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북녘 | [Reminiscences]Chapter 23 8. Fighters rom Northern Manchuria

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 23 8. Fighters rom Northern Manchuria

 

      


 

8. Fighters rom Northern Manchuria 

 

 One\or two days after our arrival in Khabarovsk, An Kil told me that Choe Yong Gon was not far away. He added that Choe had been eager to meet me,\and that when he learned of my arrival he would come at a run. I, too, was eager to see Choe Yong Gon. Like Kim Chaek, Kang Kon, Ho Hyong Sik\and Pak Kil Song, he was a comrade-in-arms whom I had wanted to meet for a long time.


The primary aim of the second expedition to northern Manchuria we\organized when we were active in the Jiandao area was to meet Kim Chaek, Choe Yong Gon\and other Korean comrades-in-arms there\and help their struggle. To our regret, however, this aim was not fulfilled at that time owing to unavoidable circumstances.


I heard that Choe Yong Gon sent liaison men to us four times. One of them is said to have gone as far as Dunhua before turning back.


It was the common desire of all the Korean communists who were active in various areas of eastern, southern\and northern Manchuria to collaborate, cooperate\and achieve solidarity among themselves.


Choe Yong Gon was one of the outstanding people who had played a leading role in the building of the Anti-Japanese Allied Army in northern Manchuria, especially the formation of the 4th\and 7th Corps. Before he came to the Far East region, Choe Yong Gon had been active as chief of staff of a corps.


Pak Hun, a graduate of the Huangpu Military Academy in southern China, was the first to tell me about Choe Yong Gon. This happened when we were stepping up training following the founding of the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army in Antu. Our greatest headache in those days was a shortage of military instructors. Although we had\organized the guerrilla army, we had only one military expert capable of giving training to it. Whenever Cha Kwang Su, Pak Hun\and I gathered, we discussed\where we could get military experts rom. So Choe Yong Gon naturally cropped up in our talks.


Pak Hun said to me: “After the decease of Sun Yat-sen, the period of collaboration between the Kuomintang\and the CPC came to an end. As a consequence, all the young Koreans who had been at the Huangpu Military Academy dispersed. Choe Chu Hae is one of them\and is worth contacting. He had been a training instructor at the academy. If there were one\or two people like him, they would be of great help to us. I wonder\where he is\and what he is doing now.”


Later, I found that Choe Chu Hae was one of Choe Yong Gon’s aliases; others were Kim Ji Gang\and Choe Sok Chon.


On hearing that Choe Yong Gon was in Khabarovsk, I suggested that we should go to see him first instead of waiting for him to come to us.


When I arrived at his quarters following An Kil, Choe Yong Gon jumped to his feet\and gazed at me for a good while. He was a typical military officer, with square shoulders.


“I failed to meet you, Commander Kim, in Manchuria, but I see you here in Russia,” said he by way of greeting, grasping my hand. His eyes were full of tears. He said he had heard that I would arrive in Khabarovsk soon, but he did not know I was already there. Then he repeatedly expressed his regret at receiving me at his quarters instead of himself coming to see me.


“It has been my lifelong desire to fight alongside you, Commander Kim. I am extremely glad to meet you like this. Let’s not part again.”


Choe Yong Gon had gone through many twists\and turns since he embarked upon the revolutionary road. He said that, as we had, he had joined the revolution as a member of a student movement.


When Choe was attending middle school, he led a strike of students against the American headmaster. The headmaster fled, but the Japanese authorities caused Choe\and all the other students who had\organized\and led the struggle to be expelled rom the school.

 

Later, Choe took part in the March First Popular Uprising\and was involved in the work of issuing anti-Japanese publications. He was imprisoned for some time because of this.

Following this, he went to Seoul\and stayed there for some time. There, by chance, he formed a close friendship with a political operative of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai. This man induced him to go with him to Shanghai, but there Choe found himelf disappointed by the state of affairs at the provisional government. Later he was involved in the communist movement\and gained some military experience in the course of the struggle. Nevertheless, instead of helping to recover his nation’s sovereignty, which he had intended to do when leaving the homeland, he got more\and more involved in the Chinese revolution. In those days the young Koreans active in China proper pinned great hopes on the Chinese revolution.


Recollecting those days, he said: “Although I took pride in making revolution for another country, I somehow could not get rid of the sad feeling of being pushed to the sidelines. Sometimes I tried to rationalize my actions by convincing myself that the Chinese revolution meant the Korean revolution,\and vice versa. Nevertheless, I could not help feeling misgivings that I was running away rom the situation in the homeland.”


