rapidly to hundreds of soldiers in Donggang.
We strove to improve the weapons\and equipment of the newly-organized main force.
I had already mentioned that most of the weapons of the “Minsaengdan” suspects were taotong. I\organized groups of 10 to 15 men\and appointed their leaders. Instructing them to prepare for fighting on their own, I said:
“You must obtain new rifles\and ammunition within a month. The Japanese have lots of rifles. You can lie in ambush\and launch surprise attacks on the enemy. You may bayonet\or shoot them to capture weaponsrom them.” Then each of them had a bayonet. They came back in a fortnight, rather than a month, carrying new rifles with the necessary ammunition. Some of them even captured machine-guns.
I\organized a regiment with these men as the backbone\and later on I drew on this experience to\organize the 6th Division\and the 2nd Directional Corps, by recruiting many new men\and women to fight against the Japanese imperialists.
During the battle of Xigang, which followed the attack on Xinancha, we achieved our aim of comprehensively re-equipping the main force.
In Xigang there was a regiment of the puppet Manchukuo army. We had our eyes on the modern weapons of this regiment. As this was a virtually inaccessible isolated area, surrounded by a vast forest, it was favourable for our surprise attack. Aware of such weak points, the enemy had built a wall of logs three times higher than a human being around the barracks as well as gun emplacements at its four corners.
As it was difficult to break through the wallrom any direction, I decided to create confusion in the enemy’s position, by launching a fire attack\and forcing them to surrender. The enemy barracks consisted of wooden buildings.
When it was dark, I\ordered Kim Thaek Ryong\and other skilled grenadiers to set fire to the roofs of the enemy barracks by throwing oiled\and kindled cotton balls at them.
The roofs, which were still wetrom early summer drizzle, did not catch fire easily, but the fire attack was successful. Our soldiers instantly shouted, “If you surrender, you will not be killed. Lay down your weapons\and come outrom behind the wall.” But the enemy refused\and put up a stubborn defence. I sent some men to a house, located nearest to the enemy’s underground gun emplacement to dig a tunnelrom the kitchen of this house to the target. Meanwhile, I sent scouts to find the mother-in-law of the regimental commander of the puppet Manchukuo army. We advised the old woman to persuade her son-in-law to stop his reckless resistance\and hand over their weapons.
The old woman disappeared through the wall\and came back with a letterrom her son-in-law, which indicated that he would surrender if allowed to escape to Fusong with half his men. I rejected his proposal\and demanded unconditional surrender. After seeing her son-in-law again, the old woman said that he was ready to reduce the number of soldiers accompanying him. Obviously he was delaying the negotiation process in the hope of external reinforcements.
We had already dug half of the tunnel to blow up a gun emplacement. I showed the old woman the tunnel\and explosives\and asked her to convey our ultimatum that, if he did not surrender we would blow up all the emplacements.
The old woman went through the wall a third time\and came back to me with a smile. She said that her son-in-law requested that he be allowed to take only two bodyguards with him.
He lined his men\and gathered their weapons in one place before escaping with two guards through the northern gate. All these weapons fell into our hands.
If we had not\organized the new division, we could not have thought of attacking such a big county town as Fusong\and could not have won victory after victory on the Amnok River\and around Mt. Paektu.
Contrary to my expectations, the 2nd Regiment was unable to help us\organize\and consolidate the new division. Only when we had established ourselves on Mt. Paektu, did we meet over six months later the 2nd Regiment we had planned to see at Maanshan. By that time our main-force division had become fully-fledged.
Although their arrival was belated, my reunion with O Jung Hup, Kwon Yong Byok, Kim Phyong\and other close comrades-in-arms marked the happiest event for all of us, because we were able to share board\and bed with them. Kang Wi Ryong also reached us safely\and joined the new division. It was fortunate for me to think that the last scar would be removedrom Kim Hwak Sil’s heart.
The day after his arrival, I summoned Kang Wi Ryong. “Comrade Kim Hwak Sil is your wife, isn’t she?” This tall man went crimson.
Apparently he felt awkward admitting that he had a wife.
“Comrade Hwak Sil is not here. She is working in the sewing unit in the Hengshan secret camp in the rear several miles away. Go\and see her there. I will give you a guide,”
He hesitated smiling awkwardly\and replied that he would go\and see her later.
“If I send for her, it will take you twice as long to meet her. So you might as well go there yourself.”
“I would prefer to meet her later. Thank you.”
Kang’s indecisive attitude was a big disappointment to me.
“You may not mind, but I cannot remain indifferent to her loss of weight because of you. Go at once\and don’t make any more excuses.”
He\dropped his head for a while\and looked at me imploringly with tears in his eyes. He said that he could not go\and see his wife, before he had been appointed to a unit\and that he had taken up arms for the revolution which he considered his first duty to attend.
I felt obliged to give him an excuse for going to his wife. “I will assign you a task. You should take over to the sewing unit the women soldiers who came here with the 2nd Regiment,\and make cotton-padded military uniforms there. You will be punished if you return before finishing this task.”
Kang Wi Ryong obeyed the\orders.
This was how the couple who had been separated against their will for a long time by the Left-wing chauvinists met again with deep emotion.
The destruction of the “Minsaengdan” documents at Maanshan gave birth to new men, a new division\and new love.
Thanks to our trust in people, we won everything.
I can say that such trust generated absolute\and unconditional loyalty to the leadership of the Korean revolution in all our revolutionary ranks\and further consolidated genuine ideological\and moral unity behind this leadership during the struggle.
Following the birth of the main force of the KPRA, the historical roots of our single-hearted unity were irrevocably established in the minds of the Korean communists thanks to the values of trust, love\and benevolence.
These “Minsaengdan” suspects in Maanshan remained loyal to the revolution until the very last moments of their lives, devoting their unstained consciences\and warm patriotic hearts to time\and history.
They rendered distinguished service which will shine on for ever in the history of our national liberation revolution
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