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[Reminiscences]Chapter 19 2. The Weasel Hunter

  

   

 


 

2. The Weasel Hunter  

 

 While we were carrying out military\and political training at the Matanggou Secret Camp, the enemy made every attempt to trace the\whereabouts of the Headquarters of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. Sensing, though belatedly, that the main force of the revolutionary army had left the Mt. Paektu area for Mengjiang, the intelligence services of the Japanese imperialists hatched all sorts of plots to destroy the leadership of the Korean revolution.


Here is a lesson we learned at that time.


On returning rom his small-unit action one day, Kim Ju Hyon said he had met an old man who had once been involved in the Independence Army4\and was now earning his living hunting weasels in Mengjiang. He added that he had talked to the old fellow to turn him round\and had found him to be a good man.


I took an interest in this old weasel hunter. His Independence-Army background attracted my attention before all else. It was just after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, a time when weak-kneed people were generally abandoning the revolutionary cause\and hiding in their quiet parlours\or in back streets, scared at the news that the Japanese had occupied Beijing\and Shanghai while advancing into the Chinese mainland. Craving for the sight of even a single patriot, we used to shake hands in delight with anyone who said he’d had anything to do with the independence movement in the past.


Kim Ju Hyon’s meeting the old man rom the Independence Army gave me a particular hope of finding out the\whereabouts of Sim Ryong Jun with the old man’s help. Sim Ryong Jun had been an important figure in Chamui-bu when the three\organizations of the Independence Army–Jongui-bu, Sinmin-bu\and Chamui-bu–were scrambling for power in Manchuria. In his

 

Chamui-bu days he worked in Huinan, Huadian, Mengjiang\and in the surrounding areas,\and after the merger of the three\organizations into Kukmin-bu it was rumoured that he was living somewhere in Mengjiang.


I knew Sim Ryong Jun because he had been a close acquaintance of my father’s. In my middle school days I often saw him at the Fuxingtai Rice Mill in Shangyi Street, Jilin,\and at the Sanfeng Inn in the same city. In those days the independence campaigners\and leaders of the Independence Army sought the unification of the three\organizations, with the aim of rallying the forces of different parties\and factions\and various sections of the population behind them by ending the disorderly existence of such disparate groupings as three-man parties, five-man factions, eight leagues\and nine associations. Jilin was their central venue. Sim Ryong Jun had represented Chamui-bu at the meeting to unify the three\organizations.


I told Kim Ju Hyon to find out more about the weasel hunter\and to ask the hunter if he knew Sim Ryong Jun,\and if so,\where Sim was living.


Kim Ju Hyon left the secret camp to meet the hunter. On his return he said that the old man still preserved his patriotic frame of mind even though he had left the independence movement,\and that he knew\where Sim Ryong Jun was living\and how he was getting along.


According to the hunter, after Sim’s retirement rom the Independence Army he had married\and was living in Mengjiang. The hunter assured that Sim was still patriotic\and had not changed his mind.


Hearing Kim Ju Hyon’s report, I thought that if Sim, though old, still remained true to the cause he had taken up, I might be able to establish a link with him\and extend the ARF\organization to Mengjiang. I believed that in spite of the difference of his principles\and doctrines rom ours, he would certainly join us in the united front because he was still a patriot.


There was another reason we regarded Sim as important\and tried hard to get in touch with him.


Seeing that the Japanese army was sinking ever-deeper into the mire of the Sino-Japanese War, we strengthened the common front with the Chinese anti-Japanese forces on the one hand,\and on the other made unremitting efforts to form a united front with the anti-Japanese forces connected with the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai. The idea of joining hands with the anti-Japanese forces, which had ties with the provisional government, required people capable of linking us with the provisional government. Sim Ryong Jun was the right man for this task.


Sim had been a part of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai in that Chamui-bu, to which he belonged, was under the direct control of the provisional government in the capacity of its Manchurian Army Headquarters. Many of the cadres of Chamui-bu were appointed directly by the provisional government.


The great leader said that the people who had gone to China proper after their service with Sim Ryong Jun in the Independence Army would be connected with the provisional government one way\or the other\and would have shared feelings with the Kuomintang of China.


