[Reminiscences]Chapter 24 8. The Triumphal Return
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[Reminiscences]Chapter 24 8. The Triumphal Return
8. The Triumphal Return
In August Juche 34 (1945), Korea was aflame with the joy of liberation.
In the wave of excitement that enveloped the whole land of Korea, the people were waiting impatiently for the triumphal return of the national hero General Kim Il Sung.
The ancient city of Pyongyang,\where the leader of the nation was born, was astir even at night waiting for the arrival of General Kim Il Sung, who left his home in snowstorm in Juche 14 (1925). When would he come back, tomorrow\or the day after tomorrow? The four hundred thousand Pyongyangites were all waiting for him.
In Seoul, Ryo Un Hyong, Ho Hon, Hong Myong Hui\and other leading figures of the national liberation struggle\organized the preparatory committee to welcome General Kim Il Sung. Every day the Seoul railway station plaza was crowded with tens of thousands of people who were waiting for him.
The hearts of thirty million people were throbbing in expectation of the moment of General Kim Il Sung’s triumphal return home.
At the news of Japan’s unconditional surrender, the KPRA men at the training base were seized with excitement, preparing to return home. I also wished to return home as soon as possible, for I had lived in foreign lands going through storm\and stress for 20 years. But we had to put off our return for some time, repressing the yearning for our motherland\and native place.
We knew how eagerly the people in the homeland were waiting for the triumphant return of the KPRA.
However, we did not hurry our departure. We wanted to make better preparations before going to the homeland. We needed to prepare for the building of a new country. Now that we had carried out the strategic task of national liberation, we had to draw up a schedule to hasten the building of a new country.
On September 2, 1945, on board the USS Missouri, which was at anchor in Tokyo Bay, an international ceremony was held to legally confirm the unconditional surrender of Japan. That day, on behalf of the Japanese government\and military authorities, Foreign Minister Shigemitsu\and Chief of Staff of the Japanese army Umez signed the instrument of surrender. When he was Japanese Minister to China, Shigemitsu lost one leg in a grenade attack by Martyr Yun Pong Gil. Umez, too, was a notorious Japanese militarist. He was the Commander of the Kwantung Armyrom the autumn of 1939 to the summer of 1944. Approximately a dozen persons were in command of the Kwantung Army in succession,\and Umez was the last but one. Under his command, the enemy launched a large “punitive” operation against the KPRA under the high-sounding name of “special clean-up campaign for maintaining public peace in the southeastern area”.
With Japan’s surrender, the Second World War, which had thrown mankind into immeasurable miseries\and agony, resulted in the victory of the anti-fascist forces.
When our sworn enemy Umez signed the instrument of surrender\and drank the bitter cup of defeat, we were preparing to return home as the heroes who had triumphed in the anti-Japanese revolution\and made a new history of national liberation.
The end of the Second World War opened the prospect for different countries in Europe, the cradle of communism,\and in Asia, the forefront of the national liberation struggle, to build a new society on a democratic basis.
The situation in the motherland was good.
Immediately after liberation, people’s committees were\organized in many parts of our country. Party\organizations\and mass\organizations were formed everywhere centring on the revolutionaries who had been involved in the homeland Party\organizations\and the resistance\organization members. Literary men\and artists at home\and abroad gathered in Pyongyang, Seoul\and other major cities, cherishing a new hope for building national culture. Workers formed armed guards\and protected factories, enterprises, coal\and other mines, ports\and railways of their own accord. Our people’s enthusiasm for national salvation, which had been displayed in national resistance, was converted into enthusiasm for nation-building with the liberation.
From the viewpoint of both the immediate task of the Korean revolution\and its ultimate objective, the situation was very optimistic.
However, we could not relax in the least.
Though the Japanese imperialists had been defeated, the reactionaries did not give up their offensive against the revolution. Even after the Japanese Emperor had declared an unconditional surrender, the remnants of the defeated Japanese army continued their resistance.
Pro-Japanese elements, traitors to the nation\and the representatives of the exploiting class were hatching a plot underground to disturb the building of a new country. Traitors to the revolution, heterogeneous elements\and men of political ambition concealed their true colours\and infiltrated Party\organizations\and people’s government\organs.
When we were in the Soviet Far East region, we heard the news that the US army would be stationed in Korea south of the 38th parallel. This meant that the troops of two big powers would be stationed in our country at the same time. It was a bad omen that the armies of two countries would be stationed in our country, which was not a defeated nation, no matter what excuse they might make\or how they might justify it.