When Sun Yat-sen tried to overthrow the Beijing warlord government\and establish a people’s revolutionary government through the Kuomintang-Communist Cooperation, advocating alliance with the Soviet\union\and with the communists,\and assistance to the workers\and peasants, Choe Yong Gon took an active part in that struggle. He said that he thought that a favourable situation for winning Korea’s independence would be created if the people’s revolutionary forces succeeded in their expedition to the north\and seized Northeast China.


However, things did not turn out as he had expected. After Sun Yat-sen’s death, Jiang Jie-shi undermined the Kuomintang-Communist Cooperation,\and massacred communists. He did not take nationalities into consideration in suppressing communists,\and during this massacre a large number of Koreans were killed in China proper.


At this time, Choe Yong Gon had many close shaves. He fled China proper to northern Manchuria to escape the whirlwind of the bloody massacre. Choe regretted having gone straight to northern Manchuria instead of going to Jiandao at that time\and said it was because he had lost his bearings.


“If I had gone to Jiandao, I would have met you, Commander Kim, earlier\and have been some help to the Korean revolution. I will always regret it.”


I said to him: “I also regret very much my failure to join hands with military experts like you, Choe Yong Gon, earlier. If people like Kim Chaek\and you had been in eastern Manchuria, we would have done more work for the Korean revolution. But let bygones be bygones. It is because the hard core like you kindled the flames of the anti-Japanese struggle in northern Manchuria that you were able to revolutionize the Koreans residing there\and develop the movement to form the anti-Japanese allied army. The revolutionization of the masses is the fundamental preparation for the Korean revolution. This will also be favourable for the Chinese revolution. Let us not consider the Korean revolution\and the Chinese revolution in isolation. As long as we make revolution on Chinese territory, we cannot but attach importance to the joint struggle with the Chinese communists\and to the common front with the Chinese anti-Japanese forces. What you have so far done in northern Manchuria is for the good of China’s liberation as well as for the sake of Korea’s liberation.”


Choe Yong Gon said that what had troubled him most until then was loneliness. To my question as to why he had felt lonely, he replied that this was because the enemy was too strong\and the future of the revolution seemed too dim. On top of that, as he had lived among Chinese, it was natural that he should have felt lonely. He said that, when he had felt extremely lonely, he had thought of the Korean communists fighting on Mt. Paektu.


Hearing him, I could understand why he had sent his messengers to me four times.


Choe Yong Gon said he had felt great emotion when he was informed of the Ten-Point Programme of the ARF. He said that, having read the programme, he had thought he should go to Mt. Paektu\and fight with us if he were to make a greater contribution to the Korean revolution. He added that, if this was impossible, he had made a resolve to strengthen ties with our unit at least.


I told him that I had\organized the second expedition to northern Manchuria in 1935 in\order to meet our Korean comrades-in-arms in northern Manchuria.

That day Choe Yong Gon\and I also talked about how we busied ourselves\organizing armed ranks in eastern\and northern Manchuria at the beginning of the 1930s.


Choe Yong Gon said that, though he had set up a training centre\and\organized armed ranks among peasants in northern Manchuria, he had been anxious because the work of increasing the strength of the force was not proceeding as he had intended. Saying that he had heard a long time before that I insisted upon all-people resistance, he asked me to tell him how I intended to mobilize all the people in resistance.


I said to him: “The actual situation of our country is that the majority of the Korean people eagerly desire a revival rom their dire straits. If we arm them, we will have a large army amounting to hundreds of thousands. How do we intend to arm them? We intend to form, in various parts of the country, paramilitary\organizations that will carry out armed activities while working. Workers’ units will be\organized in industrial districts, peasants’ units in rural areas\and students’ units in towns\and cities. Paramilitary corps\and workers’ shock brigades were already formed\and had begun their activities in the northern areas of Korea in the latter half of the 1930s. We intend to form such\organizations in all parts of the country in future. Who will form them? Hard cores that were trained in the anti-Japanese armed struggle will be dispatched to various regions.”


I went on, “This is not something which will be realized in the distant future. The general trend of the world is now turning towards the ruin of Japanese imperialism. Although Japan is now carrying on a war against China alone, she may provoke a war on a larger scale sooner\or later. Japan’s present situation on this one front alone is hopeless. Therefore, if she sparks another war, it will bring about her ruin. The moment of our final showdown will assuredly come in a few years. When that moment comes, we should launch a fight to the death through all-people resistance by rousing all the resistance\organizations across the country in cooperation with an all-out offensive of the KPRA, the main force of the Korean revolution. This is my plan for the operations for the liberation of the country\and my line of winning independence by our own efforts.”


