The Formation of North Korean State Capitalism

Issue: 111

Kim Ha-yong

Part one: The Soviet Occupation of northern Korea

Originally published in Kukchejuui sigak eso pon hanbando [The Korean Peninsula from an Internationalist Perspective]. Seoul, Ch’aekpolle, 2002. Translation by Owen Miller.]

Only ten years ago the majority of the left in South Korea were accustomed to thinking that North Korea was an alternative society or even an ‘earthly paradise’. The 1995 famine demonstrated very clearly the North’s economic crisis and the ground suddenly gave way under their feet. Despite this, the pro-North left could still provide a creditable explanation of North Korea’s problems by bringing up the US economic blockade and, as a result, they have remained a powerful force inside the South Korean left, blending with the left-leaning nationalists.

At the same time, it is true that illusions about the North have collapsed swiftly in the last few years. In many cases, former pro-North leftists, having thrown away their illusions, have now concluded that North Korean society is fundamentally inferior to South Korean society. But these people cannot explain why it was that the North at one time developed more rapidly than the South.

Whether they still have illusions about North Korea or have now discarded them, the idea that all these people have in common is that the North is socialist. This article was written to show that this is a completely mistaken idea. It will confront a variety of ‘common sense’ ideas about North Korean society. The central point is to understand that far from embodying a fundamentally different mode of production to South Korea or the West, North Korean society represents only a variation on capitalism: state capitalism.

The Soviet occupation of northern Korea

Today, the North claims that Kim Il-sung led the country’s national liberation and socialist revolution.

The Korean people, unable to throw off thousands of years of ignorance and slumber, believed that God was the only saviour who could return to them their country, snatched away by the Japanese imperialists, and rescue them from the fate of national ruin. They worshipped him and prayed and prayed to him but God was not able to give them independence. It was General Kim Il-sung who appeared before the 20 million Koreans who had been waiting for a leader able to save them and their country from their misery1

Above all, we should understand that it was not the people of some other country but our leader who restored our fatherland and established in this land our flourishing socialist nation. 2

However, directly after liberation and right up until the mid 1950s the North could not make such bold statements. On 28 August 1946, at the founding convention of the North Korean Workers’ Party, Kim Il-sung read aloud a ‘Letter to Generalissimo Stalin’:

Long live the great generalissimo Stalin, liberator, supporter, benefactor and friend of the Korean people. The people of North Korea recognise that their liberation and development has been achieved only as a result of your affectionate consideration and the assistance of the Red Army and they offer their greatest respect to you. The Korean people firmly believe that you will support us to the bitter end and that this will make our victory inevitable.

From the mid-1950s onward Kim Il-sung and the North Korean bureaucracy began to remove these sorts of things from the official records. The manipulation of a photograph of the famous ‘P’yŏngyang Citizens’ Rally’ shows just how much systematic effort the North has put into fabricating its own history. On October 14, 1945, at the P’yŏngyang ‘Citizens’ Rally’ (also called the ‘Kim Il-sung Welcoming Rally’), Kim Il-sung appeared, wearing Soviet medals, with the commanders of the occupation troops, declaring, “Long live the Soviet army and General Stalin.” However, the North later manipulated this photograph, erasing the Soviet commanders so that only Kim Il-sung was left, minus the Soviet medals that had been pinned to his chest.

The pro-North left in South Korea have generally taken the North’s historical falsifications at face value. Rewriting Korea’s Modern History3 , still the most widely-read book on modern Korean history, describes the Soviets as a well-intentioned army of liberation, and stresses the supposed autonomy of North Korea by saying that, “the North’s social transformation was carried out independently, without policy interference from the Soviet Union.”

However, the Soviet Union, just like the United States, was an imperialist nation seeking to bring a greater area of the world under its control, and with the help of the Soviets the North Korean bureaucracy were able to suppress the attempts of Korean workers to liberate themselves and instead concentrate power in their own hands.

