[Reminiscences]Chapter 19 7. Grandmother Ri Po Ik > 새 소식

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북녘 | [Reminiscences]Chapter 19 7. Grandmother Ri Po Ik

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 19 7. Grandmother Ri Po Ik

  

   

 


 

7. Grandmother Ri Po Ik 


Grandmother Ri Po Ik’s life occupies a special place in the history of the revolutionary struggle of her family at Mangyongdae, a family that gave birth to the respected leader Comrade Kim Il Sung\and the great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il. Even after seeing all her children off on the road to revolution, she\and her husband Kim Po Hyon stalwartly warded off the storms that battered against the wattle gate of her house, withstanding trials\and misfortune. The mountains\and snow-covered fields of Manchuria bore witness to her own bitter fight against the enemy.


In recollection of his grandmother, who devoted her life to the care of her children\and grandchildren fighting in the cause of revolution,\and who passed away quietly in a liberated land, the fatherly leader said:


After provoking the war against China, the Japanese imperialists launched a massive campaign for our “surrender”. They inveigled into this campaign my former schoolmates, teachers, my friends\and acquaintances, the people who had been connected with me in my days of the DIU9\and who had become turncoats in prison,\and anyone else they could get hold of. Finally, they even dragged my grandmother away rom Mangyongdae\and took her to Mt. Paektu, subjecting her to all kinds of cruelties. Using my blood relations as bait for their “surrender campaign” was their last resort.


Since ancient times our country has been known to its neighbours as a “nation of good manners in the east”. Even Western visitors to our country in the olden days were unanimous in their opinion that Koreans were courteous, sympathetic, highly loyal to their country\and dutiful to their parents. Some tsarist Russian scholars, who had travelled around our country in the closing years of feudal Korea, said in their report to the tsar that the Koreans were the most courteous nation in the world.


The enemy forced my grandmother to become part of their trickery in their attempt to come fishing for us by using my filial piety to my grandparents as bait. The imperialist aggressors were totally devoid of humanity. They even twisted the Korean people’s laudable customs\and traditional ethics to carry out their crooked schemes. There was a precedent for this in the latter half of the last century, when invaders rom the West raided the tomb of Namyon, the father of Prince Regent10, in\order to compel the Regent to yield to their demands for an open door.


I was operating in command of my unit around Mengjiang County when I got the news that my grandmother had been taken to the village of Jiazaishui, Changbai County,\and was locked up there.


The enemy locked her up at night\and dragged her around the mountains during the daylight hours, forcing her to shout: “Song Ju, your grandma is here! Come down rom the mountains for the sake of your grandma!”


The message slips sent to me by the people of Jiazaishui included the text of the notices the enemy had put up in many villages: “Kim Il Sung’s grandmother has come to Jiazaishui. He should come down rom the mountains immediately to see her.”


Travelling around large forests\where guerrillas were likely to be encamped, the enemy threatened my grandmother\and insisted that she call out my name. However, grandma was not a woman to yield easily to force. So she was treated cruelly. The enemy poked her in the back with their rifle butts as if she had been a criminal, threatening\and coaxing her by turns, but all in vain. They just didn’t know her. They thought that if one stamped a foot\or glared at this old country woman, she would obey meekly. That was a gross mistake on their part.


The underground\organization at Jiazaishui sent me word that my grandmother was in danger\and that a rescue operation rom my unit was necessary. If the situation did not permit the dispatch of my unit, they added, the\organization would rescue her on their own, but my decision was needed for either choice.


The news left me in shock; my blood boiled\and I shook with rage. Was it really possible that those wolves in human skin could drag about an old woman in her sixties over the frozen wilderness at 40 degrees below zero?


In my resentment I felt an impulse to rush out at once\and exterminate the enemy that was holding my grandma. But I repressed my anger\and refrained rom doing this. At that time the “Hyesan incident” had broken out\and the revolutionary\organizations in West Jiandao\and in the homeland were undergoing terrible trials. Hundreds of revolutionaries were shedding blood behind iron bars. If I were to\drop everything in\order to save my own grandma first in that situation, how could I have the face to give leadership to the revolution?


If I had\organized a battle, grandma could have been saved, but possibly at the cost of falling into the trap laid by the enemy.


