On July 8, 2007, the 13th Anniversary of the Great Leader Kim Il Sung’s Demise




Excerpts from Kim Il Sung’s Reminiscences "With the Century"

Volume I


It is extremely moving for a man to look back on his past in his latter years. People lead different lives and their experiences are varied, so it is with different feelings that they look back on their past.

I look back on my life with deep emotion and I have strong memories as an ordinary man and as a politician who has served his country and people. The country and people I have served always occupied an important position in world politics.

I was born in the first period of the country’s ruin in the great national tragedy and spent the early years of my life in the vortex of the rapidly-changing situation at home and abroad, and I came to join my fortune with that of the country and share good times and bad with the people in my childhood. Following this path, I have now reached 80 years of age.

My whole life, which has flowed with the current of the 20th century when the life of mankind has undergone unprecedented vicissitudes and the political map of the world has changed beyond recognition, is the epitome of the history of my country and my people.

Naturally, the course of my life has not been all joy and success. There have been heart-breaking sorrows and sacrifices, and many twists and turns and difficulties. While I made many friends and comrades on the path of my struggle, there were also many people who stood in my way.

My patriotic spirit made me as a teenager cry out against Japan on the streets of Jilin and carry on a risky underground struggle dodging the enemy’s pursuit. Under the banner of anti-Japanese struggle I had to endure hardships going hungry and sleeping outdoors in the deep forests of Mt. Paektu, push my way through endless snowstorms and wage long bloody battles convinced of national liberation, fighting against the formidable enemy scores of times stronger than our forlorn force. After liberation I had to spend many a sleepless night in an effort to save the divided country and again go through indescribable difficulties and distresses in the days of building and defending the people’s state.

In this course, however, I never once shrank back or hesitated.

I have always held a steady helm in my life’s rough voyage, and I owe this to my comrades and to the people who have helped me in good faith.

“The people are my God” has been my constant view and motto. The principle of Juche, which calls for drawing on the strength of the masses who are the masters of the revolution and construction, is my political creed. This has been the axiom that has led me to devote my whole life to the people.

I lost my parents at an early age and have spent my whole life amid the love and expectations of my comrades. I hewed out the path of bloody struggle together with tens of thousands of comrades, and in this process I came to realize keenly the real value of the comrades and organization that shared their lot with me.

I remember my early comrades of the Down-with-Imperialism Union who believed in me and came to follow me on the hill at Huadian in the 1920s when there was no telling as yet if we would ever liberate our homeland, and then those splendid comrades who shielded me from the enemy’s bullets and who laughed as they took their comrade’s place on the scaffold. They never returned to the liberated homeland; they are now lying as spirits of revered memory in the fields and mountains of a foreign country. The many patriots who started on a different path of struggle but joined up with us in the end are no more by our side.

 As I witness our revolution progressing triumphantly and our country prospering, with all the people singing its praises, my heart aches with the thought of the comrades who laid down their lives unhesitatingly for this day; often I lie awake at night with their images before my eyes.

In fact, I little thought of writing my reminiscences. Many people, including celebrated foreign statesmen and well-known literary men, urged me to write my reminiscences, saying that my life would serve as a precious lesson for the people. But I was in no hurry to do so.

Now that a large part of my work is done by Secretary for Organizational Affairs Kim Jong Il, I have been able to find some time. With the change of generations, veteran revolutionaries have departed from this life and the new generation has become the pillar of our revolution. I came to think that it was my duty to tell of the experiences I have gained in the common cause of the nation and of how our revolutionary forerunners gave their lives in their youth for this day. So I came to put down in writing what has happened in my life, a few lines each time I found a spare moment.

I have never considered my life to be extraordinary. I am content and proud to think that my life has been dedicated to my country and nation and spent in the company of the people.

I hope that what I write will convey to posterity the truth and the lessons of life and struggle that if one believes in the people and relies on them, one will regain one’s country and win victory every time, and if one ignores people and is forsaken by them, one will surely fail.


Praying for the souls of the departed revolutionaries,

The Myohyang Mountains

April 1992




1. My Family

My life began in the second decade of the 20th century when Korea was going through the bitterest period of its national tragedy. Before my birth my country had been reduced to the colony of Japan. With the signing of the “annexation of Korea by Japan”51 the sovereign power of the King had passed to the Japanese Emperor and the people of this country had been made slaves who were compelled to act under the “Decrees of the Government-General.”2 Our country, with its long history, rich natural resources and beautiful mountains and rivers, found itself trampled underfoot by the Japanese military.

