[Reminiscences]Chapter 24 4. The Spirit of the Nation
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[Reminiscences]Chapter 24 4. The Spirit of the Nation
4. The Spirit of the Nation
In the first half of the 1940s the Korean people were challenged to decide whether they could exist as a nation\or not,\and whether their downtrodden national character could revive\or not. The Korean people faced oblivion unless they accepted Japanese surnames, bowed at Shinto shrines\and abandoned their own language\and spoke Japanese. That was the fate forced upon them by the Japanese.
In these tragic circumstances Korean patriots\and progressive intellectuals fought stoutly to preserve the spirit of the nation, turning to Mt. Paektu,\where the brilliant commander General Kim Il Sung was fighting against the Japanese.
Following is the great leader’s recollection of their struggle.
With the start of the 1940s, the Japanese imperialists made frantic efforts to make Koreans their “imperial subjects”. Their attempt to Japanize in a few decades the Korean nation with a history of 5,000 years clearly shows how villainous their colonial policy was.
The first song they taught primary schoolchildren was the song of the rising-sun flag. In this way, the Japanese imperialists forced “loyalty\and patriotism” upon childrenrom their primary school days. It was not without reason that a textbook for children contained a story about Nogi, a fanatic emperor-worshiper who demonstrated his “loyalty” by committing a suicide. To instil “loyalty\and patriotism” in children they had to hold up such a ringleader of militarism as Nogi as an example of loyalty\and filial piety. The “oath of imperial subjects”\and the “exercise of imperial subjects”, too, were imposed upon the Koreans to assimilate them as Japanese.
Being robbed of natural resources was, of course, as painful as losing a piece of flesh. Not satisfied with the plunder of our resources, the Japanese went so far as to take away brass bowls, spoons, chopsticks, candlesticks\and wine cups used for ancestral rites. In the end they even pulled out hairpinsrom women’s hair.
There used to be a lot of big trees on Mt. Kumgang. But, after provoking the war against China, they cut down all the giant trees around the temples on Mt. Kumgang\and took them away.
They plundered an enormous amount of other wealth, too much for us to calculate. So the Korean people were indignant.
What we resented more bitterly, however, was that the Japanese went through the catalogue of vices to obliterate the national character of Koreans. They forced Koreans to wear coloured clothes instead of their traditional white garments, change their family names, use the Japanese language, worship at Shinto shrines, pay silent tribute at noon\and what not, just as they did.
What I detested most about the Japanese doings at that time was that they banned the Korean language\and forced my compatriots to speak Japanese. A nation is characterized primarily by the community of blood\and language. Without its language, the Korean nation could not exist.
Compelling Koreans to speak Japanese was nothing but an attempt to exterminate the Korean nation. A nation that has lost its language ceases to exist.
The Japanese imperialists touted the slogan, “The oneness of Japan\and Korea must begin with everyday use of the Japanese language”\and forced Koreans to speak Japanese at home, in church\and even in bath houses, to say nothing of government offices, companies, schools\and factories. The newspaper Komin Nippo was devoted exclusively to the dissemination of the Japanese language.
They were so frenzied about spreading the Japanese language that they coerced Korean writers to write in Japanese\and published the magazine National Literature in Japanese.
In the closing days of Japanese rule, at least one act of a play had to be performed in Japanese. In my chat with Hwang Chol, Mun Ye Bong\and Jo Ryong Chul after liberation, they said that Korean film stars had been forced to practise Japanese pronunciation\and that Korean singers had been compelled to sing at least one stanza of a Korean song in Japanese when recording their songs. In the end they launched a “people’s singing campaign”\and forced people to sing even fascist war songs in Japanese.
Students who did not speak Japanese were regarded as seditious. Government offices refused to deal with those who spoke Korean\and crossed their namesrom the rationing list. Korean-speaking people were even denied train tickets.
“Kamidana” was a box in Japanese style which contained a tablet with the name Amaterasu Omikami, the purported founder of Japan, written on it. The Japanese imperialists forced every family to hang up such a box\and trumpeted that “Japanese\and Koreans are of the same descent.” After liberation I learned that a person had served a prison term because he had defecated near a Shinto shrine.
When I was at the training base in the Far East of the Soviet\union, I was told that a farmer had changed his family name because the Japanese threatened him to expel his childrom school if he refused to adopt a Japanese family name. He was so remorseful at having disgraced his ancestors that he drowned himself.
