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북녘 | [Reminiscences]Chapter 12 2. 20 Yuan

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 12  2. 20 Yuan

  

   


 

2. 20 Yuan 

 

While Leftists examined the “Minsaengdan” papers in the secret western camp of Maanshan, dozens of children suffered rom illness, crying\and shivering with cold\and hunger in the shade of the secret eastern camp of Maanshan,\where the spring thaw had still not set in. Most of these children were\orphans who, with their elders, had experienced for years trials\and tribulations in Chechangzi, the last stronghold of the revolution in Jiandao. After the evacuation of guerrilla zones, they came via Naitoushan to this rear secret camp in south Manchuria,\where the enemy’s atrocities occurred less frequently, under the protection of a people’s revolutionary army unit which was engaged in a westward march. Some children in the Maanshan secret camp were Children’s Corps members rom Yanji.


It was laudable that, when the guerrilla zones were evacuated, they came to this remote place of Fusong, instead of wandering in the enemy area, begging\or picking pockets on roadsides, at shops\or in markets.


But how had these children, now under the protection of communists in the secret camp of the people’s revolutionary army come to be victims of hunger\and cold? Did the people in charge of them suddenly become cruel to them, acting like stepfathers\or stepmothers?\or did the children become spoilt\and cry\or grumble at a small difficulty?

 

No, neither of these was true.


What, then, did their crying mean? Did it represent an inarticulate warning that their physical pain rom cold\and hunger had reached the\limits of endurance? No, they had frequently experienced such hardship in the guerrilla zones. Our Children’s Corps members did not resemble rich men’s children, who would complain about such hardships. Such cold\and hunger were overcome by these children, who had been\orphaned\and even bereft of their brothers.


However, it was true that they were living in tears. One day when the meeting for the\organization of the new division was about to close, Pak Yong Sun slipped a note into my hand. The note said:


“General, can you spare time for the Children’s Corps members in Maanshan after the meeting? They are now in dire straits. I hope you will visit the Maanshan secret camp with me after\organizing the new division. The children are eager to see you, General.”


Kim Jong Suk, too, gave me a detailed account of their miseries when I reached the secret camp later. Many of the\orphans in Maanshan had been under her guidance before. She had been a Children’s Corps instructor, when she lived in Fuyandong. She said that the children were very fond of her, when she was in the guerrilla zone.


Naturally Kim Jong Suk cared about the children. When the people suffered rom famine in the Chechangzi guerrilla zone, she became closer to the children. Then she became cook for the corps headquarters. The starving children used to look in on her every night\and ask for food. Sometimes they slipped into the kitchen\and ransacked sideboards\and rice jars. On those occasions she would give them scorched rice\or pine bark cakes out of her own share which she had kept in secret. She used to miss one meal every day for the hungry children.

 

The Children’s Corps members, who had suffered all sorts of hardships in Chechangzi, never forgot her benevolence. When these children came to Naitoushan with the guerrillas, Kim Jong Suk directed the Children’s Corps there. I understood the reason for her tears, as she explained the children’s miseries in Maanshan.


The dire existence of dozens of\orphans in the care of communists in the revolutionary army camp, far rom the battlefield, constituted an alarming accident which must not be overlooked. I grew nervous. What trouble made them await me so expectantly?


Children’s tears cry out for justice. When brute force mocks\or tramples upon justice, they declaim their indignation. This crying indicates the young souls’ denunciation of all those who offend\and maltreat them. It protests\and condemns all injustice\and also complains of their damaged dignity\and violated rights. Their tears forewarn an imminent disaster\and appeal for their delivery rom it. Their crying is their strongest appeal to all those who love\or can love them. People listen to this crying with anxiety, as the love\and care of children represents the most elementary human qualities.


The Children’s Corps members in Maanshan comprised the sons\and daughters, our fallen comrades-in-arms left in our care. They were worth their weight in gold. In wills, their parents entrusted us with the future of their children. They wanted us to raise them as revolutionaries, just as they would have done. We shouldered a heavy responsibility for training them as defenders of justice, the soundest\and best men in the world,\and this noble task reflected the demands of our conscience.


My concern over the fate of the children in Maanshan was not due to human sympathy\or motivated by petty bourgeois sentimentalism. It was the right\and duty handed down to me by their parents when they parted this world. Even if their parents had been alive, we would not have remained indifferent to their tears. This was the humanistic feeling of a communist.


In communist human relations, the son of my comrade-in-arms is my son\and vice versa. When I am ill, my comrade also feels my pain\and vice versa,\and when I am hungry my comrade also feels my hunger\and vice versa—this communist ethics\and morality transforms the communist into the most beautiful human being in the world.


