[Reminiscences]Chapter 13 3. Premiere of The Sea of Blood > News

본문 바로가기

DISCLAIMER. Korean American National Coordinating Council, Inc. does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of some of the information or content contained in this website. These are only introduced for the Korean Americans and others to have a direct access to know the positions of the DPRK (North Korea) and some other opinions of ROK (South Korea). 


북녘 | [Reminiscences]Chapter 13 3. Premiere of The Sea of Blood

페이지 정보

작성자 편집국 작성일20-07-24 13:45 댓글0건





[Reminiscences]Chapter 13  3. Premiere of The Sea of Blood




3. Premiere of The Sea of Blood 


Considerable studies have been devoted to the literature\and arts created during the revolution against the Japanese. Most of the\original pieces have been discovered\and work on adapting them to modern aesthetic tastes has on the whole been finished. The literature\and arts, which were created in the flames of war against the Japanese, now constitute our Party’s tradition of literature\and arts. These treasures hold a special place in the history of our literature\and arts.

I do not plan to deal with the theory of anti-Japanese revolutionary literature\and arts as professionals do. I merely want to talk about the performance of our unit at Manjiang in\order to help people understand the whole picture of literature\and arts during the anti-Japanese revolution.

I was fully aware that creating a complete piece of art required no less difficult\and complex mental efforts than an attack on a walled town. But we spared no time\and efforts on artistic activities\and did not hesitate to do anything, if it helped these activities.

If our guerrilla army had contained a writer\or artist, it would have been unnecessary for me to rack my own brains for literary creation\and production. Unfortunately, however, none of our unit had been a professional writer\or artist.

Naturally, some men of literature, encouraged by the battle results of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army\and our high reputation, attempted to join the army.

If they had succeeded in joining the army, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army could have had a staff of historians to keep records of its activities, as well as a staff of talented editors, writers\and artists to publish army publications\and produce works of art for effective propaganda\and agitation.

However, there was not even a trained historian. Consequently historical records were kept by non-professionals. Ri Tong Baek\and Rim Chun Chu did most of this work. They tried to compile as much material as possible, but most of them were lost\or buried by overlapping events of history.

Our scholars set about studying the history of the anti-Japanese revolution after liberation, virtually without any written materials. Most historical materials were compiled on the basis of reminiscences by veterans of the anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle. Reference was made to available enemy documents, but some of them were distorted, exaggerated\or understated. This caused no small difficulty in the compilation of a systematic\and authentic deion of the history. To make matters worse, the counterrevolutionary factionalists, who occupied important posts of the propaganda sector, hindered this work\or were indifferent so that a full-scale collection of historical materials about the anti-Japanese revolution only started towards the end of the 1950s.

These particular circumstances should be considered responsible for minor discrepancies in the dates\and places of events in different books dealing with the history of the anti-Japanese revolution.

The veterans of the anti-Japanese revolution fought to make history, rather than leave their names in history. When we fought in the mountains, we broke through all difficulties, without caring if we were remembered\or not by coming generations. If we had taken up arms to leave our names in history, we would have been unable to achieve a great historical success, now known as the history of the anti-Japanese revolution by the present generation.

As we had to fight guerrilla warfare, moving constantly rom place to place to counter the encircling\and pursuing enemy, we were in no position to keep safely even a single sheet of secret papers. We used to destroy even a slip of information rom the enemy-held area for the sake of security, as soon as we read it. Documents\and photographs considered to be of historical value were packed\and sent to the Comintern.

In 1939, for instance, we sent several knapsacks of documents to the Comintern. However, they did not reach the addressee. Much of the information lost at that time appeared in police documents of the Japanese imperialists\and publications. This is no doubt why the messengers were killed by the enemy on their way. If we ever brought anything with us when we returned home in triumph, it was not a historical record\or a document about the\organizations, but rather a pocketbook, which contained revolutionary songs\or a memo of our comrades’ names\and other personal data.

The absence of materials was the greatest difficulty for our scholars in their studies of the history of the anti-Japanese revolution.

