CHAPTER 3. THE ARDUOUS POSTWAR YEARS
4. PIONEERING A MARCH TO REVOLUTIONARY
BATTLESITES IN THE MT. PAEKTU AREA
The Mt. Paektu area harbours a concentration of relics of the vigorous military-political activities that Kim Il Sung waged from there at the head of the main unit of the Korean People's Revolutionary Army, during the darkest period of Japanese colonial rule. Until the mid-1950s, educational institutions in Korea would organize visits to scenic spots and ancient monuments, or take students on mountaineering and camping trips on a whole host of occasions, but they showed little concern about visits to revolutionary sites and battle sites.
In late May 1956, Kim Jong Il initiated a march to revolutionary battle sites in the Mt. Paektu area. He told Kim Il Sung about his intention to organize a team of student marchers to travel to the revolutionary battle sites in Ryanggang Province on the occasion of the anniversary of the victorious
Kim Il Sung readily supported him, saying: You would do well to go to the revolutionary battle sites along the route of the anti-Japanese guerrillas, across mountains and through forests. In those difficult days, they marched into the homeland, attacking Pochonbo and fighting a battle in the Musan area. When you get there, you must learn how they fought with faith in final victory.
Kim Jong Il answered that he would heed his advice. Kim I1 Sung continued: As the Korean saying goes, being the first to open the door at dawn brings five blessings. It is not so difficult to be the first to open the door of a house. But it is no easy task to open the door of the country before anyone else, for the sake of the country and the people, the Party and revolution, and venture out on an untrodden path.
That is a most honourable and worthwhile undertaking. The first ever march to revolutionary battle sites is such a venture, according to me. Set out on that untrodden path with firm resolve and you will make it through. Greatly inspired, Kim Jong Il started organizing the march with the firm resolve to hold aloft the banner of the revolutionary tradition.
After forming the group of student marchers, he discussed with them the programme of activities at meetings of the Korean Children's Union, and helped them make the necessary preparations.
Prior to their departure, he emphasized the purpose of the march, namely, to study the Party's revolutionary traditions established by Kim I1 Sung. On June 5, 1956, the group from Pyongyang Middle School No.1 led by Kim Jong Il set out, under a red flag, on a historic tour of revolutionary battle sites, the first of its kind in Korea. This venture of teenagers created a great stir among the people.
On arriving at Hyesan, Kim Jong Il proposed starting with a visit to the grave of Ma Tong Hui, an anti-Japanese revolutionary fighter, saying: The high mountains and deep valleys of the Paektu Range are home to the heroic souls of a large number of fallen anti-Japanese revolutionaries.
Ma Tong Hui was an indomitable fighter who had ensured Kim Il Sung's personal safety: He had cut off his tongue with his teeth in prison for fear that he might reveal the whereabouts of Headquarters in a delirium after being subjected to heavy torture.
After observing a moment's silence in memory of the martyr, Kim Jong Il said: He laid down his young, 26-year-old life for the country and the people. During our current venture, we must assiduously study the revolutionary traditions and take the cue from the infinite loyalty of the anti-Japanese revolutionary forebears to Kim Il Sung.
The group reached the revolutionary battle site of Pochonbo on June 8. They laid floral bouquets before the bronze statue of Kim Il Sung and bowed before it, recalling how he had instilled in the people confidence in national liberation and inspired them in the anti-Japanese war 19 years ago.
They visited the poplar under which he had commanded the battle, and the sites of the destroyed Japanese police substation, fire station, sub-county office, post office and forest station. Then they posed for a photograph under a zelkova, a mute eye-witness to all the events of history.
On June 9, they left Pochonbo and travelled to the banks of Lake Samji along a narrow, dense and overgrown path through the forest- a near wilderness littered with fallen trees and covered with piles of dead leaves.
They drank water from the lake by scooping it up with their hands and drank in the scenic beauty of the clusters of pink azaleas. Kim Jong Il, surveying the thick forests around and the calm, crystal-clear water, said: The lake is so beautiful, just like a picture.
It seems like it is the very source of Korea's clear waters and crisp air. He strolled along the lakeside as he continued:
"My mother used to tell me that at the foot of Mt. Paektu I would find a convergence of three ponds called Lake Samji, a very beautiful spot. She often talked about the break they took here after marching into the homeland under the General's command to attack the Japanese imperialists. She said she had drunk the clear water of the lake and that its sweet taste was unforgettable. I have always felt an irresistible urge to come here, and now my wish has come true."
