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[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu 1. We Struck Commander Wang\and Won Over Wan Shun
CHAPTER 13. TOWARDS MT. PAEKTU
1. We Struck Commander Wang\and Won Over Wan Shun
2. In the Dear Walled Town ..
3. Premiere of The Sea of Blood
4. The Women’s Company
5. The Secret Camp on Mt. Paektu.
6. Patriotic Landowner Kim Jong Bu
CHAPTER 14. THE PEOPLE IN CHANGBAI
1. West Jiandao
2. The Sound of the Watermill
3. Ri Je Sun
4. With the Comrades-in-Arms in Southern Manchuria
5. Samil Wolgan
CHAPTER 15 EXPANSION OF THE UNDERGROUND FRONT
1. The Indomitable Fighter, Pak Tal
2. Homeland Party Working Committee
3. Fighting at the Foot of Mt. Paektu
4. Tojong Pak In Jin
5. On Chondoism, a National Religion
6. Living Apartrom the People Is Impossible
7. A Written Warranty for a Good Citizen
Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu
1. We Struck Commander Wang\and Won Over Wan Shun
Spring 1936 was an unusual season for us. We had planned to do a lot of things that spring. The creation of a new division, formation of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland, preparations for the building of the Paektusan Base ... as well as the outbreak of important events at Maanshan\and other places in the Fusong area, led to the surfacing of many new tasks we had not anticipated.
To deal with these pressing tasks, we needed time to concentrate on them. Developments in the area around us in those days, however, did not give us
breathing space. Two forces, which had been operating in Fusong area, were interfering with us\and placing obstacles in our way. One was Commander Wang’s “punitive” force of the puppet Manchukuo police, the other was Wan Shun’s mountain rebels (an anti-Japanese unit).
Wang’s title “Commander” carried the connotation that he was the king of the “punitive” forces.
Since the days of his service in the army of warlord Zhang Zuo-lin, Wang had been an expert in “mopping up bandits”. He had operated for some time against the Japanese in the self-defence army\organized by Tang Ju-wu after the September 18 incident1. Consequently we had maintained fairly good terms with him during our expedition to southern Manchuria. However, he surrendered to the Japanese army\and became the commander of the police force of puppet Manchukuo, soon after the break-up of the self-defence army, following Tang Ju-wu’s retreat to China proper. As a faithful running dog of the Japanese imperialists he had fully displayed his ability in “punitive” operations.
He had never returned empty-handedrom his “punitive” operations. He had always destroyed his enemy, cut off the heads\or ears of victims\and submitted them to his masters. The Japanese used to praise him highly\and give him bonuses. He had been especially enthusiastic about the pursuit of Wan Shun’s unit,\and harassed him in every possible way. Soldiers of the Chinese anti-Japanese nationalist forces operating in Fusong area, trembled even at the glimpse of Wang’s shadow. These soldiers called him “Ri To Son of Fusong”.
Ri To Son, in neighbouring Antu County, was a notorious human butcher, whose tenacity, wickedness\and brutality was famous throughout Jiandao. Commander Wang was a running dog, who was no less loyal to the Japanese than Ri To Son.
This man, Commander Wang, became our major enemy, a major obstacle in our way, that spring.
Wan Shun of the national salvation army also hindered our activities nearly as much as Commander Wang. When we came to Fusong, we intended to make his unit our major ally. However, his men treated us as their enemy. On the way backrom the procurement of clothing supplies for the Children’s Corps members at Maanshan, Kim San Ho had been robbed of supplies by mountain rebels. My men had become so indignant, that they had retaliated too severely against the mountain rebels, who had turned into bandits, although they should have refrainedrom punishing them. This caused us a bit of trouble\and constituted an unexpected headache.
“The ‘Koryo Red Army’ is too innocent to forgive anyone, who touches poor people’s property. They think nothing of our hardships. They are a different tribe\and cannot understand us.” This rumour spread among the mountain rebels. They even tried to provoke\or harm individual soldiers of my unit, whenever they met them. This was the attitude of Wan Shun’s unit we need to form a common front with. It was a big headache.