While rescuing his comrade’s daughter rom drowning, the chairman of the management board of side-line fishing teams discovered that his daughter was also floundering in water. An\ordinary man would have rescued his own daughter first\and then the other girl. Even if he had done so, he would not have been blamed. But the chairman saved his comrade’s daughter first,\and then swam to his own daughter, but she was already dead. The villagers ran to him\and consoled him in his sorrow, but he said calmly as he looked at the delivered girl:


“I do not think my daughter is dead. This girl is also my daughter.” Communists make the ultimate self-sacrifices, which are inconceivable to narrow-minded\or selfish people, but they themselves regard it as nothing unusual, blush\and feel shy at compliments. This is the personal charm of communists\and a particular virtue of Koreans.


Our\original plan was to advance straight to Changbai through Fusong, after\organizing the new division. However, the miserable state of the children in Maanshan led us to change our\original plan. I would not have been free of anxiety without seeing them even if I had gone to Changbai.


After the meeting at Mihunzhen I went to see the Children’s Corps members who were in the Maanshan secret eastern camp. Pak Yong Sun, head of the Maanshan arms repair shop, guided me to the camp. I was grateful to him for volunteering to guide me of his own accord.


It provided a good opportunity for me to know him inside out. Our friendship, which had started in Macun was consolidated by this reunion. At that time he told me the long history of his family: it could serve as the source for a multi-volume novel.


His ancestors were the first Koreans to settle in the foreign land of Jingucun in the 1860s, the pioneers who popularized the Korean method of farming in that area. In his father’s generation, his house was furnished with a simple blacksmith’s. As a boy, he worked as his father’s assistant at the blacksmith’s. It subsequently made him famous as an excellent technician, repairing\and manufacturing weapons. During the farmers’ slack season, his father would often go hunting with a gun. When he was 17 years old, he became interested in hunting as a hobby. Because he had to hunt now\and then without his father’s knowledge, he could not enjoy it to the full . His father kept the hunting gun under his strict control. He allowed the eldest son to go hunting, but did not allow Pak Yong Sun, the second son, to touch the gun. Even if he merely touched the barrel, his father would shout, scowling at him. But when he was 18, the situation changed. He killed a tiger with one shot, which old hunters rom Jingucun failed to do, although they tried several times.


He pulled a bristle rom the tiger’s moustache\and brought it home in high spirits. It was a hard-gotten hunter’s license of his own. All the villagers came to his house to see the tiger’s moustache. His father inevitably recognized this young hunter’s marksmanship. Since then, the old hunters of Jingucun called him “Hunter Pak”. Needless to say, he was allowed to hunt. By the time he started underground revolutionary work, after taking a job in the Jilin Coal-mine\and the Baogelazi Mine, he had hunted hundreds of wild animals with the gun.


Hearing his account of the event, which had led to his nickname “Hunter Pak”, I thought that if he had become a sniper of the people’s revolutionary army, rather than a workman in the arsenal, he would have killed more enemy troops than the wild animals which he had killed. But I was surprised to learn that he was more skilled in smithery than marksmanship. In a combat unit he was regarded as an\ordinary soldier,\whereas in the arsenal he was regarded as indispensable.


Pak Yong Sun joined my company with several pheasants in a straw bag. His bag full of pheasants reminded me with deep emotion of Ri Kwang who had come to Mingyuegou carrying on his back a heavy rice knapsack laden with several pheasants.


“Comrade Pak, do you go hunting nowadays?” I asked him pointing at the bag. He hitched up his bag wrinkling his face.


“I gave up hunting a long time ago. I caught these pheasants with a noose. I could not go\and see the children empty-handed, so I caught them.”


“You clearly love the children greatly. That’s laudable.”


“Do I love them?” He queried\and for some reason made a wry face. “I am not worthy of such a compliment. I am a coward.” “Coward? Why?”


“I am ashamed to think about it. Nevertheless I must confess to you, Comrade Commander. Once I called on the children in Maanshan with a dozen hares I had caught. How they were rejoiced seeing the hares! I was pleased, too. Then the head of the political department of the 1st Division suddenly blocked my way\and rebuked me, saying ‘Who are you? Why are you hanging around here without permission? Who told you to offer such charity? Don’t you know that they have been labelled as suspects?’ He dressed me down\and waved me away as if I were a fly.”


“What happened next?”


“I returned to the arsenal with the hares.” “Were you scared?”


“Yes, I was afraid\and indignant. Now I have sufficient courage to talk big, but I dared not to in those days. If the head of the political department had branded me a counterrevolutionary, who helped young ‘Minsaengdan’ members, that would have been the end of me. But fortunately there was no such branding. Subsequently I could not visit the children’s village. I am ashamed of my actions.”


Hunter Pak frowned at Kim Hong Bom, head of the political department of the 1st Division, who, wearing leggings\and straw sandals, was walking ahead of us in the snow.


“What do you feel now? Are you still afraid of him?”


“No, I have nothing to fear. I feel strong by your side. It disgusts me to think of those years of the oppressive ‘Minsaengdan’ fuss.”


“It was literally a nightmare. The younger generation will bow to you for the mere visit you paid to the children taking the hares with you. How noble\and beautiful it is to love\and sympathize with children!”


