After my father’s funeral, his friends stayed in Fusong for a few days to discuss my future.
It was in mid-June of 1926 that I left for Hwasong Uisuk School at their recommendation.
That was immediately after the June 10th Independence Movement in our country.
This movement was a mass anti-Japanese demonstration\organized by the communists who had recently appeared in the arena of the national liberation struggle following the March First Popular Uprising.
As is well known, the March First Popular Uprising was a turning point in the national liberation struggle in our country in its shiftrom the nationalist to the communist movement. Among the forerunners who realized through the March First Popular Uprising that bourgeois nationalism could no longer be the banner of the national liberation struggle, the trend to follow the new current of thought rapidly increased,\and through their activities Marxism-Leninism spread quickly.
In the year after the March First Popular Uprising a working-class\organization called the Labour Mutual-aid Association appeared in Seoul\and, following this, mass\organizations such as peasant\organizations, youth\organizations\and women’s\organizations came into being one after another.
Under the guidance of such\organizations, an energetic mass struggle got under way in our countryrom the beginning of the 1920s to defend the rights\and interests of the proletarian masses\and oppose the colonial policy of the Japanese imperialists. In 1921 the dockers of Pusan went out on a general strike. Following this, successive workers’ strikes broke out in such industrial centres as Seoul, Pyongyang\and Inchon, as well as in many of the provinces. Under the influence of the working- class movement, tenant disputes against Japanese landowners\and vicious Korean landlords swept the Namuri Plain in Jaeryong\and the Amthae Island. Also, students went on strike in many places in opposition to the colonial slave education\and in demand of academic freedom.
By replacing their “sabre rule” with the silk cloak of “civil government”\and drawing some pro -Japanese elements into the “Advisory Council,” the Japanese imperialists pretended to encourage the participation of Koreans in politics. At the same time, under the specious title of “promoting the expression of public opinion,” they permitted the publication of some Korean newspapers\and magazines\and made a fuss as if an era of prosperity had come. However, our nation would not tolerate such trickery\and continued its struggle against the aggressors.
The trend of the development of the mass movement, particularly the working -class movement, called for a powerful political force capable of giving it unified leadership. To meet this historic demand, the Korean Communist Party was founded in Seoul in April 1925. At that time many political parties of the working class were appearing in a number of European countries, too.
The Korean Communist Party did not fulfil its role effectively as the vanguard of the working class because of some essential\limitations—its lack of a guiding ideology that conformed with the actual situation,\and its failure to achieve the unity of its ranks\and strike root deep among the masses. However, its foundation, marking as it did an important event that demonstrated the change of the old current of thought to a new one\and the qualitative change in the national liberation struggle, gave impetus to the development of the mass movement, particularly the labour movement, the peasant movement\and the youth movement, as well as of the national liberation movement.
The communists started to prepare for a fresh anti-Japanese demonstration on a nationwide scale.
It was around this time that Sunjong, the last King of the Ri dynasty, died. His death stimulated the anti-Japanese feelings of the Korean nation. At the news of the King’s death Koreans, irrespective of age\and sex, wept loudly in mourning. Even though the country had been ruined Sunjong, as the last King, symbolized the Ri dynasty. However, now that he was dead Koreans’ pent-up sorrow for their ruined country again burst out. The following song sung by some students to the band music added to the grief of the mourners.
Farewell to you, Changdok Palace
For ever\and ever.
Go I shall to my grave
To a place forlorn.
Now that I am leaving you,
When shall I come again?
May the 20-million
Korean people thrive.
Their wailing was a great irritation to the Japanese occupationists.
Wherever Koreans gathered in crowds to mourn, Japanese mounted policemen immediately moved in\and dispersed them with clubs\and by force of arms. Even pupilsrom elementary schools were clubbed mercilessly. What the Japanese desired was that Koreans should not grieve over the ruin of their country\and should shut their mouths, without weeping over the death of their King. This was the true nature of rule by the governor-general who disguised his “sabre rule” with the “civil government.”
The enemy’s outrageous repression of our people added fuel to their burning anti-Japanese feelings.