We found ourselves in an analogous situation to the one we had been in, when we had founded the guerrilla army in Jiandao (April 25, 1932). However, our circumstances differedrom those in our incipient days in that we were now much stronger,\and our military authority had been recognized by the public, so that we were feared by both Commander Wang, who belonged to the enemy camp\and Commander Wan Shun, who should have been our ally.
What could be done to remove the obstacles they had set\and win a period of quiet time?
After much thought I decided to try\and maintain peace with Commander Wang, refrainrom attacking him,\and adopt other measures to form a common front with Commander Wan Shun.
I wrote to Commander Wang in the following vein:
... We are not strangers to each other. You know me well,\and I know you well. So let me state frankly: The Japanese are our major enemy. We do not plan to fight the Manchukuo army\and police, as long as they do not harm us. If you agree to our terms, I assure you that we will not attack the police force under your command\and the police substations under their jurisdiction,\and I propose peace....
The first paragraph of my letter was followed by the terms we proposed, i.e., that he cease “punitive” operations against the mountain rebels, allow free access to the walled town\and villages\and staying there for the political operatives of the People’s Revolutionary Army, stop repressing patriots who supported\and assisted the People’s Revolutionary Army,\and release imprisoned patriots at once. I said I would guarantee that no disturbance of “public peace” would occur as far as possible in Fusong County, as long as Commander Wang accepted these terms.
A few days later I received a replyrom him,\where he said that he fully agreed to our proposal\and would accept all the terms we had advanced.
Thus a secret peace agreement was reached between both sides. The agreement was implemented faithfully for some time,\and no conflicts arose.
Commander Wang refrainedrom “mopping up” the mountain rebels, connived at ensuring free access for our operatives\or liaison men to the walled towns\and concentration villages under his control,\and mitigated the repression\and arrest of Korean patriots.
We ceased attacking units under his command\and refrainedrom disturbing peace in the garrison area.
When sending out my men to obtain weapons, after burning the bundles of “Minsaengdan” files (April, 1936), I\ordered them to fight\and capture weapons in the area outside the walled town of Fusong\and refrainrom disturbing peace in that county.
Wang was not stupid; he was too clever\and sensitive. He was well aware of our activities in Jiandao\and northern Manchuria,\and knew full well how strong we were. This may be the reason why he did not provoke usrom the outset.
I learned that, after receiving the information of our appearance in Fusong, he had warned his men, saying:
“Avoid engagement with the ‘Koryo Red Army’. If you are careless enough to provoke them, you won’t save your skins. Don’t attack them at random, as they are a small force. The best thing to do is avoid offending them. Don’t provoke a fight you have no chance of winning.”
Whenever he saw my men in khaki, Commander Wang used to sneak away, pretending not to have seen them. Whenever he saw mountain rebels in dark uniform, he always attacked them. The unit under my personal command was not a large force, compared to Wan Shun’s unit, which was more than a thousand strong. Wan Shun’s mountain rebels rather than my unit suffered casualtiesrom attacks by Commander Wang.
The protective clause I had included in the peace terms for the security of Wan Shun’s unit was intended to preserve\and strengthen the anti-Japanese forces.
In the latter half of the 1930s, the activities of the Chinese anti-Japanese nationalist units were on the wane.
The units of Wang De-lin, Tang Ju-wu, Li Du, Su Bing-wen\and others, which were the main force of the national salvation army, had already retreated to China proper via Shanhaiguan\or via the Soviet\union. The stalwart anti-Japanese forces, such as Wang Dian-yang\and Dian Chen units, had been destroyed by the enemy in repeated bloody battles to save the countryrom fighting to the last man.
The units commanded by Ding Chao, Wang Yu-zhen\and some other units had surrendered to the enemy.