The people were deeply grieved and trembled with indignation at being robbed of their state power. In the fields and houses of this land, where there was “wailing all day after the nation’s fall,” many loyalists and Confucian scholars killed themselves, unable to bear the agony of the country’s ruin. Even nameless people from the lowest class, lamenting the tragic fate of the country, responded to the disgraceful “annexation of Korea by Japan” by committing suicide.

A barbaric system of rule by gendarmerie and police was established in our country, and moreover even primary schoolteachers, to say nothing of policemen and civil servants, wore gold-laced uniforms, regulation caps and sabres. On the strength of Imperial ordinances the governor-general controlled the army and navy and exercised unlimited power to stop the ears and mouths of our people and bind them hand and foot. All political and academic organizations founded by Koreans were forced to disband.

Korean patriots were thrashed with lead-weighted cowhide lashes in detention rooms and prisons. Law-enforcement agents who had adopted the methods of torture used in the days of the Tokugawa shogunate burned the flesh of Koreans with red-hot iron rods.

Successive decrees of the government-general that were issued to blot out all that was Korean, even forced Koreans to dye their tradition­al white clothes black. The big businesses of Japan that had come across the Korean Strait carried off heaps of treasure and the riches of our country in the name of various ordinances such as the “Company Act” and the “Survey Act.”

While visiting various parts of the world I have had the opportunity of seeing many former colonial countries, but I have never seen imperialism so hideous that it deprived people of their language and surnames and even plundered them of their tableware.

Korea in those days was a living hell. The Korean people were no more alive than dead. Lenin was absolutely correct when he said, “...Japan will fight so as to continue to plunder Korea, which she is doing with unprecedented brutality, combining all the latest technical inventions with purely Asiatic tortures.”

My boyhood coincided with the time when the imperialists were struggling fiercely to redivide their colonies throughout the world. In the year of my birth successive sensational events took place in many parts of the world. That year a US marine corps landed in Honduras, France made Morocco its protectorate and Italy occupied the Rhodes of Turkey.

In Korea the “Land Survey Act” was published and the people were restless.

In short, I was born at an uneasy time of upheaval and passed my boyhood in unfortunate circumstances. This situation naturally influenced my development.

After hearing from my father about the circumstances of our country’s ruin, I felt a profound bitterness against the feudal rulers and made up my mind to devote my life to the regaining of our nation’s sovereignty.

While other people were travelling the world by warship and by train, our country’s feudal rulers rode on donkeys and wore horse-hair hats, singing of scenic beauties. Then, when aggressive forces from the west and east threatened them with their navies, they opened the doors of the country that had been so tightly closed. The feudal monarchy then hosted a contest for concessions in which the foreign forces had their own way.

Even when the country’s fate was at stake, the corrupt and incompetent feudal rulers, given to flunkeyism towards the great powers for generations, indulged in sectarian strife under the manipulation of the great powers. So, when the pro-Japanese faction gained the upper hand, Japanese soldiers guarded the royal palace, and when the pro-Russian faction was more powerful, Russian soldiers guarded the Emperor. Then, when the pro-Chinese faction got the better of the others, Chinese guards stood on sentry at the palace.

As a result, the Queen was stabbed to death by a terrorist gang within the royal palace (the “Ulmi incident” of 1895), the King was detained in a foreign legation for a year (“Moving to the Russian legation” in 1896), and the King’s father was taken away as prisoner to a foreign country; yet the Korean government had to apologize to that country.

When even the duty of guarding the royal palace was left to foreign armies, who was there to guard and take care of this country? In this wide world a family is no more than a small drop of water. But a drop of water is also a part of the world and cannot exist apart from the latter. The waves of modern history that spelled the ruin of Korea swept mercilessly into our house. But the members of my family did not yield to the threat. Rather, they threw themselves unhesitatingly into the storm, sharing the nation’s fate.

Our family moved north from Jon in North Jolla Province in search of a living at the time of my ancestor Kim Kye Sang.

Our family settled at Mangyongdae at the time of my great-grand­father Kim Ung U. He was born at Jungsong-ri in Pyongyang and worked as a farmer from his early years. He was so poor that he became a grave keeper for the landlord Ri Phyong Thaek in Pyongyang and moved to the grave keeper’s cottage at Mangyongdae in the 1860s.

Mangyongdae is a place of great scenic beauty. The hill by our house is called Nam Hill, and when you look out over the River Tae-dong from the top of the hill you command a view that is like a beautiful picture scroll. Rich people and government officials vied with one another in buying hills in the Mangyongdae area as burial plots because they were attracted by the beautiful scenery there. The grave of one governor of Phyongan Province was at Mangyongdae.