Taking advantage of the anti-Japanese spirit of the popular masses, the communists planned a nationwide anti-Japanese demonstration on the day of the funeral of Sunjong\and secretly pushed ahead with preparations for it.
However, the secret was betrayed to the Japanese imperialists by factionalists who had found their way onto the preparatory committee for the demonstration. The preparations for the anti-Japanese demonstration were ruthlessly suppressed.
However, patriotic people did not discontinue the preparations. On June 10 when the bier of Sunjong was passing through the streets, tens of thousands of Seoul citizens launched a mass demonstration shouting, “Long live the independence of Korea!”, “Japanese troops, get out!”\and “Fighters for Korean independence, unite!” Their grudges\and anger pent up during the seven years of “civil government” burst out at last into an outcry of “Hurrah for independence!”
Even pupilsrom elementary schools who were only twelve years of age joined the demonstration. The demonstrators grappled courageously with the enemy’s armed soldiers\and policemen.
The June 10th Independence Movement failed to overcome the ruthless suppression by the Japanese imperialists because of the machinations of the factionalists. If the bourgeois nationalists’ worship of the great powers was a basic reason for the failure of the March First Popular Uprising, the factional activities of the early communists were the root cause that ruined the June 10th Independence Movement. In leading this struggle the Tuesday group workedrom their factionalist point of view,\whereas the Seoul group resorted to obstructive moves to oppose them.
After the June 10th Independence Movement, most of the principal figures in the leadership body of the Korean Communist Party were arrested.
As a result of the June 10th Independence Movement the deceitfulness\and craftiness of “civil government” were revealed to the whole world. Through this movement our people demonstrated their indomitable will\and fighting spirit to regain their country\and defend their national dignity whatever the adversity.
If the communists had rid themselves of factionalism\and\organized\and led this struggle in a unified way, the June 10th Independence Movement would have expanded\and developed as a nationwide struggle\and a heavier blow would have been dealt to the colonial rule of the Japanese imperialists.
This movement left a serious lesson that without getting rid of factions it would be impossible to achieve either the development of the communist movement\or the victory of the anti-Japanese national liberation struggle.
In those days I analysed the result of this movement in my own way. I wondered why the\organizers of this struggle had used the same peaceful method which had been applied at the time of the March First Popular Uprising.
There is a saying, “Train soldiers for a thousand days to use them for a day.” Likewise, if one wants to send the popular masses to the battlefield once, one must educate\and\organize them sufficiently\and train them well.
However, the\organizers\and leaders of the June 10th Independence Movement sent tens of thousands of empty-handed people to confront armed soldiers\and policemen, having failed to make full preparations. So it was natural that the outcome should be tragic.
I could not sleep because of my indignation at the setbacks suffered by the anti -Japanese movement, each time entailing wholesale deaths. The failure of this movement made my blood run hot\and made me still more firmly determined to defeat the Japanese imperialists\and regain my country.
With this ideological urge I resolved to make my days at Hwasong Uisuk School worthy of the teachings of my departed father, of the wishes of my mother\and of the expectations of the people.
Hwasong Uisuk School was a two-year military\and political school belonging to Jongui-bu. The school was founded at the beginning of 1925 with a view to training cadres for the Independence Army.
Having found the way to national resurrection in building up strength, the fighters for independence\and the patriotic champions of the enlightenment movement worked hard to establish military schools to train military personnel at the same time as founding general schools. Thanks to their efforts many military schools were established in various parts of Manchuria. Among them were Xinxing Training School (Liuhe County), Shiliping Military Academy (Wangqing County), Xiaoshahe Training School (Antu County)\and Hwasong Uisuk School (Huadian County).
Such leaders of the independence movement as Ryang Ki Thak, Ri Si Yong, O Tong Jin, Ri Pom Sok, Kim Kyu Sik\and Kim Jwa Jin played the central role in the establishment of these military schools.
Those admitted to Hwasong Uisuk School were servicemen on active duty\selectedrom companies under Jongui-bu. The candidatesrom the different companies were allotted by the higher authorities,\and they were\selectedrom among the best soldiers. When they had finished the two-year course new ranks were conferred on them according to merit\and they were returned to the companies they had comerom. Outside the Independence Army some young people entered this school on the recommendation of individuals. Such cases, however, were rare. So, young people with a noble will\and who were in the prime of their life wanted to go to this school.