Lackeys of imperialism, hack writers\and scholars on the bourgeois pay-roll, ignorant of the special circumstances\and complexities of our revolution, try in every possible way, by garbling some figures\and facts rom a few sheets of papers, to belittle the history of the anti-Japanese revolution, a history made at the cost of the lives\and blood by the sons\and daughters of Korea, who were unfailingly loyal to their motherland\and the revolutionary cause.

It is not surprising\or novel that people who reject our ideas\and social system hurl all sorts of abuse to belittle the revolutionary history of our Party. History cannot be tarred with a brush, burnt up\or slashed away with a sword. Whatever they say, our history will remain as it is.

I think it was immediately after the meeting at Donggang that we conceived the idea of The Sea of Blood\and began working on the . Our motive for creating this drama came, I should say, mainly rom the Song of “Punitive” Operation in Jiandao.

I learnt the song in my childhood rom my father. My father used to tell me\and my friends about the “punitive” actions in Jiandao. When I went to eastern Manchuria in command of the guerrilla army\organized in Antu, I discovered that the local people suffered an indescribable tragedy, owing to the “punitive” operations of the Japanese army\and police. Jiandao was literally a sea of blood; dozens\and even hundreds of people were massacred every day by the swords\and bayonets of the “punitive” troops.

Whenever I saw a sea of blood I was reminded of the Song of “Punitive” Operation in Jiandao,\and whenever I remembered the song, I was enraged at the sufferings of our nation.

To my surprise, however, the overwhelming majority of the Koreans living in Jiandao continued their courageous resistance, armed with rifles\and clubs, rather than yielding to their tragic fate. This all-out resistance even involved the women, who had been bound by three bonds\and five moral rules\and three principles of obedience preached by Confucianism,\and their children, who used to grumble over their food on their mothers’ laps. I was deeply moved by them.

The women’s ability to leave the bounds of their homes\and plunge into a movement for a social change represented a revolution. I felt boundless respect\and affection for the heroes\and heroines of the revolution. As I provided support to them\and sympathized with them, the images of a woman\and her children, who followed in the footsteps of their fallen revolutionary husband\and father formed\and developed in my mind.

I sincerely wanted to produce a work dealing with the principal character of such a woman.

During our stay in Fusong for many days, we staged artistic performances at many places to educate the people. After each battle we gave a performance there\and then\or, if the situation did not permit it, made a speech to stir up the people before the unit’s withdrawal. The audience warmly applauded the simple sketches performed by the men of the revolutionary army. Once my comrades sang the Song of “Punitive” Operation in Jiandao at an entertainment after the battle. All the audience, men\and women, young\and old, cursed the Japanese imperialists\and resolved in tears to fight the Japanese.


Seeing how all people were moved to tears by the song at the entertainment, something I had not expected, I could not repress an impulse to stage a real dramatic performance to enlighten the people more zealously. But the pressure of time did not permit my dream to come true.

When the meeting at Donggang was over, however, Ri Tong Baek unexpectedly kindled my dormant desire. He obtained a newly published literary magazine at a village\and showed it to me. The magazine carried a story dealing with the wife of a champion of a social movement serving a prison term, a woman who was married to another man, leaving her child in the care of others after the imprisonment of her former husband.

I asked Ri Tong Baek how he liked the story.

“It makes me sad,” he answered with a sad smile on his lips. “To think that life can be like that. But can I help it?”

“Then, do you mean to say that the story is true?”

“It contains some of the truth. I am sorry to say, but the wife of my old acquaintance, a champion of a social movement, fell in love with a loafer\and deserted her husband\and child.”

“How can we say that such a rare accident represents the truth? Most of the women I have seen in Korea\and Manchuria were loyal to their husbands\and children\and to their neighbours\and country. When their husbands were gaoled, they themselves took up the cause of their husbands\and devoted all their energies to the revolution, carrying bombs\and bundles of leaflets with them! When their husbands fell in revolutionary battle, they dressed themselves in army uniform\and took up arms to destroy the enemy by standing in the ranks,\where their husbands had stood! When their children went hungry, they experienced all manner of hardships to feed their kids, even if they had to beg! That is what Korean women are.

