On April 25, 2008, the 76th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People's Army
Excerpt from Kim Il Sung��s Reminiscences "With the Century"
Volume 2: Chapter 5, Part 5: "The Birth of a New Armed Force"
5. The Birth of a New Armed Force
The spring of 1932 was turbulent with events that shook the world. After occupying Manchuria the Japanese imperialists rigged up the puppet Kingdom of Manchukuo through the reinstatement of Pu Yi, the last Qing Emperor who had been dethroned by the nationalist revolution led by Sun Yat-sen. The Japanese government-patronized mass media and the Chinese and Manchurian pro-Japanese publica��tions chanted their praise of the kindgom, clamouring about the ��con��cord of five nations�� and the building of a ��paradise of righteous government,�� whereas the progressive people of Asia and the rest of the world strongly denounced it.
The world��s attention was focused on the activities of the fact-finding commission from the League of Nations which had just arrived in Japan on a mission to investigate the cause of the outbreak of the September 18 incident and the responsibility for the incident. The com��mission headed by Lytton, an adviser to the British Privy Council, and consisting of delegates from such great powers as the United States, Germany, France and Italy was received in audience by the Emperor of Japan and met the Japanese Prime Minister, the Minister of the Army and the Minister of Foreign Affairs; it proceeded to China to hold talks with Jiang Jie-shi and Zhang Xue-liang, and then appeared in Manchuria where it met Lieutenant-General Honjo, the commander of the Kwantung Army, and inspected the area where the September 18 incident had occurred. Japan and China vied with each other in welcoming and entertaining the Lytton commission in order to win its support. The conjecture that Japan might withdraw her troops from Manchuria if the commission disclosed the true facts and the League of Nations exerted its influence, was widespread not only in political, public and news circles but also among primary school pupils and old men in the rural villages, who had become interested in politics.
But we who were in the Antu area preparing for the armed struggle did not listen to the rumours and conjectures; we were applying our��selves to military training, with the Women��s Association of Xiaoshahe bringing our lunch in large wooden vessels to the tableland near Tuqidian every day.
In the middle of March we organized in Antu a short training course for the leaders of the small guerrilla units in several of the coun��ties of east Manchuria. Nearly 20 leaders gathered in Tuqidian, Xiaoshahe.
The training course lasted for two days—theoretical lectures on the first day and drill on the second day. I gave a lecture on the lines and policies of the Korean revolution in the political class and on the regula��tions and code of conduct for the guerrillas. Military drill was mostly supervised by Pak Hun. We started with the basics of formation drill and the disassembly and assembly of weapons, and then dealt with such tactical matters as raids and ambushes.
Antu became the headquarters of the Korean communists who were forming the Anti-Japanese People��s Guerrilla Army. Political workers and messengers from several counties along the River Tuman often came to Xiaoshahe to make contact with us. The news of our activities to form the guerrilla army in Antu spread from mouth to mouth as far as the homeland. On hearing the news, young patriots in their early twen��ties from Korea and various parts of Manchuria flocked to Antu, at the risk of their lives, to volunteer for the guerrilla army.
At this time Pyon Tal Hwan and 8 young volunteers were arrested and imprisoned by the Japanese military police on their way to Antu from Wujiazi. Pyon Tae U came to see me after liberation to express his sor��row that his son had been unable to join the army and had wasted several years behind bars. Many people came, particularly from Yanji County in Jiandao. The enemy��s ruling organs and repressive machines were con��centrated in the Yanji area and its network of secret agents was devel��oped. The Jiandao task force under the command of Colonel Ikeda, which consisted of the 75th Regiment, 38th Brigade and Ranam 19th Division, and was reinforced with artillery, engineers and a signal corps, crossed the River Tuman and marched into Yanji and other parts of Jiandao for a ��mop-up�� operation in east Manchuria. In this situation the underground organizations in the area sent to Antu many young people who had volun��teered for the army. On hearing the news, even people without any rec��ommendation from such organizations came to us in large numbers. Chen Han-zhang came from Dunhua, bringing with him a young Chinese man, Hu Jin-min (Hu Ze-min). Hu had been a teacher at a normal school in Belong. Sometimes young people came in dozens at a time.
But the Chinese national salvation army units often captured them on their way to us and killed them in groups.
At that time there were various Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units in the northeastern region of China, such as the Northeast Self-Defence Army, the Anti-Jilin Army, the Anti-Japanese National Salva��tion Army, the Anti-Japanese Volunteers�� Army, the Mountain Rebels, the Broad Sword Society, the Red Spear Society and so on. These nationalist armed units comprised patriotic soldiers who had broken away from the former Northeast Army to march under the banner of anti-Japanese national salvation after Japan��s occupation of Manchuria, as well as Chinese government officials and peasants. These units together were known as the national salvation army.
Well-known among these units in Manchuria were those led by Wang De-lin, Tang Ju-wu, Wang Feng-ge, Su Bing-wen, Ma Zhan-shan. Ding Chao and Li Du.
