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북녘 | [Reminiscences]Chapter 9 6. In the Bosom of the People

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작성자 편집국 작성일20-07-06 09:36 댓글0건

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 9  6. In the Bosom of the People

  

   


 

6. In the Bosom of the People  

  


 

On that fateful night, when we successfully passed three sentry posts, we camped between the walls of a roofless burnt-out house in the Dawaizi valley. My comrades spent one night\and one day nursing me in this ruin. Their nursing was far rom qualified medical care. They just built a campfire\and sat around it, taking turns to massage my arms\and legs.
Next morning, some of my 16 men wandered over the mountain ridges in search of the houses of the Koreans who were said to be living there without registering names in the Manchukuo census records. However, it proved no easy job to locate the refuges of people who had turned their backs on the world in\order to avoid observation by the Japanese army\and police\and Manchurian government officials. At midnight they found a log-cabin on the mountainside of Laoyeling amid dense primeval forest of pine-nut trees, white birches\and Abies nephroleps. This was the house of old man Jo Thaek Ju which has become well-known among our people as the “solitary house at Dawaizi.” Choe Il Hwa, the author of the reminiscences “Long Life\and Good Health to the Leader,” was the eldest daughter-in-law of old man Jo.

On a ledge midway up the mountain ridge there were two single-room log-cabins separated by a ditch between, as like each other as twins in size\and form. Old man Jo’s nine-member family lived in the cabin north of the ditch—his wife, his eldest son Jo Uk, his daughter-in-law\and his grandchildren. His second son Jo Kyong’s five-member family lived in the other cabin, south of the ditch. The eaves were too low; these were more like dugouts than log-cabins. Their roofs were covered thickly with earth on which several young pine trees were planted to camouflage their existence. This camouflage gave our reconnaissance party a lot of trouble in finding them as they wandered about the mountain.
Travellers passing through Laoyeling had never known of these shelters inhabited by people with an unusual outlook on life, who hid their very existence rom the world. Only three liaison agents who travelled between north\and east Manchuria knew the location of these shelters. Our reconnaissance party hardly had time to explain why they had come before old man Jo shouted to his son Jo Uk\and grandson Jo Yong Son to bring guerrillas there right away, saying that even if the sky fell, Commander Kim Il Sung could not be left to suffer rom this serious chill. He asked his daughter-in-law Choe Il Hwa to boil some water\and prepare thin gruel.

From the Jo’s house to the ruined house\where we were was more than five miles by the shortest route. When Jo Uk\and Jo Yong Son arrived at our camp with our reconnaissance party, my men were sitting around the campfire boiling water for me,\and I was in a coma. They took me on their backs\and set out for Jo’s house. Wal Ryong brought up the rear erasing our footprints with pine twigs.
Old man Jo who had known the sweet\and bitter sides of life rom childhood, asked a few questions of company commander Han\and said that my disease was a cold fit, a serious illness caused by fatigue\and lack of nourishment\and that it could be life-threatening, but I would recover within three days if I got warm\and sweated out. He added that the treatment of this disease required absolute rest.
“The reason why Commander Kim has not recovered consciousness so far is that the blood is not circulating smoothly in his body. If the blood circulation improves he will get better. So don’t worry, go\and relax in my second son’s house,” the old man said to company commander Han, as he\and his daughter-in-law massaged my arms\and legs.
These words lifted my men’s spirits. Their faces had been long rom worry about, since I had been totally incapacitated for several days.

Accompanied by Jo Yong Son, the soldiers crossed the ditch to Jo Kyong’s house. Old man Jo’s family\and my two bodyguards stayed with me.
After giving me boiled water mixed with half a bowl of honey, the old man watched the reactions of my body, sometimes feeling my forehead. Some time later he offered me thin gruel mixed with honey. My bodyguards, who nursed me that night together with old man Jo, said later that after I took the gruel some colour returned to my face\and I awoke rom the comatose state in which I had not been able to distinguish dream\and reality. I felt refreshed, as if I were breathing the air of a balmy spring day,\and my body\and soul felt as buoyant as a flake of down. Around me I saw no sleigh covered with fur, no more of the snow-covered forest scenery through which we had made our tedious journey, no snowstorm, no coldness\and no ear-splitting cracks as the pursuing enemy shot at us. Nor was there any more splitting headache, chill\and high fever. How could this be? What had made such a clean sweep of the disease which had brought me to the threshold of death\and caused me untold distress?
I gathered myself\and strained my ears to hear the sound of the wind brushing against the window. The buzzing of the flaps of the papered window was like the sound of the biplane which we had encountered on a mountain peak in Laoyeling when we were leaving Duitoulazi. My eyes met the gaze of a strange old man, looking down at me with gentle eyes under his grey eyebrows.
In the old man’s calloused hand, which was lightly holding my right wrist, I felt the warmth of my grandfather’s hand in Mangyongdae as he touched my forehead\and cheeks in my childhood.