Kim Phyong suggested that he in command of his small unit would save her, but I did not permit it. Instead, I persuaded him to hurry to the place\where he was supposed to be carrying out his work of saving Pak Tal\and other members of the Korean National Liberation\union. I can still see him wiping tears with the back of his fist as he left me.


After his departure, I, too, wept. The thought of grandma suffering at the hands of the enemy within only a hailing distance was hard to bear. I had not hesitated to\organize battles to capture a few rifles\or sacks of rice\or to save a few patriots. Imagine my feelings as I had to sit there\and fight against the idea of saving my own grandma rom all sorts of cruelties at the hands of the enemy–and only a short distance away! To repress my burning desire to save her: this was my anguish as the commander of the revolutionary army, an anguish that I had to keep to myself. It was not easy to suppress my personal feelings this way.


All through my childhood I had basked in the exceptional warmth of her affection. This was one of the reasons I was barely able to keep my mental balance when I learned of her captivity rom the letter sent by the underground\organization at Jiazaishui. I cannot find the words to express the pain of my emotions at the time.


In my childhood\and boyhood, grandma was no less dear to me than my mother. The childhood memory that made the greatest impression on me at Mangyongdae involved a toffee peddler who carried a flat wooden box with toffee in it\and who used to shout, “Buy my toffee, buy my toffee!” Sometimes toffee peddlers came with pushcarts in which they collected rags\and worn-out rubber shoes. When they clinked their broad-bladed scissors to announce their arrival, all the village kids used to run out\and gather around them.


At such moments, my mouth used to water at the thought of the toffee, but in my house we had neither money nor rags nor worn-out rubber shoes. In those days there were not many people in my village who could afford to wear rubber shoes. All my family had to wear straw sandals.


While the other children were chattering noisily around the peddler’s toffee box\or pushcart, I stayed away, pretending to feed chickens in the yard\or to watch ants crawling by the bean-paste jars inside the back wall. The elders in my family knew what I was feeling.


But one day grandma took out some of our precious rice rom the jar\and bartered it for the sweets. She put a few sticks of toffee in my hand,\and I was quite overwhelmed, for I knew it was no small matter for the family that lived on gruel to sacrifice precious rice for a few sticks of toffee.


The gourdful of rice\and the sticks of toffee that spoke of her love for me still float before my eyes today.


I don’t know why, but the memory of my being carried on my grandma’s back\or Aunt Hyong Sil’s back in my childhood is more vivid than the memory of being on my mother’s. Even when going on a visit to her own parents’ home, grandma liked to carry me on her back.


A child of six\or seven begins to know the world,\and at this age a boy seldom rides on his grandmother’s back.


However, whenever she came to visit Ponghwa-ri, grandma used to offer her back to me, saying that she would like to see how much I had grown in the meantime. She did not care at all whether I was embarrassed\or not. On her back I used to smell something of grass rom her hair\and summer jacket,\and I liked the smell very much. This was a smell peculiar to old women who had spent their lives working hard.


When we were living at Mangyongdae, I was such a favourite of my grandma’s, I was practically monopolized by her. I spent my childhood mostly by her side. Her coarse arm was something of a pillow to me. I used to fall asleep easily on that pillow. Hugging me as I lay on her mattress, she used to tell me old tales that inspired me with the wings of fancy. Sometimes she slipped scorched rice\or jujubes into my mouth,\and I found them delicious.


After my father’s death, grandma’s affection for me grew even stronger. She found the joy of life apparently in my growth, in the growth of the eldest grandchild in her family. What else could ever have given her joy in life? Could she afford good food,\or smart clothing\or the luxury of travel? Her simple\and earnest dream was to see her country independent. Her work\and pleasure was to do all she could for her children, who were fighting for Korea’s freedom,\and to give them her loyal support while she waited for the day of independence.


Her love for me found expression mostly in her expectations of me\and in her trust in me. In the summer of 1926, the year of my father’s death, she came to mourn over his death in front of his grave at Yangdicun in Fusong,\where she said to me:


“Jungson (grandson), you will have to take over the burden your father was carrying now. You must pick up the cause\where he left off\and win back the country, come what may. You may have no chance to take care of me\or your mother, as is your filial duty, but you must give yourself heart\and soul to the cause of Korea’s independence.”


I was deeply moved by her words. If she had told me instead to aim for wealth\or a successful career, I would not have been as inspired.


