Hwasong Uisuk School experienced many difficulties because of a shortage of funds.
There were less than 100 students at the school. But given the circumstances of the Independence Army at the time it was not easy to provide for even this number of students.
Although Jongui-bu was in charge of the school, it was unable to provide sufficient money. Jongui-bu had three departments, in charge of the administration, the military\and civil affairs\and was barely maintaining its existence with funds collectedrom the people penny by penny. Therefore, it was in no position to provide large sums of money for the school.
In\order to solve the difficulties caused by lack of funds, the authorities of Hwasong Uisuk School mobilized its studentsrom time to time to collect funds. The students formed groups each consisting of 20 people. They returned to the companiesrom\where they had come, received weapons\and collected funds while travelling for two months around the districts under the jurisdiction of Jongui-bu\and, when their scheduled time was over, left with other groups taking their turn.
The money they collected in this way was all used up within a few months. So they again had to go to Jilin to request Jongui-bu for aid.
Once headmaster Choe Tong O sent the school superintendent to the headquarters of Jongui-bu to obtain the money that would be needed for the winter.
However, the school superintendent returned empty-handed cursing the commander of the third company. He said that the third company commander had taken the money intended for Hwasong Uisuk School\and used it for his wedding. It was said that the company commander had spent the money like water in\order to treat all his neighbours to food\and drink over several days. Some food had remained even after that so he had even invited peoplerom the neighbouring village to celebrate with him.
I could not repress my indignation when I heard this.
The money in the coffers of Jongui-bu had not fallenrom the sky. It was money contributed as war funds by the people in tiny amounts to regain their lost country even though they themselves lived on gruel\and sometimes missed meals. If they had no money, our people contributed to the war fund even by making straw sandals\and selling them. Only then could they feel at ease.
The commander of the third company seemed to think nothing of this. He must have been completely blinded by self-interest to have, as a company commander, resorted to such mean deception.
The fact that a commander whose mission it was to fight a bloody battle against the enemy, felt no compunction in committing such misappropriation was proof that the highest circles of the Independence Army were degenerating.
It is said that, following the “Ulsa Treaty,” a commander of the Volunteers’ Army, upon hearing of the defeat of the volunteers under the command of Choe Ik Hyon in Sunchang, gathered hundreds of volunteers\and conducted vigorous activities in Jolla Province. Upon hearing that his men had robbed some people of their household effects he, having lamented the fact, disbanded his unit\and hid in the mountains.rom this we can see that the commander regarded an infringement upon the interests of the people as a great shame\and crime.
The misdeed of the commander of the third company could be considered, in the final analysis, to be an encroachment on the interests of the people.
When I was living in Linjiang some soldiers of the Independence Army became the talk of the town because they had gone to Korea\and taken a cowrom some peasants. The commander of the unit to which these soldiers belonged once visited our home\and was sharply reproved by my father.
In those days, when soldiers of the Independence Army appeared in areas\where Koreans were living in\order to collect funds, those in charge of the districts had a document circulated around the settlement in which they had written the amount of money\or rice which each household was to contribute. The residents had to contribute funds as was noted in the document. This was a heavy burden on the poor farmers.
Nevertheless, the soldiers of the Independence Army disregarded the people’s poverty\and simply tried every possible means to exact as much as possible. Groups with different districts under their control fought to expand them. Some soldiers of the Independence Army forced menrom other armed units into giving them the money they had collected\and then taking to their heels.
Members of large\and small armed units vied with one another to squeeze moneyrom the people. They regarded the people as mere taxpayers\and attendants who should provide them with money, grain\and bedding.
Such misdeeds were no better than those of the bureaucrats in the former feudal society.
Sitting in palaces with jewelled crowns on their heads, the feudal rulers of Korea constantly enacted new tax laws to bleed the people white\and keep their purses empty.
At one time the feudal government used colossal sums to build the Kyongbok Palace\and, with a view to compensating for this, they even invented a door tax (travel tax). If they had built universities\and factories with the money they obtained in this way, they would at least have been thanked by posterity.