When I said this, his strained look was relaxed\and he strode along. I was tearfully grateful to this stern, brusque\and dignified man for his candid confession: it was typical of the diary entry of a literary young girl. The upright\and pure character, expressed in his words, behaviour\and kindness, moved me to the heart.


If anyone asks me when I am most happy\and joyful, I will respond:


“Joyful\and happy events occur every day in my life, because I live optimistically all my life among people who are the most independent politically, most progressive ideologically\and most civilized\and pure-hearted culturally\and morally, in a country, which creates the most beautiful\and ideal life in the world. Every day\and hour of my life is full of joy\and happiness.


“It gives me particular pleasure\or happiness to be among the people, discover amongst them excellent people who can set an example for the whole country\and debate state affairs, their living\and our future.


“It also gives me great happiness to be among the children, we call the flower buds of the country.”


I can say that this is my lifelong view of happiness.


The talk with Pak Yong Sun no doubt gave me such satisfaction, because of my view of happiness. Pak Yong Sun was one such exemplary revolutionary\and model conscientious man, I discovered in life. His practice in subsequent years proved once again that he was a man of unusually strong revolutionary principles, who never compromised with injustice\and was fair\and square in all his dealings.


In 1959 Pak toured different places in northeast China, leading a group of visitors to the old battlefields of the anti-Japanese armed struggle. One hot summer night his group lodged in the front room of a simple, cosy farmhouse. The farmers in the village papered walls of the room\and spread new mats for the guests rom the neighbouring country, who were continuing a laborious expeditionary tour every day following the footprints of their forerunners.


At midnight, however, some group members, who were sensitive to bed-bugs, left the room one after another with their beddings, owing to the bed-bugs\and spent the night on a straw mat spread out in the yard.

 

Pak Yong Sun alone remained in the room all night. The group members considered that the headman was either an unusually sound sleeper\or immune to blood-sucking.


Next morning he grouped all the members\and criticized them severely:


“You expeditionary group representatives of one country have slept on the straw mat in the open air like a vagrant tribe, unable to endure the pestering of bed-bugs. Don’t you realize that you have rejected the hospitality of this village people, who bothered to provide us with good lodging? Haven’t you any sense of honour\or patience to endure such inconveniences? If you disgrace our delegation again, I will send you back to the homeland, as I deem it a serious offence.”


Only then did the group members realize that this upright\and taciturn man, a veteran of guerrilla war, had remained in the room, despite the pestering bed-bugs, because he could not afford to abuse the host’s hospitality. I subsequently heard this anecdote rom the group members.


On our arrival at the secret camp, the children crowded out of the log-cabin vying with one another shouting “General!” The voices of the children, ringing like a silver bell under the sky of the secret camp evoked strong emotions in my body\and soul. I hurried to them. They were the children I came to see. They were the children who followed the revolutionary army to this place, treading the thorny path across the steep mountains, deep forests\and snow-fields, determined to avenge the enemy for killing their parents\and brothers by beating, bayoneting\and burning them. They were the children, who had awaited us in sorrow through the winter in this merciless, desolate mountain, in a prison without a wire fence, falsely accused of relations with the “Minsaengdan”.


The national chauvinists\and Left opportunists, who had become used to putting the slogans of ultra-revolutionary “principle”\and “class spirit” above the interests of the people, mocking\and maltreating the masses, turned their faces away rom the children claiming that they were a burden of the revolutionary army. Afraid that the location of the secret camp would be exposed to the enemy if the children resided nearby, they built a small kingdom for their self-protection\and were living in seclusion in a deep forest.\and they forbade the children rom approaching edges of the forest. These “stepfathers” had not given them even a handful of grain\or a piece of cloth, although they knew full well that the children were living on grass roots, shivering with cold in the severe winter cold.


Even the children’s sympathizers as well as the individuals who dressed their wounds with ointment\and bandaged them, blew warm breath on their frozen cheeks\and hands, patted them with affection\and cried with the children when they were crying, had been registered on the list of “Minsaengdan” suspects\and persecuted.


On the way to Maanshan, leading the Children’s Corps members, Kim Rak Chon, a crack shot, who became acting commander of the Independent Regiment after Yun Chang Bom’s death, had suits made for them rom the fabrics, kept by the workers of the regiment’s supply department, as he could not remain indifferent to the ragged children. The children thanked him tearfully. For this kindness, however, he was accused of being a “Minsaengdan” member\and executed. Not a trace of human\or communist fragrance remained in this secret camp,\where sympathy for children was regarded as a crime\and rejection was considered as a merit. Scores of eyeballs glistening with tears\and surging towards me, accused all those who had lost human nature\and discarded even elementary human morals.


The children running at full speed towards me suddenly hesitated. The tallest leading boy halted in the middle of the open space as if he had come across an obstacle. The other children following him stopped abruptly, like waves breaking on a rock,\and looked at me rom a distance. Seeing them hesitating in a crowd, I asked Pak Yong Sun in a low voice:


“Comrade Pak, why are they hesitating like that?”


