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The left-right confrontation in Korea – Its origin
A short history of modern Korea as seen from a Korean nationalist’s eye
Kim Young Sik

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[The following is the eighth excerpt taken from Kim Young Sik's paper "The left-right confrontation in Korea – Its origin."]

The Blood Feuds in China – 1921 to 1945

The survivors of the Free City Incident escaped to Manchuria and began to spread the Gospel of anti-Communism. The Korean nationalists split into two warring camps – Communists and anti-Communists. The Communists split into several factions and fought amongst themselves. Likewise, the anti-Communists split into numerous factions. Korean Communists killed anti-Communist Koreans and Japanese collaborators. Anti-Communist Koreans killed Communists and Japanese collaborators. Japanese collaborators killed both Korean Communists and anti-Communist Koreans.

The factions vied for new recruits, food, and money. They shanghaied soldiers from other factions; they raided Korean villages for food and money. They spent more time fighting amongst themselves than fighting for Korea’s independence.

By 1941, the great majority of the Korean farmers and merchants in Manchuria had had enough of these warring nationalists and stopped supporting them. They formed self-defense units to ward off marauding Korean nationalist soldiers. The Japanese, capitalizing on this situation, formed a pro-Japanese paramilitary organization, Mindan, whose main job was to fight the Korean nationalists.

On April 13, 1941, Stalin signed a friendship treaty with Japan. Earlier in 1938, Stalin emptied Siberia of all Koreans. The Koreans were loaded up in cattle trains and dumped to desolate places in Central Asia. The farms they had worked on so hard for generations were confiscated by the Soviets. Many senior Communist officers were deeply offended by Stalin’s treachery and defected to the Japanese or became ardent anti-Communists.

For example, Chong Kwang, the top ranking Korean Communist in Manchuria, the political commissar of the Northeast Anti-Japanese Allied Army, defected to the Japanese. Chong (aka Oh Sung Yun) was an active member of Kim Wong Bom’s yiul-dan and had carried out several attacks on Japanese targets. His exploits are highlighted in detail in “Song of Ariran – A Korean Communist in Chinese Revolution” by an American author, Nym Wales.

By the end of1941, the Korean armies in Manchuria – both Communist and anti-Communists - were essentially gone. Many nationalists called it quit and went home; many surrendered; many became demoralized and leaderless, became easy preys to the Japanese “bandit extermination” campaigns. The Communist remnants led by Kim Il Sung fled to Siberia, where Stalin had set up training camps for the coming war with Japan. The anti-Communists remnants fled to Chunking and joined Kim Gu’s army.

On Sept. 17, 1940, Kim Gu formed the Korean Independence Army. Ji Chung Chun was appointed the Supreme Commander and Lee Bom Suk the Chief of Staff. Chinese dignitaries from Mao and Chiang groups – including Chou En Lai – attended the army foundation ceremony. In 1941, Kim Gu declared war on Japan. In 1942, he formally asked China, the US and Britain to recognize his government. Only China did so.

In early 1945, Gen. Donavan of the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) met with Kim Gu in Chunking and agreed to send a US OSS team to work with Kim Gu’s army. Donavan wanted to use Koreans as spies and saboteurs in preparation for land battles in Korea. Kim Gu saw a golden opportunity to demand military aids from America and liberate Korea with his Independence Army.

The Koreans in China fell into three main groups: Communists, anti-Communists, and pro-Japanese. The last group was by far the largest at more than 90% of the Korean population. There was a tiny fourth group: these Korean were neither Communists nor anti-Communists, and who believed that all Koreans must work together. They strived for coalition of all Korean nationalists – left and right. Yo Un Hyong was one of these.

Yo Un Hyong believed that Koreans themselves should liberate Korea, because he predicted correctly, that foreign troops in Korea would cause problems. Yo tried to raise an army of 100,000 and turned to the patriotic Koreans serving in the Japanese army for help. Lt. Park Sung Whan was an aviation officer in the Japanese army. He was a nationalist and led a group of likeminded Koreans in the Japanese army. It is believed that Park Jung Hee belonged to this group.

Lt. Park, working secretly for Yo Un Hyong, negotiated with Gen. Mu Jong, who commanded a Korean army in Yenan, for a joint military campaign to liberate Korea. All Korean armies – Communists and anti-Communists – would march together to free Korea.

On August 12, 1945, Mao's military chief, Chu Teh, issued Order # 6 to the Korean Volunteers Army - "I hereby order Commander Mu Jong, Deputy Commanders Park Hyo Sam and Park Il Woo to move the Korean Volunteers Army to Manchuria and work with the Soviet troops there to liberate Korea."

In Chunking, Kim Gu’s Independence Army of about 400 men was ready to march to Korea. Gen. Ji Chung Chun, the old classmate of Kim Gyong Chun of the Japanese Military Academy, commanded the army. In Siberia, Kim Il Sung’s Korean Detachment of the Soviet Army International Allied Forces was ready to parachute into Pyongyang.

But Japan surrendered three days later and robbed the Korean armies of the glory of liberating Korea. Mu Jong and about 100 of his officers returned to Yenan from Taehaeng-san (the main base of Mu Jong's army) and prepared for the journey home. But their journey home was kept secret because the majority of his fighters were not included in the homecoming party. Mao needed them to fight Chiang Kaisek.