The progressive young people at Hwasong Uisuk School deplored the fact that the Independence Army seemed to be going to ruin with a company commander having degenerated to such an extent. However, they simply blamed\and deplored him. In the bright society we have now, the army\and the people would have gathered public support\and taken him to court\or tried the case among themselves to force him to break his bad habit. However, nothing could be done in those days when there was no law\and military discipline was not rigid.
True, there was an\organization under Jongui -bu in charge of civil cases. However, it only existed in name. Before it they brought only those people who could not contribute sufficient funds,\and they were beaten on the hips. They connived at such illegal acts as that committed by the company commander. Their law had a loophole through which the higher circles could slip.
With this event as the impetus I resolved to give a serious warning to the soldiers of the Independence Army\and to all the fighters for independence. However, the problem was how to do so.
Choe Chang Gol proposed that we\select representatives of the students\and protest against it by visiting all the companies,rom the first to the sixth.
Some people suggested that they should expose the bureaucratic acts of the soldiers of the Independence Army by having an article published in a periodical such as Taedong Minbo issued by Jongui-bu. It would have been good to do so. The problem was, however, whether the headquarters of Jongui-bu, the commanders of other companies\and the members of the editorial department of the said publication who were little differentrom the commander of the third company would accept the article.
I proposed that we write a letter of protest to all the companies of the Independence Army instead of attempting methods about which we were undecided. The others supported my proposal\and asked me to write the letter of protest.
That letter of protest was the first criticism we offered of the nationalists following the formation of the Down-with-Imperialism\union.
It was the first time for me to write a letter of protest. It seemed to me that in it I failed to include everything I wanted to say. However, my comrades told me it was good, so I gave it to Kim Si U\and asked him to convey it to the correspondentrom Jongui-bu when he came. The letter of protest was quickly conveyed to all the companies by the correspondent.
There was a big response to the letter. Even O Tong Jin who was intolerant of anything that hurt his pride\or censured Jongui-bu, not to mention the man who had used the war funds for his wedding, appeared to have been shocked by the letter.
At the beginning of the following year when I was studying in Jilin, O Tong Jin spoke of the letter of protest to me. He said that he had read it with the company commanders\and platoon leaders who had gathered\where the sixth company was stationed.
“Having read your letter of protest, I sharply reproved the third company commander. I even thought of removing himrom his post. Such people bring shame on the Independence Army.”
Although he frankly admitted that the highest circles of the Independence Army were degenerating, O Tong Jin was indignant\and irritated over the fact that he was unable to save the situation.
I wonder how O Tong Jin managed to appease his fiery temper when he had to remain an on-looker to the corruption of the Independence Army, unable to check even what he saw with his own eyes\and felt keenly.
As I listened to O Tong Jin I realized that the depravity of the Independence Army was a source of anguish not only for us younger generation but also for conscientious nationalists.
However, it was scarcely possible to arrest the political\and moral depravity of the Independence Army with one letter of protest.
The Independence Army was heading towards irretrievable decline. The fate of the Independence Army, nationalist army to defend\and represent the interests of the propertied class, could not be otherwise.
The students of Hwasong Uisuk School were little differentrom the soldiers of the Independence Army when it came to treating the people rudely\and imposing economic burdens that were too heavy on them. When they were mobilized to collect contributions they, too, collected the people’s property\and provisions on a rival basis in the districts under their control.
Those families who did not readily contribute were forced to give them animals such as pigs\or chickens. With these families they either claimed that they lacked patriotism\or found fault with them without good reason by saying, for instance, that they did not support the Independence Army.
They even complained about the meals served at the school saying that they were continually given cooked millet\and that the non-staple foods were not good enough,\and so on. Once at supper a student complained that only cooked millet\and soup made of dried vegetable leaves were served in the dormitory’s dining-room. In the end, he even quarrelled with Hwang Se Il, the inspector of the dining-room. Hwang Se Il took his duties very seriously. However, the students said that the inspector was not doing his job properly even if the quality of the meals was only a little below standard.