More\and more soldiers of the many small units, commanded by Wan Shun\and their sister units, operating on the border of Fusong\and Linjiang Counties, also surrendered. In autumn 1935, the enemy even held a ceremony at Chushuitan to welcome 90 men, who had surrenderedrom Ma Xing-shan unit.
The rest of the national salvation army dispersed into small groups, offering passive resistance in deep mountains. Some of them became bandits.
In these circumstances, some communists began to slight the united front with the anti-Japanese units\and even regard it as unnecessary. If this state of affairs had continued, our allied front against the Japanese would have lacked consistency.
After the peace agreement with Commander Wang, we began approaching Wan Shun to seek a common front with his unit.
My unit included an elderly manrom a unit of mountain rebels.
I sent him to Wan Shun with my letter, which ran as follows:
... Your name is widely known to our revolutionary army. We planned to meet you on our arrival in Fusong\and discuss with you measures for the joint struggle against the puppet Manchukuo army\and the Japanese. However, we could not achieve this goal, because an undesirable clash occurred between us, even before we had exchanged greetings. We regret this fact.
Our political commissar interrogated the mountain rebels, who had been wounded while robbing the revolutionary army of its supplies. The interrogation proved that these rebels had defectedrom your unit a few months ago\and degenerated into bandits.
Nevertheless, rumour has it that my men harmed your men on active duty. This is the sinister work of the enemy, which disapproves of friendly relations between us.
I eagerly hope that both armies will dispel all misunderstanding\and distrust, discard ill feelings\and enmity,\and become comrades-in-arms\and brothers\and fight on a common front against the Japanese.
Wan Shun ignored our proposal; he did not reply. His silence obviously meant that he felt he could manage without us. The developments in Fusong area had encouraged him to take such an attitude. Commander Wang had, in accordance with the peace agreement, relaxed his attack on Wan Shun’s unit\and all other anti-Japanese forces. Wang pretended to continue his “punitive” operations, but in fact refrainedrom hostile action. Wan Shun’s small units of mountain rebels were now able to get along without any backing. This situation encouraged their sporadic obstructive moves. However, they gradually ceased to harm us as we provided warnings on more than one occasion.
Although we failed to achieve a common front, we gained stability. Neither Wang’s unit nor Wan Shun’s unit disturbed us any longer. We were now able to concentrate on our own affairs.
While at Manjiang\and Daying, we held peace negotiations with the local military\and police forces of the puppet Manchukuo\and succeeded in obtaining their promise of non-interference.
We arrived at Manjiang towards the end of April 1936.
Approximately 30 policemen were stationed there. It would have been easy to destroy such a small force. But we did not resort to armed action; we sent our representative\and held negotiations with the police force.
We said: We will not touch you; will you allow us to stay in the village? Surely you can leave us alone, as if you had not seen us,\and answer, if you were accused by your superiors, that you could not resist, because the guerrilla army was too strong.
The police force readily complied with our request. They were even grateful that the guerrillas had come to negotiate rather than attack them.
Ri Tong Hak placed a machine-gun near a house, not farrom the defence corps\and posted the machine-gunners in civilian clothes to stand guard round the clock.
Meanwhile, at Manjiang I prepared most of the documents to be submitted to the meeting at Tongjiang, related to the foundation of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland. As there was no danger of attackrom the enemy, I was able to continue my work smoothly\and quickly.
We were generous\and lenient towards the enemy, which was reluctant to fight us. This was our policy towards the enemy, a policy we kept as an iron rule ever since we started the armed struggle against the Japanese. This code of military action was maintained by the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army throughout the whole anti-Japanese armed struggle.
We did not take up arms to kill others, but rather to save ourselves.
The rescue of our motherland\and fellow countrymen: this was the aim\and mission of our struggle. Our weapons were only used when it proved necessary to punish the enemy, who were stifling our nation\and harming our people’s lives\and property during their occupation of our country.
