[KS] Human Bombs

Jim Hoare jim at jhoare10.fsnet.co.uk
Tue Apr 4 05:50:21 EDT 2006

The saving of inanimate objects in times of danger is obviously not peculiar to North Korea, and neither is the idea that soldiers or others lay down their lives in seemingly futile gestures. There are plenty of stories from the past of soldiers defending the flag in battle even at the cost of their lives, and in Britain's case, portraits of the sovereign seem to have been saved from burning embassies, residencies etc in the past. I also seem to remember from the Spanish Civil War tales of priests being killed while protecting the Host in churches, and no doubt there are many other tales.

Once again, Korean experience/behaviour is not 'unique' but similar to that of most other societies.

Jim Hoare
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Jiyul Kim 
  To: Korean Studies Discussion List 
  Sent: Monday, April 03, 2006 5:27 AM
  Subject: *** SPAM *** Re: [KS] Human Bombs

  A few years ago I had an unforgettable experience of walking through the battlefields of the first days of the Korean War as it was experienced by retired General Paek Son-yop, who was the commander of the 1st ROK Army Division that was stationed in the Munsan corridor, the main avenue of North Korea's attack. It was the soldiers of his division who are immortalized as human bombs in the War Memorial (and in many other venues). As a soldier myself the story or its heroic version resonates at a very simple level that is repeated through all time and all places in the history of war. There are innumerable accounts of soldiers who willingly sacrifice their lives, sometimes for idealistic reasons, but mostly for humanistic reasons, for the sake of their comrades. I do not know the true circumstances of the motivations of the actions of these soldiers, but it seems reasonable to me to assume that it was the result of their sense of the immediate soldierly and ultimately humanistic emotions that led to their actions. There are similar actions committed by soldiers from all armies through all time. That these soldiers are now immortalized as heroes in South Korea echoes what Sheila Miyoshi Jager wrote about, the impulse to highlight heroic martial masculinity to emphasize Korean identity, patriotism and subjectivity. 

  Jiyul Kim
  Colonel, US Army
  Director of Asian Studies, US Army War College

  Afostercarter at aol.com wrote: 
    Dear all,

    Ruediger poses a very interesting question. Or possibly two.

    A. For information: Searching the ever-useful nk-news.net finds
    174 uses of the phrase "human bomb" on KCNA in the past decade.

    Rhetoric is one thing, action another. Searching "save + portrait"
    yields a far smaller sub-set (6) of a fascinating variant: heroes who
    saved pictures, busts etc of the Leaders at the cost of their own lives.

    I append these stories. In some cases the details are a bit obscure.
    But clearly, the Leaders' image is more important than your own life.

    There also seems an implication that preserving this inanimate object
    takes precedence over saving the real human lives of your comrades
    (if forced to choose). But I'm not quite sure if that inference is correct.

    Again the same questions arise: Is this unique to North Korea? and/or
    where did this come from?

    B. The other, wider issue is raised in Ruediger's final sentence.
    I take this as an invitation to Methodenstreit, and - as with another 
    Frank recently - feel impelled to rise to the bait.

    but of course back in my mind I expect to find one more instance showing that 
    North Korea is part of something earthly, not an alien entity from Mars.

    1.What exactly is being claimed here? Of course North Korea is on the same
    planet. Also of course we all seek explanation, and everything has its cause. 

    2. But if there is a further implication that the DPRK regime is somehow normal
    - statistically, politically, morally - in its structures, discourses, and behaviours,
    then that is something else entirely. Not only would I dispute this, but I can't see
    why anyone would want to argue this - except, perhaps, as an epistemological
    category-mistake when what you really mean is to assert (1) instead.
    (Then again, who would deny [1]?)

    This one could run and run...


    Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea, Leeds University 
    Home address: 17 Birklands Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, BD18 3BY, UK 
    tel: +44(0)  1274  588586         (alt) +44(0) 1264 737634          mobile:  +44(0)  7970  741307 
    fax: +44(0)  1274  773663         ISDN:   +44(0)   1274 589280
    Email: afostercarter at aol.com     (alt) afostercarter at yahoo.com      website: www.aidanfc.net
    [Please use @aol; but if any problems, please try @yahoo too - and let me know, so I can chide AOL]