“Where am I?” I quietly asked this mysterious old man who was watching over me.
My simple question produced such a strong reaction on the old man’s face that I cannot describe it in words, written\or spoken. The placid smile on his lips instantly extended to his cheeks\and eyes, bringing a mysterious radiance to the wrinkled face of this old man who was as soft\and unsophisticated as a ploughed field. It seemed I had never seen such a pure\and trustworthy man before in my life.
Wal Ryong, who was sitting beside the old man, burst into tears\and reported in a single breath how our expeditionary force had survived the crisis\and reached this Dawaizi valley rom the timber mill in Xipailinzi.
“Thank you, grandfather. I owe my life to your family.”

“Don’t mention it. God gave birth to you General Kim,\and you have been saved in this log-cabin by God’s will, not by my family.”
The old man raised his head\and looked up at the ceiling as if I had really come rom the sky. His compliment made me feel awkward.
“Grandfather, I don’t think I’m worthy of your compliment. It is too much to compare me with a general born of the Divine will. I am the son\and grandson of the common people; I was born into a nameless peasant family. As a soldier of Korea my services have been too little.”

“You are too modest. The whole world knows what distinguished services you have rendered in war. I am a mere ignoramus who makes a bare living tilling plots at land in these backwoods, but I have heard all the news going the rounds of the three provinces of northeast China. Hey, my boys, this is the famous General Kim, who attacked the Dongning county town in the autumn of the year before last, leading the Korean army\and Commander Wu’s unit. Come here\and bow to him.”
The old man spoke in a passionate tone to his children as they came in through the kitchen door, together with the guerrillas who had woken up rom their sound sleep at dawn to be told by Wal Ryong that I had regained consciousness. I sat up under the blanket\and accepted their salutations.
In this log-cabin on a remote mountain the location of which was not even registered in the government census record, which even the postman did not visit, laughter filled the room at that ungodly hour.
“We are now merrily laughing,” the platoon leader, Kim Thaek Gun, said with tears in his eyes. “But when we suffered great hardships, surrounded by the enemy, we thought we had no hope. We thought we would all die.”
“You comrades made great efforts for my sake. It is lucky that you at least have survived. I will never forget your devotion\and your heroism until my hair turns grey.”

I would never forget the way my comrades-in-arms looked at me with tears in their eyes. That image rom 50 years ago is still fresh in my memory. But I have forgotten the names of half of them. I would greatly love to hand down at least their names to posterity, but my poor memory betrays me. These 16 names have been buried among thousands of names of people connected with me directly\or indirectly over half a century. In\order to recollect all the names which have been buried in the history of the anti-Japanese revolution, we would need a full historical record. But unfortunately we do not have such a record. We did not take up weapons to fight in the anti-Japanese war in\order to leave our names in the historical record, but in\order to create a new age in which the working masses would be masters.
However, I cannot justify myself with such excuses. I am a former guerrilla army commander who has forgotten the names of half of those comrades-in-arms who snatched me rom the jaws of death.
“Grandfather, what is your native district? Why were you driven out into such a remote place?”
Setting my hand on his rake-like hand, on which the veins stood out clearly, I looked tenderly at his wrinkled face, which seemed to reflect the political history of half a century.
“My native district is Samjang Sub-county, Musan County. I was unable to endure the depredations of the Japanese,\and left my native land at the age of twenty-nine\and came to Helong,” replied the old man sadly.

