페이지 정보작성자 편집국 작성일20-08-27 19:05 댓글0건
[Reminiscences]Chapter 18 4. Choe Chun Guk in His Days in the Independent Brigade
4. Choe Chun Guk in His Days in the Independent Brigade
In the summer of 1937, when the Sino-Japanese War broke out, the main force of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army was operating in the Changbai\and Linjiang areas. It was waiting for the Independent Brigade, a unit which had shared life\and death with us since the first days of the guerrilla army,\and which had left northern Manchuria.
I have already mentioned that in accordance with the decision adopted at the Yaoyinggou meeting in the spring of 1935, units of the People’s Revolutionary Army in eastern Manchuria had launched into the vast areas of northern\and southern Manchuria to conduct brisk joint operations with the Chinese units there. We had also begun joint operations with the 5th Corps in northern Manchuria, in the course of which I dispatched some individualsrom the Wangqing Regiment\and Hunchun Regiment to the Sanjiang area,\where Kim Chaek\and Choe Yong Gon were active.
On the long way to meet the comrades-in-arms in northern Manchuria, their force had been reinforced\and had grown into a large unit. In the spring of 1937 the Independent Brigade was to come to West Jiandao. Choe Chun Guk was secretary of the party committee for the brigade\and political commissar of the 1st Regiment. The Koreans in the brigade sincerely helped the Chinese armed units\and the people of northern Manchuria. While fighting in Wangqing, Choe Chun Guk received extraordinary love\and respectrom both the Chinese people\and the Chinese nationalist armed units for his efficient work with them.
After the meeting in Xigang I called the soldiers of the unit I had left behind in northern Manchuria to West Jiandao.
But the brigade I awaited so anxiously did not arrive in the Linjiang area until long after the Battle of Pochonbo\and the July 7 incident.
We were all surprised at their appearance. Their torn uniforms were fluttering rags, their feet wrapped in pieces of cloth tied with string\or straw cords, for their shoes were completely worn out.
Touching the threadbare back of his tunic, I said to Choe Chun Guk in sympathy, “From the days in Wangqing till now you have always put yourself to great trouble to carry out difficult tasks.”
Choe replied in tears, “I am very sorry to be late. Worse still, I’ve lost such stalwart comrades-in-arms as the company commander Choe In Jun\and platoon leader Pak Ryong San.”
They had left northern Manchuria in early May, so the march had taken several months.rom Yilan,\where they had started, to the shore of the Amnok it was a 2,500-mile journey. On the long, arduous journey they had experienced all kinds of hardships.
Rim Chun Chu regretted having lost a box of acupuncture needles he had kept\and valuedrom the days when he was 17 years old. He said that the box had contained two expensive gold needles which had become thin in the course of treating many people.
“It was indeed an arduous march. To see tents pitched here in an\orderly manner, I feel as if I were in a different world,” said he, adding that the day when he had slept in a tent was dim in his memory.
I soon sent for the logistics officer\and\ordered him to supply them with tents\and new uniforms. Choe Chun Guk\and other commanding officers visited me again soon after supper. I had told them to go to sleep to relieve their fatigue, but they said that they could not, as they had to see the Commander. They asked me about the news of the Sino-Japanese War. Unaware of the outbreak of the war on their several-month-long, bloody march, they got the news of it much later.
I explained the situation to them.
“The September 18 incident ended with Japan’s occupation of Manchuria, but the July 7 incident will be different,” I told them. “The Chinese people are now offering a nation-wide resistance to the Japanese aggressor army. Jiang Jie-shi can no longer avoid an anti-Japanese struggle,\and so the Chinese Communist Party has taken the initiative in forming the anti-Japanese national united front with the Kuomintang. Accordingly, the main force of the Chinese Red Army in the northwestern region has been renamed the 8th Route Army of the National Revolutionary Army, with Zhu De as its Commander-in-Chief. If the Red Army\and the Kuomintang army cooperate to wage a protracted war, Japan, with\limited national strength\and troops, will find it difficult to hold out.