    Korean Women Model after Kim Jong Suk [2005]
        Pyongyang, September 21 (KCNA) -- Kim Jong Suk, an anti-Japanese war hero and woman commander of Mt. Paektu, is the great paragon for the Korean women. She showed the spirit of defending the leader with her very life, revolutionary comradeship and great love for the rising generation. Her noble traits have served as a priceless heritage which all the Korean women should follow generation after generation. 
        In an interview with KCNA, Pak Kum Ju, vice-director of a department of the Central Committee of the Korean Democratic Women's Union, said the women are striving hard to model after Kim Jong Suk so as to train themselves as female revolutionaries. Union members are holding study meetings and gatherings for expressing impressions on books dealing with her immortal exploits and other colorful activities for following her noble traits. 
        Such campaign proves effective in practice. 
        Ri Kum Bok residing in Rakwon County and Sin Mun Ok in Hamhung City of South Hamgyong Province protected the portraits of the three generals of Mt. Paektu from natural disasters that hit their residential quarters. 
        Yu Chun Hwa in Orang County of North Hamgyong Province saved workers by shielding a stone rolling down at a power station construction site. Sin Hye Yong in Jongphyong County, South Hamgyong Province, pulled out a fellow's child from drowning ahead of her own one. 
        So Hye Suk in Pyongyang, Ri Hui Sun in North Hamgyong Province and Pak Myong Bok in South Phyongan Province are bringing up many orphans in their houses. This has become a social trait in the country.

    Title of Hero of Republic Posthumously Awarded to Student [2005]
        Pyongyang, June 30 (KCNA) -- The title of the Hero of the Republic was posthumously awarded to Yu Kyong Hwa, former student of Kim Chol Ju University of Education for fully displaying the spirit of devotedly defending the leader and revolutionary comradeship. Early in January last when there broke out fire all of a sudden, she protected the portraits of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il and saved her revolutionary comrades from the flames at the cost of her life. 
        The Title of the Hero of the DPRK and Gold Star Medal and the Order of the National Flag First Class posthumously awarded to her were conveyed to her bereaved family at an awarding ceremony held Wednesday. 
        At the ceremony speakers referred to the brilliant life of her who always lived with rare desire and hope to be a true daughter of Songun Korea, adding that was why she displayed to the full the intense loyalty and noble comradeship to the last moments of her life.

    Army Full of Spirit of Guarding Leader [2005]
        Pyongyang, April 26 (KCNA) -- "Let us defend the headquarters of the revolution headed by the great Comrade Kim Jong Il with our lives!" is a slogan reflecting all the Korean servicemen's unswerving oath. The slogan is based on their belief that they will always emerge victorious under the command of Kim Jong Il. 
        The servicemen, who regard guarding the leader as their life and soul, carry this slogan into practice. 
        It was proved by what eleven servicepersons belonging to Kim Ji Song unit of the Korean People's Army did some time ago. 
        Their ship met an accident on a mission. 
        At this critical moment they took measures to protect portraits of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il hung in the cabin and badges bearing the image of the President before diving into the roaring sea. 
        Such spirit is displayed by officers and men of the three services of the KPA. 
        A pilot would have saved his life if he escaped from the burning plane as ordered by his commander. But he nosed his plane into the sea to protect the headquarters of revolution. Soldiers covered hand-grenades with their bodies before explosion to protect portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. And servicepersons plunged themselves into raging flames to protect trees bearing slogans written by anti-Japanese guerrillas without hesitation. 
        It is the servicepersons of the 73-year old KPA that unhesitatingly sacrifice their lives and youth for their supreme commander.

    Pyongyang Kangdong senior middle school renamed [2001]
    Pyongyang, May 19 (KCNA) -- Pyongyang Kangdong senior middle school was renamed Hero Kangdong Senior Middle School. 
        This school has produced a dozen heroes of the republic and labour heroes from among its graduates, including Ri Chun Do who protected the portraits of the President Kim Il Sung and Marshal Kim Jong Il and saved many revolutionary comrades from the explosion of a hand-grenade with his body and now enjoys an eternal life. 
        Informed of this school that has produced many heroes, Kim Jong Il showed such loving care for them as seeing to it that the school was renamed "Hero Kangdong Senior Middle School."
        A ceremony of renaming the school was held on May 17. 

    Noble spirit of People's Army soldiers [1997]
    Pyongyang, June 16 (KCNA) -- Kim Jong Gun and Hong Gyong Il, officers of the Korean People's Security Forces, were awarded the title of hero of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea a few days ago. Kim Jong Gun and other servicemen and crewmen were hit by a strong typhoon while on duty in the sea. They wrapped up in vinyl sheets portraits of President Kim Il Sung and Secretary Kim Jong Il which were hanging at the cabin and set them with a life-belt afloat on the sea before meeting their doom. The life-belt was found in the Korean West Sea off Sinmi Islet on May 2, 20 days after. The spirit of defending the leader at the risk of their lives is in full play among the soldiers of the Korean People's Army. Choe Pong Su, an officer of the KPA, and his soldiers braved the fire which broke out at a building in October, 1992. They secured a plaster bust of the President and over 200 portraits from the file with superhuman power. Mun Ghang Bok, a hero of the DPRK, safeguarded a portrait of the President hung at a barrack and saved tens of servicemen by covering a handgrenade with a safety ring free with his body in October, 1990. Pilot Kil Yong Jo, a hero of the DPRK, is one of the servicemen who devoted his youth to defending the leader. In December 1993 engine of his plane was out of order all of a sudden while in flight and he had 25 seconds enough to bail out. But he took a firm hold of the control lever and defended the top echelon of revolution at the risk of his life in 25 seconds. KPSF soldiers Kim Chol Jin, Kim Gyong Chol and Jong Kwang Son and a KPA soldier Kim Yong Il defended the dignity of the Supreme Commander in the spirit of human bombs in defiance of all appeasement behind the enemy line and came back home. This is the spirit of the servicemen prevailing in the KPA under the flag of the Supreme Commander.