At that time Wang De-lin’s special envoy was already staying with our unit. We had given him the job of Guard-Company instructor, although the job was not crucial to the company.


My men used to address him as Instructor Li. He was good at Chinese chess, so I often played with him.


After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, Wang De-lin, as com-mander of the Detached 2nd Route Army under the Revolutionary Military Committee, was linked directly with Jiang Jie-shi, who had secret contacts with the provisional government. In these circumstances, linking up with Wang De-lin meant a full possibility of our opening a route to cooperation with the provisional government. The arrival of Wang De-lin’s special envoy rom China proper had been an unexpected stroke of fortune for us.


According to Instructor Li, Wang De-lin, who was close to 60, was still fighting against the Japanese on the front lines. Chen Han-zhang, too, told me how Wang De-lin had been doing.


Chen Han-zhang said that he had met Wang De-lin when he went to Tianjin on Wu Yi-cheng’s\orders as his subordinate in the National Salvation Army. At that time Wang De-lin told Chen Han-zhang that he had left Northeast China for China proper in\order to be able to fight against the Japanese on a larger scale with the help of Jiang Jie-shi\and Zhang Xue-liang. At that time Chen Han-zhang had probably informed Wang De-lin in detail of the armed struggle of the Korean communists.


In\order to establish contact with Sim Ryong Jun it was necessary to test the weasel hunter further. We gave him several assignments\and he carried out each of them in good faith. Through these tests we judged that the old man was reliable.


We now proceeded to work with Sim Ryong Jun. We began with sending a letter rom me, the Ten-Point Programme\and the Inaugural Declaration of the ARF to him through the hunter. On return rom the errand to Sim, the hunter said that Sim had looked strangely absent-minded after reading my letter. When asked if there wasn’t any other reaction, the hunter answered that Sim had said he would reply very soon.


Having received this report rom Kim Ju Hyon, I could not help wondering about Sim Ryong Jun. His absent-minded attitude to my letter fell a little short of my expectations. I had expected rom him a strong response to the letter, even though he might not be able to pay a personal visit to the secret camp. It seemed that he had been a little too cool towards my letter. He might have been embarrassed by our appeal for him to come back to the anti-Japanese front, being a man who had buried himself in family life after fighting, arms in hand, for the restoration of national sovereignty. The appeal meant his renewed commitment to the independence movement,\and in this context it could be regarded as natural that a man who had abandoned his cause should think matters through when confronted with our proposal.


A man who had given up the revolutionary cause half way might hesitate in making his decision to resume the abandoned cause. I thought that he must have some reason such as this for delaying his reply to the letter.


It was beyond our understanding, however, that he had expressed no opinion on the Ten-Point Programme\and Inaugural Declaration of the ARF.


Anyway, there was no other choice but to wait for his reply. His answer would give us an idea of his present mental state\and what measures we should take of it.


A few days later a small unit that had been to Mengjiang brought Sim’s reply via the weasel hunter. He began his letter with a brief greeting of consolation for our hardships in the mountains,\and then went on to say that he was relieved to know that I, Kim Hyong Jik’s son, was fighting for the country\and nation in command of a large army. He also said that our line of armed struggle against the Japanese was absolutely just. Confessing that he felt remorse for his abandonment of the independence movement, he concluded that, encouraged by my letter, he had decided to resume the independence movement\and was expecting much help rom us.


How glad I was to get this reply! In age, Sim Ryong Jun belonged to my father’s generation,\and by 1937 many of his contemporaries were dead, had fled to foreign lands\or were in gaol. Some of them had retired rom the fighting ranks to become lumbermen, peasants\or shopkeepers. I knew many of the renowned independence fighters, but they had already disappeared rom Jilin by the end of the 1920s\and the beginning of the 1930s. A considerable number of them had moved the theatre of their activities to China proper. The Reverend Son Jong Do was probably the last acquaintance of my father’s I met in Jilin before I started off on my armed struggle.