“The Japanese army is advancing, sweeping everything in its path, but its flag of the Rising Sun is already clouded by a bad omen. To cope with the war, we held several meetings\and made some relevant decisions. According to the policy we put forward at the meetings, our task is to make preparations for an all-people resistance while harassing the enemy in the rear\and expanding\and strengthening the revolutionary forces in the homeland. Our main strategic area for harassing the enemy in their rear is along the Amnok\and in southern Manchuria. As the main front of the Sino-Japanese War is North China, the Japanese army’s war supplies will have to pass through the area on the Amnok\and southern Manchuria. That is why we are operating on the Amnok. You will operate in those areas as well.”
They were very regretful not to have participated in the battles of Pochonbo\and Jiansanfeng.
Choe Chun Guk told me that he had met many Koreans in the Anti-Japanese Allied Army units when he was in northern Manchuria\and that they had so earnestly longed to be at Mt. Paektu. Saying that he had met Choe Yong Gon in the battle of Yilan county town, he described the meeting in detail. Choe Yong Gon had hugged him closely\and said in tears, “I heard that you have comerom Comrade Kim Il Sung’s unit. I’m glad to see you, I feel as if I were seeing Commander Kim himself. I heard he had been all the way to northern Machuria to see Kim Chaek\and me\and, failing, had returned to Mt. Paektu. I’m so sorry about that.”
After liberation Choe Yong Gon recalled frequently his meeting with Choe Chun Guk at the battle of Yilan county town. The battle was a joint operation by Choe Yong Gon’s\and other units in northern Manchuria\and the unitsrom eastern Manchuria. The units operating in northern Manchuria came on horseback 50\or 75 miles, attacked the enemy at night\and withdrew like lightning before daybreak. Afraid of the night, the enemy were keeping brightly-lit lamps around their barracks\and various places on the earthen wall. The combatants of Choe Chun Guk’s unit shattered all the lamps, each with a single shot; the enemy were so scared at the shots\and flashes of gunfire that they did not dare to fire back.
Later the newly-formed Independent Brigade received our\order to come to West Jiandao. Apparently they were full of excitement at the\order. The soldiers of the brigade who were to go to West Jiandao were so happy they did not eat anything the whole day, while Kang Kon, Pak Kil Song\and others who were to remain in northern Manchuria were so disappointed, they did not eat either.
The southward march of the brigade was tortuous.
The day when he received my\order, Choe Chun Guk sent messengers to various units dispersed in different areas. He then clothed his men in puppet Manchukuo police uniforms\and led them daringly out on the plain to march along the highroad. He estimated that the area of the plain would be empty of enemy troops, since they were combing mountains to “mop up” the guerrillas after being defeated in many battles. Because Choe\and his men marched along the highroad, they reached the vicinity of Dongjingcheng in a week without fighting a single battle.
The beginning of the march was smooth enough, but as several units were merged, the brigade commander Fang commanded the marching column. This caused a great deal of friction.
According to Rim Chun Chu, Ji Pyong Hak, Kim Hong Pha, Kim Ryong Gun\and other participants of the march, the problem was the fundamental difference in tactics between Fang, the brigade commander,\and Choe Chun Guk, who was secretary of brigade party committee.
Since the marching column encountered large units of the enemy frequently after passing Dongjingcheng, Choe Chun Guk insisted that the brigade should be regrouped into smaller units\and march separately in\order to avoid engagements\and loss of life. This was a correct proposal that agreed with the requirements of guerrilla warfare. However, Fang held that once dispersed, it would be difficult to command his brigade, hence the combat power of the brigade would be reduced. He was of the opinion that a dispersed brigade was no longer a brigade. He ignored Choe’s proposal\and stuck to marching as a large unit.
As a consequence, they engaged with the enemy now\and then, suffering many losses; this restricted the speed of the brigade as well. In spite of such crushing difficulties, all the soldiers eagerly yearned for the day when they would launch the action into their native land. A young soldier who had been fatally wounded left his will, breathing his last with his head in Choe Chun Guk’s lap. The will was a request that he bury him in the soil of Korea—a will that could never be carried out in view of the circumstances at that time.
Choe cremated his body, wrapped a handful of ashes in a piece of paper\and gave it to the sergeant major to keep. He intended to bury the handful of ashes in Korea.
