[Reminiscences]Chapter 15. Expansion of the Under-ground Front 1. The Indomitable Fighter, Pak Tal > 새 소식

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 15. Expansion of the Under-ground Front 1. The Indomitable Fighter, Pak Tal

  

   


 

Chapter 15. Expansion of the Under-ground Front

1. The Indomitable Fighter, Pak Tal 

  


 

Pak Tal never wore military uniform\and never fought together with me in the same unit. I met him only a few times in Mt. Paektu area. He came to see me several times, but missed me on a few occasions, as I was absent.

It is not easy to understand a total stranger inside out after only a few interviews. However, as the saying goes, even a great wall can be built in one night; my first meeting with him considerably deepened our mutual understanding.

Pak Tal, like Ri Je Sun, was a man of integrity; he was not infected with any unsound trend despite the rough\and tumble of life. He never belonged to any faction\and was never haughty, adopting the air of an ideologist. Pak Tal did not resemble Kim Chan\and An Kwang Chon, the demagogues I had met in Jilin.

He was simple\and good-natured like mountain folk, but was also good-mannered\and well-informed. At the very first interview I could easily see that he was a man of weight. He had his own critical view of the various movements of the past\and also displayed concern on how to shape the nation’s future. He had been to Hungnam, Tanchon\and Jiandao in search of a leader who would break the outdated methods of the movement.

While Pak Tal was groping for his leader, we were taking every effort to find capable revolutionaries in the homeland.

We set ourselves the following major strategic tasks to carry out the Juche-orientated line of the Korean revolution: To build in the homeland a reliable secret base, which would serve as strategic guidance for the armed struggle\and the political struggle as a whole\and prepare a strong political\and military force for the earliest possible mass resistance to liberate the homeland by our own efforts.

The creation of a strong political force in the homeland meant expansion of the ARF network\and unity of the broad patriotic masses rom all strata of society under the banner of the anti-Japanese national united front\and, at the same time, the establishment of a strong network of party\organizations in the homeland\and the preparation of an elite force, capable of leading the anti-Japanese revolution to a great upsurge, centered round the armed struggle. This was, in effect, the key to our success in all political\and military activities on Mt. Paektu.


Our struggle to expand\and develop the revolutionary movement in the homeland did not start rom scratch. In the homeland certain\organizational foundations existed, which could serve as our foothold for developing the revolution, as did political forces hardened by Japanese military\and police repression. Labour\unions, peasant\unions\and other mass\organizations of different classes, which had sprouted throughout the country like bamboo shoots after rain, the tested fighters who would lead these\organizations in the anti-Japanese struggle, the masses of people who had been trained, seasoned\and grown stronger in repeated failures, twists\and turns, the lessons of struggle, which were recorded with heart-rending sorrow\and tears of blood, whenever they experienced frustration\and loss—all these served as reliable assets for further developing the revolutionary movement in the homeland, based on the new strategy\and tactics.


Respecting the successes\and experiences gained in the revolutionary movement in the homeland, reorganization of previous movements\and their development as required by new circumstances—such was our attitude\and policy towards the revolutionary movement in the homeland.

Since the late 1920s\and early 1930s we had dispatched excellent political workers, who were trained in the DIU\and the Korean Revolutionary Army, to the northern border area\and deep into the homeland, to ensure that they made some advance preparations for laying political\and military foundations.


Any promotion of the revolutionary movement in the homeland onto a higher stage required a full-blooded political\and military advance into Korea of the KPRA, which emerged as the leading force of the national liberation movement\and communist movement of Korea, as well as its positive support for the struggle in the homeland.

In actual fact, the revolutionary movement in the homeland, which had experienced repeated failures\and frustrations, was awaiting a new line\and leadership. The top echelons of the movement were confused, owing to factional strife. However, the progressive elements, rank\and file were ready to risk their lives in support of a new line\and leadership. The fighters, who had been enthusiastic about rebuilding the party, were groping for a solution, reflecting in prison\and the underground on their failures.

We had to take practical measures, which would meet such requirements. The foremost measure involved unification of the anti-Japanese armed struggle\and the revolutionary movement in the homeland. In other words, it meant realizing our leadership to the revolutionary movement in the homeland. To this end, we had to find stalwart revolutionaries like Ri Je Sun,\and quickly expand through joint efforts with them the ARF network\and rouse the whole nation to the sacred anti-Japanese struggle.

Pak Tal was the right man on the list for the task.


Ri Je Sun had recommended Pak Tal to me.


“Pak Tal is a man who can stand even on the edge of a sword, if he believes he is acting for the right cause. He is also an excellent theoretician. In an argument with a pompous thinker rom Tanchon with bouffant hair, he humbled that man. If we want to control North\and South Hamgyong Provinces, we must see him.”

I was very pleased to hear this. But I could hardly believe all he said before I met Pak Tal. How often we were disappointed with famous men, whom we had met, after hearing about their high reputation!

 

Many famous people, whom I had met regardless of their ideas\and principles, had no definite views of their own\and lacked\originality both in thinking\and practice.

Pak Tal was not a first-rate figure, unlike An Chang Ho, Kim Jwa Jin, Ri Chong Chon, O Tong Jin, Son Jong Do, Sim Ryong Jun, Hyon Muk Kwan, Hyon Ha Juk, Ko Won Am, Kim Chan, An Kwang Chon, Sin Il Yong\or So Jung Sok whom I had met in Jilin. He attracted only the attention of the local police\or secret service at best.

However, such a simple man as a woodcutter became a great man, who rendered distinguished service to our revolution, as well as my intimate friend\and comrade, whom I still recall. Ri Je Sun said that his real name was Pak Mun Sang. His neighbours used to call him Pak Tal, (birch tree–Tr.) because he was as hard as a birch tree, so Pak Tal became his nickname\and later on his formal name.

Pak Tal was born in Toksan Sub-county, Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province. Apparently his family was not poor, judging rom the fact that his father owned a sardine factory in Myongchon, but he was merely a primary school leaver. He married at the age of eleven\and at sixteen got a job with his father’s factory as a salaried accountant. No doubt his father wanted him to be a self-made man at a tender age.

He was so ashamed of his early marriage that he could not tell his friends about it. If he found his wife alone at home, when he came home for lunch, he just walked up\and down the room, without daring to ask her to serve him a meal.