The largest one in east Manchuria was Wang De-lin��s unit. Wang had in his younger days been an insurgent, as ��a heroic man in the green forest,�� in the forests around Muling and Suifenhe, holding no principles or views, before being assigned with his followers to the Jilin army under the command of Zhang Zuo-xiang. There he became an officer in the regular army. He had served as the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 3rd Brigade of the former Jilin army before the September 18 incident. People called his unit the ��Former 3rd Battalion.��
After Japan��s occupation of Manchuria his senior officer. Brigade Commander Ji Xing, had surrendered and met the commander of the Kwantung Army. After pledging his allegiance to the Empire of Japan, he was appointed Jilin garrison commander. Indignant at the betrayal by his senior officer, Wang immediately revolted and proclaimed the anti-Japanese national salvation struggle. He took 500 of his soldiers to the mountains and, after organizing the national salvation army, appointed Wu Yi-cheng as the forward area commander and started his resistance against the Japanese imperialist aggressor army.
Wang De-lin��s faithful subordinates Wu Yi-cheng, Shi Zhong-heng, Chai Shi-rong and Kong Xian-yong, operating in the Luozigou area, contained the enemy in Jiandao and, in later years, established blood-sealed ties with our guerrilla army.
In the mountainous areas of south Manchuria the Self-Defence Army led by Tang Ju-wu was operating, and in Heilongjiang Province, Ma Zhan-shan��s unit was resisting against the Japanese army which was advancing northwards. The unit of Commander Yu under the command of Wu Yi-cheng crowded into the backwoods around Antu. This unit was extremely reckless.
They all regarded the Korean communists as stooges of the Japanese imperialists and the Korean people as having guided the Japanese army of aggression into Manchuria. They were prejudiced against the Korean people partly because the Japanese imperialists con��tinued to drive a wedge between the Chinese and Korean peoples, and partly because the bad impression the Chinese people had received of the Korean people from the May 30 Uprising and the Wanbaoshan inci��dent was still vivid in their memory.
The die-hard upper stratum of the national salvation army lacked political judgement and insight with which to understand that both the Korean and Chinese nations were suffering the same disaster and mis��fortune because of the Japanese imperialist aggressors, that the Korean people could not be the cat��s paws of the Japanese just as the Chinese people could not, and that the Korean people could not be the enemy of the Chinese people just as the Chinese people could not be the enemy of the Korean people. They were blindly hostile to communism because they came mostly from the propertied class. They concocted their own equation that the Korean people were communists, communists were factionalists, and factionalists were the running dogs of the Japanese imperialists and, based on this equation, persecuted and ruthlessly killed young Korean people.
In the cities and lowlands the Japanese troops of aggression were running wild, and in the rural and mountainous areas which had not yet been occupied by the Japanese army tens of thousands of Chinese nationalist soldiers occupied vantage points to bottle us up. Their hos��tile acts were a serious obstacle threatening the very existence of our young guerrilla army.
Since the Japanese imperialists, the Chinese mountain rebels and the Korean Independence Army were all opposed to the Korean com��munists, we had seemed to have the world against us.
Without improving our relations with the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units, it was impossible for our guerrilla army to survive and operate as a legitimate force. And without making itself legitimate it was impossible for it to increase its ranks and operate in daylight.
As our organized unit was not legitimate, we were as good as con��fined in a back room. In such circumstances it was impossible to see the light. We merely lamented, saying, ��How can we fight the Japanese by fumbling with Mauser rifles in civilian clothes in the back rooms of oth��ers�� houses?�� Worse still, we could hide only in Korean settlements; we could not go to other places and had to move about in groups surrepti��tiously and only by night.
That was why we called the guerrilla army a secret guerrilla army in its early days.
In those days we had to keep away from not only the Japanese army but also the remnants of the Chinese nationalist anti-Japanese units and the army of Manchuria; we also had to guard against some of the Korean nationalists and reactionary elements. As we were fired at and persecuted in public on the ground that we were communists, we really had a headache. The same was the situation in Yanji, Helong, Wangqing, and Hunchun.
Nevertheless, we could not stay only at the houses of communists, As they were living in poverty, they would become even worse off if we stayed in dozens at their houses, eating their grain; this, too, was a problem.
If things were to improve and if we were to fight in high spirits, it was imperative for us to make the guerrilla army legitimate so that we could march in broad daylight, singing, welcomed by the masses and conducting propaganda. It was painful for us not to be able to do so.
Whenever we got together, we discussed over and over again how we should make our guerrilla army legitimate and how we should improve our relations with the Chinese nationalist army. The most seri��ous issue was whether it was right to join hands with the nationalists of China. Several comrades doubted the validity of an alliance with them, considering that it would mean giving up our class principles and com��promising with them, given the fact that their upper stratum came from the propertied class and that their army represented the interests of land��lords, capitalists and bureaucrats. These comrades insisted that, even though we might improve our relations with them on a temporary basis, we could never enter into an alliance with them, and that we should overcome their hostile acts by force of arms.
