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북녘 | [Reminiscences]Chapter 2. 3. The Down-with-Imperialism\\union

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 2. 3. The Down-with-Imperialism\union

 

  



3. The Down-with-Imperialism\union



The old-fashioned nature of Hwasong Uisuk School made me realize that outdated methods were of no avail. As the days went by I became more firmly convinced that\organizing small armed units equipped with a few rifles to kill a few Japanese policemen across the Amnok\and raising war funds was not the way to achieve national liberation.

I made a firm resolve to employ new methods in paving the way to national liberation. My comrades agreed with my resolve. But we were few. The majority of the students would not readily accept my new idea; they were guarded in their reaction to it\or rejected it.

The school prohibited its students rom reading books on communism. Whenever I went to school with The Communist Manifesto, the other students would nudge me\and tell me that I should read such a book at home. They told me that the school authorities guarded against,\and exercised strict control over, “Red” books\and had threatened even to expel those who persisted in reading them.

I argued: If a man does not read the books he wants to because he has been prohibited rom doing so, how can he undertake a great cause? We should read books that teach us the truth even though we are threatened with expulsion.

I had borrowed The Communist Manifesto rom Kim Si U. He had many books on communism in his study. His study could be said to be demonstrating the trend of the times when the national liberation movement was turning rom the nationalist to the communist movement,\and to be revealing the view of Kim Si U himself who was trying to swim with the current of that time.

I could only feel dissatisfied with the fact that the school authorities prohibited the students rom reading such books. But we were so fascinated by the new thought that the school regulations could not dampen our passion to delve into it. I devoured the books on communism, disregarding the policy of the school authorities. By that time the number of students who were eager to read such books had increased to such an extent that we drew up an\order\and the timetable for reading each of them\and insisted that it be returned on time. Most of the students observed the reading regulations, being approved by schoolmates who aspired to the new thought.

Only Kye Yong Chun, who was absent-minded, violated these regulations,\and he did so frequently. He didn’t observe his reading timetable\and was careless about\selecting a suitable place to read. He kept The Communist Manifesto for more than ten days. When I told him to hand it to another comrade right away, he said he needed two more days to extract something rom it. The next day he was absent rom school,\and even slipped away rom the hostel. He did not turn up throughout morning classes,\and lunch time came. We found him absorbed in the book in a thicket by the River Huifa. I told him quietly that, although it was good to read avidly, he should never miss classes\and that he should be careful about when\and\where he read. He said that he would, but during the history lesson the next day the teacher snatched the book rom him while he was reading it secretly. The book was handed to the headmaster,\and we got into serious trouble.

Having discovered that I had borrowed the book rom the study of Kim Si U, the school authorities sent the history teacher to take Kim\and me to task. He said to Kim Si U that it was not proper for him, an area controller who was in a position to help the school in its work, to fail to prevent the students rom reading Leftist books\and that rom then on he should see to it that the students refrained rom reading such books. He told me in a threatening tone to watch my step.

I was angry with the authorities’ handling of the affair. In front of Kim Si U I gave vent to my pent-up indignation against the school. I said: “For a man to develop sound qualities he must acquire a wide knowledge. Why do the school authorities deprive young men who need to imbibe new ideas of their right to study a progressive idea recognized by the world? The works of Marx\and Lenin are on sale even in\ordinary bookshops, so I can’t understand why only Hwasong Uisuk School keeps its students rom reading such books.” Heaving a sigh, he confessed that he could do nothing as it was the policy of Jongui-bu\and the school authorities.

As a man’s idea is the basic criterion for defining his value, so its educational ideology is the basic criterion for determining the value of a school\and its education. However, the school authorities tried in vain to counter the current of new thought with an outdated idea that did not accord with the trend of the times. This incident let the students know that there was a group which was studying Marxism-Leninism in the school. The authorities made a fuss about punishing\and expelling the group but this only stirred up the aspiration for\and interest in the communist idea among the progressive young men. After that incident, the number of students coming to me to borrow Leftist books increased sharply.

I began to meet individually those with whom I could share my idea, purpose\and fate.
My father had always said that one should have reliable comrades\and many of them. He also said that a man who had a just\and wonderful aim could not attain it if he had no comrades with whom he could share his fate. I always remembered his teachings.

I mixed with many students, among them a certain Ri rom the first company. Because he was clever, proficient\and good-natured he was popular with the students. But he was strangely conservative in his idea. It was he who had insisted that the monarchy be restored during the class on the history of the world revolution.

Normally we only greeted each other when we met, but after a football match with senior course pupils of the Koreans Exemplary Primary School we became close friends. Ri, who played as a forward that day, ran into a player rom the other side\and injured his leg.