His father was manly\and kind-hearted, but he liked wine\and women\and kept a concubine. Apparently Pak Tal’s mother was left out in the cold by his father\and he sympathized with his mother very much.

“I hate most of all a man with a concubine,” said Pak Tal one day. “I experienced the bitterness of polygamy, perceiving the agony my mother was suffering under the roof of my father who had a concubine.”


He said that it was a laudable event that we abolished the polygamy system after liberation.

The misfortunes his mother had suffered owing to the polygamy system constituted the cause of his life-long bitterness. Learning a lesson rom the life of his mother, who had hardly enjoyed the love of her husband\and led a lonely life, Pak Tal was unfailingly loyal to his wife, who was five years older than him, avoiding drinking\and any relations with other women.

Next came stingy fellows: Pak Tal hated all stingy fellows regardless of their sex, job\and position.

“Whenever I see a miser, I lose my appetite for the whole day.”


When I met him at Juul (Kyongsong) in 1957, he had recovered his health to such an extent that we could chat like this. Listening to him, I perceived that he disgusted individualism\and egoism more than anything else.

He was a man of great benevolence. In plain words, he was overflowing with kindness. In every potato harvest season, he invited passersby to his house. He stimulated their appetite by saying that this year potatoes were as delicious as honey.\and he told them to come\and taste them tugging at their sleeves. He used to tell his wife to make potato-cakes\and send them to his neighbours, who had not cultivated potatoes.

I think that if a kind-hearted person like Pak Tal had been rich, he would have become a great philanthropist. He was poor, but he spared nothing for his neighbours.

After primary schooling, Pak Tal taught himself classics\and lecture courses for secondary school. His diligence in studies is fully attributable to the fact that he read Tongui Pogam14 while serving a prison term as a crippled man in Sodaemun prison.


The policemen were surprised during a search of his house, following the “Hyesan incident”15. They discovered a heap of socialist books such as Ten-Point Programme of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland, Inaugural Declaration of the ARF, The Fundamentals of Socialism, The Theory of Social Evolution, The Basic Knowledge of the Colonial Issue, Proletarian Women’s Movement, Declaration on the Struggle against Unemployment, A Dictionary of Socialism, Wang Ming’s Speech at the 7th Conference of the Comintern, The 15th Anniversary of the Founding of the Chinese Communist Party, Theses on the Korean Issue\and The Basic Knowledge of a Party Member.


His house was full of nothing but books.


When I met him first, Pak Tal said that he had learned nothing particular\and was extremely ignorant. He asked me to teach him all the basics, as if he were illiterate, but this was merely an expression of his modesty; in fact, he was considerably well-informed about the revolutionary theory of Marxism in general. However, he did not flaunt his knowledge\and did not try to outrival others with knowledge. Moreover, he had no ambitions to assume “leadership”. He was a frugal man lacking all worldly\and social ambitions. I think this reflected the inherent nature of Pak Tal as a true man, real patriot\and genuine revolutionary.


He always considered himself a student\and consequently expected someone to lead him forward. While\organizing the Kapsan Working Committee, he\limited its range to a local area of Kapsan\and clarified its tentative character through the name of the working committee. The committee started its work on the premise that, if the Korean Communist Party was founded, it would obey the party\and change its name as it deemed appropriate. Pak Tal\organized the Kapsan Working Committee with the intention of launching a movement within the local area by his own efforts, pending the emergence of a leader, who would direct the anti-Japanese struggle.


His efforts to\organize the Kapsan Working Committee did not go smoothly. In those days, some people engaged in the social movement in that area capitulated, afraid of military\and police repression. They justified themselves by trying to attribute their acts to the absence of a central body of the party.

 

“We should not,” they claimed, “stimulate\or encourage the anti-imperialist struggle, which is occurring spontaneously in Kapsan County. We must wait until the Korean Communist Party is\organized\and advances a new line\and leads the struggle in Kapsan, based on that line. Such actions indicate loyalty to Marxism\and Leninism\and respect of centralism.”

Pak Tal criticized such attitude as an escape rom the revolution. He said that they should transform the spontaneous grouping in Kapsan into an\organized movement\and try to make it a nationwide movement\and that when the Korean Communist Party is founded, this would provide a favourable condition for the party leadership to direct the struggle in that area. The Kapsan Working Committee was\organized through an uncompromising struggle against those who were sitting idle, merely waiting for a favourable opportunity\or trying to escape rom police surveillance to other areas to save their own skins.


To protect the Kapsan Working Committee rom possible enemy suppression, Pak Tal named its subordinate\organizations differently, for instance, Political Fellowship Association, Advance Association\and Anti-Japanese Association. To enlighten the masses, he did not hesitate to exploit such government-approved\organizations as the Promotion Association\and Self-Defence Corps. When night school, athletic meetings, morning exercises\and the like were\organized in the name of these\organizations, the policemen, who did not know the truth, were satisfied, thinking that the country folk in Kapsan were becoming loyal imperial subjects.


Every time he convened a meeting of the heads of the subordinate\organizations of the working committee, held once a month, he\organized a football match. They gathered people\and started the game,\and then did all they had to do behind the scenes, holding meetings\and giving assignments to their members. Ancestral sacrifices, marriage ceremonies, birthday parties\and sixtieth birthday parties were also used as opportunities to hold a secret meeting of members\and heads of the\organizations. The use of legal events provided favourable conditions for camouflaging the\organization\and making its activities more vigorous.

Working committee members worked skilfully with Japanese policemen\and their stooges to exploit to the full the possibilities of lawful activities. On the instructions of the working committee, most of its members entered Japanese-patronized\organizations\and the lowest administration bodies, working there as “activists”.

This constituted a very daring new approach, compared to the ways of the Singan Association16, the general federation of labour\unions, the youth\union, the Red labour\union\and Red peasant\union, which had adopted an openly hostile attitude of unconditional confrontation with the Japanese army, police\and their stooges.


Such camouflage tactics, which were gentle in appearance but sturdy in spirit, introduced by Pak Tal for the first time among the fighters of the homeland, yielded great results.