This was an extremely dangerous opinion. We maintained that we should not only improve our relations with them but also form a united front with them because we firmly believed that these units, in spite of their various limitations, could become our strategic ally in the anti-Japanese war as we shared common fighting objectives and a similar situation. The question on an allied front of two armed forces with con��flicting ideologies and ideals was extremely controversial when it was raised for the first time in those days.
Forming a common front with those units was also a serious ques��tion facing the Communist Party of China. From the early days its east Manchuria special district committee had been interested in Wang De-lin��s unit and sent seven or eight excellent communists there to conduct work with the unit. We sent Ri Kwang and some other Korean commu��nists to the national salvation army units. On several occasions I received through liaison officers reports on the painstaking efforts of Ri Kwang, who had been sent to Tong Shan-hao��s unit.
As their hostile acts became more and more outrageous, our com��rades said that the allied front was an idle fancy and that we should return fire and avenge the people who had been killed by them. I made a lot of effort to restrain them. Making them our enemy and paying them back was inconsistent with our great anti-Japanese cause and moral duty and was imprudent enough to invite the destruction of our young guerrilla army.
The communists and guerrillas not only in Jiandao but also in the whole of Manchuria racked their brains over the Chinese nationalist armed units. The guerrilla units in the various counties at that time were small in size; there were only a few dozen guerrillas in each county. They were in danger of being annihilated if captured by the Chinese nationalist units, so they could not expand their ranks even if they wanted to.
In the light of this I wondered if it would not be a good idea for our guerrillas to join Commander Yu��s unit and operate as a special detach��ment of it for a period. I presumed that if we joined Commander Yu��s unit, we would be safe under the flag of the Chinese national salvation army and could obtain some weapons and, that if we had a proper influ��ence on them, we could make the soldiers communists and reliable allies. I put this idea to my comrades to be debated.
We had a day-long meeting on this question at Kim Jong Ryong��s house in Xiaoshahe, where the headquarters of the party organization was situated. It is now called the Xiaoshahe Meeting. The atmosphere at the meeting was very heated. We debated from morning till late at night until our throats were sore on the question of whether it was pos��sible and favourable for us to operate as a special detachment of the Chinese national salvation army. Not only the heavy smokers but also those who were non-smokers puffed hand-rolled cigarettes continually. I still remember how my eyes smarted in the oppressive atmosphere. I was a non-smoker.
Finally my idea gained the support of my comrades. The meeting decided to dispatch a delegate to Commander Yu��s unit to negotiate with the Chinese national salvation army unit, and I was singled out as the most suitable person for the job. To be more precise, I volunteered, rather than being chosen by my comrades.
None of us had any experience of military diplomacy. So the ques��tion of who should go on the mission was taken very seriously. None of us was sure whether or not the Chinese would agree, whether or not they would baffle us by making preposterous proposals at the negotia��tions or whether or not they would shoot our delegate if the worst came to the worst. We were all of the opinion that someone who was pre��pared for all these eventualities should go.
But none of us was right for the task. An elderly man was needed to deal with Commander Yu and we had Pak Hun, Kim Il Ryong and Hu Jin-min as such. Kim Il Ryong was more than 10 years older than me, but he did not speak Chinese well. The rest of us were between eighteen and twenty years old and had, like Cao Ya-fan, recently left school.
I suggested that I should go, but they objected. They said that I, their commander, must not risk myself when Commander Yu might kill me because I was a communist, and that any of the Chinese comrades, Chen Han-zhang, Cao Ya-fan or Hu Jin-min who was diplomatic should be sent.
When I asked them why Commander Yu would kill me, they said, ��How do you know he won��t kill you? If they curse you as a ��gaolibangzi�� (a Chinese derogatory term for the Koreans-Tr.) and shoot you when you are there, that��ll be the end of you. They kill any��one, so why shouldn��t they kill you? They say that the Chinese are more vigilant against young Koreans nowadays after the incident of the Guan Corps in Wangqing. So you must not go.��
The secret guerrilla army in Wangqing led by Comrade Ri Kwang had disarmed a national salvation army unit called the Guan Corps. This was known as the Guan Corps incident. This incident further aggravat��ed our relations with the Chinese units and created a more unfavourable situation for the activities of our guerrilla army. A messenger from Wangqing reported that, after the incident, the Chinese soldiers in his area had captured several of our guerrillas as retaliation and killed them. It was around this time that Comrade Kim Chaek had been arrested by the Chinese mountain rebels in north Manchuria and had only narrowly escaped execution.