She had nothing that shallow in mind. This means that her aim was very high, so to speak. Her words inspired me with great strength, for the fact that she entrusted me with the great cause of national independence was a sign that she had complete confidence in me.


She stayed at Fusong for some time, instead of returning to Mangyongdae. When we moved to Antu, she also stayed with us, consoling my mother\and my uncle’s wife.

 

My grandmother was, in short, a woman of strong will. She was full of a spiritual toughness rare for someone of her age. Very amiable\and gentle as she was towards the poor\and unfortunate\and honest-minded people, she hated those whom she saw as not worthy of being called human beings because of the lack of their own humanity. She never yielded to any coercive power\or injustice.


Had she been timid\and weak-kneed, it would have been impossible for me to endure the shock of the news the underground\organization at Jiazaishui had given me.


But I believed that grandma would understand my feelings\and that she, though in captivity, would be able to withstand her misery\and trials as the grandmother of a revolutionary. As it turned out, I was absolutely right in believing in her.


Pak Cha Sok, one of my mates at the Hwasong Uisuk School11, came to see me at the secret camp at Nanpaizi. He was there just as we were holding an important meeting with Yang Jing-yu\and other cadres of the 1st\and 2nd Corps. His purpose was to persuade me to “surrender”. Ri Jong Rak was also there after Pak Cha Sok left me. Pak Cha Sok honestly confessed his crimes to me, telling me of how he had dragged my grandmother around West Jiandao. It was he who told me she never once yielded to the enemy, just as I knew she wouldn’t.


She was forced into what they called the “surrender hunting team”. Ri Jong Rak\and Pak Cha Sok belonged to this team,\and their Japanese boss compelled them to drag grandma into the plot.


They went to Mangyongdae\and began to wheedle my grandparents: “Don’t you want to see your grandson? If you do, you can tell us, you know. He’s been going through all sorts of hardships for nothing, he’s going to end up ruining himself. If you want to save him you can, easily. Just do as we tell you.”

Grandma retorted that according to the newspaper, her grandson was dead, so how could a dead man come back to life? She told them she hated listening to such twaddle\and turned her back to them.


Ri Jong Rak, embarrassed, said, “The newspaper lied. Song Ju is alive and continues taking part in the unsuccessful independence movement. He’s having a terrible time in the mountains\and he isn’t getting any results. The whole\oriental world is now in the hands of the Japanese, but he doesn’t even know the fact. He’s living on raw rice\and pine-needles on Mt. Paektu without a grain of salt,\and he’s covered with hair like a wild animal\and his feet are worn down to dull butts, he’s losing all his human shape. Because he uses the art of contracting distance, fighting\and evading us, we can’t bring him down rom the mountain. The Japanese government says that if he comes over to them, they’ll give him absolutely anything he wants, including the post of commander of their Kwantung Army\or commander of their Korea Army. His family will, of course, live in luxury in a palace. So we must bring him around as soon as possible,\and you, grandma, are the best person to do the job.” He produced a fat roll of bank-notes, thousands of yen,\and said that this was an advance. She could buy whatever the family needed with it\and even hire a cook.


In a fury, my grandfather roared, “You despicable wretch, do you really expect me to exchange my grandson’s life for money? Shut your mouth, you dog,\and be off with you!” He pitched the money out into the yard.


Grandma told them she would not go to get her grandson even if he were to be put on a royal throne\and that she felt heartbroken at the thought of the death of her sons Hyong Jik\and Hyong Gwon. She then shouted at them to get out of her sight.


Ri Jong Rak\and Pak Cha Sok were kicked out by her in this manner. Knowing that coaxing\and bribery had no effect on my family the enemy took my grandmother to Manchuria at the point of a bayonet. She said, “You may take me along by force, but I won’t help you. Instead, I will look around Mt. Paektu\and Manchuria\where my grandson is fighting against you, just to see who will be the winner.” She was a woman of extraordinary nerve.


The agents of the “surrender hunting team” hauled my grandmother around the mountains of West Jiandao for nearly a full year. What torture it must have been for a woman on the other side of sixty.


Pak Cha Sok once consoled her when he saw that her feet had blistered.

 

He said, “Grandma, we are awfully sorry to have put you to this trouble. To tell the truth, I myself feel bad about this,\and I’m doing it against my will. So how much more pain you must be feeling.” Apparently, he felt sympathy for her even though he had become a turncoat.