Pretending to obey the enemy meekly, while serving in their police stations\and Self-Defense Corps\or working as village head, district head\and other important posts of government\and public offices, the Rural Promotion Association, fire-fighting team, school cooperation\and forestry cooperation were good in many aspects—in disarming the enemy ideologically, collecting information about the enemy, breaking up the forces behind the enemy\and drawing them to our side\and preventing the enemy rom irritating the people. Pak Tal was an excellent revolutionary, who was chairman of the Kapsan Working Committee\and in charge of political\and dispute departments of this committee. He also openly held important posts in enemy-controlled public bodies. He was vice-chairman of the Rural Promotion Association in the First District, Sinhung-ri, Pochon Sub-county, head of Ilsin Village School Association of the First District, vice-commander of the Self-Defence Corps\and fireman of the fire-fighting team, Taeosichon-ri, Unhung Sub-county.


The very fact that 63 people of the first batch of those to be imprisoned on charge of involvement in the “Hyesan incident” were Self-Defence Corps members, indicates how flexibly they used Japanese-patronized offices\and\organizations. These people included individuals, who held different posts such as head of the general affairs section of the Promotion Association, head of five families of the Self-Defence Corps, a councillor of the forestry cooperation, a member of the highland agriculture guidance section, general representative of the slash-and-burn field surveying, trainee of a short course for elite youth, a member of the educational affairs section for village schools\and councillor of an intensive-course school.


Deftly combining such legal methods with illegal struggle, the Kapsan Working Committee advanced the slogans to suit the reality of rural communities, that is, a reduction in farm rents, the free reclamation of slash-and-burn fields,\and the rejection of labour draft, usury\and compulsory cultivation of flax\and wheat,\and launched dynamic struggles to materialize these slogans.

They seemed to be engaged exclusively in economic struggle; however, the rejection of the compulsory cultivation of flax\or wheat was a serious political slogan. The peasants of Kapsan area opposed the cultivation of flax, because this crop was used as a raw material for the production of munitions. They frustrated flax cultivation by boiling their flax seeds before planting\or spoiling the crop, planting them sparsely, so that they shoot out many stalks\and branches.

Ri Je Sun’s recommendation was enough to convince me of the need to join hands with Pak Tal.

We discussed how to meet him\and appointed Ri Je Sun as the liaison man responsible for contacts with the homeland.

Ri Je Sun carried out his assignment promptly. A messenger conveyed Ri’s report that Pak Tal asked us to send a KPRA representative directly to him. For some reason, he did not come straight to the secret camp to see me, although he welcomed our interview.

 

On the basis of this fact, I believed him to be a prudent revolutionary. His caution\and carefulness fanned our confidence\and curiosity in him.

We needed a sincere, self-possessed\and prudent revolutionary, rather than a frivolous thinker, who cools down as quickly as water boiled in a small pan\or is swayed by every wind.

In accordance with his request, we dispatched Kwon Yong Byok, an experienced party worker, to Kapsan. At that time I sent the following letter to Pak Tal through Kwon.


To my comrade patriots in the homeland who


are fighting Japanese imperialism


Comrades who are fighting in the homeland the Japanese imperialists, our villainous enemy!

We are fighting, arms in hand, the Japanese\and Manchukuo armies\and police in the wilderness of Manchuria, in\order to liberate our country.

We sincerely want to join hands with you\and pool all our strength in the struggle against Japanese imperialism to liberate the fatherland.

I send our representative directly to you, hoping that you will have a frank discussion with him.

Yours sincerely


Kim Il Sung


When Kwon Yong Byok was going to Kapsan, Ri Je Sun accompanied him. As I recall, they met Pak Tal in December 1936. Through Kwon, Pak Tal learned that the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland had been founded. Kwon also explained to him the major activities of the KPRA.

Apparently Kwon had a great impact on Pak Tal, who had ardently hoped to have relations with us. On return Kwon said that Pak had the nickname of “blank look”, because he did not show his feelings easily, but he had nearly wept for joy on reading my letter.

“He suggested an immediate interview with you, General. He said that if you would allow him, he would come any time.”

His report whetted my desire to see him. I decided to meet him in our secret camp\and instructed Kwon Yong Byok to take the necessary measures for the interview.

Pak Tal, on his part, made preparations to visit me. This meant arrangements to cross the River Amnok safely. The bloody atmosphere in those days made it almost impossible to cross the river illegally. He mulled over ways of crossing river,\and then called on policeman Kim at the police sub-station in the village of Khunungdengi, under the jurisdiction of Hyesan Police Station.

“Mr. Kim, have you heard any news about Changbai?” Pak Tal asked, as if something awful had happened. Kim\and the other policemen looked, wide-eyed, at him.

“What news?”


“As the bandits frequent Changbai area, many people are moving to other places, selling their cereals at low prices, I was told. I must buy a few cartloads of beans to earn some money. Please issue a pass for me to cross the river, if you also want to benefit rom the deal.”

The policemen, listening to him with relish, agreed, asking him to bring some beans for them in exchange for the pass. He got the pass more easily than he had expected. In this way, he crossed the River Amnok safely\and came to Ri Je Sun’s house.

It was nearly dawn when Ri arrived with Pak Tal at Headquarters.


As Ri had said, Pak looked ill-balanced for the small head on his broad shoulders. He did not stand out\and resembled a rural woodcutter. I thought that Ri had described him correctly. However, I felt his eyes had a rare quality, when he was looking at me.

 

“I have been anxious to see you, General.”


These were his first words of greeting; although simple, I could feel his true heart.

I don’t know why, but I was moved by his blunt words.


Ever since imprisonment in Kilju, he had dreamed of a meeting with us, he said. He appeared in Kilju to expand the\organization, while avoiding enemy surveillance. As he was working in the construction site of a paper mill, he was arrested by the police\and imprisoned. One day he found in a bundle of waste paper a newspaper, which carried an article about our unit’s defeat of the enemy, after advancing to Changbai area. Since then, he had always thought of us. After release rom prison, he came to Kapsan. To get in touch with us, he went on a peddling tour, visiting most of the villages on the River Amnok.


“Indeed, it is a great fortune for me to meet you General.”


Overjoyed, he grasped my hands again\and shook them enthusiastically.


“I am also glad to meet you, Comrade Pak Tal. You are the first representative rom the homeland to visit us, since the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army’s advance on Mt. Paektu.”