“They may feel ashamed. Look at their shabby appearances.”


I was struck by their ragged appearances. They were virtually naked. Their burnt, torn\and worn-out clothes were in tatters. Threatened with death\and starved for months, they all looked pale.


The miserable sight of these young sufferers reminded me of my brother Yong Ju, whom I had never seen since our farewell at Xiaoshahe. Yong Ju was about the same age. My youngest brother saw me off in the waist-deep reed field, choking down his sobs together with another brother Chol Ju: that sight was still fresh in my memory. I regretted that I had not worried about my brothers, not writing to them for four years ever since leaving Xiaoshahe, entrusting the future of my brothers to neighbours, who were neither relatives\or even carried the same surname. When she met me in the Donggang secret camp in spring 1936, Kim Hye Sun told me that Yong Ju was directing a Children’s Corps\organization in Antu\and once went to Chechangzi leading a children’s art troupe in spring\or summer 1935\and gave performances staying there several days. She said that she cooked for art troupe members at that time .

 

Claiming that his song was impressive, Kim Hye Sun recited rom memory the words of the song. The Saenal Children’s\union\and the Paeksan Youth League members used to sing this song when I directed the art troupe activity in Fusong. The song reads:


Dear friends, participants in this meeting!


Please take care of your backs\and shoulders.


What fun it would be


If you strained them with laughter?


Then you won’t need the medical


men Hua Tuo\and Pian Que.


Let’s better do a jig.


But then, shoulders can strain rom dancing.


So, take care of your backs,


participants in this meeting!




Hua Tuo\and Pian Que were famous doctors in ancient China.


I was greatly relieved by the news she brought me in Donggang. However, while visiting the children in Maanshan, I had not learned of the\whereabouts of my brother. Looking at the sad eyes of the children, who crowded vacantly like late autumn fallen leaves, which were blown into a corner by the wind, I thought that my Yong Ju was also shivering with cold\and that he would go hungry in rags like those children\and miss this unkind elder brother.


How could those cruel\and hateful men label as “Minsaengdan” members children who had followed them to this mountain with a determination to take part in the revolution? Surely they could realize that they were not\and could not have become “Minsaengdan” members. Had they no mercy\or sympathy to feel pity for them\and take care of them? How could those men, who had pledged to dedicate their lives to human emancipation, remain indifferent, while children got into this mess, children who were the weakest human beings\and needed care more than anyone else?


Pang Jong Hwan, a writer\and famous champion of the children’s movement, who coined the word\orini (child—Tr.)\and established “Children’s Day” for the first time in Korea appealed to the world in his article Promise on Children’s Day :


“Treat children better than grown-ups. Adults can be compared to roots\and children to sprouts. If roots sit on sprouts, because roots are more important, then the tree will die. Only when the roots raise the sprouts, can the tree (the family) thrive...”


This is one paragraph of the leaflet he wrote\and distributed on the occasion of “Children’s Day”, May 1, 1923. Every word of the appeal reveals his warm affection for children.


When I attended Changdok School, my teacher Kang Ryang Uk often said similar things to the parents of schoolchildren. I am not sure whether he copied them rom the Promise on Children’s Day\or adopted them in his own way. Anyhow, I saw truth in his words whenever he said to the schoolchildren’s parents\and brothers that one should respect children\and that otherwise one cannot enjoy respect rom them.


Their appeal to treat children better than grown-ups is the voice of a noble idea which can ring out rom the souls of people who love the younger generation more than themselves.

 

How strong an appeal to love for children is the famous saying “A world without children would be a world without sun”!


All great men in the world, who left their names in history ardently loved children. It was not only Karl Liebknecht’s writings, which revealed that Marx was a faithful friend of children. The anecdote of how this great man used to become a “horse”\or “coach” for his charming children is used throughout the world as a good topic of conversation. People still remember Pestalozzi of Switzerland, because he was an excellent educator who devoted all his property\and life to children.


All the great men of the East\and West recalled by mankind were children’s true friends, teachers\and fathers, who regarded love for children as the noblest of all virtues.


Why did the masters of Maanshan, who were neither nobles nor bourgeoisie, the communists in this secret camp, who preached humanity\and chanted human emancipation whenever they opened their mouths, make the children so miserable?


I could not repress my surging indignation. It was appalling to see that pure young souls, who had considered the revolution more sacred than their own lives, had been trampled upon mercilessly in their buds. I was one of those who knew them inside out. I knew better than anyone else how these children had overcome famine in Chechangzi together with adults, how they carried rice balls to the people’s revolutionary army in Naitoushan\and stood guard day\and night to help them. Each child’s biography remained fresh in my memory like a story. The experience of nine-year-old Ri O Song rom Baicaogou, who was now shivering with cold like a rain-wet chick under the shoulder of a taller boy, covering his exposed knees with frozen hands, eloquently spoke of the grave nature of the hardships experienced by these children. He had already witnessed mass starvation in Chechangzi. When hungry, like other children he found frogs in hibernation\or dug out seeds in the field, when the spring sowing season ended.