Having listened to me, Choe Yong Gon said that he realized that his view on the people was wrong. He confessed, “Until now, I did not regard the people in the homeland as the people who would carry out the operations to liberate the country, considering them merely as people to be rescued. Only pioneers, not everybody, make revolution. It is true that the workers\and peasants are the motive force of the revolution. However, how can all of them make revolution? The pioneers should present the people with a liberated country, shedding their blood. This was my view of the masses up until now. Hence, I attached more importance to military affairs than to political work for the revolutionization of the masses.”


As our talk continued, Choe Yong Gon who had looked somber at first, cracked a smile rom time to time.


Coming to Khabarovsk, Choe Yong Gon said, he had been interested only in military cooperation with the Soviet\union,\and had not given particular thought to arming the entire people of Korea\or launching operations to liberate the country. He added that now that he had met me the way he should take was quite clear.


“Commander Kim, to be candid, I have been desirous of fighting on Mt. Paektu. I believe I can discharge my duty as a Korean only when I go there. I don’t care what my rank will be there, that of a private\or anything else. I only wish to fight under you on Mt. Paektu\and be buried there,” said Choe Yong Gon tearfully.


“Now that we Korean revolutionaries, who were fighting scattered all over southern, eastern\and northern Manchuria, have gathered in one place, let us not disperse any more, but fight for Korea with our hands joined more firmly.” This is what I said on leaving Choe Yong Gon’s quarters.

I got everlasting impressions rom my meeting with Choe Yong Gon. What he said to me in tears expressed his long-cherished desire–to make a direct contribution to the revolution in his own country even when he shared lodgings with the people of another country. What he said also expressed his keen desire to have one central figure\and make the revolution by our own efforts, uniting around him.


This wish\and desire were not confined to Choe Yong Gon. They were common to all the Korean communists in southern, eastern\and northern Manchuria.


The fact that Choe Yong Gon so earnestly desired to fight on Mt. Paektu was the expression of his trust in\and expectation rom me, as well as the manifestation of his patriotism to make the Korean revolution\and die for Korea.


The greater part of Choe Yong Gon’s desire was met spontaneously by the\organization of the IAF in later days. Since his first meeting with me in Khabarovsk, he had been with us. Finally, his wish to fight together with me on Mt. Paektu was met in this way.


Kang Kon was also among my comrades-in-arms rom northern Manchuria whom I met in the Far East region.


Prior to the formation of the IAF, I met Kang Kon during my stay in Camp North. He was so delighted to see me that all the military\and political cadres of the 2nd\and 3rd Route Armies present there were surprised. Among the military\and political cadres in northern Manchuria only Zhou Bao-zhong\and some other commanding officers rom the 5th Corps knew the relationship between Kang Kon\and me.


Kang Kon\and I were old acquaintances. When I was in Manchuria I met him once during our first expedition to northern Manchuria\and another time during the second expedition to that place.


He had been active as the political commissar of the 9th Regiment, 3rd Division, 5th Corps since 1938. Judging rom the fact that he had become a regimental political worker soon after his enlistment, I could guess how great was the trust he enjoyed.


After we adopted our policy of small-unit activities at the Xiaohaerbaling conference, the 5th Corps also reorganized its structure. Kang Kon was then appointed political commissar of the Guard Company under the direct control of the General Headquarters of the 2nd Route Army. The head of the Guard Company was Pak Rak Kwon.


Whenever I met the messengers frequenting northern Manchuria, I inquired after Kang Kon,\and each time I was told he was fighting well. He was well-known in the 5th Corps as a promising commander.


He made a name for himself in only two\or three years after his enlistment. This was possible not only because he fought well, but also because he loved the people dearly.


It is said that people were very attached to him, regarding him as a straightforward\and honest man. Whenever he entered a village in command of his unit, the villagers warmly welcomed him, saying that Political Commissar Kang had come. Moreover, they vied with each other in imploring him to admit their children to his unit. The popularity of his unit was so great because it was said that Kang Kon’s men had a strong sense of\organization\and discipline.


Kang Kon displayed his talent\and ability as a military commander to the full. His military talent was displayed more conspicuously when we employed small-unit activities. Kang Kon was particularly good at ambushing\and derailing trains. Once he derailed a train carrying only Japanese officers. During the period of small-unit activities he dealt heavy blows to the enemy by derailing trains\and demolishing railway bridges, roads\and arsenals.


On the day of my reunion with Kang Kon we unburdened our hearts on the bank of the Amur for many hours.


He lived with us rom the time when the IAF were\organized. The house in which Kang Kon, I\and some others lived was called a tori house in those days. The leading commanders of the allied forces lived in this house.