“I don’t think I am worthy of a representative. I am only a country bumpkin.... Champions of some causes in big towns like Kilju, Songjin\and Hamhung didn’t even glance at me when I was there.”

He seemed to be trying to behave like a “Kapsan country bumpkin”. But I found great character in his modesty.

“There is no reason why only big towns should produce a great man. I have heard rom Ri Je Sun that the Kapsan Working Committee did a lot of work in the anti-Japanese patriotic cause. The presence of people in their right minds in the homeland provides great encouragement to us.”

I offered a cup of hot water, telling him to warm himself, but he only sipped a little, hastening to report the situation in the homeland. He was an admirable man, full of ardour.

My talks with Pak Tal started in real earnest in the following morning. This time we conversed a lot. Our talk began rom Pak’s explanation of the situation in the homeland in those days\and the movement in Kapsan area. The gist of his explanation of the homeland situation went as follows:

Things in the homeland are on the decline. Apparently, the movement for the rebuilding of the party has lost vigour\and the peasant\union movement is on the wane. The fighters took refuge in different mountains, unable to endure enemy suppression. Can they rise up again? No, they can’t. Even if they muster courage\and stand up again, they have no line. They cannot fight blindly\and consequently use their brains only to sustain their lives. Some people continue their struggle with courage, but fail to shake off factional habits. The Shanghai\and Russian groups still exist\and there are also the South Hamgyong Provincial group\and North Hamgyong Provincial group; what is worse, in the same South Hamgyong Provincial group the Hamhung, Hongwon\and Tanchon groups appeared; they are exhausting their energy, always blinkering, arguing back\and forth\and holding empty talks, only to confuse the masses.


“The greatest difficulty in the revolutionary movement in the homeland concerns the absence of correct leadership. In other words, there is no line capable of convincing everyone, nor is there a man who can formulate such a line. Consequently, when the peasants’ uprising broke out in Tanchon, they sent a man to the Comintern for advice\and guidance, but received nothing. So whom should we turn to?”

What he meant, in short, was that the most pressing matter in the revolutionary movement in the homeland was to resolve the problem of line\and leadership.

Another important issue of debate was the mission\and character of the KPRA.

Pak Tal assumed a serious look, begging me not to mind him asking a presumptuous question.

“Among the revolutionaries in the homeland now, rumour has it that General Kim Il Sung is a Korean, but is fighting for the Chinese revolution\and that his is an army of Koreans, but belongs to the Northeast Anti-Japanese Allied Army. How should I understand this? I want to hear your own explanation.” As Ri Je Sun said, Pak Tal was a straightforward man.


I had to explain at length.


“It is only natural that the revolutionaries at home have such doubts, as the press calls the army under my command the 6th Division of the 2nd Army Corps of the Northeast Anti-Japanese Allied Army. However, if they consider my unit as thoroughly a Chinese army unit, this is absolutely wrong\and contrary to facts. The NAJAA means, as the name shows, an allied army of various anti-Japanese guerrilla units, fighting in the northeast area of China. It comprises the Chinese guerrilla units under the leadership of the Communist Party, the Chinese anti-Japanese units of the National Salvation Army\and the Korean anti-Japanese guerrilla units, led by Korean communists. It is an international allied army united for cooperation in the anti-Japanese war. The common enemy is Japan, the common purpose is to liberate their countries, their common fighting theatre is northeast China, the friendly feelings between Korean\and Chinese peoples, formed historically\and the commonness of their fates—all these factors have brought the armed forces of the communists\and other patriots of the two countries into an alliance. As the allied army system is, in essence, the product of voluntary participation, the independence\and\originality of each national army are respected. Our KPRA assumes fully the character of the national army, which seeks national liberation\and is fighting independently, concentrating its efforts on the Korean revolution, while helping the Chinese revolution under the name of the allied army. All our compatriots in Manchuria know that our army is the national army of Korea, seeking to liberate their country\and free their nation since the early days of its founding. We call our army the anti-Japanese allied army,\where the majority of the inhabitants are Chinese\and the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army,\where many Koreans live.

 

“Referring to the principle of one party in one country, some people once disputed the Korean revolution, which the Korean revolutionaries were fighting for,\and even tried to violate\and trample upon the independent character\and rights of our national army. Afterwards, the Comintern advised us to break away rom the NAJAA\and fight independently, pointing out that the Koreans’ fight for the Korean revolution does not contradict the principle of one party in one country. However, we decided to remain in the NAJAA. If we separated, it would weaken the Chinese people’s support for us\and cause inconvenience to our activities. The Chinese also did not want to divide the allied army by nations. We can say proudly that the allied army system we maintain now is a good example of anti-imperialist joint action, as the product of inseparable relations between the comrades-in-arms of two countries, which are fighting a common enemy. As long as our right to independence is not violated\and the Chinese do not refuse, we will maintain this system in future. If possible, we want to establish an anti-Japanese allied army with the Mongolian national army\or the Soviet army\and fight in cooperation with them.”


After hearing my explanation, Pak Tal smiled broadly, brightening the room.

“That means my disappointment has been unfounded. If your guerrillas belonged to the Chinese army, we wouldn’t expect anything, would we? But now I feel that my courage has been redoubled!”

“Then, I am also happy. For that matter, you can trust the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. The Japanese army is strong, but never invincible. We are going to expand the liberation war into the homeland, based on Mt. Paektu. The liberation of the country is only a matter of time. We are building up our strength to liberate the country. You must remember that the Kapsan Working Committee, led by you, is a part of this strength.”

Another important topic of our talks concerned our united front policy\and the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland.

 

Pak Tal admitted the need for the anti-Japanese national united front,\and expressed his full support for all the measures, which had been taken to expand\and strengthen it, as well as the aims of the Ten-Point Programme of the ARF. He said that in terms of the universality\and greatness of its aim\and its colossal force, the ARF was fundamentally different rom the Singan Association\or Kunu Association, former nationalist\organizations, the fruit of cooperation of the left\and right wings.

However, this does not mean that he supported all our measures\and policies. He held a different view about the name of the ARF\and some provisions of its programme.