Following the country’s liberation I once met Hwang Se Il who was working as the vice-chairman of the Uiju County People’s Committee\and we recollected our days at Hwasong Uisuk School. Then he told me that when he visited the village, he never complained about the meals, remembering the lesson he had learned during his days at the school.
I believed that those who complained about cooked millet at Hwasong Uisuk School would also complain about the meals when they returned to the Independence Army after graduating. I also thought that such people would, in the end, be reduced to despicable creatures who knew nothing but money\and power.
The problem was that, in two years, such people were to command the companies\and platoons of the Independence Army. Nothing could be expectedrom soldiers who were not ready even to live on cooked millet, let alone die of starvation.
Disappointment at the nationalist movement as a whole centring around the Independence Army, as well as disillusion in education at Hwasong Uisuk School grew in my mind with the passage of time. Hwasong Uisuk School did not meet my expectations\and I could not fulfil the expectations of the school. As Hwasong Uisuk School could not meet my desire, so I could not be the student for which Hwasong Uisuk School hoped. My discontent with Hwasong Uisuk School\and the dissatisfaction of this school with me were in direct proportion to each other.
The more I loved the progressive idea of Marxism-Leninism, the more I shunned the education provided at Hwasong Uisuk School,\and the more I rejected the education of this school, the more I felt in agony. I feared that staying awayrom the school would mean betraying the trust of those who had sent me there\and going against the will of my father who had asked them to look after me. I felt terribly sorry at the thought of O Tong Jin who had quickly covered hundreds of miles to attend my father’s funeral and consoled me\and urged me to go to the school, even pushing travel money into my pocket, as well as of Kim Si U who had poured me liquor to welcome me on my arrival at the school, of Choe Tong O\and of Kang Je Ha.
If I was to remain loyal to them, I had to take an interest in the education provided at Hwasong Uisuk School, even though I was disillusioned with it. I could save my face before them by studying for two years, shutting my eyes to everything\and meekly serving in the Independence Army in the company to which I would be appointed.
The trouble was not that I would be unable to study the new current of thought\or solidify the foundation of the Down-with-Imperialism\union if I served in the Independence Army.
It was inconceivable for me, however, for the sake of saving my face, to get along politely\and diplomatically, being given education which I considered to be conservative. I did not want to compromise with the outdated education in such a manner.
So, what should I do? Should I return home as head of the household, taking over the surgeryrom my uncle?\or should I go to a city—Shenyang,\or Harbin\or Jilin—and go to a higher school?
After these complicated thoughts I resolved to leave Hwasong Uisuk School\and go to Jilin to attend secondary school. I chose Jilin as my next stop after Huadian because this city was an important political centre of Manchuria\where many anti-Japanese fighters for independence\and Korean communists gathered. For this reason Jilin was even called the “Second Shanghai.” In China, Shanghai was the assembly place of the Korean revolutionaries.
I wanted to break out of the narrow enclosure of Huadian\and step into a broader arena, launching the communist movement which had taken its first step with the formation of the Down -with-Imperialism\union on a higher stage\and conducting it on a full scale. This was the main reason why I left Hwasong Uisuk School early.
Going to Jilin after attending Hwasong Uisuk School for only six months was the first great\and courageous decision in my life. My second courageous decision was to set fire to the bundle of documents accusing those who were allegedly affiliated to the pro-Japanese\organization called “Minsaengdan,” when I was forming a new division following the Nanhutou Meeting.
Even now I think that it was right for me at that time to make the courageous decision to leave Hwasong Uisuk School\and go to Jilin to mix with other young people\and students. If I had stayed at Hwasong Uisuk School all the processes which later helped to lead the Korean revolution to a rapid upsurge would have been delayed.
The members of the Down- with-Imperialism\union were surprised to hear of my intention to leave the school\and go to Jilin.