A tori house was a cylindrical building common in Siberia in those days.


In this type of house, rooms were arranged around the corridor.


In later days I talked with Kang Kon on a number of occasions. Flawless in thinking\and practice, he talked in an amusing way. Some people regarded him as a dry\and strict commander, but they said that because they did not know him well. Kang Kon was cool-headed\and lucid, as well as simple\and honest. Yet he was sentimental\and kindhearted, too.


He did not gild his assertions\or views, but frankly talked about what he\ordinarily thought without embellishing anything.


Kang Kon talked a great deal about his native place, Sangju, in North Kyongsang Province. He said he had left Sangju when he was ten years old. Although he had left his native place at such a young age, he still described it vividly\and pined for it.


At that time Kang Kon said several times that Sangju was famous for liquor\and silk. According to him, it was also a big producer of persimmons.


Whenever he talked about the liquor, persimmons\and silk of Sangju as well as about the Raktong River\and Mt. Sokri, his eyes became moist. Although outwardly dry\and cool-headed, he could not control his emotion, like a poet,\and became more talkative than usual once he started talking about his native place. He recollected with sorrow his elder sister, whom he had left with another family as the future wife for their son.


Those who love their native places as ardently as Kang Kon did his, will be enthusiastic in making revolution. One who loves his birthplace warmly will love his country ardently,\and such a man will be enthusiastic about making revolution.


The acquaintance between Kang Kon\and me developed into warm comradely love in the days of the IAF.


What I admired in Kang Kon in particular was his extraordinary military eye\and a high sense of responsibility. He possessed exhaustive military knowledge. Whenever we debated a military operation, he expressed his opinion enthusiastically. His assertions were unique\and had profound meaning.


Kang Kon was good at Chinese\and Russian. He started learning Russian after he came to Camp North. Before long, he was able to converse with Soviet officers\and read the Military Regulations of the Soviet\union published in Russian. Both the Soviet\and Chinese peoples admired his clear head. He invented\and used his own abbreviations for Chinese characters.


Kim Chaek rejoiced over Kang Kon’s development more than anyone else. At one time they were teacher\and student. When he was active in Ningan, Kim Chaek taught at a private school for some time,\and Kang Kon studied there.


“Sin Thae was considered a genius in his private school days. He could already recite The Three Warring Kingdoms15 in those days,” said Kim Chaek. Sin Thae was Kang Kon’s real name.


Although Kim Chaek\and Kang Kon were former teacher\and student, they were like twins so far as their qualities were concerned. In his lifetime Kim Chaek was famous for being straightforward\and honest. Kang Kon also possessed these qualities in equal measure. So far as the principles\and abilities of the two men were concerned, they were similar.


When Kang Kon was Chief of General Staff after liberation, many of his subordinates were older than him\and quite a few of them had longer revolutionary careers than he had. However, all of them were reserved towards him because they knew well that he was a man of strong revolutionary principles.


Kang Kon did not make the least concession to anyone as far as principles were concerned. He did not forgive those who abandoned their principles, even though they might be his close relatives.


Comrade Kim Jong Il stresses to officials the need to learn rom Kang Kon’s loyalty to the Party\and the leader as well as rom his revolutionary principles. He is right. Kang Kon was a talented official worthy of being followed by our successors, as well as an attractive military commander. He was killed in action at a too young age. If he had lived, he would have done a lot more work for the building of the armed forces.


Kang Kon was devoted to the revolution to the last moment of his life. He did not have any rest throughout his life. After Japan’s defeat he could not return to Korea, his homeland, as he was helping the Chinese revolution. He took part in the operations to liberate Northeast China as commander of the Jidong military sub-district.


Kang Kon formed many units with Koreans during the operations to liberate Northeast China. It is said that the number of Koreans who took part in these operations amounted to 250,000. Kang developed stomach trouble owing to overwork. When he worked as chief of Camp No. 2 of the Security Officers Training Centre back home, he had a lot of trouble because of a gastric ulcer. In those days he never ate regular meals,\and I made sure that at banquets he was not plied with strong drinks.


Kang Kon accomplished great exploits in the building of the people’s armed forces. The military achievements of our People’s Army in the first stage of the war, such as the victories in the battles to liberate Seoul\and Taejon, are largely associated with Kang Kon.


After the People’s Army advanced into the area around the Raktong River, Kang Kon reported the situation on the frontline to me. In the middle of his report he said that in a few days he would be able to reach Sangju, his native place,\and meet his elder sister. However, to our regret, he was killed in action not far rom his native place in September 1950.