“I firmly believe that as communists we are fighting for national liberation\and that our ultimate goal is to build a communist society. However, the name of the ARF\and its ten-point programme seem to have regressed to a nationalist level, departing far rom such a communist programme. In other words, I might say that only the immediate objective is exposed\and the ultimate goal is abandoned.”

Apparently he was afraid that we might be censured for abandoning the ultimate objective of our struggle\and had regressed to the point of adopting opportunism\or compromising with a reformist movement, rather than sticking to a form of positive struggle. Apparently he was not free of a dogmatic way of thinking, as old man “Tobacco Pipe” had been in his early years.

So I explained to him: A few communists alone cannot carry out the revolution. Only when the broad masses make an all-out effort can the revolution emerge victorious. As you know, under Japanese imperialist colonial rule, not only workers, peasants\and communists, but also the nation as a whole are groaning under tyranny. In this situation, we must rally all the forces interested in the independence of Korea, behind the anti-Japanese national united front. You disagree with the name of the ARF, but in fact it is a proper name, acceptable to any strata of society. Some people now think that the name of an\organization must include the word “revolution”\or “Red”, but this is an expression of left-wing deviation. We included the word “fatherland” in the name of the nationwide united front to demonstrate clearly that it is not an\organization for any one class\or strata, but rather for the whole nation.

Pak Tal said that he had frequently met the people of Songjin, Haksong, Kilju, Tanchon\and Pukchong to change experiences with them\and that they were apparently doing underground work in a crude\and rough manner. When the peasant\union members gathered in a wrestling ground in Tano festival in Songjin, for instance, they made themselves conspicuous by wearing red bands around their heads\and sitting in a circle, he said. In this way they displayed their difference rom non-organization members. When the wrestling match proceeded unfavourably for their side, they made one player after another challenge the other side, whether\or not they were likely to succeed, in\order to overwhelm their opponents by numerical superiority. When they were not a match for the other side, they caused trouble on purpose, in an attempt to demonstrate the power of the Red peasant\union. Plainclothes policemen on the platform took such opportunities to mark off the hardcore members of the\union\and this supplied a clue for arresting its active members\or detecting underground\organizations.


In those days, left-wing deviations were revealed in some local areas in relation to Hyanggyo. Hyanggyo was an\organization of influential people in those areas, which made sacrifices to Confucius, the father of Confucianism,\and it smacked of feudalism. It granted its members the title of Jangui\or Kyogam. They addressed each other Jangui\or Kyogam to show their respect. Needless to say, it was not worthy of encouragement, because it boosted feudalistic Confucian morality, but there was no need to oppose it openly\or try to abolish it in a day. However, some young men, who had been poisoned by leftism, acted blindly on the pretext of opposing feudalism, burning\or tearing the Jangui hats of their grandfathers,\and were therefore shamefully hit on the head with tobacco pipes by old men. Old men denounced that communists were a band of villains, who knew nothing of the three fundamental principles\and five moral disciplines in human relations\and ignored their elders.


Only the Japanese imperialists fished in troubled waters. When Hyanggyo made a sacrifice to Confucius, they let the county headman take part in the ceremony\and bow before the spirit. They wanted to show that communists opposed their ancestors, but the Japanese government respected them. The enemy used Hyanggyo\organizations slyly in this way to oppose the communist force.


“Let me remind you once again. Use of pompous words such as ‘Red’\or ‘revolution’ in naming an\organization does not ensure success in whatever the\organization does\and does not guarantee its revolutionary character. ARF\organizations may be formed under different names to suit the situation in every local area\and the level of consciousness of the masses.\organizations should be built to suit reality, in such a way that workers form a labour\union, peasants create a peasant\union\and young people set up an Anti-Imperialist Youth League\or Young Communist League. We were informed that the Promotion Association, a government-controlled\organization, was formed in different places in the homeland comprising many people. If we are to win over the people rom all strata of society, we should infiltrate such an\organization. If we revolutionize its members working there, we can gradually change its character, in conformity with the Inaugural Declaration of the ARF, I think. What is important is not external appearance, but rather content. If an\organization is favourable for our revolution, we should not be particular about its name.”


On hearing this, Pak Tal showed his repentance.


“From what you said it appears that there is a problem in the mode of our movement.”

Through my talk with him I discovered a blind spot\and\limitation in the way of thinking of fighters in the homeland. The most serious mistake they had committed in thinking\and practice concerned, in a nutshell, their dogmatic view of nationalist\and communist movements. Their rejection of the nationalist movement in general was a left-wing deviation, inherent in the pompous communists\and dogmatic Marxists, who gulped down Marxism-Leninism, instead of chewing\and digesting it.

I emphasized once again that there was no greater cause than national liberation for the Korean communists\and said that the communist movement could not exist apart rom the nation\and that such a communist movement was not necessary.

“Our concept of the nation includes workers\and peasants, as well as the people rom all walks of life, who love the country\and nation, creative labour\and the future of the liberated homeland. This is precisely the standard for the general mobilization of the nation\and criterion for membership of the ARF. By this standard we must mobilize as many people as possible for the freedom\and independence of Korea. The general mobilization of the nation, based on the thought that we must\and can achieve the independence of the country on our nation’s efforts, rather than by outside forces, is the only way of saving the destiny of Korea.”


Pak Tal was a man who had committed many faults in thinking\and practice, but he recognized his dogmatic views liberally\and accepted our principles with modesty.

I suggested that he reorganize the Kapsan Working Committee into a subordinate\organization of the ARF\and change its name to the Korean National Liberation\union. Pak Tal readily agreed to my proposal.

We had a long discussion about the task of the KNLU in the expansion of the ARF network in the homeland\and detailed ways of implementing it. We also talked, warming ourselves by the campfire built outside. During his stay in the secret camp we debated the expansion of party\organizations in the homeland, support for the KPRA, infiltration in enemy\organs, protection of revolutionaries in the homeland, liaison methods\and place, the secret code\and selection of liaison men\and many other problems,\and reached complete agreement in all matters.

I gained the deep impression rom my interview that he was straightforward, informal\and sincere in his attitude towards the revolution. He was the type of man, who unhesitatingly says that he likes what he really likes\and dislikes what he dislikes. Some people often pretend to like what they hate\and say that something is good, which they really think is bad, reading another’s face\and acting according to the circumstances. Most people should say that a thing, which is black, is black\and that a thing, which is white, is white, displaying determination\and courage to say only the truth, even if they may somewhat hurt other people’s feelings. However, such people are few\and far between. A man, who says that something black is white\and vice-versa reading his superior’s face\or flatters him, speaking differently according to the situation, is a treacherous man\and not a faithful man. Truth cannot thrive on the tongue of a treacherous man.