During the peasant war of 189420, Japan\and China dispatched their armies to Korea. But the Korean people did not benefit at allrom them. The dispatch of the two armies culminated in the Sino-Japanese War that devastated our country.
The stationing of the Soviet\and US armies might turn our country into an arena of confrontation between socialism\and capitalism,\and our national force was liable to be split into left\and right, patriots\and traitors to the nation. If factional strife prevailed\and factions conspired with foreign forces it would end up in the ruin of the country.
In these circumstances, we had to strengthen the motive force of our revolution in every way in\order to defend the independence of our nation\and speed up the building of a new country.
By the motive force of our revolution I mean the force of our own people.
Since the first day we set out on the road of revolution, we made every effort to educate,\organize\and mobilize the people who were to undertake the anti-Japanese revolution. Millions of people in the ranks of resistance who took part in the final battle for national liberation were not people who turned out spontaneously to the battlefield but the\organized masses whose forces we had built up for many years.
We never hesitated to walk a hundred miles to win over a man for the revolution. We became human bombs\and plunged even into the heart of the fire to protect the people.
The whole process of the anti-Japanese revolution was a history of love\and trust with which we held up the people as the makers of history, awakened them to political awareness\and\organized them to stand in the forefront of the liberation war. It was also a history of struggle\and creation, in which the people demonstrated themselves as the dignified makers of history, shedding their blood\and sweat. These people\and the fighters of the People’s Revolutionary Army were the motive force of our revolution that would build a new country. In the crucible of the anti-Japanese revolution we found a valuable truth that when we believe in the strength of the people\and fight relying on them, enjoying their love\and support, we can overcome any trial whatever\and emerge victorious in any adversity.
After liberation, some people said that liberating the country was difficult, but building a society after liberation would not be very difficult. But I considered that nation-building was indeed a difficult\and complicated undertaking.
Just as our people had carried out the anti-Japanese revolution by their own struggle, so they had to build a new country by their own efforts. We resolved to build the Party, state\and armed forces,\and also the national economy, education\and culture,\and develop science\and technology by relying on our people’s strength. In\order to rouse the people to build a new country, we needed the staff of the revolution\and state power which would educate,\organize\and mobilize them, as well as an army which could protect the building of a new society with arms.
With this in mind, I convened a meeting of military\and political cadres of the KPRA at the training base on August 20, 1945\and set forth the three major tasks of building the Party, the state\and the armed forces–new strategic tasks for strengthening the motive force of our revolution.
We discussed the specific ways\and methods for carrying out these tasks,\and made necessary arrangements. We formed small teams for implementing these tasks\and designated the places\where they would be sent. We decided to dispatch Kang Kon, Pak Rak Kwon, Choe Kwang, Im Chol, Kim Man Ik\and Kong Jong Su to Northeast China.
Before leaving for the homeland, we gave small-team members a short course for several days. The short course dealt with the content\and method of work to be done at their destinations, local customs\and various other matters. Kim Chaek, An Kil\and I gave the lectures.
After the short course, my comrades wanted to leave for the homeland at once. At that time they all yearned for the homeland like children.
When we were leaving for the homeland we left the women soldiers with babies behind at the training base, planning to bring them home later.
When returning home, the KPRA units took different routes, because the Japanese imperialists had surrendered suddenly when each of them was fighting in different areas in accordance with the plans of joint operation with the Soviet army.
The unit which was waiting at the training base for parachute operations to be carried out in different places in Korea had a plan to come back to the homeland by way of Khabarovsk, Mudanjiang, Wangqing\and Tumen. But an unexpected incident made us give up the plan on the way\and change the route, so we had to return home by ship. The remnants of the defeated Kwantung Army had blown up a railway tunnel south of Mudanjiang,\and destroyed a bridge\and the runway of the Mudanjiang airfield. We were not in a position to use motor vehicles, trains\or airplanes. We went as far as Mudanjiang\and then returned to the Soviet Far East region. In Vladivostok we boarded a warship\and left for the homeland.
A colonel of the 1st Far East Front Headquarters accompanied me as an escort.
The captain assured me that the ship would arrive in Wonsan Port within a day\and a night even at medium speed.
When we left Vladivostok the sea was rough. Waves as large as apartment blocks rose along both sides of the ship\and broke over the deck. It was an amazing sight.
Most of us were strangers to the sea\and suffered a lotrom seasickness.