Working as tenant farmers from generation to generation, my family eked out a scanty living. The family line had been continued by a sole heir for three generations before my grandfather Kim Po Hyon produced six sons and daughters. Then the number of members of the family increased to nearly ten.

My grandfather worked hard to feed his children. At early dawn when other people were still in bed he would go round the village to collect manure. At night he would twist straw ropes, make straw sandals and plait straw mats by lamplight.

My grandmother Ri Po Ik spun thread every night.

My mother Kang Pan Sok weeded the fields all day long and wove cotton by night with my aunts Hyon Yang Sin, Kim Kuilnyo, Kim Hyong Sil and Kim Hyong Bok.

Ours was such a poor home that my uncle Kim Hyong Rok was unable to attend school and helped my grandfather in farming from his boyhood. A slight knowledge of the Thousand-Character Text (a primer of Chinese characters) he learned at the age of nine was all the education he got.

All the members of my family toiled as hard as they could, but they could never afford enough gruel. Our gruel was prepared from uncleaned sorghum, and I still remember that it was so coarse that it was difficult to swallow.

So such things as fruit and meat were way beyond our means. Once I had sore throat and grandmother obtained some pork for me. I ate it and my throat got better. After that, whenever I felt like eating pork I wished I had a sore throat again.

While I was spending my childhood at Mangyongdae, my grand­mother always regretted that we had no clock in our house. Although she was not a covetous woman, she was very envious of clocks hanging on the walls of other houses. In our neighbourhood there was one house with a clock.

I have heard that my grandmother began to speak enviously of that clock after my father began attending Sungsil Middle School. Because we had no clock, every morning she would wake up before dawn after a restless night and, guessing the time, quickly prepare breakfast. It was 12 kilometres from Mangyongdae to Sungsil Middle School, so my father might have been late for school if she had not cooked breakfast early enough.

Sometimes she would prepare a meal in the middle of the night and, not knowing if it was time for her son to leave for school, sit looking out through the eastern window of the kitchen for hours. At such times she would say to my mother, “Go and find out what time it is at the house behind.” However, my mother would not enter the house, reluctant to bother the people there, but would squat outside the fence waiting for the clock to strike the hours. Then she would return and tell grandmother the time.

When I returned home from Badaogou, my aunt inquired after my father before telling me that whereas my father had a hard time walking a long way to school every day, it would be good for me to go and stay at my mother’s parents’ home at Chilgol, as the school was nearby.

My family could not afford the clock my grandmother so desired until national liberation.

My family, though living only on gruel, were warm-hearted and ready to help one another and their neighbours.

“We can live without money, but not without humanity,” was what my grandfather used to say when admonishing his sons and daughters. This was the philosophy of my family.

My father was sensitive to new things and had a great desire to learn. He was taught the Thousand-Character Text at the private village school, yet he was always anxious to go to a regular school.

In the summer of the year when the Emissary Incident at The Hague3 took place, a joint athletics meeting was held in Sulmae village with the participation of the pupils from Sunhwa, Chuja, Chilgol and Sinhung Schools. My father went to the athletics meeting as a champion of Sunhwa School and took first place in many events such as the horizontal bar, wrestling and running. But in the high jump he lost first place to a competitor from another school. What happened was that his pigtail was caught in the crosspiece, and this prevented him from winning.

After the sports meeting my father went up the hill at the back of the school and cut off his pigtail. In those days it was no easy thing to cut off one’s pigtail without the permission of one’s parents and in disregard of the old convention that had been passed down over hundreds of years.

My grandfather took the matter very seriously and created a great fuss. By nature my family were strong in character.

Afraid of grandfather, my father dared not come home that day. He hung around outside the fence, so my great-grandmother took him to the back gate and gave him a meal. She loved him dearly, he being the heir to the family. My father would often say that he was able to attend Sungsil Middle School thanks to her kind assistance. She persuaded my grandfather Kim Po Hyon to allow my father to go to a modern school. In those days when feudal customs still prevailed, my grandfather’s generation were not very impressed by modern schools.

My father started at Sungsil Middle School in the spring of 1911, the year after the country’s ruin. That was in the early period of the introduction of modern civilization, so few children of the nobility were receiving the new-style school education. It was very difficult for poor families like ours that could hardly afford enough sorghum gruel to send their children to school.

The monthly tuition fee at Sungsil Middle School at the time was two won. To earn two won my mother went to the River Sunhwa and collected shellfish to sell. My grandfather grew melons, my grandmother young radishes, and even my uncle who was only 15 years old made straw sandals to earn money to help his elder brother with his school fees.