By contrast, Pak Tal did not hesitate to say that he disliked what he really hated. Frankly speaking, I was charmed by his attitude. I think personal charm never comes rom what is complicated, gorgeous, talkative\and vociferous. Simplicity, plainness, artlessness\and frankness are the essence of personal charm.


Jong Jun Thaek, first Chairman of the State Planning Commission of the Government of the Republic, was an intellectual of petty bourgeois\origin\and cadre, who had undergone serious political persecution by factional elements, but always said only the truth before me. In terms of economic policy he only said what was possible\and never made out that what was impossible was possible. When he was afraid that I would gain the wrong conception on production figures owing to a distorted report, he waited in my office for four\or five hours to inform me of the actual situation. With his help I was able to gain a correct understanding of the whole aspect of the national economy\and give a proper guidance to economic work.


In the old days, the first criterion for the\selection of an official was noble birth, the second criterion handsome looks\and third criterion gentle manner of speech, I was told. Consequently, people of obscure birth, small build\and crude manner of speech found it difficult to pass state examinations with honour, no matter how qualified they were.

My maternal grandfather said:


“People must be promoted according to their ability\and personality, not by family connections, property, appearance\or manner of speech.”

Pak Tal reminded me of this saying. He was quite simple in appearance, but was upright, candid\and artless, free of ostentation. To borrow the expression of people today, he was a man enshrined in my heart.

“Please trust me. I will fight for the liberation of the fatherland following your ideas, General, even if my body is torn into a hundred pieces. Don’t worry about the Party Working Committee in the Homeland\and the Korean National Liberation\union.”

He said this as he left. As promised, he returned home with a cart of soya beans he bought in the Ri Je Sun’s village\and distributed them to the policemen.


In January 1937, the leadership members of the Kapsan Working Committee convened a meeting under the chairmanship of Pak Tal to reorganize the KWC into the KNLU\and adopted the Ten-Point Programme of the ARF as the KNLU programme. At the meeting, they also debated measures to implement the line of the anti-Japanese national united front.

Serious discussions were held on immediate practical matters—the expansion of the range of the\organization rom the Kapsan area into the province\and all the country, strict precautions against the infiltration of factional elements, strict secrecy, education of members, publication of the\union\organ, etc.

The reorganization of the KWC into the KNLU was an epoch-making event, which was extremely significant in the history of the ARF movement. The KNLU became a springboard for expanding the ARF\organizations into the homeland.

 

Since the reorganization of the KWC into the KNLU, a change occurred in way of thinking\and working by communists of Kapsan area.


On the KNLU\organ Hwajonmin, they carried articles, which explained our line\and distributed them to its subordinate\organizations. In Kapsan\and other areas of South\and North Hamgyong Provinces, our lines\and policies were disseminated quickly\and the ARF subordinate\organizations grew rapidly. Flames of the anti-Japanese struggle rose higher than ever before.


In May 1937, I met Pak Tal again. Owing to the advance of Choe Hyon’s unit into Musan area, the situation in\and around Kapsan became grave. The border area was rigorously guarded.

This time, too, Pak Tal coaxed police to allow his journey\and thereby left home lawfully to visit us.

We talked long about the situation in the homeland\and their work.


His report on the movement in the homeland satisfied us all. The work to expand the ARF network was making headway at a high speed, thanks to the tireless efforts of the vanguard fighters of the KNLU. The ARF network already stretched into the Kapsan area\and other areas of present Ryanggang Province\and far-off Songjin, Kilju, Tanchon, Hongwon\and other important east coast areas. Their methods of struggle were improved considerably.

We showed Pak Tal two light machine-guns we had captured in battle. I still recall him vividly as he touched them with joy.

During my interview with comrades rom the homeland, I felt that they were narrow-minded; when they raised questions they considered only the internal aspect of the movement, lacking an ability to consider the matter in an international scope. Therefore I had to spend many hours to expand their views, so that they could approach the Korean revolution in relation to the international situation, ranging rom our relationship with the Comintern, the Chinese\and Japanese Communist Parties to international events. This was essential to invigorate their work in the homeland.


The international situation in those days was very fluid. While the Spanish Civil War raged in Europe, the occupation of Ethiopia by Italy kept Africa astir. Italy’s occupation of Ethiopia was, in a sense, a greater point of issue than the Spanish Civil War. Admittedly, the Spanish war had assumed an international character, but it was merely a civil war. However, the occupation of Ethiopia by Italy constituted a big power’s aggression against a weak nation. What mattered here was that the so-called big powers, such as Britain\and France, encouraged the invasion\and, worse still, the League of Nations took no effective step, leaving Ethiopia to fall victim to invasion.


The invasion of Manchuria by Japan\and the appearance of the Nazi regime in Germany served as the international background of Italy’s brazen act of aggression. As soon as he took power, Hitler started building a great German Reich. Capitalist powers such as the United States, Britain\and France entertained apprehensions about the appearance of the Hitler regime, but sympathized with his anti-communist policy\and compromised with him liberally to use the German armed forces, as a bulwark against the communist forces. Encouraged by this, Hitlerite Germany annexed Saarland in January 1935\and, in March of the same year, annulled the military provisions of the Peace Treaty of Versailles. The treaty had imposed colossal amount of reparations on Germany\and restricted its army to 100,000 soldiers,\and no ship of 1,000 tons\and over was allowed, to say nothing of tanks\and military aircraft. However, fascist Germany unilaterally repealed these provisions\and announced the “law of the\organization of the national army” to effect conion, in\order to create a regular army of 36 divisions\or 550,000 soldiers. Göring openly declared\organization of the Luftwaffe. All these moves of Nazi Germany became a major factor in encouraging Italy’s invasion.


To find a pretext for the invasion, Italy provoked armed clashes against Ethiopia.