In such an oppressive world, even the alive are as good as dead.
It is not surprising that the aggressors who occupy other countries pursue a policy of assimilation in their colonies. Each assimilated its colonies in its own style–Turkey in Bulgaria, the United Kingdom in Ireland, Imperial Russia in Poland\and France in Vietnam. But the Japanese imperialists were the only ones that deprived the people under their occupation of their language, spoken\and written,\and forced them to change their names.
What evil would they refrainrom doing, these barbarians who did not hesitate to break into the royal palace in Seoul\and murder Queen Min at the end of the last century? Koreans were in fact poised between life\and death.
Korean intellectuals had no other choice but to resist the Japanese imperialist policy of national obliteration\or obey their policy.
Most intellectuals, of course, chose resistance. But some of them shut their eyes to the nation by escapingrom reality,\and others surrendered to the Japanese, hankering after honour\and wealth. A few of them were even active in supporting\and helping the Japanese imperialist policy of national assimilation.
When I was at the Far East training base, I frequently read publicationsrom the homeland. So I knew well who were patriotic, who were selling out the nation, who entered officialdom\and who went to prison, who were converted\and who mounted the gallows.
Have any of you read Ri Kwang Su’s article about the change of family names? I read this article in the newspaper Maeil Sinbo: “I am a subject of the Japanese Emperor. My children, too, will live as his subjects. I changed my name because I considered it more worthy of an Emperor’s subject to have the Japanese name Kayama.” This was the gist of his article. He named himself Kayama after the name of the place\where Japanese Emperor Jinmu acceded to the throne.
Not a trace of the pride\or honour of a Korean could be found in this article. This man was rotten to the core. When writing the Theory of National Transformation he took off his topcoat\and jacket, but in this article he took off his trousers\and underwear as well,\and openly declared his pro-Japanese attitude.
He contributed to a magazine an article which praised the “volunteer” system.
After liberation Ri Kwang Su described his pro-Japanese activities as patriotic deeds for the “preservation of the nation”. He said he had to have friendly relations with the Japanese to preserve the nation. But why did he praise the “volunteer” system if he had really wished the nation to survive? How many of the “volunteers” returned home aliverom the battlefield?
Poet Han Ryong Un was a Buddhist. At the time of the March First Uprising, he was one of the 33 representatives of the nation. He was a Buddhist monk who insisted on action. He asserted that the independence of Korea would be possible only by the death-defying actions of the nation, not by a petition. When he was arrested by the enemy, he refused a lawyer, private food\and bail. When most of the representatives showed signs of vacillation, scared by the enemy’s threats, he shouted throwing a bedpan: “Are you fighters for the country\and the nation\or not?”
The Japanese tried to bribe him with the offer of a piece of state land. But Han refused this, too. When his colleagues collected money to build him a house in Songbuk-dong, Seoul, he wanted to have it built with its back to the Governor-General’s office, saying that he hated to see that building.
One day Han met Ri Kwang Su at the Jongno intersection. It was when Ri was going round to persuade Korean students to join the Japanese army. The two men had been on intimate terms before.
That day, however, Han passed Ri without even deigning to look at him. In embarrassment Ri turned\and stopped him. He asked, “Don’t you know me? I am Ri Kwang Su.” Han replied, shaking his head, that the Ri Kwang Su he had known was dead. That was a death sentence the Buddhist monk pronounced upon Ri Kwang Su, who had lost the national spirit.
Choe Nam Son, too, changedrom being a patriot to being pro-Japanese. He went so far as to say openly that Korea was destined to remodel herself on Japanese culture. Ri Kwang Su\and Choe Nam Son regarded themselves as first-rate intellectuals, but their knowledge\and literary talent, devoid of faith, were useless.
Choe Rin, too, yielded to the Japanese policy of assimilation.
Some literary men received prizesrom the Government-General for writing pro-Japanese poems.
When these intellectuals were turning traitor, lamenting their misfortune of being Koreans, abandoning their ancestral names, wearing Japanese dress, bowing in the direction of the Japanese imperial palace\and making a foolish pledge that they would die an honourable death for the emperor, patriotic scholars, educators, literary men, artists, journalists\and other conscientious intellectuals fought stubbornly to uphold the honour of the Korean people, spitting at the traitors.
Ri Ki Yong was one of them.
