The Battle of Pochonbo, organized and commanded by Kim Il Sung, Commander of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, 80 years ago, was of tremendous importance in the Korean people’s struggle for national liberation. In a broad sense, the attack on Pochonbo was designed to bring about the revival of the nation; in a narrow sense, it was to open up a decisive stage and make a leap forward in the revolutionary struggle against the Japanese imperialists.

On the eve of the battle the Japanese imperialists’ policy of obliteration of the Korean nation which started with their military occupation of Korea (1905–1945) reached the extreme. They mercilessly cracked down on all the progressive and national characters by force of arms on one hand and craftily pursued the appeasement and deception tricks to obliterate the Korean nation on the other. Every possible means ranging from the autocratic organs of the Japanese imperialists to a record of music were employed to obliterate Korea and deprive the Korean nation of their souls. In the spring of 1937, the Government-General ordered all the government and public offices in Korea to begin writing official papers in Japanese. To get rid of a language, an essential characteristic of a nation, was a decisive matter affecting the destiny of the entire nation, and it was as good as annihilating all the Koreans with a single stroke of the sword.

Monument to the Victorious Battle of Pochonbo.

Monument to the Victorious Battle of Pochonbo.

Let us advance into the homeland as soon as possible to teach the Japanese a lesson. Let us show them that we Korean people are alive, that we will not abandon our spoken and written language, and that we do not recognize the ideas that “Korea and Japan are one” and that “Japanese and Koreans are of the same descent.” Let them see and understand that we Koreans refuse to be “imperial subjects” and that we will carry on an armed resistance till the fall of Japan. With this faith Kim Il Sung led the main unit of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army across the Amnok River.

At 10 p.m. of June 4, 1937, Commander Kim Il Sung raised his pistol and pulled the trigger, and a loud report shook the night sky over Pochonbo. With the signal a barrage of fire broke out to destroy the enemy’s establishments in the town. The police substation, which was the citadel of all sorts of repression and atrocities, was destroyed. The subcounty office, post office, forest conservation office, fire hall and various other enemy’s administrative centres were engulfed in flames. The flames over the night sky of Pochonbo clearly showed that though the Japanese were pretending to be the “leader of Asia,” they were something that could be smashed and burnt up, like rubbish.

Posters of the Proclamation and The Ten point Programme of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland authored by the Commander were posted on the street of Pochonbo. Political operatives of the KPRA scattered several kinds of written appeals and leaflets, conducting dynamic political activities and people gathered on the street from every corner, shouting “Long live General Kim Il Sung!” and “Long live the independence of Korea!” full of delight. Kim Il Sung, standing before the cheering crowds of people, made a speech on fighting staunchly for the liberation of Korea, implanting confidence in victory and appealing for all-people resistance against Japan.

The Battle of Pochonbo was a small one that involved no large guns, aircraft or tanks. It was an ordinary raid, which combined the use of small arms and a speech designed to stir up a public feeling. The raid was so one-sided that it seemed to have fallen short of the expectation of some of the KPRA soldiers. Nonetheless, all the processes of the operations were perfectly arranged—the selection of the target, the timing and method of surprise attack, the combination of brisk publicity and powerful agitation through incendiary action.

Soon after the battle of Pochonbo the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army fought victorious battles of Kouyushan and Jiansanfeng, demonstrating its militant power and invincibility once again and throwing the enemy into sheer terror. The flames burning the ruling establishments of the Japanese imperialists and flaring high over the nocturnal sky of Pochonbo heralded the dawn of hope in the mind of the Korean people, and the spark of struggle spread across the country.  Hearing the news of the battle, Kim Ku, one of the leaders of the nationalist movement, was so excited that he opened the window and shouted over and over again that the Korean nation was alive. This anecdote proved what a great impact the battle had on the Korean people.

The gunfire in Korea made a great impact on the world, too. At the time news agencies and newspapers of different countries reported the triumph of the KPRA under the headline of “Guerrillas’ Advance in Northern Korea,” and “Police Substation Riddled with Bullets.”

The police substation.

The brilliant victory of the battle dealt a severe politico-military blow at the Japanese invaders who had been boasting of their invincibility. It struck confusion into them and shook their colonial rule to its very foundation.

The greatest significance of the battle was that it not only convinced the Korean people, who had thought Korea was almost dead, that their country was still very much alive, but also armed them with the faith that they were fully capable of fighting and achieving national independence and liberation. The conflagration in Pochonbo that brought the hope of revival to the Korean people who had lived under repression of the Japanese imperialists proved the truth that the revolution should be made with arms in hand, and that the dignity of the nation can be maintained and glorified when it relies on the strength of arms. The truth of revolution and Songun illuminated by the flames in Pochonbo is invariably cherished in the heart of the Korean people.

Article: Ri Song Chol