After he crossed the Tuman River, the old man had been a tenant farmer for about 30 years. Two years after the June Tenth Independence Movement Jo’s family crossed the Laoyeling Mountains\and began to reclaim barren land registered for the Japanese rice field project.
The severe trials suffered by an ill-fated peasant family as part of the history of a ruined nation flashed before my eyes like a film on a screen.
After crossing the Laoyeling Mountains old man Jo drove fence stakes\and laid foundation stones in the Dawaizi village,\where three Korean families\and five Chinese families lived. Aftrerwards the number of Korean houses increased to ten. In this remote mountain village, too, the Anti-Japanese Self-Defence Corps, the women’s association, the Children’s Vanguard\and the Children’s Corps\organizations began to strike root. But the backlash of the September 18 incident swept away all these\organizations. The “punitive” operations reduced the village to ashes.
The people built new houses on the sites of the burnt ones\and continued determinedly building up their lives. In the spring of 1933, their houses were once again enveloped in flames\and some people were burnt to death.
In the spring of 1934, Jo Thaek Ju’s family built a log-cabin deep in the mountain of Laoyeling, approximately seven miles away rom Dawaizi\and then moved into it. This was the house in which I began to recover after drinking foxtail millet gruel mixed with honey. His nine-member family built a hut at the entrance of the valley five miles away rom the log-cabin\and tilled mountain plots there. In the farming season, when they were shorthanded, the whole family slept\and took their meals in the hut to save time. They harvested the crops as soon as they were ripe\and carried them on their backs to the log-cabin,\where they stored the grains in a cellar, hulling them with a tread-mill little by little just before eating them.

Old man Jo was satisfied with this simple, primitive self-supporting economy. His family only went to the Ningan county town when they needed to barter. They could not avoid these trips to the market if they were to obtain such goods as clothes, footwear, matches, salt, needles, thread\and the like. This was their only connection with the outer world. Urban civilization came nowhere near the spot at the end of the world,\where there was no road, no horses, no vehicles, no electricity. The children were totally isolated rom education. Old man Jo’s admonitions took the place of classes,\and mother Choe Il Hwa’s old stories\and songs, which could be counted on one’s fingers, were all the literature\and art they could enjoy.
“Grandfather, are you not lonely in this remote mountain?” I asked the old man feeling a deep emotion close to resentment for him.
The old man smiled sadly at my question.

“The loneliness is beyond deion. But because we can avoid the disgusting Japs, we feel we live on the fat of the land. The paradise of Ryultoguk2 cannot be better than here.”

The word Ryultoguk shocked me. How could this god-forsaken place be compared with Ryultoguk? Had the ideal of the Korean nation fallen down such depths? Japan was sending her emigrants to colonize the fertile lands of Korea,\and our compatriots had been driven into a closed mountain valley like some mousehole in desolate Manchuria. What prison could be more terrible than this place?

Yes, it was undoubtedly a prison. It differed rom a common prison only in that it had no warder\and no fence of its own. The warder of this prison was the army\and the police of Japan\and Manchukuo\and the fence was their threats. Old man Jo took the anachronistic view that this prison was Ryultoguk in\order to console himself.
His thinking that the prison\where he was detained was a paradise disappointed me. I thought that if every Korean tolerated reality as old man Jo did, Korea could never be restored.
“Grandfather, the fate of Koreans has become so miserable that you call this place a Ryultoguk. Samsu\and Kapsan which are known as places of exile, could not be more desolate than here. As long as the Japanese are entrenched in Korea\and Manchuria, Ryultoguk\and the reign of peace are inconceivable for us. You must know that someday the ‘punitive’ troops will enter this valley, too.”
I opened my heart though I knew that the old man might be upset by my words. Old man Jo twitched his eyebrows\and looked at me for a while with sad eyes.

“If those devils attack even this valley there will be no place left for Koreans to live. Damn it! What terrible evils torment our people.... Whenever I had to move to a new place I cursed the five ministers17 who sold our country.”

This was what old man Jo\and I talked about that dawn.