He served prison terms twice, accused of involvement in the KAPF(Korea Artista Proleta Federacio)18 incident. A man like Rim Hwa turned traitor after being imprisoned, but Ri Ki Yong kept his principles as a patriotic writer after being releasedrom jail.
Out of jail, he was jobless\and was wandering about Seoul. At that time the Japanese imperialists promulgated the\ordinance of probation for political offenders\and arrested at random patriots\and other progressive people on charges of harbouring dangerous ideas. The Japanese forced them to “serve the country”. “Service to the country” meant conversion.
Ri Ki Yong was summoned by the police every three days. The enemy demanded that he should write works in Japanese\and give pro-Japanese lectures in Japanese.
No coercion, however, could bring this man of unbreakable will to his knees. When the enemy tried to force their version of “national literature” upon him, he wrote stories in Korean in answer to their policy of making Koreans “imperial subjects”. After he was blacklisted, he was reduced to dire poverty. He was so pressed for money that when his second son died, he wrote the short story Money by the corpse because he could not obtain funeral expenses.
Pestered by the police, Ri Ki Yong\and his family took refuge on Mt. Kumgang. However, the enemy’s spies shadowed him even there. Pro-Japanese elements threw stones at the door of his house\and broke it several times.
However, he remained true to his principles as a patriotic intellectual. The people who were hiding in the mountains after evading military service\or the labour draft came down to the village by night to ask his advice. Each time Ri encouraged them to stay in the mountains\and resist the Japanese, even if it meant living on grass like cows\or horses. The young people who were influenced by him in those days became cadres in that place after liberation, I was told.
Ri Kwang Su adopted a Japanese name, but Ri Ki Yong never changed his name. He did not allow even his relatives to have Japanese names, saying that if they changed their names they would become less than human.
When I first met him after liberation, I admired him, asking how such a weak person could overcome such severe trials in prison\and continue to refuse to change his name.
“How can I, a literary man, abandon my principles when Ryu Kwan Sun, a girl of only 17, kept her integrity, sacrificing her life in her prime?” he replied. “When the great Kanto earthquake happened, I saw the Japanese in Tokyo slaughtering Koreans mercilessly with bamboo spears, swords\and hooks. I thought at that time that I had to have a showdown with the enemy even at the cost of my life.”
Sin Chae Ho was one of the patriots who fought resolutely against the Japanese policy of assimilation.
He was a distinguished historian as well as a famous writer\and political essayist. He had great literary talent. When I was in Jilin, I read his letter of protest which the Rev. Son Jong Do had kept. His letter criticized Syngman Rhee, who wanted to put Korea under the mandate of the United States. It was so powerful\and incisive that I read it over\and over again. The Rev. Son said that he had kept it because he was impressed by it.
While publishing different newspapers\and magazines in Shanghai\and Beijing, Sin Chae Ho wrote many articles which criticized compromisers. When an article of his was carried in a newspaper, people would rush to buy it. Reading his articles one feels as if one is seeing a throbbing\organism. Every sentence of his articles vibrated with the spirit of Koreans.
Towards the end of the 1920s Sin was arrested by the Japanese imperialists\and put behind bars in Lushun. While in prison for about ten years, he never yielded to the Japanese.
Even in prison he continued to write articles imbued with the spirit of our nation.
The fact that in Lushun Prison he continued to write The Ancient History of Korea\and The History of Ancient Korean Culture shows how great were the efforts he made to preserve the\orthodox quality\and soul of our nation.
Sin Chae Ho died in a lonely cell in an alien land after continuing his writing by mustering up the last\drop of his blood.
Feeling the indomitable spirit of resistance of the patriots\and intellectuals who, even on the brink of death in prison, were trying to preserve the soul of our nation\and awaken the national spirit of the people, I made a firm determination to defend their spirit\and unite the soul of each of them into a major wing of the force of national resistance.
Preserving the spirit of our nation\and preparing national resistance were inseparably related to each other. Preserving the spirit of the nation was the spiritual base\and a major link in the preparation for national resistance. Without the struggle to preserve the national spirit, it would have been impossible to enlist the broad patriotic forces in the ranks of national resistance.
Attaching importance to the mission of the intellectuals to preserve the history, culture\and traditions of the nation, we continued to dispatch political operatives among intellectuals both at home\and abroad.