Our party slept one night on the ship. The next day the sea was calm.
It is still fresh in my memory that my heart throbbed strangely when I gazed at the boundless ocean over the side of the ship. I remembered the day when I was crossing the Amnok River at the age of 13. It seemed to me that the Amnok\and innumerable other rivers of the homeland frozen by the sorrow of the ruined nation were being melted by the hot wind of liberation into this vast expanse of water.
As I was returning home after 20 years, leaving my blood relations, friends\and comrades buried in a foreign land, I was overcome with mixed emotions of joy\and sorrow, which were beyond words.
We arrived at Wonsan on September 19, 1945.
The members of the headquarters of a Soviet army unit stationed in Wonsan greeted us at the port.
Among the Koreans who came to the port that day, I remember Han Il Mu, who was an officer in the Soviet army. Later, he worked as the Chairman of the Kangwon Provincial Party Committee.
Because the Soviet army had kept our coming a secret, there was no crowd of people at the port to greet us.
Ho Hon, Hong Myong Hui, Ryo Un Hyong\and other renowned figures in the homeland who were taking the lead in waiting for our return later learned that there had been no welcome upon our landing at Wonsan. They said with regret that we should have announced our return in advance, lest the people should feel ashamed of not having greeted us. Ri Ju Harom the Wonsan City Party Committee, too, expressed a similar regret. Ho Hon said that if the date of our return had been known to the public in advance, the majority of Seoul citizens, to say nothing of the people who were waiting for us every day at the Seoul railway station, would have thronged to Wonsan on foot\or by train.
However, we did not wish for such a grand welcome. Our fighters never expected recompense for the sweat\and blood they had shed on the battlefield\and gallows during the many years of struggle for national liberation.
At that time we were determined to go among the people quietly on our return without spreading the news of our arrival\and lay the foundation for building the Party, state\and army. I intended to offer the greetings of our return to the people in the homeland after laying this foundation.
Through our talks with Kangwon provincial Party officials after our arrival at Wonsan, I felt keenly once more that we should go among the people as soon as possible.
On the very day we landed at Wonsan I had talks with many people. I had talks with Party officials on the Wonsan City Party Committee,\and in the Tongyang Hotel with the representatives of trade\unions\and local civic-minded persons. I spent much time talking with Ri Ju Ha.
After these talks I reached the conclusion that none of the parties\and\organizations in the homeland had shown the people a correct line for nation-building.
Some officials of the Wonsan City Party Committee admired the Soviet model. When the path Korea was to take became the topic of conversation, they asserted that we should carry out socialist revolution at once. This idea was reflected in the motto hanging on the wall of the city Party committee headquarters: “Proletariat, unite under the banner of communism!”
I asked them if they were trying to build a new country only by the efforts of the working class. They replied that they were people fighting for the communist revolution, so they trusted only the working class.
Their idea was quite similar to that of the earlier communists whom I had met frequently in the latter half of the 1920s. I felt depressed when I heard such assertions again in the liberated homeland 20 years later.
I could not find any trace of progress\or sincere efforts to keep pace with the trend of the new era in their political ideas\and doctrines.
I told the officials of the Wonsan City Party Committee: “The motto ‘Proletariat, unite under the banner of communism!’ does not conform with the reality of our country whose immediate task is the anti-imperialist, anti-feudal democratic revolution, so it must be changed to the motto, ‘Unite under the banner of democracy!’ In\order to build a democratic society which guarantees freedom\and rights for the people in the liberated homeland, we must rally not only the working class\and peasants but also all patriotic peoplerom all walks of life who are interested in the building of a new society, behind the united front. We should mobilize such nationwide efforts to build a prosperous, independent state.”
I talked with them before\and after dinner. They kept me there for a long time, asking questions continually.
Kim Ik Hyon, who accompanied me to the city Party committee together with So Chol, came to me\and said that it was midnight. He asked me if I was going to sit up all night working for the liberated homeland as I had done in the mountains.
I told Kim Ik Hyon that he should remember that this was a new line of departure, even though the country had been liberated.
A talk with the officials of the Wonsan City Party Committee was the first opportunity I had on my return to the homeland to outline the nation-building policy in line with the Ten-Point Programme of the ARF. That day I made public my view that our country should be a democratic people’s republic.
The interviews with Ri Ju Ha\and other Party workers\and influential people in Wonsan convinced me that it was absolutely correct that we had defined immediately after the August 15 liberation the building of the Party, state\and army as the tasks of nation-building\and had decided to dispatch the operatives to their destinations on our arrival in the homeland.