Nevertheless, I insisted on my going to negotiate. I did not insist because I would be more skilful than others in dealing with them or because I had any particular means to force Commander Yu to yield. It was a brutal fact that the existence of our guerrilla army depended on negotiating successfully with Commander Yu, that the success of our activities depended on improving our relations with the national salva��tion army, and that without making them our allies, it would be impos��sible for us to go outdoors, let alone launch a guerrilla war in east Manchuria. I thought that unless we overcame the crisis and started the armed struggle I, as a Korean man, would have no reason to live.
I persuaded my comrades by saying that a man who was afraid of death could not fight for the revolution, that I could speak fluent Chi��nese, that I had experienced many trials in the days of the youth move��ment, that I would be perfectly able to deal with Commander Yu and that, therefore, I must go. Then I left with Pak Hun, Chen Han-zhang, Hu Jin-min and another young Chinese man to negotiate with Comman��der Yu, without any guarantee for our personal safety.
The headquarters of Commander Yu��s unit was situated in Liangjiangkou. We promised to say that we were from Jilin, not from Antu, when asked by the unit��s soldiers where we were from. It was not to our advantage to name the place in east Manchuria where our guerril��la army was stationed.
On our way to Dashahe we came across Commander Yu��s unit. Hundreds of soldiers were marching in a stately manner, carrying a standard on which was written ��Commander Yu,�� as in the Three War��ring Kingdoms. As they had already defeated the Japanese army at Nanhutou and even captured some machine guns, their reputation was running high.
��Why don��t we try to avoid them?�� Hu asked me, with an uneasy look.
��No. Let��s carry on,�� I said, walking on. The other four kept in step with mine, walking at my side. The moment they saw us, the soldiers shouted, ��Gaolibangzi, come on!�� They tried to arrest us there and then. I asked them in Chinese why they were arresting us who were fighting against the Japanese as they were. They asked in return if we were not Koreans. I answered proudly that I was a Korean and, pointing at Chen and Hu, said that they were Chinese.
��We are going to see your commander to discuss something urgent with him. Take us to your commander,�� I said with dignity.
They cowered and told us to follow them. After we had followed them for a short distance, a man in the uniform of an officer of the for��mer Northeast Army ordered the men to take lunch, and detained us in a farmhouse. To my surprise Liu Ben-cao, a teacher of mine at Jilin Yuwen Middle School, entered the house. He had taught Chinese at Yuwen Middle School for a while and later at Wenguang Middle School and Dunhua Middle School. He had been on friendly terms with Mr. Shang Yue and knew Chen Han-zhang well. As he had been good-natured and had a wide knowledge, and moreover introduced many excellent books and enjoyed reading to the students the good poems he had written, we had admired him and respected him highly.
As soon as we recognized him, Chen and I hailed him. In that adverse situation, we were delighted to see him.
Without concealing his delight and surprise, he asked us one ques��tion after another, ��Why are you here, Kim Song Ju? What have you come here for? Where were you going and why are you being detained?��
After I had given him a short explanation, he ordered the men in a loud voice, ��Be polite to these people. I will take my lunch here with them. Serve us a good lunch.�� Later I learned that he had given up teaching when the Japanese army invaded Manchuria, and had joined Commander Yu��s unit. He was chief of staff of that unit.
While having lunch with us, Liu said that he had put on the military uniform because he could not bear to see the country being ruined, but it was extremely difficult for him to fight alongside ignorant soldiers. He then asked us to work with him. We agreed and asked him to help us to see Commander Yu. He replied that the commander was on his way to the Antu county town from Liangjiangkou and that we could see him if we followed him.
��Sir, we would like to organize an armed unit of Koreans,�� I said. ��As you know we Koreans hate the Japanese imperialists more bitterly than the Chinese do. So why are the Chinese nationalist soldiers against the Koreans�� fighting the Japanese? Why do they persecute Koreans and kill them?��
��I know! I tell them not to do it, but they won��t listen to me. These ignoramuses do not even know what kind of people communists are. What is wrong with the communists fighting against the Japanese impe��rialists?��
Liu Ben-cao was indignant, too. I was inwardly pleased that now we seemed to have found a way out. I sent Pak Hun immediately to Xiaoshahe to inform the comrades there that we were safe and that it seemed possible that we would make the guerrilla army legitimate as the chief of staff of Commander Yu��s unit was giving us his full backing.
After lunch we followed Liu Ben-cao to the Antu county town. Liu had a horse of his own. We told him to ride on the horse, but he replied, ��How can I ride on a horse while you are walking? Let��s talk while walking together.��
He walked with us all the way to the county town. Most of the sol��diers were wearing arm-bands with ��Bu pa si bu rao min,�� written on them, meaning that they should not be afraid of death nor should they harm the people. Unlike the nasty attitude of the soldiers, their maxim was very sound and militant. The maxim gave me a ray of hope that my interview with Commander Yu would be a success.
Thanks to the good offices of Mr. Liu, that day we met Comman��der Yu without difficulty. He received us with courtesy and accorded us hospitality probably for the sake of the dignity of the chief of staff, or probably out of his desire to take us into his unit, for he had made secret inquiries about us and learned that we, having been educated at middle school, were capable of making speeches, writing declarations and han��dling weapons, in addition to being in the prime of our youth.