I told them: “Now that we have formed the Down-with-Imperialism\union we should extend its\organization\and idea far\and wide. It seems that I can do nothing by remaining here. I think there will be no great benefit for me in remaining at this school. After I leave, you should take advantage of your opportunities also\and establish yourselves either in units of the Independence Army\or in some appropriate place\and go among the masses spreading the line of the Down-with-Imperialism\union. Because you are all members of it you must receive unified leadershiprom the\organization no matter\where you may be working.” I agreed with some of my comrades to meet later in Jilin.
I had already discussed with Kim Si U the matter of leaving Hwasong Uisuk School.
I confessed to him:
“I will consult with my family, too. However, I don’t find Hwasong Uisuk School much to my liking.... Although I have no money, I would like to go to Jilin to attend secondary school. Could I ask for your opinion?”
The area controller expressed great sorrow. Nevertheless, he did not try to stop me leaving the school.
He said: “If this is your intention, I will talk over the matter with my friends\and use my good offices on your behalf. Each man has a favourite cart. If you don’t like the Hwasong Uisuk School cart, ride in your own.”
I felt much easier in my mind because Kim Si U, who had been so delighted at my coming to Hwasong Uisuk School\and welcomed me, understood me. He told me to pay courteous respects to headmaster Choe Tong O so that he would not be sorry at my leaving the school. He also asked me to call on him without fail on my way to Jilin after seeing my mother.
Winning Kim Si U’s consent was easier than I had expected. However, parting with headmaster Choe Tong O was
accompanied by unbearable agony. At first he was angry\and criticized me for a good while. He stormed at me, saying: “Once you, a man, have resolved to do something, you must see it through. It is unreasonable for you to leave the school in mid-course. You say you are leaving because you do not like the education here.\where is there in this uncertain world a school that can be to everybody’s liking?” Then he turned his back on me\and looked out of the window.
Thus he stood looking vacantly at the skyrom which snow was falling.
“If this school is not to the liking of such talented students as you, Song Ju, I, too, will leave.”
At these words spat out by the headmaster, I was nonplussed, not knowing what to do with myself. I wondered if I had been too cruel in criticizing the education being given at the school in front of its headmaster.
After a while Choe Tong O calmed down\and approached me, placing his hand on my shoulder.
He said: “I will not oppose any ism, be it nationalism\or communism, if it aims at winning the independence of Korea. Anyhow, I wish you success.”
Even after we had gone out into the playground, the headmaster said many fine things to me, things which would serve as a lesson for me. Snow fell continually on his head\and shoulders.
Afterwards, whenever I recollected how the headmaster had seen me off in the heavy snow, I repented of my failure to brush the snow off his shoulders.
Thirty years later Choe Tong O\and I had a chance, emotional meeting in Pyongyang. I was the Premier\and he was a cadre of the Consultative Council of Former South Korean Politicians in the North for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification. However, that meeting was simply a meeting between teacher\and pupil. The idea behind the Down-with-Imperialism\union which had been put forward in Huadian was blossoming into socialism in this land which had emerged victoriousrom the\ordeals of the war.
“So, Premier Song Ju, you were right at that time!”
As he smilingly spoke my childhood name, my mind travelled back to the playground at Hwasong Uisuk School a few decades before on the day when snow was falling.
The old teacher, who had spent his whole life amid complicated political upheavals, appreciated my leaving Hwasong Uisuk School 30 years ago with this short remark, with no explanation\or commentary.
My mother also supported me in leaving Hwasong Uisuk School. When she first heard of it, she looked very grave. However, when I told her the reason for my leaving the school, it put her mind at rest.
She said: “You are always worried about your school fees. A man can do nothing if a lack of money deprives him of his vitality. I will provide your school fees by all means. I only want you to achieve your aim. Now that you have resolved to follow a new path, be bold.”
What my mother said was a great encouragement to me in my fresh ambition.
In Fusong, I discovered that many of my schoolmates were still there, having been unable to go on to higher school because of their straitened family circumstances\and that they were at a loss, not knowing what course to take. I decided to awaken them ideologically\and lead them along the road of revolution.