Now there remain very few of my fellow studentsrom Hwasong Uisuk School who can look back upon those days.
When my father was alive I worried little about my future\and household affairs. After he had passed away, however, I was obliged to consider my future\and to deal with the many complex problems which were raised in household management.
I was at my wits end because of the sorrow\and distress caused me by the death of my father. However, I pondered over my future with the single desire to devote my whole life to the independence movement, whatever the cost, as my father had hoped,\and with the ambition to go to a higher school, if the circumstances permitted it, even though it might be a burden to my mother.
In his will my father had wished that I be sent to a secondary school. However, my family was so poor that I felt I could not express my wish to go to a higher school. If I were to go back to school my mother would have to bear the heavy burden of raising money for my school fees. However, the small amount of money my mother was getting for doing laundry\and needlework for others was not enough to pay for my education, it being spent on keeping our poor family.
After my father died my uncle Hyong Gwon, who had been his assistant, soon lost his job in the dispensary. There was only a small amount of medicine left in the dispensary by my father.
It was at this time that my father’s friends advised me to go to Hwasong Uisuk School. The will my father left to my mother included the matter of my going to a higher school. My father’s last request addressed to my mother\and uncle was to write to his friends\and get their help in sending me to a higher school.
My mother wrote to many people, as he had requested. My mother had to do so, although she regretted it, because the world was so cruel that it was impossible to live even for a single day without the help of kindness. So the question of my future was presented for discussion among those fighters for independence who remained in Fusong after my father’s funeral.
This is what O Tong Jin told me:
I have sent a letter of introduction to Uisan Choe Tong O for you to go to Hwasong Uisuk School. A military education there will meet your ambition. As your father said, independence cannot be attained through argument. We will take responsibility for your future after your graduationrom that school. So study all you can at school.
It appeared that my father’s friends wanted to train me as a reserve cadre who would succeed their generation in the future. It was good that the leaders of the Independence Army were concerned about training reserve cadres\and attached importance to it.
I readily agreed to O Tong Jin’s proposal. I was extremely grateful to the independence fighters for their kind concern about my future. Their intention to send me to a military school\and train me for the independence movement conformed with my desire to devote my whole life to the cause of national liberation. My view in those days was that we could defeat the Japanese imperialists only through a military confrontation\and that one could stand in the front rank of the independence movement only when one had a military knowledge. The way was open now for me to realize my dream.
I regarded Hwasong Uisuk School as a short cut to joining the anti-Japanese struggle for independence, so I hastily began to make preparations with a light heart for my journey to Huadian.
Once a foreign statesman asked me: “Mr. President, how did it happen that you, a communist, went to a military school run by nationalists?” This must seem quite puzzling.
It was when I had not yet joined the communist movement that I entered Hwasong Uisuk School. My world outlook was not at a sufficiently mature stage for me to regard Marxism-Leninism completely as my doctrine. All I had learned about communism at that time was what I had read in Fusong in such pamphlets as The Fundamentals of Socialism\and The Biography of Lenin. I was attracted to a socialist\and communist society through the rumours
I heard about the development of the newly-born Soviet\union\where the idea of socialism had been realized.
There were more nationalists than communists around me. The teachers at the schools I attended in various places advocated nationalist ideas more than communist ones. We were surrounded by nationalism, which, though destined to give way to a new trend of thought, had more than half a century of history,\and its influence could not be ignored.
The fact that there were many sturdy young people at Hwasong Uisuk School\and that it was giving free political\and military education made me resolve to go to Huadian. Better educational conditions than those at this school were inconceivable for me who wanted to go to a higher school although I was in no position to pay any school fees\and harboured the ambition to start on the road of national restoration in accordance with the will of my father.
Frankly speaking, in those days I pinned great hope on the education provided at Hwasong Uisuk School. I was delighted to think that after being taught at the school for two years I would have acquired a military knowledge, to say nothing of the fact that I would have received a secondary education.