As I had guessed. Commander Yu asked us to join his unit. He asked me to work as chief of the propaganda squad under the headquarters. I was extremely embarrassed, for my intention was to form our own army and make it legitimate. If I declined, it would surely incur Commander Yu��s displeasure and place Liu Ben-cao in an awkward situation.
I thought; things are developing in a strange way, but fortune might smile on me if I win his confidence. I accepted his offer saying, ��Thank you, commander, I will do as you have asked.��
Commander Yu was delighted. He ordered his subordinate to write a notice of my appointment immediately. Thus I became chief of the propaganda squad of the headquarters. Hu Jin-min was appointed an assistant staff officer and Chen Han-zhang, a secretary. This was a ridiculous development, and not something we had desired, but it was a step up the ladder we had to climb. To tell the truth, these absurd appointments proved valuable in making the guerrilla army legitimate.
In my mind I cried, ��Bravo!�� comparing our situation in which we had been confined in the back rooms of others�� houses to the present situation in which we had penetrated deep into the heart of Commander Yu��s unit.
That evening an unexpected event occurred. The soldiers of the unit had arrested 70 or 80 young Korean men on their way from Yanji to Fuerhe and brought them to the county town. I saw them at a distance with indignation and shock, and then hurried to Mr. Liu and said:
��Here��s a pretty state of affairs, sir. Your soldiers have again arrest��ed dozens of Koreans. What sort of pro-Japanese can there be among them? There is no pro-Japanese. We should deal with any cat��s paw after an examination, shouldn��t we?��
He said, ��Go and handle the matter. Song Ju. We trust you.��
��I can��t do it alone, sir. Please come with me. You were a good orator, weren��t you? If you make a speech, even a stooge of the Japanese will be moved. We should teach them to fight against the Japanese. What��s the good of killing people who are not pro-Japanese?��
��You are good at speaking, so there��s no need for me to speak. You go alone.��
He flatly refused, waving his arm.
As he said, I had made speeches on many occasions in my school days. Roving around such places as Jilin, Dunhua, Antu, Fusong and Changchun, I had delivered many speeches denouncing the wild scheme of the Japanese imperialists to invade Manchuria and calling for the unity of the Korean and Chinese peoples. Mr. Liu knew this well.
��If I speak in Korean how will the officers of your unit understand what I am saying? They may think that I am conducting propaganda against them.��
Again he waved his hand and urged me to go.
��At most you will make communist propaganda. That��s all right. I will vouch for you, so please speak without any worry.��
He knew that I was associated with the communist party and involved in the communist movement.
��Communist propaganda should be conducted whenever necessary. It isn��t bad to conduct it, is it?��
If we had not been on intimate terms with each other, I would not have dared say this to Mr. Liu. If they regarded me as a communist and pro-Japanese and tried to kill me, I could do nothing. But no such thing happened because of our special relationship. He and I had been open with each other since our days at Yuwen Middle School. When I had been attending school in Jilin, he had looked after me.
As I was talking to Liu Ben-cao, Commander Yu entered the office. Looking outside, he remarked that his men seemed to have arrested some communists and, shaking his head, went on to say that he wondered when the communist party had produced so many members in Manchuria.
Then Liu Ben-cao, winking at me, said, ��You, the propaganda chief, go out quickly and talk with them. Not all Koreans can be com��munists and not all communists can be the cat��s paws of the Japanese imperialists.��
Commander Yu grew angry at his words and yelled, ��What? Are the communists not the stooges of the Japanese? They have brought the Japanese to this land to rob us of our land by their revolt.��
Commander Yu��s prejudice against the Korean people was stronger and blinder than we had expected. His misunderstanding of communism was no less deep-rooted than his prejudice. I decided to make every effort to persuade him. With determination, I dared to ask him:
��Excuse me, sir, but how do you know that communists are bad? Did you learn it from books or did you hear it from others? If not, why do you call them evil?��
��Damn the books! I learned it from what other people told me. Anyone who has a mouth says that communists are bad. That is why I believe they are bad.��
I felt aghast at his words, yet relieved, for I thought I would be per��fectly able to dispel his misunderstanding, which was not based on per��sonal experience but on hearsay.
��How can you carry out a great undertaking if you believe what other people say blindly apart from your own experience?��
As Chen Han-zhang and Hu Jin-min were communists and his chief of staff was supporting us. Commander Yu was surrounded. Thinking this a golden opportunity, I continued:
��What is the use of killing precious youngsters at will? What about giving them spears, even if not guns right away, and using them as a shock force? In that way we can test them to see if they fight the Japanese bravely. If they fight well, can we expect anything more from them? It is too much to kill them for no reason.��
After thinking for a while, he said, ��That��s right. Go and deal with them.��
I went to the arrested young men and secretly circulated a slip of paper among them. The slip said: ��As there is no material evidence, never say you are communists; tell them you picked up by chance the handbill reading, ��Appeal to the Anti-Japanese Soldiers�� they have found on you.�� The young men did not know from whom the slip came.