I would emphasize to the political operatives who were leaving for the homeland: As a mother gives birth to a child, so everybody is born\and dies in the embrace of the nation,\and even after death cannot be separatedrom the nation. We are linked with one another by the same blood ties in the community of our nation. So everyone must take part in the struggle to defend it. Both the revolution\and the armed struggle are carried out for the nation. What we are determined to take back is not only our territory, but also our history, culture\and the nation itself. Therefore, you must make full preparations for national resistance by combining the arming of all the people closely with the struggle to defend the national spirit,\and expand the ARF\organizations among the broad masses of intellectuals such as scholars, educators, journalists, literary men\and artists, to make each of them a spark\and bullet in the struggle to defend the spirit of the nation.
At the end of 1938 the Tong-A Ilbo reported the arrest of the members of a secret society called the Red Research Society in the Yonhui College in Seoul. Paek Nam Un, who was the first Minister of Education of our Republic had belonged to this society.
In the awful years when those yielding to the enemy were treated as “human beings”\and those resisting the enemy were persecuted as “beasts”, he chose the road of resistance to defend\and preserve the national spirit.
Paek Nam Un worked his way through a commercial college in Japan\and became a teacher at Yonhui College.
The Socio-Economic History of Korea was a typical masterpiece written by him. While teaching at the college he applied himself to writing. It was an admirable patriotic deed that he wrote this work when the Japanese imperialists were making frantic attempts to destroy our national economy\and erase even the name of the Korean nation.
There was an economic research society, a legal\organization, in Yonhui College. Paek Nam Un played a leading role in developing this society into a fiercely revolutionary\organization.
With some fellow professors he converted the economic research society, a simple scientific research body, into the Red Research Society that aspired to communism.
Since the society got in touch with the political operatives dispatched by us, all its activities were geared to realizing the Ten-Point Programme of the ARF. During vacations all the members of this society went out among the people to launch enlightenment campaigns.
According to an official paper, Recent Public Security in Korea published by the police bureau of the Government-General, the Red Research Society was engaged in\organizing seminars, short-courses\and reading circles to instill communism in the members.
I was told that Paek Nam Un translated The True Record of the Ri Dynasty, living in retirement\and jobless until the defeat of Japan. The fact that he wrote The Socio-Economic History of Korea, developed the economic research society into the Red Research Society,\and resolved to translate The True Record of the Ri Dynasty was a challenge to the Japanese imperialist policy of making Koreans “imperial subjects”.
Since the year when he heard the news of the Battle of Pochonbo, he lived in a cold room without heating even in winter, I was told. Why? Hearing that Kim Il Sung\and all the guerrillas under him were eating\and sleeping in the open, covering themselves with fallen leaves in all seasons, he felt deeply ashamed of living in a heated room.
When we were\organizing the Cabinet, he was the first to be appointed Minister of Education. He also served at various times as President of the Academy of Sciences\and Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly. He worked very conscientiously.
Kye Ung Sang, a world-famous geneticist whom our people produced, was a man with an exceptionally strong sense of national pride\and firm scientific convictions.
He studied very hardrom childhood. He was too poor to buy paper, so he wrote on dried leaves. If he obtained a pair of socks once in a while, he kept them in his pocket as much as possible, putting them on only when he was visiting neighbours. He often walked barefoot, so as not to wear out his shoes.
Because he studied very hard, saving every single penny, he graduatedrom a university in Japan\and went through a post-graduate course.
When he finished his post-graduate course, many institutes in Japan invited him to work there. His tutor at the university, too, wanted him to work with him in an agricultural experimental station to be established in Manchuria.
However, Kye Ung Sang declined all their offers. His wish was to continue his research into silkworms in a place\where there were no Japanese army. He had a strong desire to return home for scientific study, but gave up the idea.
He thought over his future\and at last made up his mind to go to China. At that time there were no Japanese in South China. The Japanese began to invade China proper following the July 7 incident.
Only when the Japanese occupied Guangdong did he think of returning to his motherland. He resolved to go back to the land of his forefathers now that the Japanese had appeared everywhere. When he was coming backrom South China he brought with him a new variety of silkworms he had invented, going through great hardships.
After liberation he was disgusted at the activities of the American military government\and came to Pyongyang with silkworm eggs in his trunk. When I met him first, he said that a man with the soul of a Korean could never live under the US military government. His words convinced me further that he was a scholar with a strong sense of national pride.
In the northern half of Korea he invented many new varieties of silkworm eggs, which were highly productive\and capable of resisting diseases.
Only men of firm faith can preserve their national spirit.