In the strained situation,\where Italy was making full preparations for a large-scale military invasion, Ethiopia brought the case to the League of Nations as its member state. However, the League of Nations neglected it. Britain\and France, which had played a leading role in the league, did not want to offend Italy on the question of a colony, unless it conflicted with their interests. Ethiopia asked repeatedly for arbitration. Rumour has it that the Ethiopian Emperor appealed for help for his country, shedding tears at a session of the League of Nations in Geneva. Ethiopia even sent a note to the United States, which was not a member state of the league, requesting that it exercise its influence, but the United States, which was pursuing isolationism by enacting a Neutrality Act, was dumb to that matter.


In October 1935, Italy attacked Ethiopia without declaring war.


Despite the active resistance of the army\and people, Ethiopia was defeated. The League of Nations applied no effective sanctions against Italy\and connived at the supply by Britain\and France of weapons to Italy behind the formally declared economic sanctions. As the saying goes, birds of a feather

flock together.


The prestige of the League of Nations had disappeared.


Anyhow, it came as no surprise that the League of Nations, which had always served the imperialist big powers as their tool of aggression, should take sides with the stronger. Already in its initial stage, the league had openly supported the redivision of colonies in the form of the “distribution of mandated territories”\and openly pursued an anti-Soviet policy. Men of conscience of the world still vividly remember how shamelessly the league backed the Japanese imperialists’ invasion of Manchuria. The League of Nations failed to check fascist Germany’s occupation of Saarland\or the armed intervention of Germany\and Italy in Spain. It did not even issue a statement denouncing their aggression. The League of Nations, which had emerged as an international\organization with a mission to maintain world peace, subsequently tolerated Germany’s invasion of Austria\and Czechoslovakia; in fact, it helped\and encouraged the invasion.


The  rapid  development  of  the  international  situation, \where  the arbitrariness of the fascist\and militarist forces was growing rampant,\and the impotence of the League of Nations, clearly taught the communists that they should launch the struggle for national liberation independently, based on their own forces.

In the days when I met Pak Tal again, the Japanese imperialists’ invasion of China proper was a matter of time.

The “Huabei incident” made northern China virtually the subject of Japanese imperialism.

Following the “Huabei incident”, Japanese imperialism further stepped up the expansion of armament\and war preparations. In August 1936, the Hiroda Cabinet defined basic national policy as strengthening Japan’s position in east Asia\and at the same time, extending its influence to the South Sea. It had an all-out plan to launch a full-scale invasion of China\and push northward against the Soviet\union, while biding her time to advance southward.

Pak Tal\and other communists rom the homeland considered very seriously our appraisal of the international situation.

On the premise that the Japanese imperialists would start a war against China in the near future, I instructed the revolutionaries in the homeland that they should unite their forces firmly to cope with this event\and exploit the prevailing situation skilfully in\order to launch an active anti-Japanese struggle.

“Japan’s move is alarming. Sooner\or later it will ignite a greater war against China. This will create favourable conditions for our struggle. They may well plunder\and strangle our people, as never before to fight a war. But many gaps may be revealed in their home front. The further Japan expands its front, the more freely we can fight in the vast area. So Comrade Pak Tal, you must make full preparations to cope with the new situation on your initiative.

“You must lead the KNLU properly to enlarge the anti-Japanese forces\and get them ready even for revolt.”

Before he left the secret camp I gave him a special assignment to draw a sketch-map of Pochonbo\and reconnoitre the frontier guard of the Japanese in detail. Pak Tal carried out this assignment with credit. The sketch-map of the town he drafted\and his information gave us great help in the battle of Pochonbo. Six days after the Pochonbo battle we sent a liaison man for Pak Tal, but I could not meet him, because I left for Mt. Jiansan in a hurry in command of my unit. After the crushing defeat in Pochonbo, the government-general of Korea convened an emergency meeting\and decided to concentrate the Hamhung 74th Regiment, the Japanese army unit stationed in Changbai County\and the police forces rom the homeland, as a preparation for a large-scale “punitive” operation against us.

In July that year, I again sent for Pak Tal. But, that time, too, our meeting did not take place, because he had been arrested by the enemy. Ri Pyong Son alone called on me\and reported his arrest\and the revolutionary movement in the homeland.

I requested that Ri establish contact with the communists, working in Myongchon\and Songjin, so that we could meet them. I assigned him to another task of\organizing paramilitary guerrilla units in the homeland.

These tasks were conveyed to Pak Tal on his release rom prison.


In June 1938, when the enemy’s suppression of the\organizations in the homeland was intensified, Pak Tal searched the forest around Changbai for over a month to meet us for our advice to save the grave situation.

At that time I was working around Linjiang\and Mengjiang, so I heard of his news much later.

The Japanese police made a frantic search for Pak Tal\and other hardcore members of the KNLU to arrest them.

The Korean police officer Choe Ryong of Hyesan police station mobilized even plainclothes policemen, Self-Defence Corps men\and firemen to track down Pak Tal.

Pak Tal\and Kim Chol Ok were arrested by the enemy in September\and October 1938, owing to the betrayal of Kim Chang Yong, Kim Chol Ok’s cousin. Ri Ryong Sul (Ri Kyong Bong) was also arrested later.

The brutal enemy subjected him to inconceivable torture. They wanted to know our\whereabouts\and the list of the KNLU members. However, no cruel torture could reduce a man of iron will to submission. The enemy first condemned him to death\and then sentenced to life imprisonment owing to a lack of sufficient evidence. The human killers destroyed his body beyond recovery. His backbone was broken\and leg bone was crushed. However, he maintained his spirit, never vacillating. As a crippled man he miraculously endured the hardships of seven\or eight years of prison life, which our posterity can hardly imagine.

One day immediately after liberation I received a report that Pak Tal had come out of Sodaemun prison. After he left prison on a stretcher, he stayed in Seoul for a while under the care of his wife. Doctors diagnosed his case as myelitis. Later, Choe Ung Sok, a doctor of medicine, examined the patient\and diagnosed the case again as spinal tuberculosis. He received treatment in Seoul University Hospital.

I sent the head of the Secretariat of the Provisional People’s Committee of North Korea to Seoul to bring Pak Tal to Pyongyang.