Beginning the next day I left my bed to take a walk\and to read.
A few days later I began doing some light manual work. In the daytime I gave military\and political classes\and in the evening I took part in a concert with my men. Whenever we had a concert, the two\or three men who were staying at the old man Jo’s house took me across the ditch to Jo Kyong’s house. In these narrow\and gloomy mountain refuges, the guerrillas abided strictly by their daily routine, just as they had done in Wangqing.
Three\or four days later I was ready to\order our departure. I had thought that it was unreasonable\and went against common sense for a number of able-bodied men greater than the 14 members of the family to be living on them\and taking so much out of their poor living earned rom slash-and-burn tillage.
But company commander Han Hung Gwon objected to my decision. He dissuaded me persistently, saying that exposing myself to cold again after suffering rom a cold fit would be tantamount to suicide,\and he could not consent to such an adventure. He even dissuaded me rom going for walks in the forest.
The food grain which about 20 able-bodied men consumed in taking three meals a day was by no means a small amount. Even at the rate of the daily rations supplied to a grown-up nowadays, we would have consumed four straw-sacks of grain if we stayed for 20 days. In any case, we ate most of this family’s food.

However, old man Jo neither showed any reluctance nor betrayed in any expression of his face the burden which he had shouldered for our sake. On the contrary, when we said that we were sorry to have caused him so much trouble, he never allowed us to continue saying that it was the duty\and job of the people to support the army of their country,\and it could not be a burden. He was really a very large-hearted old man.
Mother Choe Il Hwa, too, was very kind-hearted. Because her family were slash-and-burn farmers they had no rice, but she cooked food which tempted our appetites three times a day using foxtail millet, beans, barley, oats\and potatoes. Sometimes she served ground bean mash\and coarse bean curd boiled in bean paste. She was sorry that she could not serve me meat to restore my strength after my illness.
“I have not raised any domestic animals for fear that our house would be discovered, but now I really regret not having raised an animal. If we had at least a chicken I would cook it\and serve it to you General.... I would gladly travel dozens of miles to buy meat,
but I cannot, for fear of the mad ‘punitive’ troops. How cruel the world is....”
The heartfelt kindness I sensed in her harsh yet generous voice was exceptionally warm\and profound.
“Mother, when you say things like that I feel awful. I am a son of the common people who knows what is it to live on vegetables\and dried-radish-leaf soup. So you need not worry about meat. You said that you were sorry you could prepare only coarse bean curd, because you had no brine, but I can feel putting on weight rom the coarse bean curd\and ground bean mash.”

“I had been told that the menfolk of Phyongan Provinces are hot-tempered, but you Commander are very tender-hearted. You make me think that if I had a daughter I would marry her to a boy rom Phyongan Provinces. I want you to empty your bowl at every meal, simple though the food may be,\and recover your health completely under this roof.”
Whenever I took a meal, the woman squatted anxiously in the kitchen hearth. She worried that I might stop eating without emptying all the bowls.
Even when I had no appetite, I used to eat up all the dishes on the small table with cabrioles in response to her sincere concern. Then a faint smile would appear on her lips.
These people’s sincere concern for us was quite pure. If such sincerity were to be compared to a river, I would call it a “clear stream”\or “crystal-clear stream.” Such sincerity is boundless, it cannot be measured by length\or weight.
A man who enjoys the love of the people is happy,\and a man who does not is unhappy. This is the view of the nature of happiness which I have maintained throughout my life. Just as in the past, I still feel nowadays the greatest pride\and joy in enjoying the love of the people. I consider this the true meaning of life. Only those who understand this true meaning can be the genuine sons\and faithful servants of the people.

Thanks to the sincere efforts of Jo Thaek Ju’s family I quickly recovered my health. I frequently went for walks in spite of Han’s warning. Sometimes I helped the family to chop firewood\and pound grains in a tread-mill.
More than ten days had passed since we entered the Dawaizi valley\and were granted the tender care of Jo’s family. I thought we should return to the guerrilla zone. I felt as though many years had passed since we left Wangqing. In fact we had left it only three months before, but I was anxious to know what had been happening in the guerrilla zone\and what the zone would look like when we returned to Wangqing. The future seemed uncertain to me.
While we were working in the area around Badaohezi, messengers rom east Manchuria had warned us many times that a purge had created some disturbance in the minds of the people in Jiandao. Some of them complained that the struggle of the anti-“Minsaengdan” clique was crushing the revolutionary base itself\and others said that if the purge was stepped up, the guerrilla zone would collapse in a year\or two.
I reaffirmed my resolve to return to the guerrilla zone\and eliminate the harmful consequences of the ultra-Leftist anti-“Minsaengdan” struggle as soon as possible.
One day I walked for a while in the forest\and then went back to Jo Kyong’s house to announce my decision to company commander Han Hung Gwon.