However, when I actually left home I frequently looked behind me even as I stepped forward. As I turned back to see Yangdicun\where my father’s remains were buried\and my mother\and younger brothers who were far away, watching me out of sight, I could not move my feet easily because of my distraction.
I was worried about my mother who would have a hard time of it with my little brothers. In those days it was not easy for a mother to support her family single-handedly in such a godforsaken place as Fusong.
I calmed myself by thinking over the words of my mother, that a man who has started on a journey should not look back.
It was about 75 milesrom Fusong to Huadian. Rich people made the journey in comfort in a covered carriage called a Hanlinche. But I could not afford to do so because I had only a little travel money.
Huadian was a mountain town under the jurisdiction of Jilin Province. Situated 12 to 15 miles awayrom the confluence of the River Songhua\and the River Huifa it was a leading centre of the independence movement in south Manchuria.
When I started on my journey, one fighter for independence in Fusong said that Hwasong Uisuk School was in extremely strained circumstances,\and he expressed his worry that I would have difficulties. I imagined that the board\and lodging at Hwasong Uisuk School would be poor because the Independence Army as a whole was in financial difficulties. However, such a difficulty was no problem for me. I, who had been living on gruel\and had dressed in cotton clothesrom my childhood, believed that Hwasong Uisuk School could not be poorer than my family in Mangyongdae, however strained its circumstances might be.
What made me uneasy was the thought of whether Hwasong Uisuk School would receive me who was young\and had no record of military service. However, the fact that Kim Si U was in Huadian\and that my father’s friends such as Kang Je Ha were working at Hwasong Uisuk School was a great reassurance for me.
When I got to Huadian I first visited Kim Si U’s home, as my mother had told me. He was the Huadian area controller under Jongui-bu. The area control office was a self-governing\organization which helped the Koreans residing in the district under its control in their everyday life. There were such offices in Fusong\and Panshi, as well as in such localities as Kuandian, Wangqingmen\and Sanyuanpu.
Kim Si U was a fighter for independence who had known my fatherrom the time when he was in Jasong County. After the March First Popular Uprising he went to China\and conducted his activities in the area of Linjiang\and Dandong. He moved to Huadian in 1924. Having built a rice mill there he raised money for the independence movement while working hard to enlighten the masses.
The rice mill he built was the Yongphung Rice Mill situated in Nanda Street. While performing his duties as an area controller he obtained money by operating the rice mill to provide food for the Independence Army\and give financial support to Hwasong Uisuk School\and the nearby model elementary school for Koreans.
From my days in Linjiang I had followed with awe\and highly respected him, being fascinated by his openhearted character typical of a northern man\and by his strong disposition. He loved me dearly like his own son.
Kim Si U\and his wife who were mending a hencoop in the yard, received me gladly, shouting for joy as I appeared. There were so many chickens in the yard that they got in my way.
Kim Si U took me to Hwasong Uisuk School.
He wore clothes that gave off the smell of rice bran, typical of a rice-dealer.
Hwasong Uisuk School was situated on the banks of the River Huifa. It had a steep, straw-thatched roof\and blackish walls of blue bricks common to Manchuria,\and it stood against a forest of Zelkova trees. The hostel of Hwasong Uisuk School was situated behind the school building with the playground between them.
Both the school building\and the hostel were much shabbier than I had imagined, but that did not matter. I suppressed my misgivings by thinking that it would be fine if I could only learn a lot of good things, although the building was shabby.
Nevertheless, the school grounds were spacious\and tidy. Carefully I examined the whole appearance of Hwasong Uisuk
School with hope\and curiosity.
I remembered how once, when we were living in Badaogou, O Tong Jin had called on us one cold winter day, not even wearing a fur cap,\and consulted my father about the founding of Hwasong Uisuk School.
Having arrived at the school as a new student\and looked around it, I was full of deep emotions.
The headmaster, a middle-aged, shortish man with a receding hairline\and a pleasant appearance, received me in his office. He was Uisan Choe Tong O.
Uisan was a disciple of Son Pyong Hui, the third high priest of Chondoism\and one of the leaders of the March First Popular Uprising who were known as the thirty -three people. He graduatedrom the training school founded by Son Pyong Hui,\and then started in the independence movement by building a village schoolhouse in Uiju, his home town,\and giving an education to the children of believers in Chondoism. He had taken part in the March First Movement. Later he came to China as an exile\and, having opened a Chondoist mission, conducted patriotic activities to propagate religion among the exiles.
