All power to the soviets

Kim Il Sung: The October Revolution & Korea’s independence struggle


It was not until the Fall of that year [1920] when Father [Kim Hyong Jik] returned home to take us with him. He had been gone for a year. During his absence from home, Father was busy rebuilding the Korean People’s Association; he traveled to Yiju, Chang-sung, Byukdong, Chosan, Junggang and other towns in North Pyongahn Province and Manchuria. Father convened Chungsu-dong Conference in November 1918. Representatives of the Association in the province and liaison agents from various sites met there to discuss future actions to rebuild the Association and organize the poor working mass.

Father talked about events in Manchuria and Russia. He was quite enthused about about Lenin and the October Revolution. He said that in Russia, workers, peasants and other toiling people were in charge; he was envious of that. He was angry at the White reactionaries and the 14 nations that had sent intervention troops to Russia to topple the new government of Russia. Since what he said was true and factual, I believe Father had been to Siberia. Like Manchuria, Siberia was a base for national movements and an
important gathering place. Several hundred thousands of Koreans were resident in Siberia at the time of the March First Movement.

Many patriots and nationalist leaders fled there. Lee Jun’s secret mission stopped in Siberia on their way to Hague. Yu In Sik and Lee Sang Sul established the “13-Province Righteous Army” headquarters in Vladivostok It was in Vladivostok that Korean progressives under Yi Dong Whi founded the first Korean socialist organization and began to propagate Marxism-Leninism. The Korean People’s Assembly in Russia established the Korean Provisional Government in Far East Russia. Hong Bom Do and Ahn Jung Gun had military units in active operation in that region.

The Korean exiles in Siberia formed numerous independent groups for Korean independence. Korean nationalists in Russia crossed the Russo-Korean border and attacked Gyongwon, Gyonghum and other Korean towns under Japanese rule. They fought Japanese police and military and inflicted heavy casualties. Korean nationalist troops from Manchuria and Russia worked hand in hand with the Soviet Army and fought the enemies of the Soviet Union. The imperialists attempted to topple the new Soviet government and poured in billions of dollars and tens of thousands of their troops in Russia. They armed Russian reactionaries. Several thousands Korean nationalists rushed to the aid of the struggling Soviets. Many fought as partisans and many joined the Red Army. Monuments in Siberia honor those Koreans who died for socialism.

Korean internationalists fought on the side of Soviet Russia during the Civil War and imperialist intervention of 1918-1922.

Hong Bom Do, Yi Dong Whi , Yuh Woon Hyong and other nationalist leaders conducted intense military campaigns for Korean independence from military bases in Russia. They met Lenin and discussed Korean independence. Their fight for Korea had ended in a sour note at Free City; factionalism, foreign intervention and egoism culminated in the shameful fratricidal self-destruction in the Free City Incident (also known as the Amur River Incident). Nevertheless, their contributions to Korean independence should not be ignored.

My presumption that Father had been to Siberia looking for new members for the Korean People’s Association is not unfounded. Father told us about the demonstrations by the people in northern border regions and we told Father about the heroic activities of the villagers during the March First uprising. I still remember my father saying: “An armed robber in your house will not spare your life, just because you plead for your life. Other armed robbers standing outside will not rush inside to help you no matter how loud you scream. If you want to live, you must fight off the armed robber yourself. Armed robbers must be fought with arms.”

I could see that Father’s mind was set on a new course for Korean independence activities. I learned later that during the March First uprising, Father observed the events unfolding in Korea from various locations in the northern border regions and southern Manchuria. His thoughts were on changes in the class structure in Korea. The March First Movement taught us that you cannot free your country by merely shouting and marching around. The March turned Korea into a gigantic Japanese prison, buried under forests of Japanese guns and bayonets and it would take superhuman efforts to fight the Japanese. We must learn from the Russian revolution and mobilize and arm the people of Korea, in order to free our nation and build a new Korea of equality, freedom and justice for all. This is the gist of Father’s new way of thinking — proletarian revolution.

Father saw that the Korean independence movement was not going anywhere; all it had done was to leave bloody tracks of meaningless sacrifices; he realized that a new strategy was called for. Father saw hope in communism in light of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. The March First fiasco convinced him that we must change our nationalist movement into communist revolution. Father argued for toilers’ revolution at the Chung-su Conference in July 1919. He convened a conference of the Korean People’s Association cadres, liaison officers and leaders of other nationalist organization in August at Hongtong-gu, China. At the conference, Father expounded his belief in transforming our nationalist movement into communist movement. He emphasized that the movement must defeat the Japanese imperialists by our own power, adapting to the prevailing world situations and work to build a society that protect the proletariat.

Formulating concrete steps to go from nationalist movement to communist movement was one of my father’s achievements in our struggle for independence. Father explained his idea of proletarian revolution is to build a new society wherein those without food are given rice and those with nothing to wear are given clothes. He awakened workers, peasants and other toilers by setting examples; he united various organizations and groups into a united front and nurtured it into a powerful organ of revolution. Father advocated that petitions and diplomacy would not bring us freedom and we must rely on military forces to gain freedom. He began to organize new military organizations. Father wanted to train nationalistic youth from farming families on military tactics and leadership and to indoctrinate the existing military leaders and junior officers. They would form the core of a new army of workers and peasants. Father dispatched members of the Korean People’s Association to various military organization to spread his new military doctrine; he directed arms procurements and education of military officers.

Kim Hyong Jik, Korean independence fighter and early communist, father of Kim Il Sung.

Father endeavored to unite military groups. At the time, there were many groups competing to expand and this was the most agonizing defect of our independence movement to my father. In Kan-do and Siberia, there were a host of armed Korean camps. Almost every day, a new “Korean Society”, “Korean Freedom Corps”, “Korea Corp” and so on popped up. There were at least 20 of such armed groups in southern Manchuria alone. They might have achieved something significant, if they got together and coordinated their actions. But the fact of the matter is that they betrayed each other and vied for dominance.

Father feared that this sad situation, if continued, would alienate the Korean people and help Japanese wipe out the camps. Father learned that Korean Independence Youth Corp and Kwangje Youth Corp were at each other’s throat; he rushed to Kwangje and called on the leaders to bury the hatchet and work together for common cause. Thanks to Father, Hong-up Corps, Gung-bi Corps and other armed groups in the Yenan-Yalu region merged into a united national army.

Transforming extant armed groups into a people’s army of workers and peasants and embarking on the road of communist revolution was one of Father’s agenda. This new direction would help unite the armed groups and minimize contentious rifts amongst them. Father worked tirelessly to redirect our military activities until the day he died. He was struck down with an incurable disease. After Father’s announcement of the new direction at the Kwanjun Conference, ideological splits among the nationalists intensified. Even among those who had supported Father’s plan when he was alive deserted after his death. Some of them were captured by the Japanese, some became turncoats, and others scattered away. Few took up the banner of revolution when Father fell. The conservatives in the nationalist camp built walls around them and kept to their old ways; but many progressive leaders chose the new way and later joined in our communist revolution.

Father’s belief in communist movement provided much needed nourishment for my growth.

Kim Il Sung, “Long Live Korean Independence!”, With The Century Vol. 1