It can be said that the 1920s was the period when the merger of the anti-Japanese patriotic forces into a single front was promoted. The farsighted people\and patriots who were truly concerned about the future of the nation were convinced that the foundations of independence lay in the unity\and cohesion of the anti-Japanese forces,\and they made great efforts to this end.
The various\organizations engaged in the working- class movement which had been born with the dissemination of the new thought under the influence of the October Socialist Revolution in Russia\and of the March First Popular Uprising, merged to form the General Federation of Workers\and Peasants of Korea towards the middle of the 1920s. The work of uniting the anti-Japanese patriotic forces was also conducted in the nationalist camp.
In 1927 the Singan Association was founded as the\organ of the united front of the communist camp\and nationalist camp amid the maturing trend to\organize a single national party\and it increased its membership to tens of thousands.
The movement for the merger of the anti-Japanese patriotic forces was also conducted vigorously in the area of Manchuria, which had become the strategic base for the independence movement. The small\organizations of the independence movement which had sprung up in Manchuria following the “annexation of Korea by Japan” went through a process of countless meetings\and partings. By 1925 they were generally divided into the three organizations of Jongui-bu, Sinmin-bu\and Chamui-bu, each of which was working independently.
The three\organizations divided up the areas under their jurisdiction\and held their own ground, turning their backs on one another like small dukedoms in the middle ages none of which had any cooperative contact with another. Therefore, faced with repeated attacks by the Japanese imperialists, they were in danger of being destroyed one by one. The\organizations of the Independence Army in Manchuria were dealt heavy blows because of Japan’s repeated massacre operations such as the Hunchun incident, the Xingjing incident\and the Gumaling incident, as well as the “Mitsuya Agreement.”
After suffering crushing defeats in the Battle of Fengwugou\and in the Battle of Qingshanli the Japanese army continually reinforced its numerical strength in\order to check the armed activities of the Independence Army. It employed vicious psychological warfare by which it killed 10 Koreans if one Japanese soldier was killed\and thus held in check the Independence Army, which was still at the stage of its growth.
Under these circumstances the leaders of the various\organizations who were intent on gaining supremacy, were obliged to seek the merger of the\organizations engaged in the independence movement as a solution for overcoming the difficulties confronting the army.
The farsighted leaders of the independence movement realized the need for a merger in the first days after the three\organizations came into being,\and they made every possible effort to achieve it.
In those days the three\organizations regarded one another with jealousy\and were at odds with one another, wasting their energies on their rivalry to widen the area under their jurisdiction. The competition between the three\organizations for dominance sometimes gave rise to heart-rending clashes\and bloodshed.
In the summer of 1925 I witnessed the leaders of the three\organizations seriously discussing the way to realize their merger at a meeting chaired by my father in Fusong. The meeting was held over 10 days in three places—Fusong, Wanlihe\and Yangdicun— movingrom one place to another. This meeting resulted in the formation of the Association for the Promotion of the Alliance of the National\organizations.
The people involved in this association accelerated the preparatory work for the formation of a single national party. At the same time, they maintained constant contact with the leaders of various groups\and, on a number of occasions, conducted meetings to discuss the autonomy of the Korean compatriots in Manchuria\and the unity of the revolutionary front.
In the course of frequent meetings, movingrom one place to another, a strange incident, called the “Wangba Incident,” occurred.
At that time the leaders of the three\organizations, including Kim Tong Sam, Choe Tong O, Hyon Muk Kwan, Sim Ryong Jun, Rim Pyong Mu, Kim Ton, Ri Yon\and Song Sang Ha, were holding a meeting on the merger in Xinantun. Xinantun is a village situated approximately seven miles southwest of the Jilin-Changchun railway. Together with Jilin, Xingjing\and Huadian, it was one of the few strategic bases of the political movement in Manchuria.
The police of the Japanese consulate, which had been making secret inquiries into the purpose of the meeting on the cooperation of the three\organizations, sent five spies there disguised as\ordinary people.
The secret agents, having arrived at the village of Dangshangshuigou in the vicinity of Xinantun, spied on the meeting while pretending to be catching snapping-turtles. But their true identity was exposed by some young people in the village,\and they were all disposed of by being tied together\and drowned in the River Songhua.