After I moved to Jiandao to carry out this struggle, I never again saw any of the leaders of the three\organizations whom I had often met in my days in Fusong\and Jilin. But\wherever I was, I never forgot them. Whenever I recollected my dead father, I saw in my mind’s eye the faces of the patriots who used to talk with him with such great anxiety about life\and the suffering nation. There was no knowing, however,\where all these patriots were now.


How delighted I was at that moment to have discovered Sim Ryong Jun in Mengjiang, to have got in touch with him\and to have even received a letter rom him telling me of his decision to make a fresh start!


Around that time we were laying down the policy of extending the\organizational network of the ARF over many areas\and discussing in earnest how we should carry it out. Some of our discussions were published in the army paper.


Extending the ARF\organization to the Mengjiang area meant increasing the strength\and influence of the Mt. Paektu Base over the area,\and on the basis of this, strengthening our revolutionary force in many directions.


Through the weasel hunter we sent some money to Sim Ryong Jun to buy us newspapers such as Dong-A Ilbo\and Joson Ilbo\and some periodicals. Sim bought all the newspapers\and magazines we had asked\and sent them to us in a few days.


Letters, money\and articles were exchanged between Sim\and us on a number of occasions.


Having worked with Sim for several months in this manner, we thought of drawing him into the underground\organizational activity as soon as possible. The Party committee at Headquarters held a meeting\and discussed working with Sim Ryong Jun in a bigger way\and forming ARF\and other revolutionary\organizations widely in the Mengjiang area with his help.


At the meeting I suggested that we might entrust him with a task–tell him to form an\organization of the ARF in Mengjiang\or ask him to obtain drugs needed for the treatment of the wounded–and that these would not only be the final tests for him, but at the same time also give him a good opportunity to restore his political integrity. The meeting agreed to my proposal.


At the meeting we also discussed whom to send as the political operative to work in the capacity of Sim’s adviser. Although he had held an important post at Chamui-bu, Sim had no experience in building\organizations, except, perhaps, for his participation in the merger of the three\organizations. With only this experience he would be unable to cope with the task of building clandestine\organizations. We decided to send along an able political worker who would help him behind the scenes. Comrade Kim Il, an experienced political worker, was chosen as the right man.


Sim Ryong Jun, too, requested a man to help him. Addressing me as General Kim, he said he intended to form an ARF\organization immediately in compliance with my request, but that he did not know how to do it. So he also requested an interview with me.

 

I considered his two requests in a favourable light.


However, all the staff of Headquarters objected to the idea of my paying a visit to Mengjiang. They said it would be too risky. Nevertheless, it was improper to ask a man twice my age to walk all the way to the secret camp.


To hold the interview with Sim Ryong Jun it was necessary to\select a place that was neither in the town of Mengjiang nor in the secret camp. We sent out a detachment on a mission to\select an appropriate place. I intended to send Kim Il to the rendezvous for a talk with Sim once the choice for a place had been made.


Having planned the operation up to this point, I\ordered Kim Ju Hyon’s small unit to bring the weasel hunter over to the secret camp.


Anyone coming to the secret camp of Headquarters rom the Toudao-Songhua River had to pass through many places. Walking along the frozen river, then climbing up a crag, he had to pass through the secret camps of the 7th Regiment, 8th Regiment\and the Guard Company in the\order named before he finally got to Headquarters. This was the only route for anyone coming to Headquarters. Keeping to this route was a strict discipline established by all at Headquarters for the sake of secrecy.


Soldiers moving to\and rom the secret camp found it best to walk on the ice along the river valley because this way they left no footprints. Even if footprints were made, there was no need to worry about them, for the wind would sweep the snow off the icy surface of the river. When there was no wind, the men just scuffed the snow with their feet\and then walked on the packed snow. This did not leave any traces of walking. It was one way of winter marching we had discovered. We applied this method when moving into the Matanggou Secret Camp\and the Baishitan Secret Camp.


I seem to recall that we moved to Matanggou rom Qingjiangdianzi, Mengjiang County, at the time of the first snowfall that winter. When we came near the crag not far rom the secret camp, we could see water gushing up rom the middle of the thick icy surface of the river. Some of my men thought there might be a hot spring in the middle of the Toudao-Songhua River.