I went to the hostel\and lived there for more than ten days while I nursed him. In the course of this we became quite open with each other. He said that it had been ridiculous for him to insist on the restoration of the monarchy\and that, as I had said, our country, after independence, should develop into a society in which the toiling masses ate their fill\and lived in happiness. He said we should drive out the Japanese as soon as possible\and live happily.

I asked him: “Do you think you can defeat the Japanese after receiving military training at this school? People say that Japan is one of the five great powers of the world, so do you think the Independence Army, with hardly any rifles, can match such a powerful enemy?”

He answered: “In\order to fight, we must train our bodies\and become marksmen. So there is no other way than to follow the methods of the veteran independence fighters, is there?”

“No. That is not the way to win independence. I am now reading the works of Marx\and Lenin to learn the right method,\and I have learnt a lot rom their works. The Japanese imperialists slander the communist idea,\and bigoted nationalists reject socialism. Even though rich people speak ill of socialism we, the sons of workers\and peasants, must not denounce communism indiscriminately without even studying it. If one wants to become a true independence fighter\and a patriot, one must study Marxism-Leninism closely.”

It appeared he agreed with me. He remained silent for a while,\and then asked me to lend him some books.
I told him that I would lend them to him after he had recovered,\and I encouraged him to get back to normal soon by taking good care of himself.
  
The tide of sympathy for the new thought swept the school with an irresistible force. Except for a few bigoted students who followed nationalism, the overwhelming majority accepted the progressive idea. I frequently\organized seminars with the progressive students on the books they had read. The seminars were held at the houses of Kim Si U\and Kang Je Ha, the school superintendent,\and at the side of the River Huifa.

When a seminar was taking place in his study, Kim Si U would, secretly, take strict measures to ensure that the members of his family\and his guests kept away rom it. Sometimes he would sit on the porch to keep watch while pretending to do odd jobs. I would recognize his warm heart\and tacit support in such actions.

We decided on Kang Je Ha’s house as a place for seminars because not only was his son Kang Pyong Son my close friend but also Kang Je Ha himself had been a friend of my father’s\and his ideological tendency was good. He was a nationalist, but he did not reject communism. Whenever I visited his house he would talk to me about communism. He used to say that he was too old\and that we should triumph by using communist methods. This was a great encouragement to us. He had several books on communism in his house.

When I look back now, I think we discussed the practical problems arising in the Korean revolution at a very high level at that time. In the course of those discussions the young men would reach a consensus\and adopt similar positions on the revolution in Korea.

One day when we were holding a seminar at Kim Si U’s house, Ri whom I had been nursing arrived on crutches\and asked me to lend him the books I had promised. He said that, with the other students following a new road, he, as he lay in the hostel, was afraid he might fall behind. Thus he, too, joined us.
  
Capitalists say they take great pleasure in making money, but I took the greatest pleasure\and interest in making comrades. How can we compare the happiness a man feels when he has won a comrade to the delight a man feels when he has obtained a piece of gold! Thus my struggle to win comrades started at Hwasong Uisuk School. Since then I have devoted my whole life to gaining comrades.

With so many reliable comrades coming together, I wondered how I should\organize them so that we could work on a greater scale. I spoke of this to my comrades. As far as I remember the meeting was held towards the end of September. I think I said a lot about the need for an\organization. I said to the following effect: We must open up a long\and thorny path in\order to liberate the country\and build a society in which the working people can live happily; if we build up our ranks\and fight tenaciously at the cost of our blood, we shall emerge victorious; after forming an\organization we should rally the masses behind it\and arouse them to liberate the country by relying on their own efforts.

The comrades were all delighted; they insisted on forming the\organization as soon as possible.
I said that we should make further preparations for forming it\and attract more comrades who shared our idea\and would fight at our side. The meeting marked eligible people out for membership of the\organization\and gave an assignment to each of us to educate individual candidates. But some of the comrades were apprehensive lest the forming of the\organization should mean the appearance of factions. I said to them: The\organization we are going to form is a revolutionary one of a new type that will be quite different rom the factions of the nationalists\and communists; it is not an\organization for factional strife but one for revolution,\and we shall fight tenaciously by devoting ourselves to revolution.
  
After a period for preparation we held a preliminary meeting on October 10, then the national day of China,\and discussed the name of the\organization, its character, its fighting programme\and its rules\and regulations. A week later, on the 17th of October, 1926, we formally set it up at Kim Si U’s house. The meeting was held quietly in a simply-furnished room with under-floor heating, but no platform. Even after more than 60 years I still remember the animation\and passion that filled the room.

That day everyone was excited, including me. Being on the threshold of forming an\organization I was reminded, in spite of myself, of my late father\and the Korean National Association. In\order to form that association he had travelled tens of thousands of miles over several years\and rallied comrades rom everywhere. After the formation of the association he had devoted his whole life for the realization of the ideal of the association. He had left his cause unaccomplished for his sons to take up. I felt my heart beating\and tears welling up in my eyes as I thought that I was taking a first step on my way to executing my father’s will that we must liberate our country even if our bones were to be crushed\and our flesh torn to shreds.