“What if one overlooks this true character of theirs\and profanes the wife of a revolutionary, just as Ri Kwang Su did? One may become the target of a barrage of women’s washing clubs, just as Ri Kwang Su was showered with beer bottles in the streets of Seoul, when he published a ‘theory of national reform’. Our mothers’\or sisters’ washing clubs are not only used when they seize weapons rom the enemy. This is the truth. What do you think, Mr. Ri?”

Ri Tong Baek cast a significant glance at me, abruptly changed his attitude\and agreed, saying, “You are right. That is the truth.”

I knew that the basic aim of literature was to describe the truth. Only when it represents the truth can literature lead the reader to a beautiful\and noble world. The genuine mission of art\and literature is to reflect the truth\and guide the popular masses to a beautiful\and noble world.

That day we talked for a long time about fine women fighters, women workers, whom we knew\and could put forward as exemplary in terms of morality\and chastity.

“General, could you produce a drama dealing with the fate of a woman revolutionary?” he asked me abruptly at the close of the talk.

“How did the idea of dramatic production come to you? Aren’t you looking back upon the dramatic activities, you conducted at a school in Jiandao\where you taught?”

“I thought we should teach a lesson to the people, who write a cheap novel like this,” he said, fingering the magazine.

“The idea of describing a woman revolutionary is good,” I agreed. “But you need a subject matter for the drama, don’t you? Tell me if you have one in mind.”

“It is about the genuine woman of Korea. I mean that we should show the true character of Korean women. The sufferings of the Korean nation inevitably involved even women in the revolutionary struggle, as struggle is the only means of survival. This is what I have in mind. What do you think, General?”

I was surprised by his words. The subject was similar to what I had been seeking in Jiandao, when designing a play about a woman.

“Since you have the subject, why don’t you write it yourself?” I said.


“I am a critic, not a creative man,” he remarked in surprise. “You will write it, General. If you do, I will direct its staging.”

I did not provide a definite reply. However, the image of a simple woman I had conceived, a woman who recovers rom her grief over the loss of her husband\and child in a sea of blood to take up the path of struggle, had grown clearer\and clearer in my mind, since I received Ri’s request. The fascinating image of the heroine excited me. I began writing. By the time my unit had arrived at Manjiang, just over half my work on the had been done.

Dramatic creation was not a totally new experience to me. We had performed plays in Fusong\and particularly in Jilin\and Wujiazi. However, since I started the armed struggle, we had not staged many plays. During the first half of the 1930s, some of us were enthusiastic about dramatic activity in the guerrilla base, but we were not as active as we had been in our days in Jilin. Plays required so much time\and effort that even those keen on art in the guerrilla zone were unable to devote much effort to this venture.

Why did we undertake the task of dramatic creation\and make such painstaking efforts on the difficult march down to Mt. Paektu?

We were greatly encouraged by the extremely attractive power\and effectiveness of dramatic art to inspire the masses with a revolutionary consciousness. In those days hardly any artistic genre could grip the hearts of the masses as strongly as a drama did. Until silent motion picture became talkies,\and the latter was popularized throughout the world, no form of art was drama’s equal in educative influence.

I had been one of the many drama fans of my classmates in my Changdok School days. Whenever a renowned travelling dramatic company came to play in Pyongyang, I went to the town with Kang Yun Bom to see the performance.

Drama is a popular art suited to the masses. Anyone in the audience can comment, “Good!” “Bad!”\or “Acceptable!” on the spot.

The 1920s\and 1930s were a period of dramatic efflorescence, a dramatic heyday. By the time I had entered Changdok School, the decadent drama had given way to a new dramatic school, which won the audience’s admiration. Progressive writers\and artists devoted their energies to the dramatic

movement of the proletariat. They formed drama troupes\and gave performances for workers\and peasants, by travelling rom place to place. Such troupes frequented Pyongyang.

Hwang Chol, Sim Yong\and their colleagues, renowned in the dramatic circle of our country after liberation, had committed themselves to the dramatic movement since the 1920s\and 1930s.

In those days drama was fashionable. Even a rural school, with an enrollment of about 50 pupils, would advertise dramatic performances of its own production. Stimulated by the trend of the times, we were also involved in the dramatic movement in the initial period of our revolutionary activities.