The crag at the gateway to Matanggou was very steep, almost per-pendicular. All my unit had great difficulty in climbing it. The men toiled up inch by inch, sweating\and gripping at bent tree branches\and dry grass roots.


It was really strange to see the gushing spring of water rom the ice surface of the river on a wintry day so cold that our eyelashes grew white with frost. The Toudao-Songhua is a truly strange river.


The old weasel hunter, too, came to Matanggou by this secret route. Passing by the guard post of the 7th Regiment’s secret camp under the escort of the small unit, the hunter happened to hear one of the sentries make the following joking comment: “These days only spies come to the secret camp under escort. This old man looks really suspicious. If he’s a spy, I’ll have to shoot him.” The hunter was terrified by the remark.


That winter no civilians, except for criminals needing to be examined\and disposed of, were admitted to the secret camp. If there was anyone we needed to deal with, we ourselves went out to meet him. Hence the sentries, who were accustomed to this practice, took the hunter for a spy. The present sentry had uttered the joke without hesitation because he had mistaken the old man for a Chinese, for he was dressed as a Chinese. I don’t know why he didn’t wear Korean clothes. This led the sentry to see the hunter as a Chinese\and say such a thing in his hearing.


Now then: if the weasel hunter had been innocent, the joke would have had no effect on him. But the old man was scared because he thought the guerrillas were aware of his true identity. When we were preparing for the interview with Sim Ryong Jun, the old hunter had been given a mission by the Japanese under threat\and intimidation to harm our Headquarters. When he came to the secret camp, escorted by the small unit, he was carrying with him a weapon to kill me. Naturally he felt ill at ease after hearing the joke.


When the hunter arrived, I was playing chess with Wang De-lin’s special envoy.


Leaving the chess game, I met him\and found his expression somehow clouded\and tense.


As he confessed later, the remark by the sentry had given him the feeling that General Kim Il Sung, who had been known to anticipate events three months ahead, probably knew their plot,\and that his being dragged to such a place meant that he was as good as dead. It was natural that he, who had been inveigled into me plot against his will, felt uneasy at the words of the sentry.


Seeing that the old man did not look well, we sympathized with him. What hardships he must have been suffering, we thought, to make a living by hunting weasels in the deep mountains of Mengjiang, having lost his country to the Japanese. We therefore treated him with warm hospitality. While feeding my own men with boiled sorghum, I saw to it that he was given panicum (glutinous millet–Tr.). He was taken to look around the unit\and to see how amusing get-togethers, public lectures\and seminars were being given. I intended, after such initiation\and enlightenment, to send him to the place\where Kim Il\and Sim Ryong Jun were to meet.


We tried to influence the hunter as much as possible in various ways, but our efforts did not have much effect on him. According to the guardsmen he would sigh, unable to eat the dish of millet,\and only asked when he was going to be sent out.


We did not send the hunter\and Kim Il to the venue of the talk immediately for the sole reason that we knew Matanggou\and its vicinity had been surrounded by the enemy. We had posted watch teams on hills\and in trees to observe happenings closely through field glasses. The watch teams had instantly detected smoke coiling up rom the nearby mountains\and enemy groups assembled in different places. We ourselves refrained rom raising smoke during daylight, but made sure that our meals were cooked at night by making small fires.


One day I called the old man to my Headquarters to talk to him. When we were talking, a detachment returned rom their operation\and came to me to report the result. The small-unit leader gave a brief account of their actions\and then said that on their way back they had captured two spies. He said he had released one after giving him some good advice because the spy confessed honestly,\and disposed of the other because he had owned up to nothing about his mission\and resisted in spite of undeniable evidence.


After hearing out the report of the small-unit leader, I commented that he had acted correctly in both cases.


The moment I finished speaking, the old man suddenly kowtowed\and pleaded, “General, please forgive me for my crimes!” Not knowing what this was all about, the small-unit leader\and I just looked at the old man. I surmised there must be some reason for his plead, but could not see what it was.