Ri O Song’s father died of hunger in Chechangzi. He picked barley ears in the field, rubbed them between his hands\and placed a small handful of grain into his father’s mouth, but could not prevent his father’s death.


With his younger sister, he overcame spring famine before the barley harvest season, by living on herb roots\and tree barks,\and left Chechangzi following the people’s revolutionary army, which withdrew to Naitoushan. But he was also treated as a “Minsaengdan” suspect because he was a brother of Kim Rak Chon’s wife.


On the long march to Naitoushan, fourteen Children’s Corps members, headed by Son Myong Jik, fully demonstrated the indomitable fighting spirit\and loyalty to the revolution, which they cultivated through their\organizational life. Waist-deep snow\and steep mountains blocked their way forward\and the “punitive” troops followed on their heels.


On the first day of their march, they ran out of food. They appeased their hunger by chewing pine needles\or making snow balls\and licking them. When a maize cake was divided among fourteen for one meal, it was decent food. When they slept in the open at night, Son Myong Jik, Ju To Il, Kim Thae Chon\and other older boys rom higher classes sheltered the children under ten years of age in their arms rom the wind\and kept watch, snatching a short sleep in turns.


Son Myong Jik, head of the Children’s Corps, demonstrated a distinguished\organizational ability\and leadership, when looking after the ranks. Ever since his days in Wangyugou, he worked well with the Children’s Corps members. Once he became engaged in underground work in the enemy area led by Kim Jae Su. He had begun learning classics in the village school at the age of seven\and mastered a primer of Chinese characters\and Myongsim Pogam before he was ten\and moreover was clever\and quick in visual learning. Consequently he was the right boy for underground work. In his Children’s Corps days he managed to oust seven reactionary teachers including a Japanese language teacher rom his school by mobilizing the\organization\and thereby won the confidence of revolutionaries rom his early days.


His family was made up of true revolutionaries: it had inherited a patriotic spirit through generations. His grandfather was a commander of the righteous volunteers around the time of “annexation of Korea by Japan”. His father Son Hwa Jun was a revolutionary fighter, engaged in secret work as the head of one hundred households in the enemy’s administration. Kim Pong Sok (Son Pong Sok), a male cousin of his father, was my faithful\orderly, who died several hours before the liberation of the country, while leading a small unit’s operations.


What crime had these children committed, if any? They followed us to this remote mountain blowing on their frozen hands, saying that they would follow the revolutionary army even if they had to die. They would snatch a light sleep around a campfire, covering their bodies with dried leaves longing for the liberated homeland, while the rich men’s children dined on all kinds of delicacies on a table inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Why couldn’t we dress these brave buds with decent cotton clothes\and serve them with bean gruel, even if we could not afford to supply them with luxurious food\and clothing?

 

“ Hey, boys\and girls, raise your heads. You are not to blame for your worn-out clothing. Come quick.”


I approached the children with open arms.


I had hardly finished speaking when tens of children wept loudly, surrounding me.


I went into the barracks with the crying children. Four\or five children who were bedridden rom illness for several days still lying, huddled up in a corner of the room without a blanket. I inquired into the disease they were suffering rom: nobody replied. The soldiers guarding the camp said that it was an internal disease, but they were not any more specific. Only Pak Yong Sun knew full well that they were suffering rom heartbreak. What disease could they name, when they themselves had branded the innocent children as “Minsaengdan” suspects?


I called my\orderly\and told him to take out my blanket rom the knapsack. It was my one\and only blanket, which we had captured when attacking a Japanese supply convoy in Wangqing. I thought I would feel much easier, if I covered the sick children with even one blanket. The men took the hint rom my words\and bustled about to remove their blankets rom their knapsacks. I returned the blankets to them.


“Comrades, take them back. Can my mind be warm, even if I cover myself with one hundred blankets, when these children are ill in bed\and shiver with cold? You’d better take care of them, before you become concerned about me.”


The supply department members of the secret camp\dropped their heads on hearing my words.


I continued in a thick voice:


I cannot help pondering about the revolutionary view of worth. Why did we start the revolution\and why do we still carry on the revolution overcoming all hardships? We have embarked on the revolutionary path, not because we want to destroy something, but because we love people. We rose up in revolt against the hateful world to free people rom all sorts of injustice\and abuses, defend humanity\and safeguard all the wealth\and beauty created by mankind. If we had not sympathized with the oppressed class, if we had not felt compassion for the people, who were crying in sorrow as a ruined nation,\and if we had not loved our parents, wives\and children who were living in poverty deprived of all rights, we would have returned to our well-heated homes, unable to endure the hardships even for a single day.


How can we communists leave children in such a miserable state? Your unstained love for the people, the love you cherished, when you set out on the road of revolution, began to cool down. This is what I regret now.