When I appeared they shot angry glances at me. They seemed to suspect that I was a henchman of Commander Yu. Seeing their hostile glances I asked, ��Has any of you ever heard the name Kim Song Ju?��
This question dispelled the tension and they began to murmur. Some answered yes and some no.
��I am Kim Song Ju. I am now working as chief of the propaganda squad in Commander Yu��s unit. The commander has just given me the order to ask you whether you would like to join his unit and fight with him. Those who are willing to do so, please speak up.��
All the young men answered in chorus, ��We will!��
I informed Commander Yu of what the young men had said; then I asked him to admit them to his unit and get them to fight the Japanese. He agreed readily with my proposal. In this way the young men��s fate and future was decided as we desired, and we were in a better position to achieve an allied front against the Japanese.
When we thus were on the threshold of making our guerrilla army legitimate, a Korean adviser to Commander Yu who was pulling the wires behind the scenes raised a fuss. A veteran nationalist belonging to the group of Kim Jwa Jin23, he had been farming in Nanhutou before joining the national salvation army after the September 18 incident. As he was clever and had a wide knowledge, he enjoyed the deep trust of Commander Yu. It was he who had been instigating Commander Yu to persecute the communists. He claimed that admitting those 70 or 80 people without examination was rash, and that there might be pro-Japanese elements among them. Without forestalling him, our activities might be confronted with another great difficulty.
One day I asked Commander Yu casually, ��I have heard that there is a Korean in your unit. Why do you hide him from me?��
He wondered why I had not yet met him, and ordered one of his men to bring him to me.
I found the man to be very tall and sturdy. I introduced myself, and then said, ��I am glad to see you. As you are old and probably experi��enced, please help us young novices as much as you can.��
He introduced himself to me. He said he had heard that a young Korean man who spoke fluent Chinese had come to the headquarters and was assisting Commander Yu as the chief of the propaganda squad, and that he, as a Korean, had been very glad at the news.
Because he was speaking about the nation, presenting himself as a Korean, I took the opportunity to scold him:
��If so, you should enlist many people who are willing to fight against the Japanese. Why are you killing so many of them? Is it right to kill them because their ideology is different from yours? It is pitiful for Koreans not to be able to live in their homeland and it is all the more pitiful for them to be killed by the national salvation army in Manchuria. You ought to ensure that they unite, irrespective of their ideology, be they communists or nationalists, and fight against the Japanese; what is the good of ostracizing and killing them?��
He said I was right and gave me a meaningful look. Thus the sec��ond barrier was removed. Commander Yu smiled as he saw our conver��sation ending in a friendly atmosphere.
I asked the commander if he would trust me and allow me to be relieved of the command of the propaganda squad by Hu Jin-min and to form and lead a unit of Koreans.
Liu Ben-cao supported me, saying that my proposal was reason��able. Commander Yu asked me how we would obtain weapons for the proposed unit.
I replied, ��Never mind the weapons. We will not ask you for them. We will arm the unit by capturing weapons from the enemy.��
The commander was extremely satisfied with my answer.
��Then you may form a unit. But what if you turn your guns against us?��
��Don��t worry about that, we will never be guilty of such a betrayal. Should we turn our guns against you, your large army will be able to destroy us greenhorns, won��t it?��
Waving his hand and laughing boisterously, he asked me if I had taken his joke seriously.
Afraid that he might get angry if I began by asking him for his permission to break away from the national salvation army, I asked him as the commander to name the unit.
Liu Ben-cao who was standing beside us said, ��So, call it a special detachment. What about a special detachment of Koreans?��
Commander Yu and I agreed with Liu��s suggestion.
The preparations for making the secret guerrilla army legitimate came to a successful conclusion with the birth of the special detach��ment. We enlisted in this detachment secret guerrillas from Antu and the 70-80 young men who had been detained by Commander Yu��s unit, making the guerrilla army legitimate.
I left the commander��s room, taking the hands of Chen Han-zhang and Hu Jin-min in mine. We shouted ��We��ve won!�� ��Success!�� and we walked round the walled town all that night. Hu offered me a cigarette, saying that it would be a good experience to get drunk on alcohol or on cigarette smoke if there was no alcohol on that happy day.
I put a cigarette between my lips for the first time in my life and inhaled the smoke but, choking, I coughed for a good while. We all laughed. Hu even said, jokingly, ��How can you become the commander of the guerrilla army when you cannot even inhale cigarette smoke?��
I returned to Xiaoshahe, and when I told them about the success of the negotiations, the comrades, who had been staying in a back room, carried me on their shoulders, crowding out of the room. The three cheers they raised reverberated throughout the village.