Kang Kon was a talented official. He was at home both in political\and military affairs. He was 32 years old when he fell in action. Even the Soviet people envied us for having a young Chief of General Staff. It was really a tragedy that Kang Kon died at such a young age.


We awarded the title of Hero of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to Kang Kon. In\order to preserve his achievements for posterity, we named the First Central Military Academy the Kang Kon Military Academy. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic, we had a bronze statue erected to Kang Kon’s memory in the city of Sariwon.


It is really regrettable that we have lost Kang Kon. I frequently think of him even now.


When they were going to the training base in the Far East region, all the anti-Japanese fighters rom eastern Manchuria wanted to meet those Koreans who had fought in northern Manchuria. It is said that those rom northern Manchuria also felt the same.

When I went to Camp North for the first time, all the Korean soldiers rom northern Manchuria came out of their barracks\and welcomed me. The overwhelming majority of them were strangers to me. When I was about to leave Camp North, they were reluctant to let me go. It seems like only yesterday.


Korean fighters rom northern Manchuria treated those rom eastern Manchuria as if they had come rom their native country. There was no difference between northern\and eastern Manchuria in that they both belonged to Manchurian territory. Nevertheless, eastern Manchuria is considerably nearer to Korea than northern Manchuria. Eastern Manchuria was developed by Koreans,\and Koreans pioneered the revolution there. So it was not unreasonable that all of them regarded eastern Manchuria as part of their homeland.


Anti-Japanese fighters rom eastern Manchuria had advanced into the homeland in company with me on several occasions. Therefore, it was natural for people rom northern Manchuria to treat us as people rom their homeland.


When I went to Camp North for the first time, Kim Ryong Hwa was noticeable for his impressive moustache.


Next to him was Choe Yong Jin, a big joker. He also grew his moustache. He stepped forward\and introduced his fellows one after another. He did not stick to formality\and was so light-hearted that I did not feel at all that he was a stranger to me.


When introducing people, he explained the characteristics of each of them briefly. For instance, he described Kang Sang Ho as having a marvellous memory, Kim Ryong Hwa\and Kim Tae Hong as crack shots, Jang Sang Ryong, Kim Ji Myong\and Jon Pong So as being nimble\and diligent, Kim Jung Dong as having a quick eye\and Ryu Ung Sam as an expert farmer. I found out later that his deions were accurate.

 

Kang Sang Ho had a clear head, Kim Ryong Hwa\and Kim Tae Hong were crack shots,\and Jang Sang Ryong, Kim Ji Myong, Jon Pong So, Pak U Sop\and Kim Yang Chun were diligent\and honest people who did any tasks assigned to them immediately, without putting them off. When he was at the training base in the Far East region, Jang Sang Ryong ran errands frequently between Kim Chaek\and me.


Ryu Ung Sam was well-informed about farming. When he was in northern Manchuria, he was in charge of farming in the guerrilla zone. At Camp North, too, he took part in all the affairs of the sideline farm. At one time he worked as chief of the sideline farming department in the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces.


In those days I also met Choe Min Chol\and Ri Jong San. The latter was the youngest of the men in northern Manchuria. When Choe Yong Jin reminded us of how Ri Jong San had fallen down rom his bed at the sound of a shot announcing an emergency call, all of us held our sides, laughing.


Women soldiers who came rom northern Manchuria had an open-hearted character in general. There are many vast plains in northern Manchuria. It seems that if people live in a wide area, their character also becomes open-hearted. They were all adept at riding.


Among the women soldiers rom northern Manchuria, Pak Kyong Suk\and Pak Kyong Ok were the best wireless operators\and Wang Ok Hwan was the best horse rider. Ri Suk Jong was also said to be good at riding. Ho Chang Suk, Jon Sun Hui\and Jang Hi Suk were outstanding members of the sewing unit. Ri Kye Hyang was a crack shot.


Whenever he introduced his colleagues, Choe Yong Jin put in a vainglorious phrase\and in doing so, each time his face would bear a funny expression, provoking a smile. In my days in West Jiandao I had occasionally heard that Choe Yong Jin was a funny man. However, when I met him personally, I found him to be wittier than I had expected.


It was well-known even to the men of the main force that Choe Yong Jin was a famous fighter\and a bold man. He became renowned as a valorous fighter since he displayed courage in the battle to annihilate high-ranking officers of the Japanese “punitive” force\and their men who were on an inspection tour in a motorboat.


Choe Yong Jin was strong in his revolutionary principles. Once, when he was a regimental\or a company commander in northern Manchuria, he visited his father who was serving as a Self-defence Corps member, in\order to obtain provisions for his unit.