    Servicemen, fishermen faithful to leaders [1997]
    Pyongyang, June 5 (KCNA) -- Another example of devotedly defending the leader was set in Korea, deeply moving people. Servicemen and fishermen who were aboard the fishing boat "8115" belonging to the Korean People's Security Forces (KPSF) saved portraits of President Kim Il Sung and Secretary Kim Jong Il under unexpected circumstances, defending their revolutionary faith and obligation to the last moment of their lives. Since the boat left Nampo port on the West Sea of Korea on April 3, its whereabouts had been unknown. On May 2, fishermen of the Roha Cooperative Farm, Sonchon county, North Phyongan Province, happened to find a bag floating off Sinmi island. Contained in the bag, wrapped water-tight in a vinyl sheet, were portraits of President Kim Il Sung and Secretary Kim Jong Il, a logbook and a letter. It is by the logbook and letter that their heroic death has become known to the people. When the boat was sailing back, it was wrecked by a typhoon at around 2 a.m. April 13. The servicemen and crew made desperate efforts to save the boat, but to no avail. What they worried about just before the boat was submerged was not themselves but the portraits. They wrapped the portraits, which had been hung in the cabin, in a clean vinyl sheet, put them into a bag and set afloat the bag tied with a life belt. The letter says that, at the last moment, they sang the song "No motherland without you" praising Secretary Kim Jong Il, looking up to the sky above Pyongyang. Secretary Kim Jong Il sent gifts to their families and honored them with certificates of bereaved family of a Martyr. KPSF officers Kim Jong Gun and Hong Kyong Il were awarded titles of the DPRK hero and the master of the boat, Yun Chun Gyong, and seven others the order of National Flag First Class. Their heroic death shows well how steadfast the servicemen and people of Korea are in the spirit of devotedly defending the leader, becoming human bombs and making suicide attack.


    In a message dated 31/03/2006 11:16:36 GMT Standard Time, rfrank at koreanstudies.de writes:

      Subj:[KS] Human Bombs 
      Date:31/03/2006 11:16:36 GMT Standard Time
      From:rfrank at koreanstudies.de
      Reply-to:Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
      To:koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
      Sent from the Internet 

      Dear list,

      my warmest thanks to all who have so kindly shared their knowledge on the
      question of North Korea's population in 1945. I really appreciate your support.

      On another issue: After having read Sheila Miyoshi Jager's book (Narratives of Nation
      Building in Korea: A Genealogy of Patriotism), where she mentioned the Statue of Brothers,
      I felt like visiting the Korean War museum in Seoul a few months ago. Inside, I think it
      was the second floor, I
      was intrigued to see another, much smaller bronze statue honoring three (or was it four?)
      ROK "human bombs" during the Korean War. Obviously due to my ignorance, I had previously
      associated this term only with North Korea (in particular in connection with slogans like
      "let's turn into human bombs" etc., often quoted by Western media with at least indirect
      reference to 9-11). Among the latest instances was the Jan. 2006 New Year Joint Editorial.

      Now I read a post on another list about Japanese "human bullets" during the Russo-Japanese
      War (Tadayoshi Sakurai. Human Bullets: A Soldier's Story of the Russo-Japanese War), and
      then of course the kamikaze etc. a few wars later came to my mind, as did the stories +
      comics that I read during my childhood in the Soviet Union about Red Army heroes who
      personally delivered a hand grenade to a German bunker, although I do not remember the
      term "human bomb". A quick google search of "human bomb" reminded me of the suizide
      bombings in the Near and Middle East and Sri Lanka.

      Clearly, the concept of "human bomb" or "human bullet" seems to have been known with a
      positive connotation to other (East) (Asian) nations during various periods, although I was
      not able to find any reference to these terms in connection with China. Is anyone out
      there who has done some serious research on that issue, or, more general, on
      self-sacrifice as a virtue and as a military concept in East Asia and Korea? I am just a
      curious individual, but of course back in my
      mind I expect to find one more instance showing that North Korea is part of something
      earthly, not an alien entity from Mars.

      All the best,

      Ruediger Frank

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