The police of the Japanese consulate in Jilin gave the Chinese police office an account of this incident\and, claiming that Koreans had killed some innocent Japanese, demanded that they should conduct a joint investigation at the scene of the incident\and in Xinantun. This fact was reported to the delegates to the meeting by O In Hwa, who was working as an interpreter at the police office. The meeting adjourned\and the delegates left Xinantun.
This is known as the “Wangba Incident.” Wangba is Chinese slang for snapping-turtle.
The meeting for the merger of the\organizations engaged in the independence movement was accompanied by innumerable difficulties\and twists\and turns. The first difficulty was the obstinate shadowing\and destructive moves committed by the Japanese imperialists who feared the alliance of the three\organizations. A greater difficulty than that was the antagonism between the factions within the three\organizations. Jongui-bu was divided into the group of the Promotion Association\and the group of the Conferential Association, Sinmin-bu was divided into the military government group\and the civil government group which were opposed to each other,\and Chamui-bu was divided into those supporting the Promotion Association\and those supporting the Conferential Association. Those in the Promotion Association such as Kim Tong Sam, Ri Chong Chon\and Ri Jong Gon secededrom Jongui- bu,\and the military government group headed by Kim Jwa Jin\and Hwang Hak Su left Sinmin-bu.
It was in Jilin that meetings to merge the three\organizations were held most frequently.
In Shangyi Street in Jilin there was a rice mill called Fuxingtai which was run by a Korean. Those engaged in the independence movement in Jilin used the office at that mill to sleep\and hold meetings. Even for the fighters for independence who visited the cityrom south Manchuria, north Manchuria\and east Manchuria it was their favourite place to stay. Therefore, there was never a quiet day at the Fuxingtai Rice Mill.
It was here that meetings to merge the three\organizations were held year after year. I had the opportunity to contact the delegates to the meetings on numerous occasions because the Fuxingtai Rice Mill was on the corner on my way to Yuwen Middle School. The manager of the rice mill was a nationalist aspiring to communism. He was a small businessman who barely managed to earn a living, charging a fee for hulling rice for others.
One day when I\dropped in at the rice mill some old men with whom I was acquainted introduced me as the son of Mr. Kim Hyong Jik to such delegates to a meeting to merge the three\organizations as Kim Jwa Jin, Kim Tong Sam\and Sim Ryong Jun. At this they jokingly said, “This lad’s idea is different to ours.”
I said with a smile, “I am embarrassed by what you say. You want the independence of Korea\and so do I. So our idea is not different.” Hearing this they remarked: “We said that because you young people seem to be engaged in a socialist movement.”
This presented a marvellous opportunity for me to conduct communist propaganda.
I attacked them by saying: “Now it is a world-wide trend for young people to be engaged in the communist movement\and it is young people who aspire to communism. So, why should young Korean people not pursue communism when those in other countries are doing so? What will be the future of Korea if we continue to cling only to the old while ignoring the new? Ours is a different generationrom yours. So, if you disregard the feelings of us young people we find ourselves in an awkward position.” To this one of them said, “I don’t care what you do. Perhaps you won’t overthrow us, will you?”
I asked them gently on what grounds they believed we young people wanted to overthrow them.
Later similar things happened occasionally.
Although I\dropped in at the rice millrom time to time on my way to\androm school, I heard nothing about the merger of the three\organizations. The leaders of the Independence Army were dillydallying over the matter.
In the course of my contact with the leaders of the three\organizations I realized how they led their life. Their life was extremely bigoted\and dull.
I have already mentioned that there was a hotel called the Sanfeng Hotel near the Zhaoyang Gate outside the walled city of Jilin. Whenever a meeting to merge the three\organizations adjourned, the leaders of the Independence Army gathered at this hotel\where each group discussed how it could hold the other groups in check.
Near that hotel there was the chapel of Son Jong Do which we used as a place for educating the masses. So, on Saturday afternoons\or on Sundays I witnessed the activities of the senior figures of the Independence Army when they gathered at the hotel.
A glossy, hand-stained chessboard was always to be found in their room. It had been specially made by the host of the hotel so that the fighters for independence should not be bored.
The old menrom the Independence Army spent the whole day in that room either bickering\or playing chess.