In a sense, our revolution represents a revolution for the younger generation. How can we claim to be working for the revolution\and be proud of being communists, without feeding children properly\or providing them with decent clothing?


The children are the flowers of the working class, the nation\and mankind. It is the noble duty of us communists to cultivate these flowers with due care. The future of the revolution depends on our education of children. The revolution is not carried out by one generation: it is consummated through many generations. Today we are responsible for the revolution; tomorrow, however, these children will be the main force, bearing the destiny of the revolution. Consequently, if we are to be loyal to the Korean revolution right to the end, we must raise stoutly our successors, who will carry forward our revolution. Moreover, they are the bereaved children of our comrades-in-arms. For the sake of our loyalty to these comrades-in-arms, we must value\and take good care of these children.


If anybody turns away rom the children for fear of persecution by higher authorities, how can he hold out his chest to the muzzle of an enemy’s rifle? You have become unconsciously stupid, recoiled in a shell of self-protection, instead of sympathizing with suffering people. Comrades, please ask yourselves one question. Is this the behaviour of communists who are out to transform the world?


If you despise children, you despise yourselves. If we neglect them\or shy away rom their difficulties for the sake of our own self-protection, posterity will not remember us in the remote future. Our efforts for the children will affect their attitude towards us after many decades as well as the looks of the country they planned to build. The more warmly we love them, the more prosperous, civilized\and beautiful the homeland will become in future.


Comrades, by loving the children we immediately mean that we love the future. Thanks to the efforts of these children, our country will be built into a garden, which is bright with flowers. Let us take better care of the younger generation\and train them for the bright future of our country\and humanity.


This was the gist of my speech in the barracks that day.


I can say that this is my view on the younger generation, a view I have maintained throughout my 80 years. I still feel the greatest value of life\and happiness, when valuing\and taking care of them.


What pleasure would we find in our lives without children? This belief motivated us to bring up the pencil problem, as an item on the agenda of the first session of the Provisional People’s Committee of North Korea\and prompted us to celebrate New Year’s Day with children every year. Our love for the younger generation is also expressed in our respect\and love for the teachers who educate the children.


One of the first Cabinet members of our Republic was Minister of Public Health Ri Pyong Nam. He was a famous doctor\and a conscientious patriot, engaged in medical service as a pediatrician since the pre-liberation days. He came to Pyongyang rom Seoul to attend the April North-South Joint Conference. At our request he became the first Minister of Public Health of our Republic. He was distinguished by his warm love for children\and great skill in dealing with them.


The pediatrician always carried a small toy bell in his pocket to soothe crying babies. By jingling the toy bell several times, he could calm crying babies, who were suffering rom recurrent disease\and examine them easily. Thanks to humorous looks which outdid any clown,\and various jocularities which would make anyone burst their sides with laughing, he flattered his baby patients\and treated them in an instant. This great skill always gained him respect\and friendship rom his patients.


On one occasion my daughter Kyong Hui caught measles\and suffered greatly: a rash did not appear on her skin. Worse still her disease was complicated by pneumonia, due to careless exposure to the wind. She cried all the time, calling out for her mother. Whenever his younger sister cried out with pain, her brother Kim Jong Il would say, “You must not call for mother in the presence of father.” The pediatricians of the government hospital were at a loss what to do. At that moment Health Minister Ri Pyong Nam came to her sickbed.


He recognized the symptoms without even taking out a stethoscope\and diagnosed her disease. “Pneumonia came before measles,” he said. In accordance with the Minister’s preions, the pediatricians gave her oxygen inhalation. Kyong Hui regained consciousness rom a coma within a single day, bursting out in tears. At the same time a rash appeared.


I asked Ri Pyong Nam, “Doctor Ri, how is she? Why is she crying?” “That’s a good sign. When they get better, the children burst into


tears. Your daughter will recover completely within three days.”


Ri Pyong Nam took out his pocket watch—the frame\and string were all made of gold\and an amber toy was attached to it—and waved it before her nose. He used the gold watch as a sedative with the toy bell to soothe infant patients. My daughter stopped crying\and smiled. She completely recovered in three days. I admired his skill.


“Indeed, it’s wonderful. Your prediction comes true every time. You are more a friend of children\and child psychologist than doctor. In my opinion pediatricians should love children more passionately than anyone else.”


“Yes, they should. A man who does not love children should not apply his stethoscope to their chests.”


I met Ri Pyong Nam in Kosanjin in autumn 1950. He remained unchanged, save for one thing. He had a shabby pocket watch without string, took it out\and looked at it when necessary. I asked him what had become of the bright gold watch which he had used to soothe Kyong Hui. He replied that he had contributed it to the country to assist in the procurement of military equipment. I was greatly moved by his patriotic devotion\and unstained conscience, which involved a sacrifice of his all for victory in war. As his watch was so shabby, I subsequently gave him a new wristwatch.