Grandma replied that although she was tired, she could feel strength welling up in her at the sight of her grandson’s battleground.


Whenever the enemy poked her in the back with a rifle butt to make her call out her grandson’s name, she retorted, “I don’t know how to blabber wild nonsense like that. Anyway, do you think you can kill me\and get off scot-free? Go ahead, kill me if you want to end up with my grandson’s bullet in your skulls!”


The “surrender hunting team” was, in fact, quite aware of the fact that they stood no chance of success. They were constantly afraid of being attacked by the guerrillas. They knew only too well what sort of punishment was in store for them for dragging about the grandmother of the commander of the revolutionary army as a captive.


The agents of the “surrender hunting team” wanted to avoid the guerrillas’ fire by all means possible. They told grandma that they would “protect” her rom a distance\and that she should take along a boy of about fifteen as a servant while she looked for her grandson.


Having guessed that they were petrified with fear at the thought of retaliation, grandma snapped, “Why should I take along some poor boy with me? I’m already travelling with a bunch of fat-jowled thugs like you. If you’re hit on this nasty idea because you are afraid of the revolutionary army, I’ll tell that to your superiors.” The agents cowered under this bit of intimidation\and were at her beck\and call rom then on.


She did as she pleased, even shouting at them. When the weather was cold, she said she could not go to the mountains because it was too cold; when tired, she said she must take a rest. If her bath was not warm enough now\and then,\or if she found a trace of it having been used by the Japanese, she berated the agents for her ill treatment, demanding what they thought of the grandmother of General Kim. If they served her with Japanese\or Chinese food, she demanded Korean food with great dignity. At such times they scrambled about, trying to please her.


On New Year’s Day, the Japanese superintendent of the “surrender hunting team” told Ri Jong Rak\and Pak Cha Sok that he would like to be offered New Year’s greetings rom General Kim’s grandmother\and\ordered them to fetch her. Hearing this, she smiled coldly\and retorted, “What nonsense! Tell the ill-bred fellow to come\and bow his New Year’s greetings to me!”


The superintendent was so shocked at her reply that he\dropped his wine glass. Although he was a nasty brute who used to draw out his pistol\and resort to cruelties at the slightest provocation until the offender begged for mercy, he was so overwhelmed that he dared not think of hurting her. Instead, he exclaimed, “Kim Il Sung’s grandma is no\ordinary woman. Her grandson is said to be the tiger of Mt. Paektu, so she must really be an old tigress!”


Pak Cha Sok confessed that he had felt reminded of his despicable treachery every day by her upright\and dignified manner.


Finally giving up on their attempts, the “surrender hunting team” sent her back to Mangyongdae.


Hearing Pak Cha Sok’s account of what he had seen\and experienced with the “surrender hunting team”, I felt a deeper respect than ever for my grandparents, as well as my heartfelt gratitude to them. When leaving the secret camp, Pak Cha Sok pledged that although he had switched sides under coercion, he would never again carry out such disgraceful acts against his country\and nation,\and especially against me, who was struggling with great hardship in the mountains.


I asked him to secretly convey a few roots of wild insam\and a letter I had written to my grandparents. When I came back to the homeland after the country was liberated, I asked my grandparents if they had received my letter\and the medicinal herbs. They said that they had received the letter, but not the wild insam. Apparently, the superintendent had pocketed it.


The grandparents at Mangyongdae kept the letter with care until Comrade Kim Il Sung returned to the homeland after liberation. The letter was published in the newspaper Jongno, in its issue dated May 29, 1946,\and thus came to the attention of the public. Jongno was the precursor of Rodong Sinmun.

The fact that Comrade Kim Il Sung had entrusted his letter to a turncoat instead of punishing\or executing him is an event without precedent\and attests to the magnitude of the leader’s generosity. If Pak Cha Sok had a shred of conscience, he must have shed silent tears at the leader’s magnanimity. That he had kept the letter to himself until he delivered it to the grandparents shows that he remained true to his pledge made at the secret camp.


It is fortunate, indeed, that the brief letter, which shows the stamina of the vivacious General in his twenties who was always firm in his optimistic belief in the triumph of national liberation\and unswervingly loyal to its cause, has been published\and handed down to posterity.