Writing the of The Sea of Blood was a process of collective wisdom. My comrades gave me valuable advice on the composition of the play\and also single details\and a few words of dialogue.

After the joint meeting at Donggang with commanding officers of the anti-Japanese units to review the victorious battle of Fusong county town, I moved to Manjiang west of Mt. Paektu in command of the main force.

Manjiang is a village on a wide plateau immediately below Mt. Paektu. It is located on the southern tip of Fusong County. Changbai is located to the south across Duogu Pass,\and Linjiang is located to the southwest beyond Laoling Pass.

In 1936 Manjiang was a small sprawling village of about 80 houses. This slash-and-burners’ village was one of the few Korean settlements in the Fusong area, such as Nandianzi, Yangdicun, Wanlihe, Tunzidong, etc. Unlike Antu, not many Koreans lived in Fusong.

Manjiang was an out-of-the-way mountain village far rom the county town. Sparsely populated\and unfrequented by travellers, the place seemed secluded rom the other part of the human world. When there were some travellers, they were peddlers selling combs, dye\or salt. Even social figures in Fusong seldom visited Manjiang. I suppose the area controller Choe Jin Yong had been to the place a few times,\and Yon Pyong Jun, his successor, five\or six times. Incidentally I would like to say a few words about Yon Pyong Jun. He was

a unit commander in Hong Pom Do’s Independence Army. After the Independence Army moved to Maritime Province, he came to Fusong for some unknown reason\and assumed the office of area controller, a local administrative officer of the Jongui-bu,\and worked for some time, enjoying a high reputation among the people.

He subsequently retired rom the office\and practised acupuncture at Dapuchaihe, a village located on a highland between Antu\and Dunhua. Once Kim San Ho, who had been to the village, spoke very highly of his medical skills\and advised me to be treated by him. I went to the doctor\and he felt my pulse, before adding that I was clearly exhausted. He asked if I could obtain an antler\or wild insam (ginseng). He said that he would write a preion for me, if I could get them. I took medicine according to his preion\and managed to recover. One year, long after my return to the homeland after liberation, an official suffered rom infirmity. Recollecting the preion I advised the official to apply the remedy. A few months later, he told me that the remedy was surprisingly effective. I reminded him that the preion was not my own, but one obtained rom a doctor, Yon Pyong Jun, in Manchuria many decades earlier.

The doctor was familiar with Manjiang for some reason I didn’t know. Manjiang was noted for potatoes, a special product of the place. Some of the potatoes were as large as a baby’s pillow like those produced rom Naitoushan. The River Manjiang teemed with yolmugo (Brachymystax lenox).

Villagers of Manjiang used containers\and tableware, made by gouging out wood\or warping birch bark. Even their spoons\and jars for keeping bean paste\and kimchi were made of wood.

When our marching column arrived at the spot,\where two birch trees stood at the outskirts to the village, as if they were a natural gate, the village head Ho Rak Yo\and other villagers, who had somehow known that we were coming, were waiting for us, with wooden jars\and wooden vessels, filled with cool home-made alcoholic drinks. The village head said that news of the battle of Fusong county town had been brought by a peasant, who had been to the town to buy salt,\and that since then he had begun to watch the enemy’s movement. On the occasions when he had seen Japanese aircraft flying over Manjiang, he had believed that the revolutionary army was coming to his village.

“I am afraid you will be punished for welcoming us openly like this,” I said to the village head, after gulping down a wooden cup of undistilled home-made liquor.

“Don’t worry. Since the revolutionary army was over here in spring, the policemen in Manjiang even grovel before us. Moreover, on hearing of Commander Wang’s death\and the defeat of the Japanese in county town, they tremble with fear.”

“Soldiers of the revolutionary army, will you dance this time, too?” A peasant asked in a loud voice rom the bridge over River Manjiang at that moment.