These facts proved to me that only those who love children whole-heartedly can be true patriots\and only those who love human beings sincerely can be real patriots. Love for the younger generation is the most devoted\and dynamic kind of human love; it is the purest\and most beautiful of all paeans dedicated to humanity. Communists create such paeans\and serve\and fight for them.


If there had been one friend of children like Ri Pyong Nam in Maanshan, the children would not have been driven to such a plight.


I thought that now the time had come to spend the 20 yuan my mother had given me before she passed away. She had told me to use the money only in an adversity, which could not be overcome without money. She had earned it by working on hire until her fingers bled.


My boyhood was spent without any knowledge of money. My father never gave money to his children. When I needed notebooks\or pencils, he asked my mother to buy them, forbidding me to go to a shop\or market. My father held that if one became interested in money in childhood, one would grow up a miser\and snob devoid of regard for one’s country\and nation.


One day, my father, who was bedridden, suggested going sightseeing\and came out of the house taking me along. It was an unprecedented event for my bedridden father to go onto the street with me. He had occasionally taken me along when he needed an interpreter, because he did not speak Chinese well. I was a faithful interpreter for my father.


“Apparently, something urgent has happened, as he only leaves the house when he is seriously ill. Why is he in a hurry? Whom is he going to meet?” I thought as I helped my father out of the bed.


Only when I was outside did I remember that it was my birthday. As my father was sick in bed, I had no time to think of my birthday.


After looking round the street, my father unexpectedly went into a shop taking me by the hand. This outing went beyond all my expectations. “Why has he brought me to this shop?” When I looked at a show-case, silently preoccupied by this thought, my father told me to choose a pocket watch. This shop displayed a lot of pocket watches; some of them bore portraits of Sun Yat-sen.


I chose one without Sun’s portrait\and my father paid 3 yuan 50 fen for it.


He said in a serious tone of voice:


“You are old enough to have a watch. A man fighting to win back his country must value two things. One is his comrades\and the other is time. I give you this birthday present in the hope that you will value time. Keep it well.”


I accepted his words as meaning that I had become a man.


Somehow I felt that I was hearing his last wish. He apparently felt that his days were numbered. In this frame of mind, he gave me the watch\and also passed on to me the independence cause which he had devoted all his life to. The event amounted to a celebration of my manhood.


Less than two months later, he passed away. I subsequently entered the Hwasong Uisuk School with this watch, met like-minded people there\and\organized the Down-with-Imperialism\union. During the guerrilla struggle, I followed my daily routine by this watch\and set the time of attacks\and rendezvous by this watch.


Around the time of the Pochonbo battle, I received a wristwatch in place of the pocket watch. My comrades-in-arms suggested that I wear a new wristwatch for the sake of a commander’s dignity, as my pocket watch was now outmoded. I gave one of my comrades the pocket watch I had kept for 10 years\and put on the new wristwatch.

 

My father thereby made sure that I grew up with no knowledge about money until I began to fight for the revolution. Only in Jilin did I buy myself things in shops.


If I say that in this way I became indifferent to money, the reader will not consider it strange. Reviewing my 80 years of hardships, I would like to tell young people that if you are captivated by money\and wealth, you become a dirty man, who is disloyal to the leader\and the Party, the fatherland\and fellow people\and, worse still, thinks nothing of his parents, wife\and children.


Strict control of the children, to prevent them becoming interested in money rom childhood, represented a peculiar family tradition established by my father.


However, my mother broke with this tradition for the first time, when she faced her death\and gave me 20 yuan as an inheritance, the epitome of her life of hardships.


I received the money as a treasure, feeling as if the whole of my mother’s hard life were condensed in a few notes. These notes were like an amulet for me. This money dispelled hunger, cold\and fear rom me. I felt as if my mother were protecting me with her body\and soul, always staying near to me. I decided not to spend this 20 yuan on myself, whatever might happen. I wanted to keep it for ever, if possible, as a token of my mother’s love for me.


However, grave reality shook my determination many times. I hesitated many times over use of this money, fumbling in my pocket. We had faced a number of situations,\where money was required.


When we parted with the memorable old man Ma, who saved my company on the heights of Luozigou, I offered this money to him as a token of my gratitude. It was only natural for a man to wish to thank his saviour. If I failed to repay his kindness when I had money in my pocket, after consuming the old man’s provisions for one year, by staying in his mountain hut for nearly 20 days, heaven would blame me. But this saintly old man declined the offer. “While fighting to liberate the country you may find yourselves in greater difficulty than now. Use the money in such times. I am nearly dead\and money is no good in this remote mountain, so I don’t need money. I can make a living by catching wild animals with my noose.”


So the 20 yuan, a token of my mother’s love for her son, remained in my pocket.