The text of the letter is as follows:


“I treasure your warm heart, Grandma.


“Since I as a man am devoted to my country, there is no need to tell you that I belong totally to the country\and to the nation.


“Please set your mind at ease: the day I come back to you in joy is not far off.”


Comrade Kim Il Sung’s family at Mangyongdae were all moved to tears by the letter.


Later Grandmother Ri Po Ik was again taken to North Jiandao\and subjected to all sorts of cruelties by Rim Su San’s “surrender hunting team”.


Her family, relations, friends\and acquaintances, who gathered around her coffin after her death, said that the leader’s eyes clouded in recollection of the incident.


I heard the news of grandma’s second forced\and tortuous travel around Manchuria when I was in the vicinity of Chechangzi, Antu County. The “surrender hunting team” consisted mostly of Japanese special agents. Rim Su San, who had been the chief of staff for our main force, also belonged to the hunting team. When surrendering to the enemy, he had pledged to his Japanese boss that he would capture me at any cost.


This hunting team first meant to take Uncle Hyong Rok as a hostage.

 

Probably they thought it would be useless to take grandma because she had not obeyed them the first time.


Uncle Hyong Rok was the only son remaining to my grandparents. When the enemy came to Mangyongdae\and tried to drag him away, grandpa railed against them, beating the floor with his fists,\and my grandma cursed the beasts that were trying to use her only son as bait to capture her grandson. She shouted that the wrath of Divine justice would be visited upon the brutes. My uncle also refused, saying that he would rather die than help them capture his nephew.


Finally, grandma was forced to go to Manchuria again. She was absolutely determined to show them that they would never break the will of General Kim’s grandmother. She set out, ready to die in place of my uncle,\and was taken around the rugged mountains of North Jiandao for several months, but she never yielded an inch to the enemy that time either. Whenever Rim Su San hurled abuses at her for not obeying the enemy, she flung back, “You have betrayed my grandson, but dead\or alive, I am for my grandson, for Korea. I’ll see how long you will live.”


Hearing that grandma had come again as a hostage, I\organized many battles. That was the best way of letting her know that I was hale\and hearty\and continuing to fight, as well as my way to send greetings to her, to convey all my feelings that could not be expressed in words.


Whenever she got the news that we had won a battle, she shouted in high spirits, “That’s my grandson! Go ahead\and destroy the Japanese to the last man in our land!” She did not care at all whether the enemy heard her\or not.


The Japanese had no other choice but to take her back to Mangyongdae that time as well. After that, the enemy abandoned the idea of luring me by the use of a hostage. The result showed that grandma, without a gun\and old as she was, had still defeated the enemy.


Nevertheless, the enemy’s military\and police persecution of my folks at home went rom bad to worse as time passed.


Because it had produced many patriots\and even the commander of the revolutionary army, my family suffered indescribable hardships for several decades. In the closing years of Japanese imperialist rule, Uncle Hyong Rok got himself some simple fishing tackle\and lived by fishing in the waters off Nampho, away rom enemy oppression.


Grandma suffered the most in my family.


When I went back to my home for the first time after liberation, I said to her, “Grandma, you have been through a lot because of me.”


“My problems cannot be compared to yours,” she said with a bright smile. “As for suffering, the Japanese were the ones who finally suffered the most. I don’t think I suffered much. You went through all the hardships of fighting to win back the country,\and the Japanese suffered while pushing me around. I got a lot of sightseeing done,\and I owe it all to you. That was more like luxury than suffering.”


I apologized to my grandparents that I had come to them with empty hands on my first visit twenty years after I left home.


“Why empty hands?” she disagreed. “What a great present independence is! You’ve come home in good health, bringing liberation with you. What else could I wish for? You are great\and liberation is great. What could be greater?”


Her words were too profound to be judged as compliments rom a countrywoman who was nearly seventy years old. I was moved by her words\and believed that she herself was really great.


I can say that it was a tremendous victory that at a time when Japanese military rule was at its highest she upheld her dignity\and honour as the mother\and grandmother of revolutionaries, without yielding to the enemy’s power\and threats. In my country there are many patriotic grandmothers like mine.