The company commander was sitting on a tree stump near the house looking vacantly into the northern sky. When I saw him sitting there as motionless as a wooden statue with his arms folded on his chest, I felt he was wrapped in deep\and heartbreaking thought. When I came closer, Han stood up, rubbing his eyes.
When I saw his eyes were reddish, I was a little frightened. Had something bothered him during the night?\or was this stout-hearted man suffering rom some agony which he could not reveal to anyone?
“Company Commander, what is the matter so early in the morning? You are not like the Han Hung Gwon I know.”
After asking this question I walked around him. For some reason he watched me with a gloomy expression. He blinked tearful eyes, heaved a deep sigh\and said slowly:
“We had dozens of men when we began our march to north Manchuria, but now only sixteen are left alive. What great efforts we made to build up our company!”
With deep emotion we both recalled the days when we were building up the 5th company. The 5th company had been\organized on the basis of some men rom the 2nd Wangqing company, which was in Shiliping. I went to the Luozigou area leading a group of men rom the 2nd company\and increased the ranks by recruiting young men there. This was the 5th company, led by Han Hung Gwon.
The 5th Wangqing company was also under my personal command. In the days when I commanded a battalion\and a regiment, I always took this company with me to harass the enemy rom behind his lines. The 5th company was one of the strongest elite companies, among all the guerrilla units in east Manchuria with rich combat experience. But this company now had to return to the guerrilla zone, reduced to skin\and bone after the loss of many comrades. It was natural that Han should writhe in agony\and bury his head in his hands.
“When I think of the losses the 5th company has suffered, I, too, feel my heart breaking. But I take comfort in the fact that we gave great help to our comrades in north Manchuria. rom that point of view, we had great success, didn’t we? Comrade Hung Gwon, this blood has not been spilt in vain. Let us extend our ranks again\and make the enemy pay a thousand fold for the blood of our comrades-in-arms.”
The words I spoke to Han were also addressed to myself.

Han Hung Gwon continued looking up into the northern sky with his lips tightly closed. A few words of consolation could not heal the wound in his mind. The grief of a man was clearly beyond measurement by depth\and density.
His silence neither disappointed me nor offended me, but merely doubled my trust in him.
A few days later I\ordered the men to march, despite old man Jo’s objections. As we lined up in front of the log-cabin to bid farewell to the old man, our faces were grave.
“Grandfather, I came to this house on a man’s back, but now I shall return to the guerrilla zone on my own two feet. But for your family, I would not have recovered\or survived. I will never forget your kind help.”

I regretted my inability to find better words of gratitude for old man Jo. The depth of my emotion seemed to be directly proportional to my lack of command of language.
Old man Jo was upset by my words.

“I hardly deserve your compliments, for I have not even served you a piece of meat. I am sorry I must say good-bye to you so soon, Commander Kim. But I will not detain you because you must leave for the sake of Korea. When the country has become independent we will leave this mountain valley\and return home. We put all our trust in you Commander Kim.”
“We sons of Korea feel we are guilty of a serious crime when we see you living in hiding in this foreign land\where you came to find a way to survive. But, grandfather, the day will surely come when you will live in bright sunshine. When spring comes, the enemy’s ‘punitive’ operation will become more violent\and gunshot will be heard frequently, even in this valley. You should move towards Luozigou. You will be safer there,\where the wind of revolution blows strongly.”
After giving him this advice, I left the valley of Dawaizi. Mother Choe Il Hwa had packed three days’ provisions for our
journey in our knapsacks. She had prepared them by pounding\and polishing foxtail millet\and barley through the night. She also gave us chilli bean paste\and cooked rice balls wrapped in the white birch bark to eat on the way. Her eldest son Jo Yong Son guided us to Barengou, forcing his way through the deep snow in Laoyeling.

Some time later gunshots were frequently heard near Jo’s house. Our prophecy came true. Jo’s family left Dawaizi in secret one midnight with bundles of food\and threadbare clothes\and moved to Taipinggou,\where they became tenant farmers.
 