Kim Il Ryong, a celebrated singer, sang Arirang. It was strange to see him, a steel-like man, singing such a sorrowful song on that festive day when he should have sung a merry, lively waltz or a vigorous march.
Kim Chol (alias Kim Chol Hui) asked him, shaking him by the arm, ��Brother Il Ryong, why are you singing such a song on this happy day?��
��I don��t know. Arirang just came out of my mouth. Yet, we have passed through many crises, haven��t we?��
Kim Il Ryong finished singing and glanced at Kim Chol, with tears in his eyes.
What he said made me muse over the trials we had overcome to greet that day. Kim Il Ryong himself was the epitome of all these trials. He had lived through the nationalist movement as an Independence Army soldier, and also through the communist movement. He had lived in Korea, Manchuria and in the Maritime Province of Siberia. His very life was a continuation of suffering, lamentation and tears.
Arirang was a musical interpretation of his life. At a historic junc��ture when he could laugh off all his sorrows and jump from setback to offensive, he sang the song to sum up his tortuous past and announce a fresh start in a jubilant mood.
If we had not met Liu Ben-cao on our way, what would have hap��pened to us and to the destiny of the guerrilla army? With this thought I express my silent gratitude to him, who has now passed away.
Liu Ben-cao was happier than anyone else at the success of our negotiations with Commander Yu. When I left the town, he followed me a long way from the military camp and said in excitement that now we were friends, friendly forces, we should destroy the Japanese impe��rialist aggressors together. When I heard of his death, I mourned, remembering the eventful days at Yuwen Middle School and in the walled town of Antu where we had held the negotiations.
Thanks to the successful negotiations with Commander Yu we were able to make our guerrilla army legitimate and have an ally in the war of resistance against the Japanese imperialists. The success also gave us the belief that in the great, patriotic cause we would be able to form a united front with the nationalists of another country who had a different ideology and different ideals.
This belief, I think, has had a great influence on my political career of more than half a century since then. Whenever I encountered offi��cials who were prejudiced or hesitant in dealing with the matter of win��ning over the nationalists with a different ideology and different ideals and people with chequered records from the propertied classes, I would tell them about the experience I had gained in the negotiations with Commander Yu and persuaded them to be magnanimous.
Back in Xiaoshahe I sent detailed information of our negotiations with Commander Yu and the resultant formation of the special detach��ment of Koreans to Ri Kwang who had been struggling with the prob��lem of working with the national salvation army unit in the Wangqing area, and gave him the assignment of forming without delay another special detachment in Wangqing, in view of our experience in Antu.
Ri Kwang had been working underground until then. I sent one of my companies to him so that he could form a special detachment there and emerge from underground to conduct legitimate operations.
The special detachments were formed of Koreans. Of Korean units only my unit and Ri Kwang��s unit conducted legitimate activities in relation with the national salvation army.
The naming of the special detachment at that time was, so to speak, a tactical measure to ensure the legitimate activities of our guerrilla army, improve our relations with the Chinese nationalist units and form an anti-Japanese allied front with them.
After forming the special detachment we pushed ahead with prepa��rations for expanding and reorganizing it into the Anti-Japanese Peo��ple��s Guerrilla Army as soon as possible.
The organizational structure was established after a wide-ranging discussion. Some comrades were very apprehensive of the small num��ber of people of working-class origin in the guerrilla army. An investi��gation into those 100 men applying to join showed that most of them were students or peasants. Alarmed at this fact, some of my comrades said that if the army was composed mainly of such people, it would mean violating Marxist-Leninist principles for forming a revolutionary army, and that it might be a factor leading to the degeneration of the revolutionary army.
I explained to them that, although the general principle of Marxist-Leninist military science regarded the industrial working class as the main component of a revolutionary army, there was no need to apply this principle mechanically. Although the industrial working class was relatively small in our country, with peasants accounting for the over��whelming majority of the population, I said, we could not postpone the formation of the guerrilla army until the number of workers had increased. I told them that the peasants and students in our country had as high a revolutionary spirit and as strong a national spirit as the work��ing class, that it would be good if people from different backgrounds fought with the ideology of the working class, and that the preponder��ance of peasants and students in the revolutionary army would not cause the army to degenerate.
In establishing a command system we did not regard the existing formula as absolute. We defined the organizational structure in such a way as to increase the combat strength to the maximum and to keep the number of commanding officers to the minimum to suit the characteris��tics of guerrilla warfare. In short, we made the command system as sim��ple as possible. We did not maintain a supply department or a supply officer. We ensured that everyone was able to cook, launder, fight and, if necessary, conduct political activities.
How much useful information we would have received if we had such a book as On War24 by Carl von Clausewitz at that time! In those days we had no more than the basic military knowledge that the triangu��lar system of military organization had been created by Napoleon. We knew of Clausewitz only by name. I obtained his work On War for the first time during the Second World War. His principle that the com��mand system should be simplified so as to increase combat strength sounded reasonable to me.