In\order to bring down the loss of life, Choe proposed to take by stealth the 100 horses grazing on the grassland\and continue the march on horseback. He said, “We’ve already been exposed. We could have covered our traces if we had marched separately, but you didn’t permit it, so we could not escape misfortune\and lost many comrades-in-arms. If we march on as we do now, we may sustain a greater loss. We must slip out rapidly before the enemy encircles us, so that they don’t chase us but are dragged in our wake. If we move on horseback, we can take the initiative\and drag them at our will\and defeat them. If we continue to flounder, standing on the defensive, the whole unit will be annihilated.”
Fang turned down this suggestion too. According to him, a mounted march was suicide. No persuasion could change his mind. At long last, Choe’s proposal was submitted to the party committee of the brigade.
All the members of the committee supported Choe’s tactical scheme. With the wounded\and weak soldiers on the 100 captured horses, the brigade continued the march southward. Those not on horseback put their loads on the horses\and walked unburdened. This accelerated the speed of the march.
The enemy on their tail were far away, following them as Choe had anticipated. The brigade wiped out the enemy on the chase in the vicinity of Guandi. Then, they slew the horses for food.
Thanks to the march on horseback, the brigade could have a breathing spell; but, in the area along the Dunhua-Haerbaling railway line they were faced with another obstacle, for the area was full of enemy troops.
The brigade commander suggested retreat, saying there was no other way.
Choe Chun Guk opposed it, saying, “We must advance, even if it’s only one step forward towards the Amnok. How can we pull back? It will be more dangerous if we encounter the enemy on our retreat. They obviously have sent reinforcements to chase us.”
This made the brigade commander angry. He retorted, “How can we advance in this situation?”
While they were arguing, a unit of the puppet Manchukuo army happened to be marching along the road nearby. Choe said that the best way was to follow this marching column. His eyes wide with astonishment, the brigade commander asked what he meant by saying they should follow the enemy.
Choe Chun Guk explained, “The puppet Manchukuo soldiers have no time to look back since they are pulling heavy guns. Even if they happen to see us, they will take us for friends, never imagining that the guerrillas would follow them daringly in broad daylight. So let’s follow them,\and after passing through the area along the railway, slip away into the mountains.”
The brigade commander did not object to this proposal. Thanks to Choe’s proposal, the brigade passed the area along
the railway without accident. Later, however, there were many encounters\and engagements with the enemy’s “punitive” forces, large\and small. In the vicinity of Piaohe they encountered 500 enemy troops, fighting a bloody battle for two days. Many guerrillas lost their packs during the battle,\and the sergeant major’s pack,\where Choe kept the ashes of the young guerrilla, was also lost.
Choe Chun Guk continued to insist vehemently that the only way to rescue the brigaderom the enemy cordon, tightening with each passing minute, was a dispersed march in small units. But the brigade commander said, “Then one\or two companies may survive, but the brigade will be routed. Are you proposing that we should escape separately to save our skins? We must live\or die together.”
The brigade party committee discussed the two men’s ideas once again.
Furious with the brigade commander’s indecisive attitude,
Choe struck his chest with his fist\and remarked fiercely:
“Which of us here wants to save his own skin? None of us is afraid of death. But we cannot die for nothing before reaching our destination. If we lose all the men on the way, the men who so eagerly wish to go home, how can we, the commanding officers, atone for the crime? If we get our men\and ourselves killed just because of the stupid conduct of a few commanders, who will wage the anti-Japanese war\and the revolution? If we are to preserve the force of the brigade\and reach West Jiandao, we must switch over to dispersed action.”
Nearly all the officers at the meeting criticized the brigade commander, who had stuck to a march by a large unit,\and accused him of being an adventurist. Some of them even labelled him a coward in the guise of comradeship. In view of the fact that Fang surrendered to the enemy in later days, it is not surprising that they labelled him a coward, I think. As a matter of fact, he did not surrender on his own accord; being arrested, he yielded to the enemy’s intimidation\and appeasement. Whatever process it was that made a turncoat of him, the seed of his surrender\and betrayal had germinated, I believe, long beforerom his lack of faith\and willpower\androm the cowardice revealed now\and then in his everyday life. What Fang feared was obvious: if the units, with their strong combat power\and efficient commanders, left to go off separately, his personal safety would be threatened.
