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History Rewind: 1946 Hamhung student protest (Part I)

March of 1946 was a month of civil unrest in North Korea. The aborted attempt to assassinate Kim Il Sung at the Pyongyang Station Square on March 1, the Jang Dae Hyon Church incident and other terrorist acts were followed by anti-Soviet turmoil throughout North Korea, including Hamhung, the largest industrial city.

On March 3, barely two days after the assassination attempt on Kim Il Sung, more than 1,000 students from junior and senior high schools of Hamhung staged a march shouting "Red Army Go Home!". The students broke into the provincial office of the Communist Party and smashed office furniture. The Soviets opened fire and the students fled.

Kang Sang Ho, a lieutenant in the Soviet Army at the time, was personally involved in suppressing the protest marchers. Kang was with the 40th Rifle Division of the 25th Red Army Group. (Kang later rose in ranks to become deputy minister of interior of North Korea and at the ripe age of 83, he lives in Petepebruk, Russia.). Kang recalls:

"At about 10:00, Col. Skuba in charge of security of South Hamgyong Province asked me to come to his office urgently. So I rushed to his office: he said 'I hear many students have gathered in front of the Provincial People's Committee Office. I want you to go there and find out what's going on.' So I drove there in a jeep with a radio and saw there 600-700 students from Hamhung School of Education, Hamhung Industrial Technology School, Hamhung School of Agriculture and Youngsaeng School. The students marched carrying ten or so placards - "Stop taking our rice!", "We are starving to death!", "Red Army Go Home Now!" and so on."

"By 11:00, the rank of the marchers swelled to more than 1,000. Doh Yong Ho, chairman of the provincial committee, told the students - 'Stop the march and go home now! Pick ten representatives and I will sit down with them and work things out.' But the students ignored Doh's pleading and shouted at Doh: "You are nothing but a Soviet puppet - get out of our way!"

"As the students continued their protest march, a group of 100 or so Korean security men armed with pistols appeared and surrounded the marchers."

Lt. Kang radioed what he saw to Col. Skuba, who in turn reported this event directly to Gen. Chischakov in Pyongyang. The general told Skuba to resolve the situation before it got out of hand. Skuba was told to work with the Korean security forces to quell the march at once.

At about the same time, Lee Pil Gyu, the provincial security commander (Lee was implicated in a factional power play and fled to China in 1956, where he lives now), reported to Bang Hak Se, chief of intelligence in Pyongyang and currently Chief Justice in North Korea. Bang ordered Lee - "Get some help from the Soviet Command in Hamhung and put an end to the march. Arrest all ring leaders."

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