In former days, Pak Tal was a virile man as hard\and strong as a birch tree, who could cover scores of miles overnight. However, when he appeared before me on another’s back that day, he was a crippled man of a miserable figure, who retained no trace of his younger days; the torture had caused paralysis in the lower half of his body\and reduced him to mere skeleton. As he had lost all his flesh, I felt as if I could lift his small body in one hand.

However, Pak Tal hugged me tightly\and shed a shower of tears. He said that he had nothing to regret as he had seen me while still alive. The doctors, who examined him, pronounced the diagnosis like a death sentence. No doctor said that there was any possibility to save him. When he came out of prison, he was already shadowed by death.

I provided him with a residence next door to mine end made detailed efforts to revive him. I made sure that all famous medicines were obtained for him\and that famous doctors were exclusively engaged in curing him. When I was going to\and coming rom the office, I frequently inquired after the patient.

One day I heard that there was a milch cow in Usanjang, Nampho\and instructed an official to fetch it to provide Pak Tal with milk. After a war of three years, I had a building in Juul recreation centre named “Pak Tal house” exclusively for his medical care. While he recuperated in Juul, his favourite vegetables were sent by air rom Pyongyang.

“I must recover as soon as possible to help the General....”


He always made such comments, worrying about me. He made strenuous efforts to recover rom his bad state, but his condition went rom bad to worse, despite all the devoted care of the medical workers.

But I marvelled that he always thought about how to help the Party\and the revolution, although he was in such a bad condition that he could not move his body.


I remember in 1949, when he was recuperating in Usanjang recreation centre, how he found that the apples in\orchards in the surrounding country had been damaged by harmful insects, because they were not enveloped. Pak Tal motivated the workers of the recreation centre\and the deputies to the Supreme People’s Assembly rom south Korea staying there to make apple envelopes. He himself made them in bed, with a piece of plank on his chest.

Another thing happened, when he was receiving medical treatment in Juul after war.

Pak Tal visited a nearby village on his wheel-chair, which I had made specially for him,\and found many dead ears of rice in the field; the field was not planted with the variety of rice recommended by the Party. He put some of the dead ears of rice in an envelope\and sent it to us, reporting that the Party’s agricultural policy was not being carried out precisely.

At a meeting I criticized local officials, asking why they were ignorant of reality, when Pak Tal, even a bedridden cripple, was torn at their failure to carry out Party policy properly\and reported the fact to the Party Central Committee. Afterwards, the chairman of the North Hamgyong Provincial Party Committee called on him to criticize himself, I was told.

Aware that he would never recover\and would not live long, he began to write in his bed for the education of the younger generation.


As soon as I learned of his determination I called on him\and beseeched him not to overdo things.

Pak Tal said, grasping my hands tightly:


“I have lived so long, thanks to you, General. Only when I help the revolution, even a little, can I live long with an easy mind. I was arrested by the Japanese police, without carrying out my duty as a member of the Homeland Party Working Committee\and the head of the KNLU, so, as a useless man, I am living at the state’s expense. But I want to do something, out of a desire to fulfil the revolutionary duty you assigned me in bygone days. Please, don’t dissuade me.”


And he continued:


“Ostrovsky went blind, but wrote a novel for the revolution. Why should I not write at least, when I have my bright eyes. Naturally, I cannot produce a masterpiece because I am not good at writing.”

With the help of his faithful wife, Hyon Kum Son, who served as his hands\and feet\and his nurse through her life,\and the medical workers, Pak Tal began to write reminiscences The Fatherland Is More Valuable Than My Life\and the autobiographical novel The Dawn, which describes the struggle of the communists in Kapsan area, during the anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle. His writings, whose every word was smeared with blood, touched the people’s hearts, as it reflected his ardent loyalty to the revolution, as indicated in his books.


He received written impressions on his books\and letters of thanks rom a lot of readers. Encouraged by the letters rom readers that his books became their companion in life, Pak Tal wrote one article after another.

One day he measured his bed, examining it rom various angles,\and showed his wife a piece of paper,\where figures were written.

He said that if a small desk was made for him, he would put it across the bed\and use it to write.

A few days later a carpenter made it with all his care\and sent it to him.

Feeling the legs of the desk, Pak Tal said to his wife.


“It’s a nice desk. Darling, take good care of it. I will write using it after some relaxation.”

However, Pak Tal never used it. The heart of the man, which was throbbing with his unfailingly loyalty to the Party\and revolution, the fatherland\and people, ceased beating. Hearing of his death, the whole country mourned.

We held a meeting of the Presidium of the Party Central Committee in Pak Tal’s house, an unprecedented event,\and decided to accord him a state funeral.


As the hearse left his home, I was among the funeral procession. I wanted to see him off even at this moment, because I had always regretted that I could not accompany him far, seeing him off, when he left me on Mt. Paektu. I shed tears so much that my handkerchief was wet through. I lost my appetite, as I had done when Kim Chaek17 died. If I had seen him even once walking on his own feet in the liberated homeland, I would not have felt so grief-stricken.


Afterwards, we made sure that the house in Unhung-ri, Pochon County,\where Pak Tal lived before liberation, was restored to its\original state\and that his bust was erected in front of the house. I think that this was the first bronze statue to be erected in our country in honour of a revolutionary.

Pak Tal was a fighter, who had fought indomitably for the revolution to the last moment of his life although he had lost his wings in the fight against the enemy.


Pak Tal was an honourable representative of the revolutionaries in the homeland, who was the first to link the revolution in the homeland with the anti-Japanese armed struggle, after the KPRA advanced to Mt. Paektu; he was our plenipotentiary in the homeland, who did more work than anyone else\and experienced many hardships for us.

Thanks to the efforts of such fighters as Pak Tal, we were able to found the Party\and build a prosperous sovereign state within a short span of time in such a complicated situation after liberation.




 Related articles

[Reminiscences]Chapter 12.To Hasten theLiberation of the Country 5. The Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland 

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  1. We Struck Commander Wang\and Won Over Wan Shun

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  2. In the Dear Walled Town

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  3. Premiere of The Sea of Blood

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  4. The Women’s Company

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  5. The Secret Camp on Mt. Paektu

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  6. Patriotic Landowner Kim Jong Bu

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  1. West Jiandao

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  2. The Sound of the Watermill

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  3. Ri Je Sun

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  4. With the Comrades-in-Arms in Southern Manchuria

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  5. Samil Wolgan



 

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