After the brigade party committee meeting at Piaohe, the Independent Brigade switched over to the method of marching in dispersion\and broke through the enemy blockade.
Nevertheless, Fang did not digest the criticism given by his comrades. He continued to be unpleasant towards Choe Chun Guk.
After receiving a regular military education, Fang became an officer of the former Chinese northeast army, so he had the authority\and rank to command the brigade. By contrast, Choe hailedrom the lowest rung of society without having even received primary schooling. He had learned reading, writing\and military art only after joining the guerrillas,\and had then become a commanding officer. However, Fang seemed to be unaware that academic attainments did not determine who was talented\or superior. It was only during the battle for crossing the River Songhua some days later that Fang repented. At that time the brigade, which had been marching in dispersion, regrouped itself into a large unit. It arrived at the River Songhua near Naerhong at sunset. The river, rising with the seasonal rain, had become wide\and rough. They had to cross quickly before the enemy appeared, but only a small boat big enough to carry only five\or six people was available. As they crossed\and recrossed the river by boat, many men had still not made it to the other side by dawn. Everyone, both those who had crossed\and who had not, looked at the slowly moving boat\and the brightening sky with apprehension.
At that moment the enemy arrived. Making for them with 10 agile men, Choe Chun Guk told the brigade to hurry across the river\and hide in the forest near Liushuhezi, as he would lure away the enemy. Thanks to him, the men remaining at the ferry crossed the river safely. The brigade waited for Choe’s death-defying corps for a few days in the vicinity of Liushuhezi. Choe appeared with his men on the fourth day, each carrying a load of grain they had obtained along the way.
Only then did Fang take Choe by the shoulders\and apologize. What pleased me most on hearing the activities of the brigade in northern Manchuria\and on its southward march was that all the men in it had performed their tasks with credit. They had lived up to my expectations\and become more seasoned than when they had taken leave of me.
The typical example was Choe Chun Guk. When he was around me, he had been a military commander skilful in guerrilla tactics\and an ideal political worker. In the course of the brigade’s activities in northern Manchuria\and its march southwards, his military talent\and commanding efficiency had reached a perfect stage.
In childhood Choe Chun Guk had been another man’s houseboy\and grew up at a railway construction site. In the army he learned marksmanship\and drill movements with great speed, being quick-eyed. His character\and abilities made a good impression on me, so I nominated him for political instructor of a company. At that time he said to me, pulling a long face, “How can I be a political instructor\and teach others when I am still ill-prepared in every way? What I am sure I can do is to kill the Japs\and their stooges, so let me remain a rank-and-file soldier.”
I told him that he should inculcate his men with his own love for the country\and hatred for the Japanese imperialists,\and that this alone would mean his successful execution of the duty of a political instructor. Then I gave him a pocketbook\and wrote on its first page, “You must study, even by writing on the earth.”
From that time on he showed extraordinary zeal in study\and training. While learning Korean letters, he also studied Chinese characters by himself.
There is a good story of how he came to learn Chinese characters. One day he came to see me, asking for the meaning of the Chinese word “Yi Zheng Hua Ling”. I pronounced it for him\and interpreted it into Korean. He mumbled, “I see! The Chinese characters are very strange. It’s a pity I wasn’t able to attend a village school.”
He then started to carry a dictionary of Chinese characters in his pack.
I have mentioned in a previous volume that the defensive battle of Xiaowangqing was fought for 90-odd days\and that it was a hard-fought one. But all through those 90 days, Choe never stopped studying his Chinese characters.
Once I visited Sancidao,\where Choe’s company was stationed; I told him that a company political instructor should know how to dance\and sing so as to imbue his company with a lively\and optimistic spirit. After that he went outside every night\and practised dancing, out of sight of the others. He was so absorbed in the practice that Ko Hyon Suk, the company cook, who happened to see him one night, ran to the company commander\and told him in a shocked whisper that the company political instructor seemed to have gone out of his mind. The commander held his sides with laughter at her warning. This became a famous anecdote of Sancidao in later days.