His father had\originally been an anti-Japanese independence fighter who fought in the Independence Army. When he came back home following the breakup of the Independence Army, the enemy drafted him into the Self-defence Corps to employ him in disrupting\and alienating Koreans.


When Choe Yong Jin told his father that his unit was undergoing hardships because of a lack of provisions\and asked him to give some food grain, the latter flatly refused, saying there was no grain to give him.

To tell the truth, Choe Yong Jin’s family had several acres of land\and plenty of grain. Though his family was not very rich, it could get along without having to eat gruel for supper. I am not sure whether Choe Yong Jin’s father refused to give grain to show to other members of the Self-defence Corps that he was not in collusion with the guerrilla army.


Hot-tempered Choe Yong Jin was enraged to hear his father’s answer. He said to him: “How can you, Father, who served in the Independence Army, behave like that? You, more than anyone else, should give us assistance, shouldn’t you? The anti-Japanese guerrillas are suffering every hardship in\order to oust the Japanese imperialist robbers\and win back the lost country. Those who do not help the guerrillas shedding blood in the fight for the restoration of the country, are traitors who have no concern for the country\and the nation.”


Probably Choe Yong Jin’s father was greatly shocked by what his son had said. Anyway, he gave his son 15 cartloads of grain. In later days, too, he procured a large amount of grain\and weapons\and sent them to the guerrillas. Although he was a member of the Self-defence Corps, he invariably assisted the guerrilla army without abandoning the patriotism\and fidelity of his bygone days when he had followed the Independence Army with a rifle in his hand.

 

Later, the Japanese killed him.


In the days of the IAF, Choe Yong Jin was a company commander in our contingent. Even the Soviet soldiers admired his company, the 1st Company, because it led others in all respects. He was well-known as an exacting, competitive\and hard-working commander.


After liberation he fought well against spies\and saboteurs to defend Pyongyang. He also worked conscientiously to train the hard cores of the regular armed forces at the Pyongyang Institute\and the Central Security Officers School. When he was Minister of Fisheries, there were bumper harvests of fish. At one time he was a Vice-Premier.


At the training base I held a touching reunion with the fighters whom we had sent to northern Manchuria when we were active in eastern Manchuria. Among them were Choe Kwang, Kim Kyong Sok, Jon Chang Chol, Pak Rak Kwon, Kim Ok Sun\and An Jong Suk.


On seeing me, Choe Kwang burst into tears, saying he had not seen me for such a long time. When he stopped crying, he said, “General, even in northern Manchuria, I always looked towards Mt. Paektu,\where you were. Now I will never go to another unit even if you send me back forcibly.”


Following the formation of the IAF, he became a platoon leader.


I met Choe Kwang for the first time when he was head of the Children’s Bureau. At that time he brought an art troupe of the Children’s Corps to me,\and they gave a performance.


Around the time we left for our first expedition to northern Manchuria, he gave up his work as head of the Children’s Bureau\and joined the young volunteers’ corps. He said that until that time he had thought that when a rifle was fired, a bullet flew out together with the cartridge. As soon as he joined the corps, he became a platoon leader.


I remember how, when a battle at Diaomiaotai began, he stationed his platoon on the hill west of Yaoyinggou to guard me. Later on, he took part in the Battle of Laoheishan. Before he came to the Far East region, he was a platoon leader of the guard unit at the headquarters of Zhou Bao-zhong’s 5th Corps. I was told that Zhou Bao-zhong was very fond of Choe Kwang.

 

Because of this, Zhou Bao-zhong asked us to give him Kang Kon, Choe Kwang\and Pak Rak Kwon first of all when he was\selecting people needed for the operations against the Japanese in Northeast China.

When they went to Northeast China, Kang Kon became commander of a military sub-district\and Choe Kwang, Pak Rak Kwon\and Nam Chang Su, regimental commanders.


The area of activities for Choe Kwang’s regiment was Wangqing County. In the days of Manchukuo they built their unit\and waged battles eating the sorghum stored up by the Japanese. At that time some people complained that there were too many troops\organized by Choe Kwang\and others. They claimed that only 200 troops were allowed to be kept in the county. Therefore, Choe Kwang continued to recruit people into the army in the rural areas outside the county seat. The armed ranks\organized by our comrades in those days made, in later days, a major contribution to the building of the army in our country, not to speak of the operations to liberate Northeast China.


Choe Kwang’s unit made great military achievements in Dunhua, too. Engaged in battles on one hand, on the other they formed Party\and mass\organizations.

