When Kim Il Sung declared an armed struggle against the Japanese imperialist aggressors, his nation’s power was fairly trifling. It was useless to mention Korea’s military capabilities. At the time the imperialist Japan, occupying Korea in a violent way, was a newly emerging military power which was on its straight road to expansion. It was a formidable aggressor armed to the teeth with modern weapons and combat equipment.

A statue of President Kim Il Sung on the shore of Lake Samji

A statue of President Kim Il Sung on the shore of Lake Samji

The imperialists called Kim Il Sung’s Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army (AJPGA) “a drop in the ocean.” In its initial days the AJPGA had no more than 100 fighters in its ranks. It, however, achieved the historic victory of national liberation against the one-million-strong Japanese Kwantung Army, elite military forces armed with modern weapons like planes and tanks.

What is the secret?

In the summer of 1936 Wan Shun, a commanding officer of the Chinese national salvation army, had a talk with Commander Kim Il Sung of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. Congratulating Kim Il Sung on his victories in different battles, Wan said that famous Chinese generals had defeated their enemy using their resources since the periods of Chunqiu and Warring States, and that the Japanese had fought relying on their warlike spirit. Then he asked the Commander what kinds of tactics he was employing to achieve victory in every battle. The Korean leader replied that the art of war was important but that the soldiers’ mental state was even more vital.

From the early days of the armed struggle Kim Il Sung put primary efforts into training his soldiers as those with a sturdy patriotic faith and an adamant revolutionary will and as passionate fighters afire with optimism for the future. The Korean People’s Revolutionary Army soldiers had to deal with arduous battles and marches day after day and overcome all manner of sufferings from cold and hunger, but they held cheerful recreation parties of dancing and singing by campfires at night. They surmounted all the difficulties and trials cheerfully, and achieved a victory in every battle by fighting with a towering determination to annihilate the enemy while singing revolutionary songs.

The KPRA was a collective of people who approached adversities with cheer and turned misfortune into blessing, people who believed that there is always a hope as long as there is a life. Choe Hui Suk, a woman fighter of the KPRA, was an example. One day in 1943 she, along with her small group, encountered the enemy on the way to the headquarters to deliver reconnaissance information. In the battle she was arrested badly wounded. However, she did not surrender to all conciliatory tricks and brutal tortures and challenged the enemy remaining true to her revolutionary principles to the last moment of her life. She kept the conviction that the Korean revolution would surely emerge victorious as it was led by Kim Il Sung. Even though the enemy gouged out her eyes she shouted out, “I can still see victory in the revolution!” at the execution site.

Another fighter remained true to his revolutionary principles by cutting his tongue himself while suffering all tortures by the enemy. Yet another fighter cut his rotten foot himself with a tin saw singing a revolutionary song.

Kim Il Sung later recollected that the KPRA was a body of optimistic people, the like of which had never been known in all history, Eastern and Western, and that probably [no army] had been as vivacious and full of revolutionary optimism and ardour for a great future as the KPRA was.

When the Commander decided guerrilla warfare he saw flexible application of constantly-varying tactics in guerrilla warfare, which were different from regular warfare, as the essential guarantee of victory. During the guerrilla struggle he standardized and published all principles and methods of guerrilla activities and Juche-oriented tactics of fighting. Typical of them were Guerrilla Actions and Guerrilla Manual. He led his soldiers wisely to apply them smartly into battles. He flexibly applied various and everchanging guerrilla operations and tactics in big and small battles, and dealt a fatal blow to the enemy, who were proud of their military superiority, putting them on the defensive. During the arduous guerrilla struggle which was a succession of battles day and night, there were invented and applied varieties of adroit and consummate guerrilla tactics including tactics of allurement and ambush, surprise attack, blow to the west while pretending to be dashing to the east, and 400 kilometres advance at a bound.

“As fish cannot live without water, so guerrillas cannot live without the people”—this, formulated by the Commander, was the mode of existence and a principle of activity for the anti-Japanese guerrilla army.

Under the wise leadership of the Commander the guerrilla army wrote a new history of army-civilian relations with an unprecedented philosophy of fish and water. When guerrillas violated mass rules he would tell them: You should love the people more ardently. If we are rude to the people, they will turn their backs on us. Nothing is more horrible than abandonment by the people. The greatest tragedy for a revolutionary is to forfeit the love of people.

Thus, all officers and soldiers of the army found their value of existence in people, and regarded loving the people and being supported by the people as their lifeor-death question before their victory or loss in battles. Responding to the army’s lofty spirit of loving the people, the people displayed a high degree of spirit of supporting the army without be ing fooled by any tricks of the enemy. From the mid-1930s the Japanese imperialists enforced a vicious policy of internment villages for the purpose of “separating the people from the bandits.” But they could not check the flow of the popular sympathy with the revolutionary army. Despite the high wall of the “internment villages,” the people sent whatever they wanted to the guerrilla army and did whatever they wanted for the army. Kim Il Sung recollected with deep emotion: The enemy called us isolated beings, yet here we were, on a sea of people whose devoted love supported us.

Upholding the banner “Let us carry out the Korean revolution by our own efforts!” the Commander led the guerrillas to solve all problems arising in the guerrilla struggle by their own efforts. Under the banner of selfreliance, the guerrillas repaired varieties of weapons in arsenals in the jungle with their own resources, and even produced “Yongil bombs” and wooden cannons. In those days there appeared a story that 600 military uniforms were produced using a sewing machine needle made with a rasp. In the history of the revolutionary struggle for national liberation self-reliance opened for the first time a new era of struggle when everything was created from scratch. It became an important spiritual factor in accomplishing the great cause of the victorious anti-Japanese revolution.

Kim Il Sung took up arms and achieved the historic cause of national liberation through protracted bloody guerrilla warfare. He was truly the leader and organizer of the victorious antiJapanese armed struggle.

Article: Ri Yong Nam