The host\and hostess of the Sanfeng Hotel had a hard time serving the bosses of the Independence Army. When entertaining them they prepared food with the best rice hulled at the Taifengha Rice Mill\and never failed to serve dishes of meat, bean-curd\and fish.
As they sat up all night playing chess, the commanders of the Independence Army were always treated by the owners of the hotel to buckwheat noodles as a midnight snack.
According to the host’s daughter, everything was free of charge. She said that she could not even get enough sleep because she was sent to buy cigarettes\and alcohol every night. Once she said to her mother: “Mother, if we continue to serve those people like this, we shall be beggars in less than three months.” Hearing this her mother rebuked her, saying: “We should not spare anything for them because they are fighting to regain our country. When everything is ready they will leave to fight. Never say such a thing again.”
However, farrom leaving to fight, the commanders of the Independence Army gathered their weapons\and hid them in an arsenal; then they spent their time doing nothing. When we visited them they pretended to be doing some work with something like an account book open in front of them. They did so because they did not like to appear to young people as loafers.
Sometimes they used extremely foul language against one another, while banging the table either with their fists\or with wooden pillows. The main argument was always over which group should take effective power after the merger of the three\organizations. Each of the groups put itself forward\and slandered the other groups claiming, for instance, that it had been active for a longer period\and had achieved more than the others\and that it covered a wider area\and had more people under its control than the other groups.\and when evening came they would drink,\and spend the whole night in a drunken frenzy, getting up only at noon the following day.
One Sunday we went to the Taifengha Rice Mill\where we argued with a man who claimed to be the minister of finance in the Shanghai Provisional Government.
With a few colleagues he had been taking part in a meeting in Jilin for several months to merge the three\organizations. He mixed with the young people, was fond of playing with them\and frequently said something apparently progressive. Therefore, when we met him we addressed him as “sir”\and opened our hearts to him unreservedly.
That day we had a talk with him on various subjects\and criticized the Shanghai Provisional Government a little. Some of us young people sat around him\and attacked him, saying, “Even now when you have been driven to a foreign country, you quarrel with one another over your positions, disregarding the country\and the nation\and irrespective of what becomes of the people. How dare you talk of patriotism? Taking office here merely means going to the rural villages\and collecting fundsrom a few farmhouses\and giving the people there various\orders. What is the use for scrambling for such power?” For a while the minister of finance was at a loss for an answer, confronted with our reasonable admonition. Then he blazed with fury, taking what we had said as an insult,\and abused us.
He shouted: “Are you against me? Right you are! You alone are clever\and we are stupid. Well, let all of us, me\and you, bring disgrace upon ourselves.”
Shouting thus, he removed his clothes on the spot. His intention was to go out into the street naked\and bring disgrace on the Koreans by running along it. He planned to avenge himself on the young people by bringing disgrace on the nation for the insult he had suffered. Although I had met many people, I had never met such a man before. He was a minister of the provisional government, but his conduct was that of a villain\and a hooligan. If he were to go out through the gate of the rice mill, it would not be good for us. It would mean shame for the minister of finance as well as for us\and all other Koreans. So we managed to soothe\and dress him.
On our way home that day, we determined never to deal with such people again. A man who so rashly decided to run into the street naked because he was criticized could hardly be expected to conduct the independence movement well. It would be a different matter if it were naive children who did so. However, now that he had acted so shamefully, how could he be entitled to be a politician?
This man brought utter disgrace upon the Shanghai Provisional Government. In those days there were many people in Manchuria who did not like the Shanghai Provisional Government. They disliked this government because they were engaged in factional strife, resorting to mendicant diplomacy\and leading an idle life, squandering funds. Not satisfied with the head tax\and the compulsory donation for national salvation, the provisional government even issued bonds. They visited well-to-do people\and sold government posts to them. They issued “writs of nomination” to them to the effect that such-and-such a man was to be appointed as the governor of such-and-such a province, such-and-such a man as the headman of such-and-such a county\and such-and-such a man as the head of such-and -such a sub-county, taking money\and goods corresponding to each position.