I told the old man to explain himself without making a fuss.


Apparently he was encouraged by my mild tone, for he told us to wait a minute\and went out, then came back with a hatchet he had hidden under a birch tree. At this point he confessed to having committed two crimes. He said his first crime was that he had been given a mission by the Japanese to harm Headquarters\and that he had hidden the hatchet instead of repenting\and confessing while being accorded the hospitality of a distinguished guest at the secret camp. The second crime, he said, was that although he was aware of Sim Ryong Jun’s betrayal, he had not informed us of the fact.


The news of Sim’s treachery left me aghast. That the weasel hunter had been given a mission by the Japanese was not very surprising. It was nothing new,\and we had experienced similar cases when we were at the Mt. Paektu Secret Camp. But the betrayal of Sim Ryong Jun, once a bigwig of Chamui-bu, in becoming a stooge of the Japanese imperialists was deplorable.


In the years of the three\organizations, Sim had enjoyed a great reputation\and the people had expected much rom him. He had made a lot of touching speeches to stir up the people against the Japanese. What a shame for such a man to have degenerated into a Japanese dog! I asked the hunter how he found out that Sim was a turncoat.


He said he had heard Sim hatching the plot with the Japanese. I asked him what their scheme was,\and he answered that they had been conspiring on how to lure me out of my Headquarters. Their plan was to detain the representative of the guerrilla army when he came to meet Sim, force him to write to his Headquarters for a rendezvous with the Commander,\and to surround\and capture the Commander when he appeared at the agreed place.


According to the hunter’s confession, all the letters Sim had sent me were written after discussion with a Japanese in a back parlour. Whenever we had given him an assignment, he met the Japanese to inform him of the content of the message. He then acted according to the instructions of the Japanese.


The hunter also said that after his surrender to the Japanese, Sim had gone to Changchun several times to bring the enemy’s “punitive” force.


It was fortunate that the weasel hunter had made his confession before it was too late. Had he not confessed, Kim Il\and I\and every one of us would have been killed.


Trusting people sometimes accompanies such hair-raising crises. However, I managed to avoid disaster,\and this, too, was because of my trust in people, if I may say so. Because I had welcomed the old man with an open heart\and shown him various aspects of the routine of our unit without hiding anything rom him, his stained heart regained the purity of his human conscience. Human psychology is, indeed, strange.


Comrade Kim Jong Il said, “Trust produces loyalty, mistrust leads to betrayal.” That is a golden saying.


Distrust earns you nothing, while trust will earn you a great deal.


This does not mean, however, that you should give your heart to simply anyone without distinguishing between friend\and foe. You should trust people, but you must also test them through practice.


My comrades said that the old man should not be forgiven in spite of all the information he had given us, but I forgave him all the same. Why should we not bestow leniency on a person who honestly repents of his\or her guilt? The record of such an honest man must not be questioned.


Sim’s case taught me the serious lesson that entertaining illusions about people is a taboo. We must reject false images of others, particularly at times when the revolution is undergoing a crisis. Confidence in people\and love for them are good, but approaching people with illusions is not good. Ideology is not immutable. A man’s mind today may differ rom what it was yesterday\and rom what it will be tomorrow. Sim Ryong Jun’s case proves this.


Depending on one’s interests, one may give an impetus to the revolution\or stand in its way. The ideology of a man who fights by placing the interests of his fellow people above everything else will remain as immutable as a diamond,\whereas a man who seeks only personal safety\and comfort, disregarding the interests of the revolution\and his fellows, will soon degenerate ideologically. It is the people who have been poisoned with individualism\and selfishness that betray the revolution most easily in times of difficulty.


Through the example of Sim Ryong Jun I clearly realized what an abyss of treachery a man might fall into if he forgets his\original self\and hems himself in behind a wall of self-protection. He who lives only for himself unhesitatingly sells out his friends, his comrades, his neighbours, his nation\and his country.

 


 Related articles

[Reminiscences]Chapter 18. In the Flames of the Sino-Japanese War 6. My Experience of the “Hyesan Incident”

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  1. The Matanggou Secret Camp



      

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