My father worked after school until dusk in a workshop run by the school to earn money. Then he would read books for hours in the school library before returning home late at night. After sleeping for a few hours, he would go to school again in the morning.

As is clear, our family was a simple and ordinary one the like of which could be found commonly in any farm village or town in Korea in those days. It was a poor family that was not particularly outstanding or remarkable in comparison with other families.

But my family were all ready to sacrifice themselves without hesitation when it came to doing something for the country and the people.

My great-grandfather was a grave keeper for another family, but he ardently loved his country and home town.

When the US imperialist aggressors’ ship General Sherman4 sailed up the River Taedong and anchored at Turn Islet, my great-grandfather, together with some other villagers, collected ropes from all the houses and stretched them across the river between Konyu Islet and Mangyong Hill; then they rolled some stones into the river to block the way of the pirate ship.

When he heard that the General Sherman had sailed up to Yanggak Islet and was killing the people there with its cannons and guns, and that its crew were stealing the people’s possessions and raping the women, he rushed to the walled city of Pyongyang at the head of the villagers. The people of the city, with the government army, loaded a lot of small boats with firewood, tied them together, set them on fire and floated them down towards the aggressor ship, so that the American ship was set on fire and sank with all hands. I was told that my great­-grandfather played a major role in this attack.

After the sinking of the General Sherman, the US imperialist aggressors sent another vessel, the warship Shenandoah,5 which sailed into the mouth of the River Taedong, where its crew committed murder, incendiary attacks and pillage. The people of Mangyongdae again formed a volunteers unit and fought to defend their country from the Shenandoah.

My grandfather, who used to say, “A man should die fighting the enemy on the battlefield,” always told his family to live honourably for their country and he offered his children unhesitatingly to the revolutionary struggle.

My grandmother, too, taught her children to live uprightly and stoutly.

Once the Japanese treated her harshly by dragging her round the mountains and fields of Manchuria in the depth of winter in order to make me “submit.” But she scolded them and remained strong and proud as befitting the mother and grandmother of revolutionaries.

My maternal grandfather Kang Ton Uk was an ardent patriot and teacher who devoted his whole life to the education of the younger generation and the independence movement, teaching the children and young people at the private school he had founded in his home village. My maternal uncle Kang Jin Sok was also a patriot who joined the independence movement when still young.

My father taught me tirelessly from my early childhood to foster profound patriotism. From his desire and hope he named me Song Ju, meaning that I should be a pillar of the country.

As a pupil of Sungsil Middle School he, with his two younger brothers, planted three white aspens near the house to symbolize the three brothers. In those days there were no white aspens in Mangyongdae. That day my father told his brothers that the white aspen was a rapidly growing tree and that they, the three brothers, should grow rapidly and strong like the tree so as to win national independence and enjoy a good life.

Later, my father left Mangyongdae to continue his revolutionary activities and, following him, my uncle Kim Hyong Gwon took the path of struggle.

Then only my eldest uncle was left behind in Mangyongdae, but the three white aspens grew into tall trees. But their shadows fell across the fields of the landlord. The landlord said that the shadows would harm his crop, and he felled one of the trees. Yet, our family could not protest. Such was the lawlessness of the time.

I heard of this when I returned home after the liberation of the country. I felt really angry about it as I remembered my late father’s beautiful dream.

This was not the only cause of regret.

Several ash trees had stood in front of my old home. As a boy, I would often climb the trees and play in them with my friends. When I returned home after 20 years’ absence, I discovered that the tree that had stood closest to the house was no longer there.

My grandfather told me that my uncle had cut it down. The story was really pitiful.

While I was waging the war in me mountains, the police had tormented my family unbearably.

Police from the Taephyong sub-station took turns to keep our house under surveillance. Taephyong was some distance from Mangyongdae, and in summer the shade afforded by the ash trees served as a sort of guard post. As they sat in the shadow, they would call to the villagers or fan themselves to sleep. Sometimes they would drink alcohol and eat chicken or harass my grandfather and uncle.

One day my uncle, who was so good and quiet, went out with an axe and cut down one of the ash trees, and my grandfather told me that he had not even thought of dissuading him. He added, “There’s a saying that one is pleased to see the bugs die in a fire even though one’s house is burnt down.” His words caused me to smile wryly.

My grandparents had a very hard time because of their revolutionary sons and grandsons. But in spite of their bitter trials and persecution they never gave in but fought on stoutly. In the closing period of Japanese rule the Japanese imperialists forced Koreans to change their names to Japanese ones. But my grandparents refused to do so. In my home village only my family held out to the last without changing their names to Japanese ones.