He cast his glance over to Mt. Paektu, lost in tender memories. "Mt. Paektu is my native place," he resumed, his eyes riveted on the mountain. It was here that the leader lit the torch of the revolution, he said, it will remain standing for ever as a towering eye-witness to the history of the Korean revolution.
A while later the students left the precincts of the lake and started marching down the "Kapsan-Musan Guard Road", after Kim Jong I1 had dissuaded them from boarding a bus and appealed to them to march on foot, just as the anti-Japanese guerrillas had done. They walked with spirited strides, knapsacks on their backs, singing the Guerrilla March.
Kim Il Sung had marched along this very road in broad daylight despite a tight Japanese cordon; now, as he took the same route, Kim Jong Il again marveled at his father's matchless courage, brilliant tactics and faith in ultimate victory.
That night the young marchers slept in the village of the Samjiyon Forest Station. The following day, on June 10, they had to set out on more than 24-km hike through steep and rugged mountains to Rimyongsu through Phothae-ri.
Before leaving, Kim Jong Il checked every one of the students' backpacks. "Comrades, do you feel up to making it through the 24-km journey?" he asked.
"Yes," they answered in unison.
He said encouragingly:
"Once you have determination, nothing is impossible. A man receives training in body and mind by climbing mountains and enduring hardships from childhood."
Once the column started moving, Kim Jong Il marched at its head, leading the others. When he saw one of them lagging behind, he took over his backpack and encouraged him, saying: We are visiting revolutionary battle sites instead of such scenic spots as the Kumgang and Myohyang mountains, in order to follow the example of the anti-Japanese guerrillas.
We even declined a bus drive and are now marching along on foot. If we are not able to endure even this trifling hardship, how can we ever hope to become true sons and daughters of the fatherly Marshal?
He also paid close attention to modelling the group's lifestyle on that of the anti-Japanese guerrillas. When they were taking a break, he got them to set down their backpacks in perfect order, saying: Now that we are at the sites of revolutionary battles, we must take an orderly break, just like the guerrillas. At lunchtime on the banks of the Phothae Stream, he folded up his sleeves and volunteered to cook, saying: I once lived among the guerrillas. Sol must act as a quartermaster.
Finally, the group reached Rimyongsu, having marched their way through forests of Abies nephrolepis, Picea koraiensis, white birches and ash trees.
Kim Jong Il stayed in a humble log-cabin of the village along with the other students, and had dinner with them in the dining-hall of the workers' dormitory.
He saw that the owner of the house was embarrassed at his inability to offer him better lodging, and consoled him, saying: I was born and grew up in a log-cabin like this. So I feel at home here. I'm really glad to see a log-cabin again.
Late into the night, he and the others lay wide awake, enjoying the sound of the rushing Rimyongsu Waterfall. He said: I was just thinking the guerrillas, too, would have heard this sound on their march to Pochonbo. As you know, our country is now going through trying times. In view of the nation's hardships, we must be determined to fight to the finish to complete the Korean revolution, imbibing the staunch faith the guerrillas showed in advancing along the path of revolution under the leader's command.
When the marchers had finally concluded their itinerary, he addressed them thus:
"We have now finished our journey to revolutionary battle sites like Pochonbo and Lake Samji, having marched along the paths taken by the guerrillas. We have, in the process, keenly felt the glory and greatness of our Party's revolutionary traditions established by the leader during the anti-Japanese armed struggle. We have also come to realize that all Koreans should visit the revolutionary battle sites in Ryanggang Province. This will give them better knowledge than any university of politics can."
The students vowed to cherish and develop the Party's revolutionary traditions achieved by Kim Il Sung and to train themselves to be dependable heirs to the revolutionary cause of Juche.
On his return to Pyongyang on June 14, Kim Jong Il talked to Kim I1 Sung in detail about the journey they had undertaken. He said: The revolutionary battle sites, which are permeated with the spirit of our revolutionary forebears, have not been maintained as they should be. Many of them have been neglected and even those under maintenance are not properly managed or used for education in the revolutionary traditions.