If they are to make real contributions to their country\and fellow people, intellectuals must have ardent patriotism\and unshakable scientific convictions.
The Korean Language Association was one of the\organizations which launched a relentless struggle to preserve the national spirit in the homeland in the closing years of Japanese rule.
According to Ri Kuk Ro, this association was established in the early 1930s. The Korean Language Study Association was its predecessor.
The Korean Language Association quietly did a lot of useful work. It was not until this association was\organized that the compilation of a proper Korean dictionary got under way. Previously there was no Korean dictionary worth mentioning in our country.
Of course, many scholars tried to compile one, but doing so in a ruined country was no easy job.
However, the Korean Language Association undertook this heavy task of its own accord.
Without language there can be no development of culture. The development of culture is impossible without the reasonable arrangement\and standardization of language\and letters, the basis of its development. The most powerful means of arranging\and standardizing language\and letters in a rational manner is a dictionary that integrates\and systematizes the resources of the national language.
Compilation of the national language dictionary was an enormous task, which required boundless efforts. Particularly difficult for the association was a lack of money. Because they worked in secret, avoiding the eyes of the Japanese, they could not obtain supportrom the people. What an arduous undertaking it must have been to edit a large dictionary when there was not even a standard of correct spelling!
They made two copies of the manu of the dictionary\and hid them in different places. What heroic patriots they were, these scholars who compiled the dictionary by picking up one by one the downtrodden, yet precious Korean words many decades after the ruin of the country, at a time when people who did not speak Japanese were scorned like the dumb!
The Korean Language Association also engaged in external activities in secret. Its representatives took part in the International Phonetics Conference held in the United Kingdom in 1935\and in the World Linguistics Conference held in Denmark the following year\and denounced the Japanese imperialists, exposing how they were trying to obliterate the Korean language.
King Sejong\organized a body of scholars to devise an alphabet with which to write the Korean language, brushing aside the desperate objections of sycophants like Choe Man Ri, who wanted the people to remain ignorant. He supervised the composition of the epic poem Songs of the Dragons in the new alphabet,\and\ordered that all official documents as well as Confucian\and Buddhist ures be written in it too. Previously all writing had been in Chinese.
Under the reign of King Yonsan (1494-1506) the Korean Institute was abolished,\and the Korean alphabet began to be forsaken. But it was revived by the Political Reform of 1894.
The Korean alphabet, which began to see the light again at the end of the last century, was soon trampled upon again, this time by the Japanese, who pursued the policy of “daily use of the Japanese language”. The\organization which rose against this policy was the Korean Language Association.
But this association, which had fought for the independence of the country\and the arrangement\and dissemination of the Korean language, was suppressed by the enemy in the autumn of 1942.
Dozens of scholars of this association\and other people involved in its activities were arrested by the Japanese police.
When I heard this newsrom the comrades of a small unit who had been to the homeland, I could not repress my indignation.
At that time the whole camp was excited at the news that the Soviet army had annihilated hundreds of thousands of German troops at Stalingrad, but I lost my appetite at the news that many of our scholars had been arrested\and tortured.
The scholars underwent a terrible time in Hamhung Prison. The enemy’s torture was so cruel that some of them died even before they were brought to trial.
The Japanese police regarded the Korean Language Association as an anti-Japanese independence body, but they failed to discover that this association was under our influence, because the imprisoned scholars kept the secret, shedding their blood\and sacrificing their lives.
In the association there was an underground\organization which included Ri Kuk Ro\and other advanced people who were linked directly to our\organization. I was told that Choe Il Chon called on Ri Kuk Ro in Seoul in the autumn of 1936\and in the summer of 1937. He had been dispatched to the homeland on a mission to build an ARF\organization among intellectuals there.
Choe Il Chon carried out his mission with credit, frequenting Seoul as the head of the Changchun (Manchukuo) bureau of the Tong-A Ilbo.
Ri Kuk Ro was terribly tortured in the prison, because he took the “guilt” upon himself by stating that he had done everything his comrades were accused of.
After returning to Seoul, instead of taking care of his terribly wounded body, he did a lot of work for the unity of democratic forces\and the building of an independent sovereign state using the Korean Language Association as a base.
When Ri Kuk Ro came to Pyongyang to take part in the April North-South Joint Conference, I told him: “We paid deep attention to the incident involving your association. When we heard that the Japanese police tortured its members every day\and some people died on the rack, we were 추천 0
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