In Wonsan, we sent without delay some of the small teams who were to work in North\and South Hamgyong Provinces to their destinations by northward train. The same day, the comrades who were to work in the Cholwon area left for their destination by southward train.
I myself did not feel at ease, as I was sending them away on further missions without giving them a single day’s respiterom the exhausting struggle they had continued through atrocious conditions\and hardships for many years, dedicating all their youth to the revolution.
Moreover, the day we landed at Wonsan was the eve of the Harvest Moon Festival. I wanted to allow them to relax\and enjoy the festival before departure, but the pressing situation at home did not permit it. The team which left for North\and South Hamgyong Provinces spent the Harvest Moon day on the train. The train was crowded with passengers who were going to visit their ancestors’ graves, I was told.
Kim Chaek, An Kil, Choe Chun Guk, Ryu Kyong Su\and Jo Jong Chol were among the team. They were very sorry to say good-bye to me.
I also felt sorry to see Choe Chun Guk\and Jo Jong Chol, who had received serious wounds in the war against the Japanese, limping up the carriage steps, helping each other,\and waving to me. How many battlegrounds\and thorny bushes they had trekked through with those legs that had undergone operations without getting even a\drop of anaesthetic!
They naturally had the right to relieve their fatigue accumulated on the anti-Japanese battlefields, enjoying privilege as wounded soldiers for a few years in the liberated homeland.
However, they left for their destinations in the north with smiles on their faces, having no time to relieve their fatigue.
We had to cross many new peaks\and passes to build a prosperous independent state. On that path they had to shed a lot of blood\and sweat. The great war against the Japanese had been an untrodden path,\and so was the building of a new country. Had it not been an untrodden path, a thorny path, replete with difficulties\and trials, we would not have made such haste.
I urged Kim Chaek to pay a visit to his hometown when he had the time. I said the same to Choe Chun Guk, Ryu Kyong Su, Jo Jong Chol\and Ri Ul Sol. They were allrom North\or South Hamgyong Provinces.
But they never visited their native places till they were called back to Pyongyang, not because they did not love their hometowns, but because they had a strong sense of mission\and responsibility. You comrades composed a song about the fork in the road to Mangyongdae, saying that when I was going to the Kangson Steel Works I did not\drop in at my old home. In fact, all the anti-Japanese revolutionary veterans worked hard to lay the foundation of the Party, state\and army, without visiting their native homes after their return to the homeland.
Our veterans thought that they had no right to do so before carrying out the\orders\and instructions of their commander.
In this way, we went among the peoplerom the day we set foot again in the homeland. Our fighters had not a moment to untie their shoelaces fastened on Mt. Paektu before leaving for the new front, one after another. Everyone regarded his\or her workplace as a new theatre of operations. We can say that our triumphal return was rather a strategic movement to open a new chapter in the revolution than merely a homecoming.
On September 20, 1945, I left Wonsan by train for Pyongyang, together with my comrades who were to work in the west coast area.
The representative of the Soviet army headquarters in north Korea came down as far as Puraesan stationrom Pyongyang to meet us. He grasped my hands warmly, congratulating me on my return home.
My company arrived in Pyongyang on the morning of September 22.
The women guerrillas who had been left at the training base came to the homeland via Sonbong, North Hamgyong Province, towards the end of November that year. As soon as she arrived in Chongjin, Kim Jong Suk reported their arrival to me by phone. With the help of An Kil, Choe Chun Guk, Pak Yong Sun\and others who were working in Chongjin, the women guerrillas worked hard, doing political work among the masses to carry out the tasks of building the Party, state\and army.
While staying in Chongjin, Kim Jong Suk toured the Chongjin Iron Works, the Komusan Cement Factory, the Puryong Metallurgical Works,\and many other factories\and enterprises as well as educational\and cultural institutions,\and conducted political work among people of all walks of life. She met many people, including workers, peasants, office workers, housewives, senior officials of the Party, government\and working people’s\organizations,\and even middle school pupils.
I was told that the citizens of Chongjin warmly welcomed Kim Jong Suk at that time. The newspaper Saegil Sinmun highlighted her revolutionary activities under the title Half of the Career of Mrs. Kim.