The headmaster said to me that he would repent all his life of his failure to be present at my father’s funeral. He\and the area controller spoke about my father for a good while.
What Choe Tong O said on that day made a great impression on me. He said:
“Song Ju, you have come to our school at the right time. The independence movement has entered a new era which requires talented people. The era of Hong Pom Do\and Ryu Rin Sok when people worked in a random way has passed. In\order to overcome the tactics\and the new types of arms employed by the Japanese, we need our own modern tactics\and new types of arms. Who can solve this problem? It is the new generation such as you who should take charge of this\and settle it....”
The headmaster also told me a lot which could serve as a lesson for me. He said that the board\and lodging were poor, but, he urged me to put up with\and endure all the difficulties\and look forward to the future—the independence of Korea. My first impression of him was that he was gentle\and surprisingly eloquent.
That day Kim Si U’s family prepared supper for me. As I sat face to face with people belonging to my father’s generation at a modest table that expressed the sincerity of the host\and hostess, I was full of deep emotion.
There was a bottle of alcohol maderom cereal at one edge of the round table. I thought that Kim Si U had put it there to drink with his meal. But he poured some into a glass\and offered it to me, much to my surprise.
I felt so awkward that I flapped my hands. I was bewildered because this was the first time in my life that I had been treated as a grown-up. True, during my father’s funeral Jang Chol Ho had offered me some alcohol when he saw me so upset. However, he had acted so towards a mourner\and no more than that.
Nevertheless, Kim Si U treated me as if I were completely
grown-up. He also changed his style of speech, making it a little
“At the news of your arrival, I thought eagerly of your father. So I saw that a bottle of alcohol was prepared. Whenever your father came to Huadian he would drink the alcohol I offered him at this table. Now you take this glass in place of your father. You are now the head of your family.”
Although he offered me the glass as he said this I could not bring myself to take it readily. Although the glass was so small that it could be hidden in the palm of one’s hand, it was loaded with inestimable weight.
At that table\where Kim Si U treated me as an adult, I solemnly felt that I should behave like a grown-up for the sake of the country\and the nation.
He offered me the room which he used as a bedroom\and study. He surprised me by saying that he had discussed the matter with the headmaster\and that I should stay at his home without ever thinking of living in the dormitory.
He said that, because my father Kim Hyong Jik had requested him to take good care of me in the letter he wrote in his dying moments, he was under an obligation to do so.
Thus in Fusong\and in Huadian my father’s friends behaved with the utmost sincerity towards me. I suppose they did so because they wanted to be loyal to my father. At that time I thought a great deal about their sincerity\and faithfulness. That faithfulness was based on the ardent hope of the people belonging to my father’s generation that I would do something for the independence of the country. That hope made me feel a heavy responsibility as a son of Korea, as a member of the new generation. I became fully determined to live up to the expectations of the people by studying\and training hard, bearing my father’s last injunctions in mind.
From the following day I started a strange life at Hwasong Uisuk School, a military academy. Choe Tong O took me to a classroom. When they saw me the students expressed their curiosity about such a young fighterrom the Independence Army. They seemed to presume that I was a youngster who had been sent there after running a few errands for one company.
There were more than forty students there, but none of them was as young as me. Most of them were about 20 years of age. Some of them had sparse beards; some had children. All of them were like elder brothers\or uncles to me.
As soon as the headmaster had introduced me, the students applauded.
I went to the front row by the window\and took the seat the teacher had told me to take.
The student sitting next to me was Pak Cha Sokrom the first company. Whenever a new lesson began he briefly whispered into my ear, telling me about the teachers as they entered the classroom.
The teacher whom he introduced with the greatest respect was military instructor Ri Ung. Ri Ung was a member of the military commission under Jongui-bu\and had attended Huangpu Military Academy. In those days everyone looked up to graduatesrom this academy as if they were extraordinary beings. Because his father was running a large chemist’s shop in Seoul he was said to take a lot of insam that was sent to him. He was respected by the students because of his wide knowledge\and varied attainments, although he tended to be rather bureaucratic.