The Anti-Japanese People��s Guerrilla Army was formed with the company as the basic combat unit. I was elected commander and con��currently political commissar.
Uniforms for the army were made from cloth dyed green in water and boiled oak-tree bark. A five-pointed piece of red cloth inscribed with the company number was worn on the left breast of the tunic. We were to wear caps with a red star insignia and white leggings. Our hearts swelled as we prepared the design of the uniform, the finishing touch to the formation of the guerrilla army.
The members of the Women��s Association began to make the uni��forms according to our design. My mother, even though she was suffer��ing from her recurrent illness, cut the cloth or handled a sewing machine with all her heart with the other members of the Women��s Association.
In the second half of April 1932, we held a meeting to finalize the preparations for the formation of the Anti-Japanese People��s Guerrilla Army in Antu. The meeting discussed the date and place of the inaugu��ration of the guerrilla army along with the final screening of the appli��cants, defined the area of its immediate activities and adopted general measures related with the activities of the guerrilla army.
After the meeting the recruits assembled at Liujiafenfang (Polchatun), at the entrance to Sandaobaihe and then proceeded to Xiaoshahe. The recruits numbered more than 100; those whose names I still remember are Cha Kwang Su, Pak Hun, Kim Il Ryong (from Xiaoshahe), Jo Tok Hwa (from Xiaoshahe), ��pockmark�� (a nickname, from Xiaoshahe), Jo Myong Hwa (from Xiaoshahe), Ri Myong Su (from Xiaoshahe), Kim Chol (alias Kim Chol Hui, from Xinglongcun), Kim Pong Gu (from Xinglongcun), Ri Yong Bae (from Xinglongcun), a Kwak (from Xinglongcun), Ri Pong Gu (from Sanrenfang), Pang In Hyon (from Sanrenfang), Kim Jong Hwan, Ri Hak Yong (from Korea), Kim Tong Jin (from Korea), Pak Myong Son (from Yanji), An Thae born (from Yanji) and Han Chang Hun (from south Manchuria).
On the morning of April 25, 1932, we held the founding ceremony of the Anti-Japanese People��s Guerrilla Army on the tableland at Tuqidi��an. The guerrillas, dressed in their new uniforms and with their guns on their shoulders, lined up in unit order in the clearing on the tableland sur��rounded by larch trees, and the people from Xiaoshahe and Xinglongcun were buzzing, as they stood in a group at one edge of the clearing.
When looking at the fresh, sturdy soldiers, my mind was flooded with surging memories. How many miles our comrades had walked, how many meetings they had held, how many speeches they had deliv��ered, how many rugged mountains they had trekked, and how many comrades had laid down their lives in the course of forming this armed force! The Anti-Japanese People��s Guerrilla Army was a priceless cre��ation of our revolution, born of superhuman efforts, a bloody struggle and sacrifice.
Feeling an irresistible urge to summon all the comrades and people who had sacrificed themselves for this day to this tableland at Tuqidian, I made a speech, with strong emotion bursting out of my heart.
As I proclaimed the founding of the Anti-Japanese People��s Guer��rilla Army, the soldiers cheered at the top of their voices and the people applauded them enthusiastically.
On May Day, the militant holiday of the working class of the whole world, the AJPGA entered the county town of Antu with the red flag flying in the van and marched in parade, while blowing trumpets and beating drums. Kim Il Ryong, who had been appointed an officer of the guerrilla army, led the chorus of the march that day. Not only the citi��zens but also the officers and men of the Chinese anti-Japanese nation��alist army units crowded out to the streets and extended a welcome to us with their thumbs up, applauding us to congratulate us.
When we returned to Tuqidian after the parade, Cha Kwang Su and Kim Il Ryong hurried to my house and fetched my bed-ridden mother. Her face did not look well, with wrinkles between her eye-brows and with grey hairs on her head; but her eyes were smiling a quiet smile. She walked to Ri Yong Bae and stroked his rifle, cartridge belt and five-pointed star. Then she proceeded to Kim Chol, Jo Tok Hwa, Kim Il Ryong, Pang In Hyon and Cha Kwang Su, stroking this or that rifle and patting one man��s shoulder, and then another��s. Before long, her eyes were moist. She said:
��I am proud of you. Now we have our own army! That��s what we needed. You must destroy the Japanese and win back the country with��out fail.��
Her voice was thick. Forgetting her devotion to us, she was appar��ently thinking of the painstaking efforts of my father and other patriotic fighters who had passed away, praying for the liberation of the mother��land.
Later guerrilla units were formed in Yanji, Wangqing, Hunchun, Belong and other parts of east Manchuria. Guerrilla units were also formed in north and south Manchuria by such staunch Korean commu��nists as Kim Chaek, Choe Yong Gon, Ri Hong Gwang and Ri Tong Gwang, and began to fight the enemy.
The spring of 1932 advanced with the rumbling of the gunfire of the great war against the Japanese imperialists.