Her experience in the northern city was so impressive that she talked only about Chongjin for some time after her return to Pyongyang. She talked frequently about how she had had a photo taken with secondary schoolchildren\and about the warm hospitality accorded to her\and her group by the people of the Rajin noodle house who gave a luncheon in their honour.
Young Kim Jong Il, too, returned home with the women guerrillas.
On the day I entered Pyongyang, together with my comrades-in-arms, I set about carrying out the tasks of building the Party, state\and army. That was one of the busiest days after liberation.
In the homeland, too, I worked mainly among the people, among the masses. While visiting factories, rural communities\and streets to meet people on the one hand, on the other I met various visitorsrom home\and abroad in my office\and lodgings, sharing bed\and board with my comrades as I had done on Mt. Paektu.
Whenever they saw me, my comrades advised me to visit my grandparents at home saying that it was my moral obligation to do so. As they were unable to persuade me, Rim Chun Chu visited Mangyongdae in secret, acting as if he had\dropped in by chance,\and inquired after my family members. I later heardrom him about my family in detail.
I did not know how the secret leaked out, but towards the end of September a rumour spread all over the city that I was in Pyongyang. Hearing it, Uncle Hyong Rok went to the South Phyongan Provincial Party Committee\and asked them to help him to see me.
Rim Chun Chu asked my uncle to tell him all that he knew about me. Hyong Rok replied, “The real name of my nephew is Kim Song Ju. In his
boyhood in Mangyongdae he was also called Jung Son. His face dimples when he smiles.”
That evening Rim brought Uncle Hyong Rok to my lodgings.
When he met me, he said, “How much hardship you’ve gone through!”\and then he was choked with tears. Apparently he felt a lump in his throat remembering the days when he was pining for his blood relatives who had been left in an alien land as dead souls, experiencing all kinds of bitterness for 20 years. It is hard to describe the trouble he suffered.
“Until you liberated the country\and came back, I looked after our home, so I failed to visit the grave of my brother\and his wife. Why did they have to die so young?”
He gazed into my face. “Your handsome face has become weather-beaten.
The wind must be very rough on Mt. Paektu.” He looked sad.
But my uncle’s face was more ravaged than mine. While looking at him, who was twice as old as he had been 20 years before, tears formed in my eyes. His face was full of wrinkles,\and I thought of how many trials every wrinkle represented.
“If Mt. Paektu were near, I would have made even straw sandals to support your army, but I couldn’t give you any help.”
“You looked after our home, Uncle,” I replied, moved by his humble words. Uncle Hyong Rok\and I shared our experiences all through the night. The
next day I sent him back to Mangyongdae. I asked him to keep our meeting to himself,\and he agreed. However, he told my grandfather secretly that Song Ju was in Pyongyang.
My grandfather said with joy: “That’s what ought to be. Our Song Ju cannot change even if Mt. Paektu changes. Some people say that Kim Il Sung isrom Jolla Province\and others say that he isrom Hamgyong Province. Can there be so many Kim Il Sung’s in Korea?”
After visiting the Kangson Steel Works on October 9\and founding the Communist Party of North Korea, I gave my first address to the people in the homeland at the Pyongyang City mass rally to welcome me.
The fact is that I had never intended to meet the people at a grand welcoming rally. But the important persons in the homeland\and my comrades-in-arms insisted on holding such a grand ceremony.
On the day when I first revealed my real name to the public at a meeting, instead of my assumed name, Kim Yong Hwan, someone proposed to hold a national mass rally to welcome my triumphal return. The whole meeting hailed the proposal.
Preparations for the welcoming ceremony had been under way behind the scenes, under the sponsorship of the South Phyongan Provincial Party Committee\and People’s Political Committee. On the eve of the ceremony, a pine arch\and makeshift stage were erected in the public playground at the foot of Moran Hill.
I had told Kim Yong Bom not to arrange a grand ceremony. But the people of the South Phyongan Provincial Party Committee were so stubborn, that they put up posters in every street\and lane announcing that we had entered Pyongyang\and I would meet the people in the public stadium on October 14.
About noon on October 14, 1945 I went by car to the Pyongyang public playground, the venue of the ceremony. I was amazed at the sight of the surging crowds filling the squares\and streets. The playground, too, was already full of people. There were even people in the trees around the playground,\and the Choesung Pavilion\and the Ulmil Pavilion were covered with people. Going through the waves of welcome I raised my hand in acknowledgement of the cheering crowds.
General Chistyakov, commander of the Soviet 25th Army,\and Major General Rebezev were present at the mass rally.
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