During an art performance at Manjiang in the spring, several guerrillas rom the Hunchun unit had mounted the stage\and danced a Russian dance. The guerrillas rom Hunchun, a town in the area bordering the Soviet\union, were very good at imitating Russian songs\and dances. Seeing the dance, the villagers had become wide-eyed\and exclaimed, “What a novel dance! To dance stamping their feet like that! We knew that a dance could be performed by waving arms\and heaving shoulders. But that dance was spectacular.”

“Yes, yes, not only a dance, but a far more splendid show,” Ri Tong Baek replied. He meant a dramatic performance.

My Headquarters was billeted on the village head. His house had been closely associated with my father. When saved by Kong Yong rom the hands of mounted bandits ten years earlier, my father had stayed first in that house,\and had then been escorted to Fusong by Kong Yong\and the village head.

In this house I resumed my work on the of The Sea of Blood. As Jon Kuk Jin was dead\and Kim Yong Guk, who edited the People’s Revolutionary Army paper Sogwang\and contributed a few stories of his own composition to it in later days, had not yet joined the army, I also had to work on the on my own at Manjiang.

To help me out, Ri Tong Baek collected various kinds of newspapers, magazines\and pamphlets, which had been published in the homeland.

These publications provided me with detailed information on political events, social\and economic situations\and developments in the literary\and art circles in the homeland.

The general trend of progressive literature\and art movement in its form\and content in those days was patriotic in the sense that it tried to protect what was national rom the Japanese imperialist policy of obliterating national culture,\and develop them.

The progressive literature of our country during Japanese imperialist rule played a leading role in instilling patriotic spirit\and the idea of independence in the people,\and indicating the direction of the development of drama, cinema, music, fine arts, dance\and all other forms of art, as well as their contents.

The literature movement of progressive writers, known as literature of a new trend, gave birth to the KAPF (Korea Artista Proleta Federacio) in 1925. Since the birth of the KAPF, the progressive literature of Korea had contributed to the development of proletarian art\and literature, which represented\and championed the interests of the working class, peasantry\and other working people. By the efforts of Ri Ki Yong, Han Sol Ya, Song Yong, Pak Se Yong, Jo Myong Hui\and other celebrated writers of the KAPF, My Home Town, Twilight, Refuse Any Interview!, A Mountain Swallow, The River Raktong\and many other excellent works were produced\and became popular among the people.

Some writers produced excellent works, which served the people as their mental pabulum\and guide, even if they were forced to eke out their livelihood by selling red-bean porridge in Jongno Street, Seoul. Each of the works resembled an explosive, which threatened the vicious colonial rule of the Japanese imperialists.

The voice of KAPF writers was always shadowed by the Japanese army\and police, as well as their detectives, who were bent on thought repression. The louder their voices grew, the more repressive the enemy became. Two round-ups put a tragic end to the existence of the KAPF in 1935, which marked the tenth anniversary of its foundation.

Even when faced by two alternatives—to accept “national literature”\or converted literature forced upon them by the Japanese imperialists\or break their pens\and give up writing—most of KAPF writers preserved their conscience as progressive men of letters. Ri Ki Yong went to the deep mountain of Inner Kumgang\and took up slash-and-burn farming, remaining an honest intellectual\and ardently patriotic writer. Han Sol Ya\and Song Yong also upheld their honour, although they had to lead a hand-to-mouth existence.

The Japanese imperialists managed to disband the KAPF, but failed to break the unflagging spirit of resistance of Korean literature\and its lifeblood, which germinated\and thrived on the soil of patriotism.

As KAPF writers were dragged into prison\or fled into mountains, the intellectuals in the ranks of the anti-Japanese revolution, writers in the northern border area\and Korean writers in exile in the Red area of China proper\and the socialist Soviet\union created a new militant revolutionary literature, which made an active contribution to the Korean communist movement\and the cause of national liberation.

These writers held in high repute the anti-Japanese revolutionaries, who were fighting ceaseless bloody battles on the rugged Paektu mountains\and in the wilderness of Manchuria for many years as the heroes of the nation, praised\and loved them\and continually sympathized with them.

Kang Kyong Ae, a woman novelist, who gained renown later for her authorship of the Human Question, wrote a novel, Salt, in Longjing. In this work she described the Jiandao people assisting the revolutionary army.