The sword of justice in the hands of our army provided benevolent protection to those who deserved to be kept alive,\whereas it meted out determined\and merciless punishment to those who did not deserve to live, who were wicked\and resistant.
Commander Wang, who remained quiet during the spring, resumed for some reason his “punitive” operations against the Chinese anti-Japanese units at the beginning of the summer. He had probably been pressured by the Japanese garrison force\and military police stationed in the Fusong county town. The cut heads of soldiers of Chinese anti-Japanese units began to be hung again on telegraph posts in the streets of Fusong,\and soldiers of many units under Wan Shun’s command began to desert again. The revived
expression of the real nature of mountain rebels as selfish, short-sighted\and lukewarm towards the idea of anti-Japanese national salvation, irritated us, as we were working hard to rally anti-Japanese forces. If we had failed to check Wang’s “punitive” operations, Wan Shun’s unit would have been unable to avoid collapsing.
I wrote to Commander Wang for a second time. I said:
... We have received unpleasant information to the effect that the police force under your command have resumed “punitive” operations against the mountain rebels. If this is true, then you have broken our agreement.
I advise you to give the matter prudent thought, lest you stain your honour because of the broken promise.
Bear in mind that our generosity will not apply to an enemy, who is obstinately provocative\and resistant....
I received no replyrom Commander Wang to the letter of warning though one week passed. The “punitive” attacks on Wan Shun’s unit continued. He seemed to be saying: I will not be intimidated by your warnings. I am not a coward. I am ready to accept your challenge.
Reinforcements of hundreds of “punitive” troopsrom Kwantung Army came to vantage points in Fusong County. Wang became more arrogant than ever.
Early in July I warned Wang again for the last time.
Four\or five days after the last letter, I received the news that Wang’s unit had surprised a camp of Wan Shun’s troops near Dajianchang instead of replying to my letter. At that time we were in a forest in the border area between Fusong\and Linjiang Counties.
Wang’s action angered me\and my comrades-in-arms. It was impossible to expect a commander of the puppet Manchukuo police force, which was under the control of its Japanese masters, to keep his promise with the communists faithfully to the last minute.
However, we did not deny that they were also Chinese\and that they had reasons of their own. Trust in that reason underlay our psychological warfare on the puppet Manchukuo army. Our success in persuading Wang\and concluding a non-interference agreement resultedrom that trust.
Most of the middle\and low-ranking officers of the hostile force we had shown our trust in remained loyal to their promise. Such officers included the regimental commander of the puppet Manchukuo army, whom I came to know by chance in Emu,\and the battalion commander of the same army, who supplied us regularly with copies of the magazine, Tiejun,rom Dapuchaihe.
But Wang, an old acquaintance of mine, discarded his promise, as he would do with a pair of worn-out shoes. A man without faith in his cause will end in perfidy. I believe that Wang was not confident about the victory of the Korean\and Chinese peoples over the Japanese.
We could not forgive Wang for his treachery. We were enraged at his shooting, in reply to our patience\and goodwill.
I summoned Kim San Ho\and told him to\select approximately 30 elite soldiers\and then join the 10th regiment in an action to punish Commander Wang.
Meanwhile we secretly moved the main force to Zuizishan near Xinancha. Xinancha, although not a large concentration village, was an important
base of the enemy’s “punitive” operations. Here a police substation\and force of the Self-Defence Corps were also located.
During the battle of Xinancha we planned to teach Commander Wang a lesson for breaking the agreement\and contain the enemy militarily. We also aimed to capture the weapons needed for our new division.
The new division had been involved in major battles near the River Toudao-Songhua\and at Laoling. If the battle of Laoling had been successful, we could have obtained a lot of weapons. The battle had been planned down to the last detail, but an accident occurred,\and our plan failed. An enemy scout had happened to sneak in the area of our ambush to relieve himself. Finding the ambush, he had got carried away\and opened fire. My man did the same in bewilderment. We killed\or wounded dozens of enemy troops\and captured some weapons, but the battle was not fought as neatly as we had planned.