He was so faithful\and diligent that in our battles in the guerrilla zones of eastern Manchuria I could always entrust his company with the most challenging tasks.
In the Macun operations, when we fought 5,000 enemy troops for 90 days, his 2nd Company was a pillar. When I left the guerrilla base to attack the enemyrom behind, I would always entrust him with the task of defending the base, which he carried out with credit\and without fail.
Because of this trust, I could leave him to take my place when I\and my men had to move elsewhere,\or send him to important places\where I could not go myself. This became a regular practice, the reason Choe\and I, despite our close relationship, always lived far apart.
Looking at the tough\and seasoned appearance of Choe now, I pictured in my mind the images of many of my comrades-in-arms who were also demonstrating extraordinary military talent in the great anti-Japanese war. Choe Hyon, An Kil, Kim Chaek, Choe Yong Gon, Ri Hak Man, Ho Hyong Sik\and Kang Kon—among all these renowned generals of the anti-Japanese war, for whose death\or capture the enemy was offering great sums of bounty money, no one except Choe Yong Gon, who had been a teacher at the Huangpu Military Academy, had received any kind of regular military education. They had not even thought of becoming a soldier until only a few years before. Yet what skilful military commanders\and efficient political workers they had become!
Looking with trustful eyes at Choe Chun Guk, who reeked of gunpowder, I thought, “We already have enough reliable men to take charge of each strategic area. When the time comes, I can assign units to them\and give them operational missions to liberate the country, telling them to advance to North Hamgyong Province, Rangnim Mountains\and Thaebaek Mountains,\and so on. If the paramilitary corps\and the people rise up across the country in support of these units once we have advanced to the homeland, Japanese imperialism will be defeated\and we will achieve ultimate victory.”
The night of his arrival, Choe Chun Guk\and I shared a tent, as we had done when I was with the 2nd Company in Sancidao in our days in Wangqing. It evoked vivid memories. We talked until daybreak.
Choe said, “We might have given up halfway if we had not kept it in mind that we were going to Mt. Paektu. The thought that we must remain alive by all means to tread the soil of our country forced us to find our way out of dead ends\and keep going even in the midst of total exhaustion. Except for a few visits to my home town of Onsong in the days when we were fighting in Wangqing, I haven’t been back home for years. I want to inhale the fragrance of the soil of our land.”
His words went home to my heart. I gripped his hands tightly\and told him with regret that I could not promise him the chance to step on the soil of home soon, even though he so missed it. Thus, I could not help but tell him that night what I had intended to tell him in a few days.
In those days the Anti-Japanese Allied Army units active in eastern\and southern Manchuria were experiencing difficulties for lack of military\and political cadres. The loss the southern Manchurian unit had sufferedrom the enemy’s “punitive” operations was destructive. The 1st Corps was undergoing such hardships in its guerrilla activities, the enemy was boasting that “the communist bandits in southern Manchuria were wiped out to the last man\and public peace was ensured.” In\order to expand\and intensify the guerrilla actions in southern Manchuria, an area that had become more important with the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, we had to first reinforce it with skilful military\and political personnel. Moreover, taking special measures for guarding the commanding personnel had presented itself as a problem in the southern Manchurian unit after the death of division commander Cao Guo-an. It was a common view of the commanding officers that the guard units, which had to become the main defenders\and elite units of a corps\or a division, should include the most efficient military\and political cadres\and experienced combatants. Because of this situation, Wei Zheng-min had since the spring of that year requested me to hand the whole of Choe’s brigade over to him as soon as they arrived.
Since I was well aware of the difficult situation in which the southern Manchurian unit found itself, as well as of the strategic importance of the guerrilla struggle in southern Manchuria\and the painful position\and feelings of Wei, I could not turn down his earnest request.
When I told Choe how sorry I was that I could not realize his wish, he consoled me, saying, “If it is the demand of the revolution, then I must leave you again. But, please don’t feel sad. There will be days when I will be with you\and step on the soil of our native land.”
“It is very kind of you to say so. Frankly speaking, I want to take with me at least the men who have been with me since the days in Wangqing, but Wei is in need of them.”