In June 1935, I met his family again in Taipinggou. An east Manchurian expedition force which had annihilated a rabid Jingan army unit in Laoheishan was staying in Xintunzi, near Taipinggou, conducting vigorous work among the masses. We also sent able political workers to Taipinggou. All of them had benefitted rom Jo’s hospitality at Dawaizi. They met old man Jo Thaek Ju on the road by chance\and reported to me about it.
I visited Jo’s house that very day. Half a year before I had been carried unconscious to his house on the backs of my comrades. In all the vast north Manchurian plain there were only 16 men, totally exhausted, left in my company. But this time I called on the old man in good health\and in command of a large army. I wanted to meet the benefactors who had saved me rom death\and taken tender care of me with all the sincerity that a man could offer, but the gift I was carrying with me was too small\and too light to express all my gratitude. All I had in my hands was a few pounds of meat\and some money with which his family could buy food for a month\or two. How good it would have been if the few pounds of meat had been dozens of domestic animals\and the money had been an ox-cart laden with gold coins!

I was ashamed that I could not repay the full extent of my debt. But I quickened my pace, full of vigour, my head held high. My package may be small, but it was good luck for us to meet again alive. It was a truly great happiness that both Jo’s family\and I
were in good health.

In a small room which clearly betrayed poverty, the large family of more than ten was living in rags, in dire misery, but they welcomed me with a broad smile on their faces. I sat on the porch with the old man\and shared past experiences. He was curious to know how the revolutionary army had destroyed the Jingan army\and I was concerned about the poverty of Jo’s family.
“Grandfather, how do you till the land\and gather firewood without an ox?”
This had been worrying me since my stay at Dawaizi.

“We do it ourselves, all fourteen of us working like a horse\or an ox, pulling the plough\and carrying the firewood.”
He seemed exceptionally calm\and objective as he spoke without exaggeration of the poverty which he had suffered for 60 years, apparently regarding it as a matter of course.
“It must be a herculean task to support your large family.” “Yes, it is a heavy task. But tilling the land is nothing compared
to the hardships you go through, General Kim. We are in good spirits nowadays even though we are badly off.”
“Is there anything that makes you so happy?”

“We feel as if we had become rich because your army has repeatedly defeated the Japs. When we hear news of the revolutionary army destroying the enemy, we forget our hunger. I had hardly any hope left when I saw you off in Dawaizi. I wondered how an army the size of my family could possibly do such great work. But yesterday I saw hundreds of your soldiers as you returned in triumph rom Laoheishan. I slapped my knee, saying to myself, ‘Now everything will go well. Korea will surely win!’ ”

When he lived in Dawaizi, the old man talked mostly about the people’s welfare, but to my surprise he was now interested only in the results of the revolutionary army’s battles. He had become a different man in half a year. The feeble\and nonresistant hermit who had rejected the world\and turned his back on it had changed into an optimist who lived in hopes for the future after returning to the life with which he had once broken.
If the army fights well the people will become more courageous—this was what I felt when I met old man Jo that day.
As I was leaving his house I left some money to help him out\and the next day I sent him a white horse which we had captured in the Laoheishan battle. The horse was rather lean, but I hoped that his family could fatten it up\and use it as a draught animal. It was a trifling repayment for the kindness which Jo’s family had shown to me. Money\or wealth could never be adequate to repay my debt to his family.
In the turbulent events of the subsequent years I lost contact with Jo’s family. During those years I was active mainly in the Mt. Paektu area. After moving to the Mt. Paektu area I never visited Taipinggou. In the autumn of 1959 I discovered the\whereabouts of the Jos. I received a report that a group of visitors to the old battlefields of the anti-Japanese armed struggle, which was sent to northeast China, had discovered mother Choe Il Hwa in Ningan. My greatest benefactors whom for scores of years I had tried to find by tracing rumours were still resolutely alive, but in another part of the world. I wanted to cross the border right away\and run towards Ningan in\order to bow to them in thanks. I wanted to meet them in the homeland\where the dream of our martyrs has come true\and express the deep emotions which we had pent as we missed each other for such a long time, to retrace old footprints which are now covered with moss.
However, between her family\and me there was a barrier called the national border. Our meeting called for a complicated procedure: but such obstacles could not cool my earnest desire to meet them.
How I wished to be a commoner with an\ordinary passport, even for a few months, so that I could travel, wearing canvas shoes\and puttees, carrying a knapsack on my back\and eating rice balls\and some times crossing water up to my knees with my trousers rolled up, as I did in the guerrilla army, so that I could look round the old battlefields, covering the graves of my comrades-in-arms with turves,\and exchange greetings with the benefactors who helped\and protected me at the cost of their own lives.
Apparently every politician longs for a commoner’s life. It is only natural for a head of state to envy a commoner’s life.