Mu Jong and other cadres were given letters of credentials and some provisions for the long trip home. There was no detailed plan for the trip. The men simply got together and headed out toward Korea. All they wanted was to return home first and then worry about things later. Even then, it took them 20 long days before their first step homeward. A vanguard of 300 men left Yenan on September 5 to be followed by a group of women and children. They traveled with a group of about 1,000 reinforcements for Lin Pao's embattled army in Manchuria. They had two horse-wagons loaded with supplies. Mu Jong and Kim Du Bong (North Korea’s first head of state) and a few others rode horseback but the rest walked.

The Korean reached Simyang in early November, nearly three year after Korea’s liberation. There billets waited for the officers and cadres, but the rank and file had to find housing with the local residents. On November 10th, the Koreans held a meeting with Chinese cadres at the Korean school. Mu Jong told his astonished troops that only a select group of the officers would go home and the rest would be organized into three units and fight on for Mao Zedung.

The Korean volunteers had to fight on and many fell in battle in China. Korea was liberated but they were not allowed to return home to their loved ones.

In 1946, Lt. Park led a group of former Japanese officers to North Korea to help found the Korean People’s Army. Yo Un Hyong supported Park’s secret mission to North Korea. Yo told them that the time for uniting Korea political had passed and now North-South military confrontation had become real possibility. "Korea faces a tragic future", Yo said, "Your former associates are forming an army in South Korea and so, South is in good shape. In contrast, North Korea has no professional officers to speak of and so, you folks should go north and help found an army. A northern army under your control is the only way to avoid a civil war."

Blood Feuds Start in Korea

It seems the brotherly love that prevailed in Korea in the months following August 15, 1945 was lost with the return of the old exiles. The domestic Koreans, those Koreans who lived in Korea under the Japanese were much less infected by the blood feuds. But the old exiles brought their old blood feuds with them, and the malaise spread rapidly infecting us all.

In South Korea, the US Military Government empowered those Koreans who had collaborated with the Japanese. Before the liberation, these traitors were hated and shunned by all nationalists, but in South Korea, these collaborators joined the anti-Communist camp of Rhee Syngman. In North Korea, anti-Communist and pro-Japanese Koreans were purged ruthlessly and many of them managed to escape to South Korea and formed the hard core of anti-Communism in South Korea.

They sought revenge for the pains they had suffered at the hands of the Communists in North Korea. The anti-Communists from North Korea committed virtually all of the assassinations of leftist and Communist leaders. They committed mass killings in the Cheju-do uprising, the Yosu mutiny, the Bodo League massacre, and many more.

Yum Ung Taek was one of the pro-Japanese collaborators who became anti-Communists in South Korea. He established a secret terrorist group, Baikyi-sa, which was involved in the deaths of Yo Un Hyong (July 19, 1947) and Kim Gu (June 26, 1949). Yum’s terrorist career began in 1945 with the very first assassination of political leaders in post-liberation Korea. Yum gunned down Hyon Jun Hyok, the chairman of South Pyongahn Province Communist Party in September 1945.

Yum’s people attempted to kill Kim Il Sung on March 1, 1946, but failed. Several days later, Yum’s people killed a son of Kang Yang Wook (Kim Il Sung's maternal uncle) and his bride. It was their wedding day. This triggered a new wave of vicious witch-hunt for anti-Communists in North Korea. And anti-Communists and other ‘reactionaries’ filled North Korea’s bulging jails. Many prisoners were sent to Stalin’s gulags in Siberia.

Yum Ung Taek’s career began as an aspiring nationalist officer in China. He was a cadet at a military academy for Korean nationalists in China when he instigated a student riot over the stipend paid by the school. Kim Gu was not pleased and ordered Yum arrested and punished, but Yum managed to escape to Nanking, where he joined Chiang Kaisek’s secret service, Namyi-sah.

While on a spy mission for Namyi-sah, Yum was captured by the Japanese and, unable to ride out tortures, Yum confessed and agreed to spy for the Japanese. Arakawa Takejo was the Japanese detective who caught and broke Yum. Arakawa had Yum spying on Korean nationalists in Pyongyang when Japan surrendered. Yum was uncovered and put in jail, but due to a mix-up, the Soviets released him, upon which he escaped to Seoul in November 1945 and formed Baik-yi-sah, modeled after Chiang Kaisek’s Namyi-sah.

Yum’s official biography, made public by the US CIC which admits to having worked with Baikyi-sah, claims that he graduated from a Chinese military academy (he was expelled), that he was captured and tortured by Mao’s troops (he was captured and tortured by the Japanese). The US CIC is mum on what Yum was doing in Pyongyang in 1945. Yum used anti-Communism to cover up his pro-Japanese collaborationist past.

Yum’s fortune began to decline with the establishment of Rhee Syngman’s government in 1948. The US CIC switched to supporting Rhee’s official intelligence service (HID). In February 1949, an emissary of Gen. Willoughby, Gen. MacArthur's intelligence chief, came to see Yum with an urgent request for intelligence on North Korea and future cooperation. Consequently, the Korean Liaison Office - KLO - was established on June 1, 1949. The few remaining members of Baikyi-sa became the founding members of KLO.

In June 1950, the People’s Army captured Yum hiding in Seoul, and, ironically, he was killed in an American bomb raid while being transported to Pyongyang. There is another irony: Last year, Kim Jong Il cancelled a planned visit to Seoul after a plot to kill him by former members of KLO was reported by a Korean-American newspaper in Los Angeles.

Kim Young Sik is editor of Korea WebWeekly.

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