Hearing the news of the Independent Brigade’s arrival, Wei visited me the next day\and said meaningfully:
“I was greatly shocked by the story the brigade’s soldiers told me. The fate of a unit is dependent after all on its commander. If the commander is not steadfast, his unit will be ruined. Fang isn’t fit to be a brigade commander. I had planned to put the Guard Regiment under his command, but I have to cancel the plan. The Soviet\union is said to have benefited muchrom the former officers of Tsarist army during the Civil War, but we don’t have this advantage. I feel so frustrated that I can’t find suitable military\and political cadres to lead the Guard Regiment.”
His complaint reflected his innermost wish that I give him men fit for the positions of regiment commander\and regiment political commissarrom among the Koreans.
The meeting held that day to review the march of the Independent Brigade had high praise for Choe Chun Guk for his efficient command of the brigade on the march,\and commended the men who had been model soldiers on the march. After this, Fang\and the commanders who had servilely followed him were duly criticized. Concluding the meeting, I emphasized how crucial it was to put guerrilla tactics into practical use in our fight with the enemy, who were invariably superior in number:
“For us to engage in regular warfare instead of guerrilla warfare is as absurd as a swallow hopping clumsily about on the ground to look for worms, instead of soaring freely in the sky to prey on insects. The ancient war manuals tell us that a man who knows when to fight\and when not to fight will emerge victorious,\and that a man who immobilizes the enemy’s chances to win\and who always looks for a chance to defeat the enemy is a good fighter. When we encounter the enemy, no matter\where, we can be confident of victory only by applying the elusive guerrilla tactics.”
As the meeting was attended by Wei Zheng-min\and other Chinese commanders\and rank\and file, I made the speech both in Korean\and Chinese.
After the meeting we\organized a new Guard Regiment. Ri Tong Hak, the Guard Company commander of my unit, was appointed its commander,\and Choe Chun Guk its political commissar. Rim Chun Chu was also to go to Wei to treat his illness. The other men in the Independent Brigade were all sent to him. As he had wished, Wei now had a Guard Regiment consisting of the most skilful\and stalwart among the Korean military\and political cadres\and combatants.
Wei did not hide his pleasure at this, but many of the men of the regi- ment were sorry that they could not remain with me. Even Rim Chun Chu requested to be dispatched to a political operation group in the homeland.
A few days later the regiment left with Wei for the Huinan area in southern Manchuria. On the eve of departure Choe Chun Guk called on me to say good-bye. It was a moonlit night a few days after Harvest Moon. Sitting on the grass just beside the tent of Headquarters, we bid each other a touching farewell.
“You have to leave for southern Manchuria before having had the chance to relieve the fatigue accumulated in northern Manchuria. I’m sorry I always send you off somewhere without giving you a respite.”
“Well, that’s all right. Since you obviously trust me, I feel encouraged.”
“Huinan is said to be strictly guarded by the enemy; you must take care of yourself. Please refrainrom any adventure\or hasty action, as you did while raiding the police substation at the ferry in Onsong.”
The raid was a battle which Choe Chun Guk\and his company fought at Jangdok ferry after crossing the River Tuman in early 1935. It was to be a model battle for our thrust into the homeland, which we had been planning for a long while. The main duty of the police at the ferry was to control the people crossing the Tuman. The policemen there were so vile that the secret\organization members carrying goodsrom Onsong for the guerrillas via the ferry frequently had their goods confiscated. The secret revolutionary\organization in Onsong requested us to teach the policemen of the branch station a good lesson. So I told Choe Chun Guk’s company to raid the station.
Having crossed the frozen river by stealth just before dawn with the combatants, Choe Chun Guk placed his men near the station\and went in alone. As only one policeman was on duty, they could raid it without firing a shot. But while Choe was in there, the policeman kicked a servant boy viciously for failing to build a fire in the stove in time; Choe, in a fit of fury, shot him to death. Consequently he\and his men had to withdraw in haste without delivering a political speech to the people who had been in the yard of the station to register for crossing the river.
It was a very small battle indeed, killing just one enemy policeman, but it made a strong impact on the public. Many believed that since such a small number of guerrillas had raided a border post in front of many people, greater events might take place in the future. The battle was a signal for the brisk operations we were to conduct subsequently to destroy the enemy on the Rivers Amnok\and Tuman.