I occasionally wonder how it was that grandma was able to stand up to the enemy so successfully\and conduct herself so wisely\and honourably, even though she was neither a communist nor a professional revolutionary, merely an old countrywoman who had never been to school, never received revolutionary education rom an\organization, never even learned to read\or write.


I think that my family tradition\and the revolution turned her into such a heroic woman. What do I mean by my family tradition? I mean that to my family the country\and the people are the most precious in the world\and that they feel they must give their lives without the slightest hesitation for the good of the country. In short, it’s their love for the country\and the people, love for the nation. Grandma was greatly influenced by her children. She could not help being influenced by her sons\and grandsons, because they were all committed to the revolution.


In a family whose children are devoted to the revolution, the parents tend to work for the revolution as well. If they don’t actively work for it, they at least sympathize with the revolution,\or help their children in the revolution. People often say that children with good parents will grow up to be useful adults because of their parents’ influence. That is right. Likewise, parents who have intelligent children will be enlightened\and awakened by them\and will try to stay in step with them. For this reason, I always emphasize the importance of the role of younger people in revolutionizing their families.


Of course, one can’t say that the children of revolutionaries become revolutionaries automatically. The influence of your parents is important, but you need to make your own efforts in taking up the cause of revolution. You must not dream of living off the work of your ancestors. I hope that the younger people in my family will always be at the forefront of the struggle to build socialism\and to reunify the country, following the example set by their parents\and forefathers who gave their lives to the fight for independence in our country. My grandma worked hard on her farm to the end of her life,\and that was, after all, for the good of the country\and for socialism.


Our strong guerrilla force was another factor that enabled her to win her fight with the enemy. When the enemy was “hunting for our surrender”, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army was very powerful.


The might\and reputation of the revolutionary army must have inspired grandma with strength. If we had failed to defeat the enemy in every battle after we had raised the revolutionary army,\or if we had just maintained the status quo in our mountain hide-outs, unable to rally broad sections of the masses under the flag of a united front, she would have been unable to stand up to the enemy in such a wonderfully overbearing manner.


The same applies to the building of socialism. When the younger generations work hard\and grow strong, the country will be prosperous\and the people will have a high sense of dignity\and self-confidence. Dignity does not fall rom the sky. Only when the Party is great, the leader is great,\and the country is prosperous, will the people acquire a high sense of dignity\and self-confidence. The younger generation must play the role of the main force in supporting the Party\and the leader\and work hard to build a prosperous country.


On June 9, 1946, the villagers of Mangyongdae, veterans of the anti-Japanese guerrillas\and officials of the Party\and administrative bodies in Pyongyang gave a party in honour of grandmother on her 70th birthday at Mangyongdae Primary School. The party was attended by Major General Romanenko of the Soviet Army, who was in Pyongyang. He made a congratulatory speech, following those of anti-Japanese revolutionary veterans\and other guests.

Comrade Kim Il Sung arrived in Mangyongdae, unaware of the grand banquet being given for his grandmother’s 70th birthday. He made a brief speech on behalf of his family as her eldest grandson, in reply to the heartfelt congratulations of guests rom the different strata of society.


His speech, giving a brief summary of the seventy years of her life, was as follows:


“My grandmother is an old countrywoman who knows little. However, she did not in the least object to her sons, nephews\and grandsons taking the road of revolution; on the contrary, she encouraged them. Having left her, these revolutionaries were killed by the enemy, locked up in jail,\or went missing. But she never once lost heart. She was taken to Manchuria by the enemy\and was subjected to all sorts of cruel treatment, but she lived up to her\original principles.


“What does this mean? It means that although she did not know how to read\and write, she fought through to the end with the strength of hope. She looked into the future\and relied on her hope to the last. Her hope was finally realized. Korea’s liberation on August 15 last year was the fulfilment of her hope.

“My grandmother lived to see that day\and saw it at long last while she still lives.


“I hope there will be many more banquets like this,\and I wish her a long life.”

 

Grandmother Ri Po Ik died in October 1959 at the age of eighty three. Nearly 70 of those 83 years were stormy, a period of struggles against poverty, against injustice\and against invaders. Her two journeys to Manchuria, forced on her by the enemy at the point of a bayonet, were times of painful suffering. She weathered these many decades of darkness to greet the day of liberation brought about by her grandson\and to see a socialist paradise established in this land.