We recalled Choe Kwang to the homeland in the early autumn of 1946, instructing him to choose his best men\and bring them with him. He came home with some 200 others whom he had chosen. On the day of their arrival in Pyongyang, Kim Chaek\and Mu Jong went to the railway station to meet them. At the news of Choe Kwang’s arrival, Kim Jong Suk prepared a special meal for him.


After his return home, Choe Kwang worked as chief of staff of Camp No. 1 of the Security Officers Training Centre. He took part in the Fatherland Liberation War as commander of the 1st Division of the Korean People’s Army. He has performed great deeds for the building of our army.


He was faithful both as a man\and a warrior. When the Pueblo incident occurred, he ate his meals\and slept in his office for a year without returning home because of the tense situation. He faithfully assisted the Party\and the leader with a pure heart all his life. He has experienced twists\and turns\and has suffered greatly in the course of the revolution. However, he has always been loyal.

Choe Kwang is one of the military officers whom I treasure\and love most.

Comrade Kim Jong Il also trusts him very much, loves him dearly\and gives him prominence. His great trust in\and love for Choe Kwang can be clearly seen rom the fact that, after he was acclaimed as the Supreme Commander, he appointed the latter, now in his seventies, Chief of General Staff of the Korean People’s Army.


When I was going to the training base in the Far East region, I thought I would also meet Pak Kil Song\and Ho Hyong Sik without fail. However, to my deep regret, my meeting with them was not realized because both of them had been killed in action in northern Manchuria.


Ho Hyong Sik was one of the founders of the Zhuhe guerrilla army. Kim Chaek talked a lot about Ho, as indeed did all the fighters rom northern Manchuria.


From Kim Chaek’s stories about Ho Hyong Sik I still remember the episode in which, during a winter march to Jiangnan, Ho stood guard as a punishment on his own accord. That march was said to have been unusually arduous.


With a view to lessening the men’s fatigue, Ho Hyong Sik had commanders stand sentinel\and he himself kept guard. They had no watches in those days. Therefore, they measured the time by burning sticks of incense. When one stick was burnt out, it was considered to be time to relieve the sentry.


One night it was Ho Hyong Sik’s turn to stand sentinel in front of the camp gate, but he failed to relieve the sentry by mistake. The following morning he criticized himself in front of his men\and at night he stood guard as a punishment on his own accord.


Seeing the chief of staff standing sentry as a punishment, one man felt extremely sorry for him\and broke his incense stick in half.


When he came to know this, Ho Hyong Sik said to the man: “I am grateful to you for being considerate towards me, your commander. However, you have overlooked one important thing. There cannot be dual standards of discipline in the revolutionary ranks. Once a routine is established, everyone should observe it without exception. Only then will discipline prevail throughout the ranks. Let us both stand sentry tonight as a punishment\and each reflect on our wrongs.” It is said that he stood sentry as a punishment that night again.


Ho Hyong Sik received word rom Kim Chaek to come to the training base as soon as possible. Even after that, Ho put off his departure for the base to finish the planned operations. He was killed in action before he managed to go to the base.


No success of any military operations could make up for the loss of such a fine commander as Ho Hyong Sik.


The death of Ho Hyong Sik was indeed a grievous loss to us who were planning the operations for the liberation of the country.


Pak Kil Song had been active in Wangqing before he went to northern Manchuria\and served as commander of a contingent. Under the influence of O Jung Hwa, he took part in the “harvest\and spring struggle” of the early 1930s at a young age.


Pak Tok Sim, Pak Kil Song’s father, rented a farm\and at the same time he worked as a boatman. I knew that old man well. On many occasions he carried on his boat the goods people sent to our unit.


When he was head of the Children’s Bureau, Pak Kil Song frequented my office. So we made friends with each other very quickly. He was very hard-working. He was not contented with the work as head of the Children’s Bureau. He always sought a chance to join the army.\and, when we were leaving for our second expedition to northern Manchuria, he badgered me to allow him to join us.


I denied his request\and sent him to Luozigou as a political operative. The revolutionary masses who had lived in the guerrilla areas of Wangqing\and Hunchun gathered there. Pak Kil Song was a suitable man for protecting them. He was proficient at work with the masses.

 

In later days, I heard about Pak Kil Song several times through messengers.


Pak Kil Song went to northern Manchuria because his identity had been disclosed in the area of Luozigou. After he had been flogged in prison, he was released on sick bail. He got away rom Luozigou in search of our unit. Although he was young, he struggled well in prison.


From the time he was crossing the Laoyeling Pass, Pak Kil Song underwent great hardships to find out our\whereabouts. It is said that after some time he joined a unit which was active in the neighbourhood of Xiaolaidipan, Ningan County.