Choe Chun Guk was still remorseful that he had failed to perform political work at that time. He said to me now,
“I was still immature in those days. If I had not lost my temper but acted more prudently, I would have made a speech to touch the heartstrings of the people. But I missed the main target because of my rash act.”
“Daring is praiseworthy, but a commander should always be discreet in all his undertakings. As you are now in charge of the security of a corps headquarters as well as that of a regiment, you must be careful in everything. Bear in mind that unnecessary adventure is taboo. You must return to me alive for the great cause of national liberation. I’ll send for you without fail once the operation for liberating the country is unfolded, to atone for my failure to take you to the Battle of Pochonbo.”
Because of this promise, Choe took leave of me in a much happier mood than on the day he had left me for northern Manchuria. In southern Manchuria he carried out his revolutionary tasks with great credit\and kept in close touch with us. When sending him to southern Manchuria, I gave him the task of winning over the Independence Army units operating on the River Amnok centred on Huanren, Jian\and Tonghua. His efforts produced good results in performing this task as well. Wei Zheng-min’s messages to me were full of pride at the activities of the Guard Regiment. What I still remember most clearly among the messages is the one which said that by means of a letter Choe Chun Guk had kept hundreds of the puppet Manchukuo army soldiers under his thumb.
While passing by an enemy’s strategic base, Choe, who was in command of the Guard Regiment, was informed through his scouts that hundreds of soldiers of the puppet Manchukuo army\and policemen were stationed there. He wrote to the commander of the Manchukuo troops, to this effect:
“We don’t regard the Chinese people as our enemy, nor do we want to make them so. We have no desire to fight against you, so don’t provoke us. We now need some time to relax. We are going to\drop in at Fuerhe\and take a rest in your walled town. I warn you not to stop us.”
He wrote the letter in full consideration of the mental state of the puppet Manchukuo army, who wanted to fight against the guerrillas as little as possible.
The Manchukuo army unit sent a messenger to him with a letter promising that they would comply with his request if the revolutionary army waited for 30 minutes. During the 30 minutes the Manchukuo army unit evacuated the town\and escaped to the mountain at the back of the town, for they would get in trouble with the Japanese at a later date if they allowed the guerrillas into town while they themselves were still there.
The regiment went into the walled town, relaxed\and conducted political work among the people.
At dusk the puppet Manchukuo army soldiers on the mountain grew anxious\and started a continuous whistling. This was a signal that they were uneasy because the Japanese troops might appear any time. Also, they were not brave enough to actually demand that the guerrillas leave.
Choe\ordered his unit to resume the march\and left a short letter of thanks to the commander of the puppet Manchukuo army unit.
“Thank you for allowing us to take a good rest. I wish you to regard us as your friends\and help us in future too. Japanese imperialism, the common enemy of the Korean\and Chinese peoples, will be defeated without fail\and the Koreans\and Chinese will surely emerge victorious.”
By using this method, Choe had held a great number of puppet Manchukuo soldiers under his thumb\and had turned many against the Japanese. What is surprising is that the letters in the Chinese language he sent to the commanders of the puppet Manchukuo army were written by himself.
Throughout the latter half of the 1930s he rendered a positive help to the activities of the Chinese guerrilla units in the Anti-Japanese Allied Army, operating continually in the vast areas of northern\and southern Manchuria. This earned him the title of internationalist fighterrom the Chinese people\androm his revolutionary comrades. Chinese friends everywhere praised him with deep affection\and respect for the exploits he had performed for the sake of proletarian internationalism\and friendship between Korea\and China.
What exactly made Choe Chun Guk a renowned anti-Japanese general at that particular time throughout southern\and northern Manchuria?
Every second the anti-Japanese revolution transformed the people beyond recognition in the same way that a day, a month\or even a decade at\ordinary times would do. As pig iron is heated\and turned into steel in a furnace, those who had been ignorant, ill-clad\and wretched grew up into fighters, heroes\and standard-bearers in the great whirlwind of revolution, transforming society\and ushering in a new era.