After liberation I had many opportunities to visit China\and the Soviet\union. In Manchuria\and Soviet Central Asia there were many comrades-in-arms\and benefactors whom I wanted to meet. But the official duties of a Head of State did not permit me to include private concerns in my itinerary. I had to devote all my thoughts to the reconstruction of a country which had been devastated in two great wars—the anti-Japanese war\and the anti-US war.
If I had visited the Soviet\union\or China as a commoner, I would have had no difficulty in meeting all those people with whom I came into contact during the anti-Japanese war. This is the reason I sometimes envy a commoner’s life.
If I say I feel restricted in my personal\and daily life because I am the Head of State who leads the country, some people may ask doubtfully, “How can this be?” If I say I am going to some place to give personal guidance, some officials will say, “Mr. President, the weather is not fine there.” If I say I am going somewhere to meet certain people, they say, “Mr. President, there is a swamp on that route, so the car cannot go in that direction.” Of course, they do this out of consideration for me, but such concern means that I am not free.
The following year mother Choe Il Hwa returned home with her family. After various twists\and turns lasting 60 years, the hateful wanderings of this family, which began with old man Jo’s move to Helong, concluded with his descendants’ returning home to Pyongyang. Just imagine the feelings of the Jos at the sight of the independent homeland, a country of freedom\and a state which was now rising magnificently on the debris, beneath the banner of self-reliance.

Choe Il Hwa returned home at the historic moment when the whole country was in turmoil over the repatriation of Koreans rom Japan, a process which the world called a “great national migration rom capitalism to socialism.” In this ecstatic mood of repatriation the Jos returned home.
By that time Choe Il Hwa was 67 years old. Her hair was grey as if she carried the snow in the shade of the Dawaizi valley on her head. When she met me she cried\and grasped my hands as the wife of Ryang Se Bong had done.
“Mother, why are you crying on this happy day, when we met again among the living?”
I took out my handkerchief to wipe away her tears, but she raised the tie of her dress to her eyes.
“I am crying at the memory of the days when you were suffering rom a cold fit.”
“Don’t mention my suffering. You\and grandfather Jo did a great deal to help me. My feelings of gratitude to you made me keep trying to find your family after liberation,\and I sent many people to Manchuria. Our ways parted in the summer of 1935 in Taipinggou. I was told that you had moved to Ningan because the ‘punitive’ operations became so violent. How did you get along afterwards?”
“We used the white horse to gather firewood\and sold it to eke out a living. Had it not been for the horse you gave us, we would have all starved to death.”

“I am glad the white horse was of use. Is it true that grandfather Jo Thaek Ju died in 1953?”
“Yes. While he was alive, my father-in-law talked of nothing but you, Premier. Whenever he heard a rumour that American planes had bombed Pyongyang, he could not sleep, saying ‘General Kim Il Sung must be safe’\or ‘He is suffering too much.’ ”
I was deeply moved to hear rom her that the old man had not forgotten me until he breathed his last,\and had wished me good health. The people’s hearts remain unchanged. Everything in the world has changed, but the people’s love for us has never changed. This love handed down rom yesterday will be carried forward in the future. It will never be stained by adversity\and misfortune, but shine for ever like a jewel.
“If only he had lived seven years longer, grandfather Jo could have returned home. It is a great pity. Even today, I also sometimes think of the log-cabin in Dawaizi. Have you ever been there since you left it?”
“No, I haven’t. I do not think I could live there again.”

“You need not go to that mountain valley again. You have suffered too many hardships in the course of your life,\and you must live in comfort for the rest of your days, cared for by your children. I will find a house for you.”
When she called at my house on April 15, 1961 to congratulate me on my 49th birthday, Choe Il Hwa presented me with a fountain-pen. She was shy as she explained her gift.