I was impatient to do something, with the DIU having just been formed,\and I decided to spread its roots in all directions.
I formed the Saenal Children’s\union of patriotic children in\and around Fusong to educate them in progressive ideas\and lead them to the road of revolution. I formed the\union on December 15, 1926. It was a communist\organization for children, the aim of which was to fight for the bright new day when Japanese imperialism would be overthrown\and national liberation achieved, the day when the old society would be destroyed\and a new one built.
The formation of the Saenal Children’s\union marked an important event in extending the activities of the DIU. The slogans put up by the children’s\union were truly impressive. We put up the slogan, “Let us fight to achieve Korea’s liberation\and independence!”\and for this purpose set some immediate tasks such as that of studying new progressive ideas\and explaining\and disseminating them among broad sections of the masses.
I defined the\organizational principles\and a work system for it to carry out its tasks, as well as a daily routine for its members,\and I gave them guidance in their\union life before I left for Jilin.
I helped my mother to form the Anti-Japanese Women’s Association on December 26, 1926, on the basis of the experience I had gained in forming the DIU\and the Saenal Children’s\union.
After my father’s death my mother embarked on an energetic revolutionary struggle. In those days my mother\organized evening classes in the Fusong County town\and in the rural areas around it; she taught Korean women how to read\and write\and gave them revolutionary education.
I visited Kim Si U in Huadian as I had promised, on my way to Jilin after my short stay in Fusong.
Kim Si U gave me a letter addressed to Kim Sa Hon, saying that Kim Sa Hon had been a close friend of my father. It was a letter of introduction in which he asked him to have me accepted at a school when I arrived there. That was my last meeting with Kim Si U.
Kim Si U was someone whom I shall always remember\and who left a deep impression on me. He was taciturn, but did much work for national liberation. He took part in the enlightenment of people, the education of the younger generation, the purchase of weapons, fund raising, guiding political workers to\androm the homeland, the conveyance of secret materials\and information,\and the amalgamation of the armed\organizations\and their cooperation; there were almost no fields in which he had no hand.
He not only helped my father in his work but also gave me sincere support in my work. It was Kim Si U who kept watch on the day when we formed the DIU\and who was most delighted at the event.
After our parting he continued to supply the Independence Army with food grain\and aided Korean students enthusiastically, while continuing to run the Yongphung Rice Mill. During the civil war in China he, as the chairman of the aid-the-revolution association, took great pains to protect Korean people’s lives\and propertyrom attacks by the Japanese\and Jiang Jie-shi’s armies in Huadian.
He returned to the homeland in 1958. Although he had worked hard for the nation all his life, he never mentioned the fact. So, I did not discover his\whereabouts.
He became seriously ill in Jonchon,\and only when he had just a few days to live did he tell his children about his relations with my father\and me.
His children were surprised to hear his story. They said to him: Why did you never visit the General if you knew him so well? How glad the General would be to meet you, father! The General is currently giving field guidance in Jonchon. Even now it is not too late. We must invite him to our house as you cannot move.
It was true that at that time I was giving field guidance in Jonchon County.
Having listened to them, he chided them. “It is not for your benefit that I tell you this old story just before I die. It is the history of our family,\and you should be faithful to him\and fully support him. We should not keep him awayrom state affairs even for a moment, should we?”
The old man had been stout-hearted in this way for many years. If he had acted as his children had told him, I would have met him. I was very sorry. My failure to meet him again is one of the greatest regrets of my life.
Whenever I recall my days at Hwasong Uisuk School\and the DIU, I am reminded of Kim Si U. I cannot speak about my Huadian days without mentioning Kim Si U, who made quiet, persistent efforts to help me in those unforgettable days when we disseminated the new ideas\and formed the DIU.
The DIU grew to become invincible owing to the positive support of Kim Si U\and other honest people.
Bearing the hope of these people in mind, I left for Jilin with a great ambition\and great determination.