Choe Chun Guk devoted his soul\and body to the revolution\and trained himself without interruption in the struggle.
Here is an interesting anecdote that shows his human traits. Shortly after Choe Chun Guk started married life after
liberation, Rim Chun Chu visited his house. He asked Choe’s wife, as a joke, whether she liked her husband. Smiling bashfully, she inquired of him whether her husband had really been a guerrilla. Then she told him of an episode of a few days before at an athletic meet for Choe’s unit.
That day the families of the servicemen were invited to watch the athletic meet. Choe’s wife, too, went to enjoy it in holiday attire. Returning home in the evening, Choe asked her in apparent ill humour:
“Don’t you have any better clothes? You were wearing hempen clothes in front of the whole unit.”
At the words “hempen clothes” she burst out laughing, for he had mistaken ramie cloth for hemp.
“They are made of ramie cloth, not hemp. There is no better summerwear than this cloth.”
Bewildered, he flushed\and apologized to her.
Relating it to Rim Chun Chu, she said she wondered with what sort of courage Choe, gentle as he was, had fought against the Japanese.
Hearing her story, Rim laughed for a good while, then became serious\and said.
“Madam, you have seen him right. Comrade Choe Chun Guk is a good-natured, weak-minded man. After raiding an enemy police branch at a ferry in Onsong, he came back to the base without wiping away the blood that was oozingrom the nose of a young servant who had been kicked by a policeman. He felt painful remorse for many years for this failure.\and yet, he is a very strong man. If you look at his left leg carefully, you will find a scar. The leg bone was broken by a bullet; I performed an operation without any anesthetic\and stitched up the wound. He endured the excruciating pain without as much as a groan. As gentle-hearted as a lamb towards the people\and comrades, as fierce as a tiger with the enemy,\and as hard as steel in the face of difficulties—this is your husband. Living with him long will teach you what a strong man he is.”
But contrary to his words, their promising married life did not last long. On July 30, 1950, shortly after the eruption of the great Fatherland Liberation War, Choe Chun Guk, commander of the 12th Infantry Division in the battle to liberate\andong, was fatally wounded. When Ji Pyong Hak, chief of staff of the division, rushed to him, Choe was lying in a jeep parked by the roadside. He was already breathing his last. Opening his eyes with much effort as Ji repeatedly called his name, Choe requested the army surgeon to prolong his life for five more minutes. In those last five minutes, he struggled against his pain to explain in detail his tactical plan for encircling\and annihilating the enemy in\andong.
“I ask you to carry out the\orders of the Supreme Commander in my stead.” These were Choe’s last words to Ji as he gripped Ji’s hands.
When I got the news of his death, I could hardly believe that he was really dead. His image, limping slightly in the left leg, was too vivid in my mind’s eye. The left leg had become a little shorter, for the bone had been broken in a battle during the anti-Japanese war. Nevertheless, he had walked thousands of miles on those uncomfortable legs. Entrusted with the heavy duty of a branch director of the Security Officers Training Centre immediately after liberation, he devoted himself to the strengthening of the country’s military power, crossing rivers with his cadets when they were having river-crossing training,\and scaling steep cliffs with them when they were being taught mountain-climbing.
On a street of Onsong, his home town on the River Tuman, which he had often frequented in his youth to strike terror into the hearts of the enemy, stands a bronze statue of him in the military uniform worn in the days of the anti-Japanese revolution.
The sculptors visited his wife to get an idea of his correct image\and personality.
The first thing they asked her was, “What is your most impressive memory of Comrade Choe Chun Guk?”
“There is nothing specially impressive. If there is, can I say that he was very reticent? During a few years of our married life, he said less than 100 words in all. If he had been rough\and slapped me across the face, it would have remained in my memory.”
She was quite regretful that there were no particulars worthy of remembering in their married life. Then, she said significantly, “Please meet my second son. He is the perfect image of his father, very gentle. To resemble his father more, there should be something steadfast in his character, but I am not sure yet. But I’ll bring him up to be strong-willed without fail.”
Unlike the first days of her married life, she was now well aware of what an excellent man her husband had been.
A gentle, yet strong-willed man—this was the courageous general of the anti-Japanese war, Choe Chun Guk.
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