The division of the Korean peninsula by the US and the Soviet Union

The fate of Korea was decided by the allies – the US, Soviet Union, Britain and China – as they consolidated their victory in the Second World War.

The US dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August, 1945, and then on Nagasaki on 8 August. Stalin, who had been observing the situation, declared war on Japan on the 8th, only after the bombs had been dropped. Only one day after Nagasaki had been bombed and the Soviet Union had entered the war, Japan announced its unconditional surrender to the allies. With this, the Soviet Union, along with the US, was in a position to take Manchuria and the Korean peninsula as war booty.

When it came to the matter of dividing the war booty and deciding their zones of post-war influence, the hopes and aspirations of the people of individual countries did not even enter the heads of the allied leaders. After deciding on the division of Europe, Churchill asked Stalin, “Might it not be thought rather cynical if it seemed we had disposed of these issues, so fateful to millions of people, in such an off-hand manner?” 4 Churchill’s frank recollection shows just how cynical the allies, including the Soviet Union, were about the wishes of people in the countries involved.

Disagreements between the leaders at the allied summits concerned only how much advantage each could gain; no-one was against the occupation or even division of the countries concerned. Worse still, Stalin ordered the Greek Communist party not to obstruct the British occupation of Greece. This was the only way for him to safely keep hold of the booty that he had already secured. 5

The negotiations over the Korean peninsula between the participants in the war against Japan were no different. The US and Soviet Union did not give a moment’s thought to the Korean people’s long-cherished desire for genuine independence. They were each completely absorbed in trying to gain the upper hand over the other.

What was the aim of the Soviet Union when it decided to join the Pacific War? After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 the Americans asked the Soviets to join the war against Japan, but as an ally this was not a duty that it had to undertake. The Soviets’ main front was the battle against the Germans and they had already suffered huge losses there. Even so, Stalin did decide to join the Pacific War.

Stalin’s aim was to recover the territory that had been lost to the Japanese at the Treaty of Portsmouth that concluded the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5. At the Yalta Summit of February 1945 Stalin had haggled with Roosevelt, gaining, in return for Soviet participation in the Pacific War, US agreement to the return of the concessions and influence that Russia had held in Northeast Asia before the Russo-Japanese war. These included the maintenance of the status quo in Outer Mongolia, the return of Sakhalin and the Kuril archipelago to Russia, the return of Russia’s rights over the Chinese ports of Dalian and Lüshun (named Port Arthur when occupied by the Russians) and joint Chinese-Russian control over the Manchurian Railway.

To Stalin, revolutions in the countries of Asia were obstacles to his ambitions of expanding Soviet territory and influence in the Far East through the negotiations between the allied powers. It was in this context that at the Allies’ Potsdam Summit of July 1945 he rejected the Chinese Communist Party and declared that the Guomindang was the only political organisation that could govern China.

At the Yalta Summit, where Stalin and Roosevelt had made their deal, no concrete decision was reached on the problem of the Korean peninsula. However, already in 1943 at the Cairo Summit, the leaders of the US, Britain and China had decided on a joint trusteeship over Korea that would approve its independence at the ‘appropriate moment’. The Soviet Union’s participation in the Pacific War meant that it was now able to take part in this agreement.

The Soviet Union was by no means insensible to the idea of securing influence over the Korean peninsula. In contrast to those who wish to indulge the Soviets and record their policy toward North Korea as one of well-intentioned mistakes (claims such as that the Soviets didn’t understand Korea properly and stationed their troops there suddenly without actually having anything that could be called a North Korea policy) the Soviet Union had been carefully considering the problem of the Korean peninsula from early on. To the Soviets the Korean peninsula was significant as the stepping-stone that the Japanese would use in an invasion of Russia. A report released on 29 June 1945, before the Soviet Union’s entry into the Pacific War, authored by Zhukov and Zabrodin made the following points about the Korean peninsula:

Russia’s struggle against Japanese plans to expand into the Asian continent via the Korean peninsula was historically the appropriate course of action… Korean independence must be sufficiently effective to stop not only Japan’s plans for putting pressure on the Soviet Union from the far east but also its conversion into a base for future attacks on us from other countries. A practical and credible guarantee of East Asian security and Korean independence will be produced by close and friendly relations between Korea and the Soviet Union. This must be reflected in the composition of any future Korean government. 6

The report concludes, “if there is a trusteeship over Korea the Soviet Union must participate in it.” The central committee of the Soviet Communist Party was thinking exactly the same thing. A report entitled “On the domestic situation in Korea”, published by the central committee’s intelligence agency on 1 August 1945, pointed out that “the military strategic significance of Korea lies above all in its geographical situation, with its land borders with Manchuria and the Soviet Union.” Moreover, “the US has major interests in Korea and is preparing to establish a system there that will ensure it has the predominant influence.” After this somewhat anxious assessment it continued more ambitiously: “the Korea problem cannot be solved without the participation of the Soviet Union.”

So the basis for Soviet policy toward the Korean peninsula was not revolutionary internationalism but the desire for imperialist expansion. Stalin’s ambition was to inherit the old possessions of the Tsar’s empire and to restore its former glory. As the Soviet Union joined the Pacific War, Stalin urged his citizens on, saying:

“The defeat of the Russian army in 1904 left bitter memories in the hearts of our people. It has been a stain on our nation. Our people have waited, believing that they would one day have to smash Japan and wash away this stain. Our old generation have waited 40 years for that day to come.”

This sort of patriotism cannot be found anywhere in the authentic Marxist tradition. Among the old generation mentioned by Stalin, the old Bolsheviks would have felt no sadness at the defeat of the Russian army in 1904. The Bolsheviks rejoiced at the defeat of their own ruling classes. Lenin evaluated the Russian defeat as follows:

“Indeed, the European bourgeoisie has cause for alarm. The proletariat has cause for rejoicing. The disaster that has overtaken our mortal enemy not only signifies the approach of freedom in Russia, it also presages a new revolutionary upsurge of the European proletariat.” 7 True to Lenin’s prediction, Russia was enveloped in a wave of revolution in 1905.

So Stalin was not continuing the tradition of the Bolsheviks but that of their mortal enemy, the tsarist empire.

Even as the Soviet Union decided to enter the Pacific War on August 8, consultations on the Korean peninsula problem between the Allies were making no progress whatsoever. Although on July 24 the Soviet Union and the US agreed temporarily on military operations rights for their navies and air forces, not only was this temporary, there was no agreement at all on the scope of operations for land forces.

After occupying Manchuria, the Soviets made plans to advance into the Korean peninsula without consulting the Americans. On the map explaining their planned manoeuvres an arrow going into the Korean peninsula pointed at Seoul. It seems as though they were planning to station their troops there as a way of ensuring that they would not be ignored when it came to dealing with the Korea issue.

Having easily defeated the Japanese army in Manchuria, the Soviet Army arrived at Kyŏnghŭng, Unggi and the ports of Najin and Ch’ŏngjin on 12 August. Pravda reported on 13 August that, “combat units of our army have occupied the two cities of Unggi and Najin”.

The advance units of the US army were still on Okinawa and were not able to land in Korea in a short space of time. Worried that the Soviets would occupy the entire peninsula, the US rushed to demarcate a boundary between the occupations of the two countries.

The Americans proposed ‘General Order No. 1’, under which the Soviet commander would accept the Japanese surrender in Manchuria, the Korean peninsula north of the 38th parallel and Sakhalin while General MacArthur would do the same in Japan itself, the Philippines and Korea south of the 38th parallel. It had already been agreed between the allies at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945 that “sole responsibility for dealing with economic and social problems inside their zones of occupation is granted to each occupying country.” So the Soviets and the US must have known that although General Order No.1 was provisional, it actually meant the division of the Korean peninsula.