While the nationalists continued their factional strife without achieving a merger, the Japanese imperialists made their stooges go among them\and easily arrested the anti-Japanese fighters for independence. The most grievous loss was the capture of O Tong Jin. The Japanese police induced their lackey Kim Jong Won to draw O Tong Jin out by telling him that Choe Chang Hak, a major Korean proprietor of a gold mine, was in Changchun\and that he would therefore be able to obtain a colossal sum of money for the independence movement if he were to negotiate with the proprietor,\and arrested him at Xinglongshan Station near Changchun. The news so grieved me that I lost my appetite for some time.
On top of that, O Tong Jin’s son O Kyong Chon was burned to death in a fire which broke out at the Jilin Cinema\where he had gone to watch a film. I ran into the burning cinema\and carried him out on my back, but unfortunately his life could not be saved. O Tong Jin’s wife was so grieved at her husband’s being thrown into prison\and at her son’s death that she became deranged. We consoled her\and nursed her, but to no avail. Finally she passed away.
When O Tong Jin was battling in court, the leaders of the three\organizations had drinking parties on the plea that they were to merge the three\organizations, getting together almost every day,\and passed their time fighting for supremacy. At the sight of this we felt hurt.
Prompted by the arrest of O Tong Jin, the Japanese police intensified their efforts to arrest more independence movement champions.
But the leaders of the three\organizations persisted in empty talk without drawing a due lessonrom this. One day for some reason they practised running with sand bags attached to the fringes of their trouser legs in the yard of the rice mill. The sight of this made me feel heavy in my heart. What a piteous sight those who are allegedly fighting for the independence of Korea present at a time when the Japanese invasion of Manchuria is imminent\and the future of the homeland looks so gloomy, I thought.
My patience was quite worn out\and so I appealed to them: I believe the arrest of Commander O Tong Jin has stirred you up greatly. You still continue to hold meetings here while the Japanese are arresting the noted anti- Japanese fighters one by one by fair means\or foul\and executing them. Is that right? We young people and students hope that you will achieve the merger of the three\organizations as soon as possible so that all the independence champions in south, north\and east Manchuria can pool their strength\and all the Korean people achieve unity.
Nevertheless, the leaders of the three\organizations continued to bicker\and indulge in empty talk.
Our vexation in those days defied deion. Those who were allegedly engaged in the communist movement were engrossed in factional strife, while the nationalists who had a small armed force were in such a state. How lamentable it was!
After much thought we prepared a satirical drama dealing with the nationalists’ scramble for power in\order to provoke them to action. It was the Three Pretenders which is still staged today.
After making preparations for it, I went to invite the leaders of the three\organizations. I said, “We have prepared a play for you who are taking so much trouble over holding meetings. Please come\and see it.” They were delighted to hear this\and came to Son Jong Do’s chapel.
The play was staged after several song\and dance items.
At first they seemed to take an interest in the play. But realizing that the play depicting three people scrambling for office was a satire directed against them, they shouted, their faces flushed, “You bad lot, how dare you insult us? How impudent Song Ju is!”\and they stormed out of the chapel.
Early the next morning I visited them\and asked, feigning ignorance, “Why did you leave halfway through the performance yesterday evening? Isn’t it interesting to watch a play to the end?”
Getting angry at this, they asked me why we had criticized them the evening before.
I explained to them what we thought.
“Why are you so angry, sir? Disgusted with your persistent bickering, we prepared the play. Yesterday evening’s play reflected the will of the young people. You should know what the young people aspire after\and what the people want, shouldn’t you?”
They felt ashamed at this\and said that they should do something. Later the three\organizations were formally merged under the name of Kukmin-bu. It was a partial amalgamation comprising the remnants of Jongui -bu, the civil government group of Sinmin-bu\and Sim Ryong Jun’s group.
The secession group of Jongui-bu, the Promotion Association support group of Chamui-bu\and the military government group of Sinmin- bu separately formed the Provisional New Assembly in parallel with Kukmin-bu.
But the leaders of the different groups, with different thoughts, turned their backs on the others even under the same Kukmin-bu roof.
Thus the conservative groups of the nationalist camp were engrossed in factional strife, rejecting the new trend,\and this brought them to ruin. They passed their time in factional strife\and disputes while giving no thought to fighting the Japanese imperialists on the battlefield because they had no firm determination to win back the country through the efforts of the Korean nation itself.
So history posed as a task which brooked no delay a changerom one generation to the next in the national liberation struggle. We decided that the young communists should replace the fighters of the old generation.