We would make up at Xinancha for the failure to destroy all the enemy at Laoling.
At that time we had a Chinese man in our unit who, disgruntled with the chief of the police substation for his wrong doings, had deserted the police force of puppet Manchukuo at Xinancha. He said that the substation chief was a scoundrel hated by the local people. He was a tyrant to the people in the concentration village\and the policemen. The Chinese man said angrily that he had joined the guerrilla army to kill Yang, the substation chief, before fighting to liberate China. He knew the village situation well. This knowledge contributed to our decision to fight at Xinancha after Laoling.
The attack on Xinancha would be launched during daylight. Between noon\and one o’clock in the afternoon, the policemen were supposed to have their lunch\and clean their rifles. By attacking the village when the rifles of the policemen were disassembled for cleaning, we would be able to overwhelm the enemy without facing strong resistance.
The guerrillas, disguised in peasant straw hats\and clothes\and carrying farm implements with them, approached the mud wall\and quickly passed through the gate,\and then broke into the police barracks like a thunderbolt. The policemen\and substation chief were taken prisoner without much resistance. The Self-Defence Corps members were also all captured. When the battle was over, we improvised an open-air stage in front of the police substation building\and provided a theatrical performance, before setting fire to the police building\and withdrawing towards Xigang.
We gave the captured policemen political education\and travelling money\and told them to return to their hometowns. One of the prisoners asked quietly how we guerrillas had broken through the gate. My man said in jest that we had flown in. The captive said that even the devil would be dumbfounded at our methods. He wondered what the guards were doing.
The raid on the police substation caused Wang a strong psychological shock which we had intended. Wang had to conduct “punitive” operations more aggressively in\order to save face.
Kim San Ho disguised the\selected 30 men in mountain rebel uniform,\and then appeared with them near Fusong county town, in a bid to lure Wang. Kim San Ho himself was, of course, wearing the uniform of mountain rebel platoon leader. We knew well that black was the best decoy for Wang.
Kim San Ho’s small unit appeared in a village near the county town at night, dragged out articlesrom the peasants’ houses in imitation of the behaviour of mountain rebels,\and then proceeded to the village of Huangnihezi,\where they disturbed the villagers in the same way, before withdrawing quietly through the valley to the hill behind the village.
On receiving the reports of the appearance of “mountain rebels” in the village\and their subsequent disappearance, Wang hurried his unit in fury towards Huangnihezi early next morning.
“Don’t worry,” he said confidently to the villagers. “Prepare a good lunch\and wait for me. I’ll be back after destroying the bandits. I’ll arrive with their heads cut off by that time. Lawless bandits!”
Wang took his unit to pursue the decoy\and began climbing the hill, following the traces of its passage.
Half way along the slope of the hill the soldiers of the 10th regiment lay in ambush. By dawn Kim San Ho’s small unit had joined the regiment.
Dummies had been set up by our men there to deceive Wang. The men hiding between the dummies opened fire first.
Wang\and his men dashed fiercely at the dark dummies in the forest, calling on to surrender. The tenacious resistance of the “mountain rebels” who refused to surrender, run away\or fall down, added fuel to Wang’s anger. Wang shot with a pistol in each of his hands, but was killed by our men.
We did not know what lessons Wang learned at the last moment of his life. It would be fortunate if he realized, albeit belatedly, what lay in store for him for betraying cause of justice. Even if he had realized, it would have been too late.
At the news of the death of Commander Wang, commanders of the Chinese anti-Japanese units came to see Kim San Horom many places\and asked him to sell Wang’s head to them. They said they would hang Wang’s head high on the gate of the wall of Fusong so that the whole world could see it\and thereby take vengeance upon him for his brutal beheading of many officers\and men of the anti-Japanese units,\and hanging of their heads on telegraph posts.