If I dressed the ragged children with this money, my mother, too, would be happy. “Mother, four years have passed since I left you with this money. I have kept it until now to provide against future need, although I have gone through many crises. Now, however, I must spend it. I must provide clothing for children who have no kith\and kin in the world. Although I realize that I may encounter more trying situations in the future, I have made up my mind. I hope you will support my determination. You know that I am very fond of children,” I said to myself, turning to my mother who lay buried alone on the cold slope of the Tuqidian valley.


“Go to Fusong county town with this money\and buy cloth. Make clothes for the children,” I\ordered regimental political commissar Kim San Ho.


He was extremely embarrassed\and received the money with reluctance. As he had been my companion for years, working for the Anti-Imperialist Youth League since his days in Wujiazi,\where he had lost one finger bitten by a straw cutter, while working as a farmhand for a landlord, he knew the details of this 20 yuan better than any other man.


“General, I must obey your\order, but I feel my hands trembling. What kind of money is this?”


He went to Fusong county town\and bought seven\or eight rolls of gabardine-like fabrics, which cost ten fen a foot. Although he was a man of great strength he said that his tongue nearly lolled out carrying them on his back. On the way back he was robbed of all the fabrics by the remnants of mountain rebels who had become bandits. The bandits ran away after binding him to a tree, so he was nearly frozen to death, although he was strong as an ox. I sent a small unit to save Kim San Ho\and take back the fabrics.


Seven\or eight rolls of cloth were not enough to provide all the children with clothing. I wrote to Zhang Wei-hua\and sent Kim San Ho again to Fusong with the letter. Kim San Ho obtained a lot of cloth with the help of Zhang. We made clothes for the children\and one hundred soldiers enlisted in the new division, after shaking off the stigma of “Minsaengdan”. Now my heavy heart was somewhat lightened.

In fact, 20 yuan was not a large sum. But I felt greatly relieved at the time. Then we left Maanshan.


The children in new clothes were ecstatic\and begged us to take them with us. I agreed to take them despite numerous objections. Apart rom children who were too young to follow us\and the sick, most of them joined us on the arduous southward march. It was quite an adventure for the revolutionary army, which was moving rom one place to another to engage in guerrilla warfare, to take the teenagers with it. Although it was unprecedented in the history of guerrilla warfare\and went against common knowledge, I was determined to train them in the flames\and raise them all into men of iron will. It was hardest to jump over fallen trees\and cross rivers. Consequently we assigned each soldier the task of protecting the children in battle\and on the march. Our soldiers protected the children as the apples of their eyes. They brought them up, carrying the children in their arms, when passing fallen trees\and taking them on their backs when crossing rivers\and protecting them with their bodies rom the enemy fire.


The children who followed me to the Mt. Paektu area all joined the revolutionary army\and grew up into excellent military\and political cadres through fierce battles. Nine-year-old Ri O Song who had stayed in the Dajianchang secret camp for a while, because he was not allowed to follow the army, also served as Sun Chang-xiang’s\orderly\and later came to Changbai\and became my\orderly. He was scarcely 12 years old in May 1939 when my unit advanced to the Musan area. He could not cross the river by himself because it was too deep, so I carried him in my arms across the river. The children who grew up under our wings now play a pivotal role in our Party, state\and army.


I was so indignant\and shocked at the sight of ragged children in Maanshan that I resolved to establish a system after the country’s liberation,\whereby the state would provide children with clothes free of charge. In the latter half of the 1950s, when we were reconstructing the country, which had been devastated in the war, our state began to supply children with clothes. It was a miraculous success, which could only have been achieved by the Korean communists who had experienced the sorrow in Maanshan. Every year we spend hundreds of millions of won on children’s clothing.


Foreign visitors to our country sometimes ask me; “If the state spends so much money on free clothing, surely the state loses out? Everyone can buy cloth in the shop\and make his\or her own suit. Why should the state provide children with school uniforms? How do you make up for the losses rom free clothing?”


I respond by recalling the days when I had met the ragged children in Maanshan. It is only natural that politicians rom capitalist countries with no experience of the anti-Japanese war do not understand the historic meaning of the policy of the Government of the Republic\and consider it only rom the financial point of view. A “loss” incurred by the state for the good of the people is not a loss. The more money it spends on the people’s welfare, the greater happiness our Party feels;\and the greater the “loss” it incurs for the children’s sake, the more our state is satisfied.


I believe that as long as the socialist system exists\and the traditions of Mt. Paektu are carried forward in our country, such a communist policy as state provision of clothing for children will continue to be implemented in the future.


As well as all the children of the country, the former Children’s Corps members of Maanshan\and anti-Japanese war veterans receive every season new clothes, thanks to the benevolent care of\organizing Secretary Kim Jong Il.


On my 70th birthday Ri O Song\and Son Myong Jik appeared before me, wearing new uniforms which the Secretary gave them as a gift,\and recalled the days in Maanshan with deep emotion.





 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

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

[Reminiscences]Chapter 11. The Watershed of the Revolution  5. Choe Hyon, a Veteran General

[Reminiscences]Chapter 12.To Hasten theLiberation of the Country 1. The Birth of a New Division



      

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