How was she able to survive the stifling age of darkness\and live such a long life? The great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung, who witnessed the more than eighty years of her life, so much of which was spent in suffering, said:


Work was one thing that enabled my grandmother to live long. My grandparents worked all their lives. The ceaseless toil of my grandmother to feed\and clothe her children hardened her both physically\and mentally. People who carry out diligent physical labour in\order to create something beneficial to community life usually live long.


Grandmother had a dream deep in her heart. She lived with a distinct aim in life\and spent every day in a worthwhile manner. Her life might seem to have flowed on the current of events, but that was not the case. Every single step of hers had meaning\and was directed towards her aim.


She lived all her life waiting for things. Before liberation, she waited for the day of national independence; after liberation, she longed for my return home; after my return, she craved for the day of happiness for all the people\and the day of reunification. One who lives all one’s life with expectations\and hopes will enjoy longevity. Such people can withstand all sorts of trials with fortitude.


According to my experience, the revolution is carried out by people like her, people who have many dreams\and high ideals. Dreams\and ideals are the mothers of invention. My grandmother was full of dreams,\and it is not too much to say that she owed her longevity to these dreams. Steadfast thought, unshakeable belief, strong will, a character full of dreams\and diligence–these were the secret of her long life.


Although she was grandmother to the head of the state, she lived a simple and clean life. After finishing the building of the Party\and state on my return home, I intended to bring my grandparents to Pyongyang\and live together with them. But they did not wish to come. To be candid, nobody would have blamed them if at their age they had lived in comfort under the care of their grandson. In our country we have an institution that accords good treatment to the families of revolutionary martyrs,\and my grandparents were entitled to a comfortable life\and preferential treatment.


However, they had no wish to live at the expense of the state. They did not want luxury bestowed on them by their grandson. They wanted to stay plain,\ordinary people. So they continued farming until they died.


“People without work to do are miserable people,” grandma always said.


That was her simple philosophy.


Wishing to give some rest to my grandparents, who had grown old while working all their lives, I occasionally invited them to my home. Whenever they came, they asked for something to do. So I once gave them a cracked gourd to mend. Grandma said that the food cooked by her granddaughter-in-law was delicious\and that it was lovely to embrace her great-grandchildren, but all the same she was bored to death without work to do. She could feel something start to burn inside her as soon as she was not treading on soil, she said,\and went back to Mangyongdae in less than a week on each visit.


When we occasionally wanted to give her something to help her in her life, she declined the offer, saying we didn’t need to worry about her. She told us to worry instead about the people. A premier is also a man,\and why should I not wish to pile comforts on my grandmother, especially when I think of her so narrowly surviving all the cruelties she had suffered while travelling in the shadow of death? My honest wish was to give thick, cotton-padded clothes to my grandmother, who had lived all her life in thin clothing,\and to take a few bottles of soju (Korean liquor–Tr.) to her on her birthday to wish her a long life. However, she even declined this simple offer.


Had I been an\ordinary citizen, not Premier, I’m sure I could have done more for her. I could have cut trees with my own hands\and built a tile-roofed house for her, taken her to the theatre to see The Tale of Sim Chong12\and so on, made sure that she lived in comfort the rest of her life.


Buried deep in state affairs, however, I did not get around to having cotton-padded clothing made for her. She lived in her simple, straw-thatched house until she passed away, a house handed down rom my great-grandfather. I’ve had tile-roofed houses built everywhere\and transformed the entire country, but I failed to provide my own grandmother with a new house.


I do not remember much I have done for her. The most I did was to buy her a pair of reading glasses. That was the only offer she did not decline.


As I hurried rom east to west, dealing with state affairs, time flew by\and my grandmother was suddenly gone. I feel great regret that I saw her off in this neglectful way. I feel I have not fulfilled my filial duty to either my mother\or my grandmother.


If I had made good cotton-padded clothes for grandma in her lifetime, I wouldn’t feel my heart aching so bitterly as it does today.


 


 Related articles

[Reminiscences]Chapter 18. In the Flames of the Sino-Japanese War 6. My Experience of the “Hyesan Incident”

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  1. The Matanggou Secret Camp

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  2. The Weasel Hunter

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  3. The Last of the Independence Army Forces

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  4. Village Headman Wang\and Police Chief Wang

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  5. Expedition to Rehe

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  6. My Meeting with Yang Jing-yu



          

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