Pak Cha Sok told me that Hwasong Uisuk School taught such subjects as the history\and geography of Korea, biology, mathematics, physical education, military science\and the history of the world revolution. He also wrote down the daily routine of the school on a sheet of paper.
This is how my ties with Pak Cha Sok were established. Later, in the days of the armed struggle, he left an indelible wound in my heart. Although later he was to take a wrong path, in our days at Hwasong Uisuk School he was exceptionally friendly to me, like my own brother.
That afternoon Choe Chang Golrom the sixth company, accompanied by more than 10 of his comrades, came to Kim Si U’s home to visit me. It seemed that their first impression of me had been favourable\and that they were curious\and felt an urge to talk to me because I had entered the school at a very young age.
Choe Chang Gol had a big scar on his head. His wide forehead\and black eyebrows were very manly. He was tall\and had a good constitution. So he could have been called handsome but for the scar on his head. There was something free-and-easy in his way of speaking\and in his manner which attracted people. During our first meeting he made a great impression on me.
“You say you are only 14 years old, but you seem very advanced for your years. How did you come to serve in the Independence Army at your young age\and how is it that you are attending Hwasong Uisuk School?”
This was the first thing that Choe Chang Gol asked me. His eyes never left my face,\and there was a smile on his lips all the time, as if he had met an intimate friend with whom he had lived for a long time under the same roof.
Briefly I told him what he wanted to know.
When they learned that I was the eldest son of Kim Hyong Jik, they became more friendly towards me, expressing their surprise on one hand\and casting respectful glances at me on the other. They asked me many questions in\order to learn of my experiences of the country.
A little while later I asked Choe Chang Gol about his time in the Independence Army.
First he told me how he had got the scar on his head. He embellished his story to make it more interesting, sometimes cracking jokes so that it was really splendid. What I remember in particular about his story was that he always spoke of himself in the third person. When he meant, “I did so,”\or “I was deceived,” he said, “Choe Chang Gol did so,” “Choe Chang Gol was deceived,” thus provoking a smilerom his listeners.
“This happened when Choe Chang Gol was a common soldier under Ryang Se Bong. Once he captured a spy in the vicinity of Kaiyuan. On his way back he stopped at an inn. But that extremely careless Choe Chang Gol started nodding off with the spy in front of him. He was tired after walking many miles. Meanwhile the spy undid the rope that bound him, hit Choe Chang Gol on the head with an axe\and escaped. Fortunately he did not strike very hard. The ‘decoration’ on Choe Chang Gol’s head had this dismal history. If a man is careless, he will suffer the same fate as Choe Chang Gol.”
After a few hours of heart-to-heart talks I found him to be a very interesting man. I made friends with hundreds\and thousands of people in my youth. However, this was the first time I had met such a buffoon as Choe Chang Gol who, referring to himself in the third person all the time, skilfully wove his stories.
Afterwards I learned more about his personal history. His father ran a small hotel in Fushun. His father had wanted him to join the business\and help him. However, Choe Chang Gol left home\and joined the army to help win the country’s independence. When he was serving in the Independence Army his grandmother had come to Sanyuanpu many times in\order to persuade her grandson to go home. However, Choe Chang Gol never gave in. Each time she came, he said: With the country ruined, it is not the time to keep our hotel.
I became friendly with Choe Chang Gol, Kim Ri Gap, Kye Yong Chun, Ri Je U, Pak Kun Won, Kang Pyong Son\and Kim Won U. In addition to them, I got to know many young people who came to Hwasong Uisuk Schoolrom south Manchuria\and various parts of our country, determined to join the anti-Japanese movement.
Every afternoon they called at Kim Si U’s to talk with me. I was grateful for the fact that so many of my fellow students visited me, yet I was surprised at this. I became acquaintedrom the start with people who were five to ten years older than me,\and not with those of my own age. This is why many of my comrades-in-arms in the days when I was working among young students\and in the period of my underground revolutionary activities were older than me.
Within a few days of starting at Hwasong Uisuk School I discovered t