The poets, Ri Chan\and Kim Ram In, carried on their creative activities in the border area:\and their efforts attracted our attention. When we were in west Jiandao, Ri Chan worked in Samsu\and Hyesanjin on the other side of the River Amnok. In those days he wrote the Snowing Night in Posong, an excellent lyric expressing his boundless adoration for the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army.

In November of the year when we founded the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland at Donggang, Kim Ram In, who was working in Junggangjin on the opposite riverside of Linjiang, founded Development of Poetry, a literary coterie magazine, whose front cover was inscribed with a red flag. He composed\and published many revolutionary poems, which praised the anti-Japanese armed struggle\and advocated Korea’s independence. He secretly printed 2,000 copies of the Ten-point Programme of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland in his printing shop\and sent them to us.

Some writers, encouraged by the battle results of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, attempted to join the army. Novelist Kim Sa Ryang, determined to join the army, travelled about the wilderness of Manchuria, but failed to find our unit. He went to Yanan,\where he wrote a long travelogue, A Jade Covers Thousands of Miles.

It is not surprising that Mt. Paektu, Thunder, Korea Fights, Steel-like Youth Unit\and other successful works were produced in our literary circles during the construction of a new country\and the great war against the United States by writers, who had been affiliated with revolutionary\organizations\or desired to join the army before liberation.

We owe our ability to quickly develop a new culture, which catered to the tastes of the Korean people in a short period after liberation, to those writers who, although not directly in the armed ranks, wielded their pens in the spirit of armed soldiers,\and thereby made an active contribution to the enlightenment of the nation.


Patriotic artists\and progressive figures in our country also pioneered the domain of film art, despite all hardships, determined to serve the people through film production, resolved not to lag behind Japan\and other developed countries,\and also aimed to demonstrate to the world our ability to stand on our own feet in the cinema as well. Ra Un Gyu3\and other conscientious artists produced Arirang\and other films rich in national tastes\and demonstrated their real fibre.

The 1920s\and 1930s witnessed a determined struggle in the field of literature\and art to preserve the national spirit\and develop national products, in defiance of the murky stream of Japanese ways\and fashion.

During this period Choe Sung Hui succeeded in her attempts to modernize the Korean dance. She conducted a close study of the folk dance, Buddhist dance, sorceress dance, court dance, kisaeng dance\and so on,\and\selected gracious dance movements of strong national mood. In this way she helped lay the foundations for the development of modern Korean dance.

Previously, our national dance had failed to reach the level of stage presentation. Music pieces, vocal, instrumental\and narrative works, but not dances, had enjoyed their place on stage. The refinement of dance movements by Choe Sung Hui\and resultant choreographic productions, which catered to modern tastes, altered the situation. Dances claimed a legitimate place in stage presentation, along with their sister arts.

Choe Sung Hui’s dances were warmly acclaimed at home\and also in France, Germany\and other civilized countries.

During our advance on west Jiandao, the news of a shocking event, referred to as obliteration of the flag of the Rising Sun, reached the foot-hills of Mt. Paektu rom the homeland.

The incident was triggered off, when Tong-A Ilbo erased the Japanese national flag rom the breast of Son Ki Jong, when carrying an article\and photograph of the marathon first prize winner in the Summer Olympic Games in Berlin in August 1936.


The infuriated government-general authorities outlawed the newspaper\and arrested the persons involved in the incident. On hearing the news, we gave a public lecture about Son Ki Jong’s success in the Olympic Games\and the incident of the Japanese flag obliteration. All the men of our unit, who heard the lecture, expressed warm support\and solidarity with the newspaper’s editorial staff, which had adopted a patriotic stand\and taken courageous action.

When I finished the of The Sea of Blood, I showed it to old man “Tobacco Pipe”. He read it through\and said that it was acceptable,\and then went out, waving the manu.

Some episodic reminiscences about the dramatic performances at Manjiang\and similar accounts of people on an expedition to the place have already been published. Some inaccuracies were revealed due to memory lapses while other facts were totally forgotten. It is especially regrettable that nothing has been mentioned about Ri Tong Baek’s efforts.

