In Celebration of International Women’s Day

In celebration of International Women’s day, we reproduce the speech of Ella Rule at a meeting called by Friends of Korea in Southall on 7th February, in which she gave details of the life and contribution to the revolutionary struggle of Comrade Kim Jong Suk.

2007 sees the 90th anniversary of the birth of Comrade Kim Jong Suk. She was born on 24 December 1917 and died aged only 36 on 22 September 1949. Born to a life of poverty and strife, she became a powerful and effective communist leader.

She was born in a poor peasant but revolutionary family who, unable to make a living in Korea, moved to China, to Fuyan in Yanji County, where life was nearly as bad. Her older sister was sold to pay family debts. One of her brothers was killed by the Japanese when on an undercover mission. Her mother and sister-in-law were murdered by the Japanese in a ‘punitive operation’ in July 1932.

She herself had from a very young age participated with her family in struggles against oppression. In October 1931 she took part in a harvesting struggle, helping to mobilise the peasant masses to join in. She went to night school, where she was taught by a Korean communist who introduced her to scientific socialism. Convinced by this Marxist teaching which both explained her situation and offered a vision for a bright future, she joined the Young Communist League (YCL) in July 1932, the same month as her mother and sister-in-law were murdered, determined to carry on her family tradition of struggle against injustice – the first woman member in her village. She became a leading activist, being a committee member in the 8th district of the YCL and leader of the Children’s Corps.

In November 1932, aged 14, she set off with a younger brother, Comrade Kim Ki Song to join a guerrilla base, where again she was assigned to lead the Children’s Corps. As soon as she was old enough – i.e., in 1935 when she was 17, she joined the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army (KPRA), where she distinguished herself in action, participating in many battles including those of Laoling, Xinancha, Jusan and Mayihe. She was a crack shot, who won prizes for her sharp shooting. She was also an important agitator, explaining the programme of the Korean revolutionary movement to those participating in the struggle so that they would have a good understanding of what they were fighting for, inspiring them to give their very best efforts, at all times working hard to improve her own knowledge and understanding of revolutionary Marxism. She also worked among women to gain their wholehearted support for the struggle. In April 1936 she was assigned to the KPRA’s main unit which was under Comrade Kim Il Sung’s personal command. Her revolutionary energy, courage and devotion to the cause soon came to Comrade Kim Il Sung’s attention. Soon they were married, but still she continued to fulfil her often dangerous revolutionary duties.

During 1937 her work took her underground in Taoquanli, a village close to the Chinese border with Korea. She was instrumental in creating the revolutionary Women’s Association, anti-Japanese Youth Association, anti-Japanese Old Men’s Association and the Anti-Japanese Children’s Association which were organised in several villages in the area, facilitating the formation also of small communist groups. She also gathered information on enemy troop movements which were relayed back to the guerrillas.

In 1939, as part of the main unit of the KPRA, Comrade Kim Jong Suk crossed the river Amnok. In the autumn of that year, foreseeing the harsh winter ahead in an area where temperatures are consistently in the region of 30 degrees C below zero, it became urgent to produce winter uniforms for the members of the guerrilla army, and Comrade Kim Jong Suk was put in charge of this operation. The only equipment at her disposal was one hand operated sewing machine. It is a testament to her organisational skills that the uniforms – 600 of them – were produced in a mere 20 days.

Between June 1941 and the spring of 1943, she was based at the secret camp on Mt Paektu, where Comrade Kim Jong Il was born in a wooden hut on 16 February 1942 in the harshest possible winter conditions.

Following liberation, she threw herself with every ounce of her not inconsiderable energy to the massive task of building a new socialist Korea, working among workers, peasants, the youth, students, intellectuals, traders and industrialists, religious organisations to win them all over to the revolutionary cause. She is especially honoured for her role in the women’s movement, where her whole life was testament to the revolutionary potential of women. She mobilised the women’s movement to carry out a massive campaign against illiteracy.

Wherever she went she encouraged workers, peasants, traders and industrialists to contribute to the rehabilitation and development of the national economy, to display the revolutionary spirit of self reliance.

Tragically, Comrade Kim Jong Suk died on 22 September 1949 giving birth to a still-born baby girl.