Pak Kil Song assumed the heavy responsibility of commander of a contingent when he was still in his twenties. He was a model in the activities of the Communist Youth League. In the days when he was commander of a contingent, Ri Jong San was his\orderly.


Pak Kil Song’s contingent was renowned as a unit which was good at fighting. His contingent had cavalry. I was told that the enemy dreaded the cavalry very much. Having wound up all the work that had been planned, Pak Kil Song was on his way to the Far East region. However, he was arrested\and killed by the enemy.


Ri Jong San received the news by wireless\and ran to me. During the march Pak Kil Song engaged in a fierce fight against the enemy\and was badly wounded. He fell unconscious\and the enemy dragged him away. If he had come to the Far East region soon after receiving our message, such a thing would not have happened. It is truly regrettable.


When we brought Pak Kil Song’s father, who had been living in Luozigou, to Pyongyang to live here, Choe Kwang\and Kim Ok Sun wanted to take the old man to their home\and support him there. So they began to follow the necessary procedure. However, Kim Il happened to learn about this,\and asserted that he should support the old man in view of their relationship in the days of the small-unit operations.


The news of the two families maintaining that they should each support the old man reached my ears. Kim Il asked me to make a decision on the matter. I was satisfied with the noble humanity of the first generation of our revolution\and said to Kim Il: “Pak Kil Song’s father is not only the father of Kim Il, Choe Kwang\and Kim Ok Sun. The old man is the father of us all,\and all of us are his sons\and daughters. Therefore, let us all support the old man on behalf of Pak Kil Song.”


We made arrangements for the old man to live in one of the good houses on the bank of the Pothong River in which ministers\and vice-ministers lived in those days.

There would be no end to it if I were to talk about all my comrades-in-arms in our days in northern Manchuria.


When I was at the training base in the Far East region, I also met the fighters rom northern Manchuria who, as the special detachment of the IAF, took part in joint reconnaissance with the Soviet troops. Hong Chun Su was one of them.


Hong was in the Independence Army for some time,\and visited such places as Pyongyang, Kangso, Anak\and Sariwon to carry out a series of fund-raising activities. He was a crack shot\and was good at reconnoitring. During the operations to liberate the country, he fought on the frontline.


The Korean communists who were part of the IAF had formerly fought in southern, eastern\or northern Manchuria. Nevertheless, they were firmly united in ideology\and will,\and powerfully accelerated the final victory of the Korean revolution. The Laoyeling Pass is on the boundary between eastern, southern\and northern Manchuria. However, that mountain pass could not draw a line of demarcation in the hearts of Korean communists. All of them wished to go to Mt. Paektu\and fight with us even if they were to die in the course of this.


Their unanimous wish to fight on Mt. Paektu became the factor that ensured the unity of ideology\and will among our ranks. It was a great inspiration for us as we strengthened our own forces for the Korean revolution.





 Related articles

[Reminiscences]Chapter 21 Roar of Gunfire in the Large-Unit Circling Operations 7. The End of the “Maeda Punitive Force”

[Reminiscences]Chapter 22. Let Us Keep the Revolutionary Flag Flying for Ever  1. At Xiaohaerbaling

[Reminiscences]Chapter 22. Let Us Keep the Revolutionary Flag Flying for Ever  2. Looking Forward to a Bright Future

[Reminiscences]Chapter 22. Let Us Keep the Revolutionary Flag Flying for Ever  3. On Receiving a Message rom the Comintern

[Reminiscences]Chapter 22. Let Us Keep the Revolutionary Flag Flying for Ever  4. The Autumn of 1940

[Reminiscences]Chapter 22. Let Us Keep the Revolutionary Flag Flying for Ever  5. My Memories of Wei Zheng-min

[Reminiscences]Chapter 23. In Alliance with the International Anti-Imperialist Foreces 1. The Khabarovsk Conference

[Reminiscences]Chapter 23. In Alliance with the International Anti-Imperialist Foreces 2. The Revolutionary Kim Chaek

[Reminiscences]Chapter 23. In Alliance with the International Anti-Imperialist Foreces 3. Greeting the Spring in a Foreign Land

[Reminiscences]Chapter 23. In Alliance with the International Anti-Imperialist Foreces 4. The Days of Small-Unit Actions

[Reminiscences]Chapter 23. In Alliance with the International Anti-Imperialist Foreces 5. Trust\and Treachery

[Reminiscences]Chapter 23. In Alliance with the International Anti-Imperialist Foreces 6. Formation of the International Allied Forces

[Reminiscences]Chapter 23. In Alliance with the International Anti-Imperialist Foreces 7. With My Comrades-in-Arms of the Northeast Anti-Japanese Allied Army


                

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