The old man, who had volunteered to act as stage director, first encountered difficulties in casting. Nobody wanted to play the part of the “commander of the punitive force”. After repeated discussions, the part was imposed on the open-hearted company commander Ri Tong Hak. The role of Ul Nam’s mother was assigned to Jang Chol Gu\and then transferred to Kim Hwak Sil. Kap Sun’s part was given to Kim Hye Sun. The\selection of the part of Ul Nam, Kap Sun’s brother, troubled the old man no less than the choice of the “punitive force commander”. Nobody in our unit was suitable for the part of the boy aged ten. So we used a boy rom the village of Manjiang for the part.

The old man also had a lot of trouble directing. He worried most of all about directing the boy, who was to play Ul Nam’s part. However, the mountain boy was the quickest to understand the director’s intentions.

Instead, the director was annoyed by the adults’ poor acting. Nearly all the actors\and actresses looked awkward, as they did not know how to pose on stage.

Once on stage, even Kim Hye Sun, who was very sensible\and responsive, became stiff about her eyes\and spoke strangely. In one scene\where she was meant to weep, she simply shut her mouth. The director did everything he could to make her cry by coaxing her, encouraging her, even flying off the handle, but all in vain.

No one knew why she acted so crudely despite all the training by the director. Born into a poor family she had enjoyed no access to schooling. She had learned to write\and sing by hearing\and watching others beyond the school fences.

I reminded her of her experiences in the homeland\and Jiandao\and told her that the play was about the lives of people like her. I said, “Just imagine that Ul Nam, who was shot by the Japanese, is your brother. The brother, who was calling you ‘sister, sister’ a short while ago, is now lying dead. Why shouldn’t his sister moan over his tragic death?”

Her acting suddenly improved.

I gave Ri Tong Hak a good dressing down, as he had declared to the director that he would rather go\and take a few “punitive force commanders” prisoner than foul his mouth by imitating such scoundrels. I instructed him that skilful acting was his combat mission,\and insisted that he had no right to complain about the part again.

The villagers were surprised to see that we guerrillas, who had arrived with nothing other than rifles\and knapsacks on our shoulders, had improvised a stage to give a dramatic performance, which provided them with a new experience.

As their life experience unfolded on stage, the audience was drawn, with bated breath, into the world of drama\and finally wept with Kap Sun\and cried with the mother. An old man forgot that he was watching a play\and jumped onto the stage, striking the forehead of Ri Tong Hak with his long smoking pipe, who was playing the part of the Japanese “punitive force commander”, who had shot dead Ul Nam.

The villagers, who saw the premiere of The Sea of Blood, could not sleep all night. The simple people of a mountain village sat up by their oil lamps, talking about their impressions of the play. Loud voices\and the laughter of many people rom some houses could be heard.

I took a long walk in night dew up\and down the village. The murmur, laughter\and breathing of the village, which was rejoicing over the experience of the show, kept me rom going to bed.

I marvelled at the great effect of art. rom today’s point of view, the play at Manjiang was too simple to be worthy of the name. To my surprise, however, the audience cried, laughed, tore at their breasts, clapped\and stamped their feet.

Walking along the lane of Manjiang, I wondered what the people would be doing now if we had not given the performance. As the village head said, they would have lulled themselves to sleep\or would have been dreaming in darkness, after putting out their lights since early evening. However, their lights were still burning. We brought light to the village so to speak. Could we create such great excitement in their minds, if we brought them a hundred sacks of rice?

The play we performed at Manjiang enlightened the ignorant mountain people, young\and old, educated them to become active participants in the anti-Japanese revolution\and its supporters. Many young villagers mounted the stage\and volunteered to join the army. Manjiang became a large source of our recruits, as well as a reliable supply base.

The strong impression left by the play on the villagers can be judged by the mere fact that they recalled the event by naming the venue of the performance\and the characters, vividly relating the details of the story\and even some dialogues to the members of an expedition to the old revolutionary battlefield, who were visiting the village more than 20 years after the event.

The ideas\and emotions of the revolutionary army flowed, like the stream of Manjiang, into the brains, hearts\and lungs of the people through the performance of The Sea of Blood.