I told Kim San Ho to make sure that Wang’s body was brought to the police in Fusong County, without touching even a thread of his hair.
Later we heard that Commander Wang’s funeral ceremony was held in a grand manner. The funeral also helped spread news of our army. The news spread widely among the enemy soldiers, who said that they would gain nothing but death by fighting our revolutionary army.
The battle of Xinancha\and the battle of Huangnihezi,\where Wang was punished, are described in detail in the novel, History, by Han Sol Ya.
After eliminating Wang, we planned to overwhelm the Japanese troops\and thereby keep Fusong County completely under our control. We sent out reconnaissance scouts\and collected informationrom all directions, learning that approximately 60 Japanese troops would move by boatrom Fusong towards Linjiang, as luck would have it. I immediately arranged an ambush. This battle also gave us great satisfaction. Most of the enemy soldiers were drowned,\and only a dozen narrowly escaped by damaged boat.
During repeated battles of this kind, Fusong area came under our sway. During the summer we spent some time at Daying. We pitched a tent by
the hot spring,\and did various work—setting up subordinate\organizations of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland, arranging a printing shop, tailor’s shop, weapons repair shop, hospital\and building other secret camps in the forests of Fusong\and Linjiang.
An enemy post was located beyond a small hillrom our camp. On our arrival at Daying, we notified the enemy in writing that we were staying at the hot spring for some time\and that they should therefore refrainrom appearing before us\or running off anywhere, but should stay\where they were, sending the supplies we needed, adding that if they did so, we would guarantee them security.
Although they were within hailing distance, the enemy dared not provoke us\or run away. They obeyed our demand for supplies. When we demanded canvas shoes, they brought canvas shoes; when we demanded flour, they brought flour by carts.
Around this time Wan Shun sent a messenger to us with greetings\and congratulations on the destruction of Commander Wang. Later, the old man himself came to the hot spring to pay us a visit. He came of his own accord, although he had not even replied to our proposal to form a common front, a proposal we had made by letter\and by sending a messenger. The old man’s visit came as a surprise. Previously, we had paid visits to Commander Yu\and Wu Yi-cheng to form a common front. After removing Commander Wang, famous Wan Shun came to visit us in person.
I found at a glance that Wan Shun was much older than fifty. His eyes were dim, probably because of the poisonous effect of opium.
At our meeting, he said: “All the soldiers of my anti-Japanese unit regard you, Commander Kim, as the greatest benefactor, who has done away with Wang. I have come to thank you, Commander Kim,\and tell you that I wish to seal brotherhood with you. Please forget the displeasure caused by my foolish conduct of dotage in the past,\and form jiajiali with me, keeping a generous understanding of me, as I have come a long way to see you.”
Wan Shun’s request embarrassed me for a while. When I proposed the same terms I had offered Commanders Yu\and Wu Yi-cheng, when realizing the common front, I said I would consider the matter of jiajiali, if he accepted these terms. According to these terms, his anti-Japanese unit should establish friendly relations with us\and remain a friendly force, should on no account surrender to the Japanese imperialists\or rob the people of their property, protect our operatives\and liaison men\and exchange information regularly with us.
To my surprise, Wan Shun agreed to all these conditions with pleasure. As I explained each of the terms, he nodded, exclaiming, “Excellent opinion!”\or “Excellent interpretation!”
Consequently we formed a common front within a few hours\and the two armies became friendly.
Since then Wan Shun never betrayed the agreement. Our campaign to strike Commander Wang\and win over Wan Shun marked a significant step in the struggle of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army after the Nanhutou meeting2. The event was significant, as we demonstrated the might of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, by displaying military supremacy over the enemy,\and as our tireless efforts in the Fusong area laid solid stepping stones used to advance to Mt. Paektu area. These efforts left an indelible impression on the road to realizing a common front between the peoples\and patriotic forces of Korea\and China.
[Reminiscences]Chapter 12.To Hasten theLiberation of the Country
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