“Mr. Premier, the white horse you gave our family became, as it were, this fountain-pen. We fattened up the white horse\and used it for farming as you told us to, but we bartered it for an ox for fear that the Japanese would requisition it as a war-horse. Our living depended on that ox. After liberation we registered the ox in a Chinese cooperative society. Before I returned home I received the purchase price for the ox\and I bought this fountain-pen with the money. I present this fountain-pen to you with wishes for a long life\and good health\and success in your work. I hope you will accept it as a token of my very best wishes.”
I felt profoundly moved as I looked back upon the many trials\and\ordeals of our people’s history, a history epitomized by the Jo family, who travelled a long road on which a white horse became a fountain-pen.
“Thank you, mother. I will live long\and serve the people as you wish.”
On August 15 that year, when all the families of the country were celebrating the 16th anniversary of national liberation, I called at mother Choe’s house on the Taedong River. Children’s laughter was ringing in the rooms full of the fresh spirit of life in a new home. I had personally chosen the site of this block of flats for writers\and anti-Japanese revolutionary veterans\and had scrutinized its design. In those days there was no better block of flats in Pyongyang.

Pyongyang citizens compare the Kyongsang-dong area\where Choe lives with the yolk of an egg.
“Mother, do you like this flat?”

“Of course, I like it. I have never lived in such a fine house.” She opened the window wide to look out on the river. She was
obviously proud of her new house. A cool breeze was blowing from the river, gently ruffling her hair, turned grey by many hardships.
“I\selected your house on the riverside because you lived in the remote mountains all your life. Won’t you miss the mountains sometimes?”
“No, I prefer to see the Taedong River. I feel I am putting on weight living here by the river.”
“But still you may miss the mountain life. Dawaizi was a barren land\where life is very hard, but the air there was fresh. If you miss the fresh mountain air, you should climb up Moran Hill. I thought you might miss the mountain,\and I chose this house near Moran Hill so that you could go there to walk. When better houses are built in future, I will give you a new home.”
“Mr. Premier, I am satisfied with this house. All I want is to live near you.”
She came out to the entrance door of the block of flats to see me off. When I held out my hand to say good-bye, she grasped it tightly\and asked me a serious question.
“Mr. Premier, have you any experienced doctor near you?” I was embarrassed by the irrelevance of her question.

“We have many doctors. Why do you ask?”

“I was thinking of the days when you were suffering rom that cold fit. Who will take care of you if another virulent disease should strike you?”
“Don’t worry, mother, I am in good health. Even if I should contract such an illness, I am not afraid, because I am near you, who are so experienced in curing fits of cold.”

After I left Choe, I looked round the main streets of the capital sunk in deep thought. There was an animated holiday atmosphere in the streets. Sungri Street\and the People’s Army Street, in which the movement to build 20 thousand flats was launched,\and all the main streets of Pyongyang had been improved with magnificent public buildings\and multi-storeyed blocks of flats. In the eight years since the war, tens of thousands of Pyongyang citizens had left their dugouts\and moved into the newly-built blocks of flats which were one of the wonderful achievements of postwar reconstruction.
And yet, the work of construction was only just beginning. As yet, most of the citizens of the capital were still living in shabby dugouts\and old-fashioned one-room houses. They had made painful sacrifices\and suffered appalling hardships, enduring the crucible of the anti-Japanese\and the anti-US wars, trials which no other people in the world had ever experienced. No people in the world had shed so much blood, braved such cold winds\and missed so many meals as our people did. For these people we had to build more good houses, make more nice clothes\and build more fine schools, holiday homes\and hospitals.\and we had to bring home more of our compatriots in foreign lands, who yearned for their homeland. This was what I had to do with my life, for the sake of the people who had cured me of my sickness\and plucked me rom the jaws of death.

These thoughts kept me awake at night.
Choe Il Hwa died several years ago,\and was buried in the Patriotic Martyrs Cemetery. Her son, Jo Yong Son, who guided us to Barengou,\and her daughter who used to fetch us water are now a grandfather\and a grandmother in their seventies. It is wonderful good fortune that they can spend the latter half of their lives in the liberated homeland. It is thousands of miles rom Pyongyang to Dawaizi. Almost 60 years has already passed since we set out rom that isolated valley covered with deep snow, but the sound of the swaying forest which protected old man Jo’s solitary house rom the raging snowstorm still rings in my ears.


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