I can say, in short, that the art of the period of the anti-Japanese revolution acted as a light, which dispelled darkness as well as drum beats, rousing people to fight. We called our art activity a “drum gun”; the name is justifiable rom any angle.

I believe that modern arts have exactly the same mission. The basic mission of today’s arts is to accord people true thoughts, true morality\and the true culture needed for their independent, worthwhile lives.

Our men were talented. I should say, in the final analysis, that art is ennobling, but is on no account a mysterious undertaking. The people not only enjoy art, they also create it in the true sense of the word.

The performance of The Sea of Blood made a great contribution, by giving the guerrillas better ideological, cultural\and emotional training.

Recollecting art activity at Manjiang in detail, I said to the writers, who were on a visit to my home immediately after liberation, “When we fought in the mountain, we were very sorry we had no professional writers\and artists by our side. We ourselves had to compose music, write s,\and direct plays. But now you are the masters. I hope you will produce good works\and encourage the people, who have turned out to build a new Korea.”

Through the literature\and arts of the period of the anti-Japanese revolution we realized that an excellent poem, play\or story could stir up thousands of hearts\and that a revolutionary song could pierce the enemy’s heart which was beyond the reach of a bayonet.

I can say that awakening the people to revolutionary awareness is a process,\where you win their sympathy for revolutionary ideas\and move them. The literature\and arts are one of the most effective means of moving them.

I once said to Odaka Yoshiko (Li Xiang-lan), a renowned Japanese vocalist\and ex-member of the House of Councillors, that there were songs\and dances in life. There should be life\where there are people,\and there should be arts\where there is life. How can a world without art be called a human world,\and how can life without art be called human life?


Consequently I always tell people that they should love literature\and arts,\and that all the nation should know how to enjoy them\and create them.

We have built a world-famous kingdom of art,\where everyone dances\and sings. This constituted the earnest desire\and dream we cherished when we performed The Sea of Blood on an improvised stage in the light of burning pine-knots\and kerosene lamps at Manjiang.

We have now built theatres, cinemas\and houses of culture capable of accommodating thousands of people in all parts of the country. You can find an art university in each province. I hope that our younger generation will sing all the songs their previous generation could not sing\and that they will continue to create arts, fragrant with the spirit of Mt. Paektu.

We now call the play Phibada in our mother tongue; the\original name was Hyolhae. Apparently some of the audience\and people who took part in the performance continued to stage the play in different places under the title “Hyolhaega”\or “Hyolhaejichang”. During this time, the plot\and names of the characters underwent a slight change,\and in some places episodes were replaced by others, which were more familiar to the local people.

The performance of The Sea of Blood was followed by the staging of The Fate of a Self-Defence Corps Man,\where guerrillas other than those who had taken part in The Sea of Blood vied with one another to participate.

After liberation our writers\and artists discovered all the works, which had been performed at Manjiang.

Comrade Kim Jong Il defined the works we created during the anti-Japanese revolution as parent works, as the genesis of our revolutionary drama\and revolutionary opera\and provided energetic guidance to their adaptation into films, novels, operas\and dramas. During this time, revolutionary films, revolutionary novels, the Sea-of-Blood-style revolutionary operas\and Songhwangdang-style dramas were evolved on the basis of the\originals,\and an anti-Japanese guerrilla mode of art activity was established.

The premiere of the film version of The Sea of Blood reminded me of the kerosene lamps, which hung on the improvised stage\and the audience laughing\and crying in excitement, sitting on straw mats at Manjiang.

I wish I could see again the unforgettable faces of the people, who warmly acclaimed our success in the performance. During a lapse of more than half a century, the people who were old then must have passed away, but some other people my age\and younger individuals may still live at Manjiang. The boy who played Ul Nam’s part will now be an old man in his sixties if he is still alive.

 Related articles

[Reminiscences]Chapter 12.To Hasten theLiberation of the Country 


등록된 댓글이 없습니다.

Copyright ⓒ 2000-2021 KANCC(Korean American National Coordinating Council). All rights reserved.
E-mail:  :  webmaster@kancc.org