The programme for our\organization embodied my father’s ideal.
I still remember vividly the faces of the young men who spoke with fervour at the meeting that day. Choe Chang Gol, Kim Ri Gap, Ri Je U, Kang Pyong Son, Kim Won U, Pak Kun Won, Ri Jong Rak, Pak Cha Sok (though the last two of them later turned traitor)—they all took a militant oath that they would devote their all to the revolution. Some of them were good public speakers while others were not. But they all made good speeches. I, too, made a speech, quite a long one in fact.

At the meeting I suggested that we name the\organization the Down-with-Imperialism\union, abbreviated to DIU. The Down- with -Imperialism\union was a pure, fresh political\organism of a new type created in the throes of a historic cause by young people of the rising generation who aspired to socialism\and communism, for the realization of national liberation\and class emancipation with the ideal of anti-imperialism, independence\and sovereignty. We formed this\union with the aim of building socialism\and communism, but we named it the Down-with-Imperialism\union in\order to avoid it being open to suspicion by the nationalists as an excessively Leftist\organization. We attached a great deal of importance to our relations with the nationalists in those days. My proposal to name the\organization the Down-with-Imperialism\union was passed unanimously. The fighting programme of the DIU I suggested was also adopted unamended. As it was an\organization to fight to overthrow imperialism as its name suggested, its programme was also great. The immediate task of the DIU was to defeat Japanese imperialism\and achieve the liberation\and independence of Korea,\and its final objective was to build socialism\and communism in Korea\and, further, destroy all imperialism\and build communism throughout the world. We also adopted policies for putting this programme into effect. The young men attending the meeting received the printed Rules of the\union.

At the meeting Choe Chang Gol nominated me as head of the\union.
We rushed hand in hand to the River Huifa\and, singing a song, made a grim resolve to share life\and death on the road of the revolution for the motherland\and the nation.

I sat up all that night. I was too excited\and moved to sleep. Frankly speaking, we were elated with excitement\and joy as if we had gained the whole world. How can the pleasure a billionaire feels when rolling in money be compared to our pleasure?

In the communist movement at that time there were many\organizations with eye-catching slogans. Ours was a new organization which could scarcely be compared with those\organizations in terms of scale. The public did not even know about the existence of the DIU.

Nevertheless, we were feverishly excited because we were proud of the fact that ours was a communist revolutionary\organization of a new type that was totally different rom the conventional\organizations. The DIU was not an\organization formed by a certain faction\and its members were not people who had broken away rom any faction\or rom an\organization in exile. They were rom the new generation, as white\and pure as snow. The blood running through the DIU was free rom any impurities.

Its members were not insignificant people. They were virile, young talented people; they could make speeches, write treatises, compose songs\and were good at self-defence. They could “match one hundred\or one thousand” as we say nowadays. With such young men gathered together to blaze a trail, their gallant spirit was unimaginable.

Whenever the revolutionary cause we had launched was in a predicament in later years, the members of the DIU always found a way out, even if it meant sacrificing themselves. As hardcore elements of the Korean revolution, they played a leading role everywhere they went. Among those the DIU produced many young people, particularly Kim Hyok, Cha Kwang Su, Choe Chang Gol, Kim Ri Gap, Kang Pyong Son\and Ri Je U, fought heroically in the van of the struggle, until the last moment of their noble lives; only a few were otherwise. I think it deplorable that some of those who made a good start came to betray the ideal of the DIU as the revolution progressed.

I have now lost all those comrades who worked hand in hand with me in the days of the DIU. Many sons\and daughters of the DIU who fought through thick\and thin for the independence of the motherland\and for the society of the proletarian masses left us in the prime of their youth, too early to enjoy this happy life. By giving their youth they laid the foundations of our Party\and our revolution.

In the history of our Party the DIU is recognized as the root of the Party,\and the formation of the DIU as a starting -point\or the genesis of the Korean communist movement\and the Korean revolution. rom this root came the programme of our Party, the principles for building our Party\and its activities,\and the backbone for its foundation. With the formation of the DIU our revolution advanced on the basis of the principle of independence.

I think the ideal of the DIU\and our mettle at that time have been described in part in “The DIU\and Kim Il Sung” in the book A Short History of the Korean Revolutionary Movement Overseas written by Choe Il Chon (alias Choe Hyong U) immediately after liberation.

When the Revolutionary Army was formed a few years later\and the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland was founded, calling upon the 20 million Korean people to rise up in one body,\and when the revolution was at its height with tens of thousands of supporters\and sympathizers surrounding us, I would look back with deep emotion on the day when we formed the DIU in Huadian.




         

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