All the other families changed their names. If they did not change their names, people found it hard to survive because the Japanese government authorities refused them food rations.

My uncle Hyong Rok was beaten and summoned to the police sub­station many times because he would not agree to change his name.

“Now you aren’t Kim Hyong Rok. What’s your name?” the police­man in charge would demand. To this my uncle would answer, “It’s Kim Hyong Rok.” At this the policeman would leap on him and slap him across the face.

“Tell me again. What’s your name?” the policeman would ask him once more. Then he would answer calmly, “It’s Kim Hyong Rok.” Then the policeman would slap him even harder on the face. Every time he replied, “Kim Hyong Rok,” he was boxed on the ears. Yet he never submitted.

My grandfather said to his son: “Its a truly good thing that you haven’t changed your name to a Japanese one. When Song Ju’s fighting the Japanese, you can’t change your name into a Japanese one, can you? We mustn’t change our names on any account, even if it means we’re beaten to death.” When members of the family said farewell to my grandfather and grandmother and left the house, they would walk out through the brush­wood gate in high spirits, saying that they would return after liberating the country.

But I was the only one who returned.

My father, who devoted his whole life to the independence movement, died under a foreign sky at the age of 31. A man of 31 is in the prime of his life. My grandmother came from home after his funeral. Even now I can see her before my eyes as she wept at the side of her son’s grave in the village of Yangdicun, Fusong, Manchuria.

Six years later my mother, too, passed away, in Antu, without seeing the day of national independence.

My younger brother Chol Ju who joined a guerrilla unit after our mother’s death and fought the enemy was killed in battle. Because he fell on the battlefield his body was never recovered.

A few years later, my youngest uncle who had been sentenced to long years in prison and was serving his term in Mapho gaol died from cruel torture. Our family received notice that they should recover his body but could not do so because they had no money. So, my uncle’s ashes were committed to the earth in the prison cemetery.

Thus, over a period of 20 years many of the strong, healthy sons of our family turned to ashes and lay scattered in foreign lands.

When I returned home after liberation, my grandmother hugged me outside the brushwood gate and pounded me on my chest, saying: “How have you come back alone? Where did you leave your father and mother? Did you not want to return with them?” With her heart bursting with such deep grief, what was my agony as I walked through the brushwood gate of my old home alone without bringing with me even the bones of my parents who were dead and lying in a far-off foreign land? After that, whenever I passed through the gate of someone else’s home, I would wonder how many members of the family had gone out through that gate and how many of them had returned. All the gates in this country have a story about tearful partings and are associated with a longing for those who have not returned and the heart-rending pain of loss. Tens of thousands of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of this country gave their lives on the altar of national liberation. It took our people as long as 36 years to win back their country, crossing a sea of blood, tears and sighs and braving storms of shells and bullets. It was 36 years of bloody war which cost us too high a price. But if it were not for this bloody war and sacrifices, how could we ever imagine our country as it is today? This century of ours would still be a century of misery and suffering with the disgraceful slavery continuing.

My grandfather and grandmother were old country people who knew nothing but farming. But truth to tell, I marvelled at their firm revolutionary spirit and was greatly inspired by it.

It is not easy to bring up children and send them all out on the path of the revolution and then give them constant support while enduring silently all the ensuing trials and hardships. I think this is much more impressive than a few battles or some years in prison.

The misfortune and distress of our family is the epitome of the misfortune and distress that befell our people after they lost their country. Under the inhuman rule of Japanese imperialism millions of Koreans lost their lives—dying of starvation, of the cold, from burning or from flogging.

In a ruined country neither the land nor the people can remain at peace. Under the roofs of houses in a ruined country even the traitors who live in luxury as a reward for betraying their country will not be able to sleep in peace. Even though they are alive, the people are worse than gutter dogs, and even if the mountains and rivers remain the same, they will not retain their beauty.

A man who perceives this truth before others is called a forerunner; he who struggles against difficulties to save his country from tragedy is called a patriot; and he who sets fire to himself to demonstrate the truth and overthrows the injust society by rousing the people to action is called a revolutionary.

My father was a pioneer of our country’s national liberation movement. He dedicated his whole life to the revolution from his birth in Mangyongdae on July 10, 1894, until his death as he lamented the dark reality of national decay on June 5, 1926.

I was born the eldest son of my father Kim Hyong Jik at Mangyongdae on April 15, 1912.



President Kim Il Sung visits his native home in Mangyongdae

some 20 years after he embarked on the road of revolution


President Kim Il Sung meets with his grandmother


Volume VII

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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 mist 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 from 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 from 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’ve 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 bum 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 Chongn 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 from 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 from 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.