Mistake of an Old-Timer
In the summer of 1936, the main KPRA force halted at a timber mill in the Mt. Paektu area.
The lumberjacks were overjoyed at the prospect of seeing General Kim Il Sung in the flesh. But they could not tell him from the other guerrillas, for they all looked alike in uniform.
“Which one is the General?” the workers asked one another, eager to see him even at a distance, but no one was confident except an elderly worker called the “old-timer.”
“Kim Il Sung is the greatest general of all. He can shrink distances,” he declared with a superior air. “So he must look out of the ordinary in age, manner or appearance. We must look for a man in a special uniform.”
The workers were eager to find a guerrilla who fitted this description, but to their disappointment they could not.
They spotted a man who looked out of the ordinary, and wondered if he was the General. The old-timer rebuffed them, saying, “Nonsense! He is the quartermaster in charge of supplying meals for the unit. I’ve even helped him prepare meals. Is it possible the General could be in such a uniform?”
The workers scurried about again, but failed to identify the General. Just as the unit was moving out, they pressed the old-timer to ask the “quartermaster.” He had no choice but to do so.
“Quartermaster,” he said, “would you please tell us which one of you is the General? All of us want to see him.”
The “quartermaster” did not answer, but only smiled. Then laughter burst out from among the soldiers, to the embarrassment of the old-timer.
“We are the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army fighting the Japanese imperialists,” said the “quartermaster” gently. “So Kim Il Sung too must be nearby.”
“Nearby?” The old-timer gasped, plumping down on the ground. “Then you mean he is not here?”
He was raised to his feet by the real quartermaster, who whispered to him: “General Kim Il Sung is standing before you.”
Surprised, he looked at the “quartermaster” in ordinary uniform, who had a beaming smile on his face.
“Oh, General!” he exclaimed, kneeling down. “Forgive my mistake!”
The following happened in the spring of 1937, when the main KPRA force was bivouacking in the forests near Donggang in China.
The soldiers on night guard duty brought some maize from a field yet to be harvested. It might have been a vast relief to the unit that had been making do with rice husks and water for days, but it was a grave offense, for they had not got permission from the field owner.
Kim Il Sung immediately ordered them to bring the owner.
Hours passed, and a gray-haired Chinese man was brought.
The Commander apologized and offered him 30 yuan.
“Why do you apologize, sir?” protested the owner. “A few knapsacks of maize amount to nothing. I must not be paid by the revolutionary army! If the villagers know, they will criticize me. I’ll not receive money or take the maize back.”
Kim Il Sung was grateful, but he finally persuaded the old man to take both the money and the knapsacks of maize. He asked some of the other guerrillas who was the Commander.
When he learned the name, he lamented over his “offense.” He brought out all his family members to pick maize, load it onto a horse-drawn sleigh and drive it to the unit.
Kim Il Sung could no longer decline his kind offer.
The old man volunteered the news that a lot of maize was available at an insam (ginseng) field some eight km away, and that he could help the guerrillas purchase it.
Thus the unit, several hundred strong, secured a supply of food and salt enough to last more than a month.