The Soviet Union accepted General Order No.1 without a single objection and quickly dispatched its 25th Army to occupy the whole of northern Korea. They were at pains not to break this agreement with the US. Soviet troops had been stationed at Kaesŏng, south of the 38th parallel since 23 August, but at four o’clock in the morning on 10 September, six hours before US troops arrived, the Soviets quietly withdrew north of the demarcation line. Commander of the Soviet 25th Army, Chistiakov8 repeatedly stressed that the Soviet Army’s zone of control was “north of the 38th parallel”. (By keeping its promise to occupy the area north of the 38th parallel, the Soviets seem to have intended to leave open the possibility of participating in the occupation of other areas, such as Japan.)

Before the people of Korea, who had suffered for 36 years under Japanese colonialism, could properly taste the joy of liberation, their country had been divided into north and south and the two halves put under the control of the Soviets and the Americans respectively.

Of course negotiations were continuing between the allies concerning the Korean peninsula and other countries formerly under Japanese control, but at the same time the US and Soviet Union were cautiously constructing their own systems in their occupied zones. This might seem contradictory, but it was perhaps natural for both sides to attempt to minimise the damage they might suffer if the talks collapsed. Because the Soviets were also deeply suspicious that the US and Britain would attempt to exclude them they began to push their policy of establishing a pro-Soviet regime in the area, even if it was only in the northern part of the Korean peninsula. Stalin said this about the Soviet policy in its occupied territories:

The character of the Second World War is different to previous wars. Now the victorious countries have the right to force their own system on the countries that they occupy, as far as their armies have the power to do so. 9

True to Stalin’s words, the Soviet rulers, who craved imperialist expansion, forced the North Korean system on the country, just as in the South the system was constructed under the rule of US imperialism.

Were the Soviets a liberating army?

Having occupied Najin and Ch’ŏngjin on 12 August, the Soviets moved into Wonsan and Hamhŭng on 24 August and P’yŏngyang during 24-26 August, sending troops directly into each of the provinces. Chistiakov, commander of the Soviet 25th Army arrived in Hamhŭng on 24 August and in accordance with his orders from the headquarters of the 1st Field Army of the Far Eastern Division he opened negotiations with the provincial governor and other Japanese leaders of the provincial government about taking over administration of the province. The content of their agreement was as follows:

If anyone, whether they are Japanese or Korean, leaves their post, they will immediately be sentenced to death by hanging. … For the time being, the Japanese police and military police will maintain order and administrative functions will continue to be carried out as before by the Japanese provincial governor and his subordinates. Those who cause disturbances of the peace will be severely punished. … Work should continue in factories, workshops, mines etc, and goods must not be removed from these workplaces. 10

This agreement was published in the Soviet Army’s decree of 25 August. This decree, which stressed the continuation of Japanese administrative and security control, was the Soviet command’s first official position revealing their policy toward the Korean peninsula. However, before a day had passed this decree was cancelled. Song Sŏnggwan, Ch’oe Kimo, Im Ch’ungsŏk and Kim Inhak, members of the South Hamgyŏng Province Communist Council as well as To Yongho and Ch’oe Myŏnghak, leaders of the South Hamgyŏng Province branch of the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence had visited Chistiakov, informing him that a ‘South Hamgyŏng Executive Committee’ had been formed and requesting that authority for administration be transferred to this committee. Chistiakov cancelled the decree and announced that, “this Executive Committee will manage all administrative and security affairs, under the command of the Soviet Army.”

Many people have seen this as evidence that, unlike the US Army, the Soviet Army guaranteed autonomy for the Koreans. So, for example, Kang Chŏnggu has written, “In contrast to the American occupation forces in South Korea, the Soviets preferred native Koreans to govern themselves rather than their own direct rule. In other words they granted autonomy to the Koreans.” 11 Bruce Cumings has also insisted that the Soviets guaranteed considerable autonomy for the Koreans:

The Soviets had pursued a highly cost-effective strategy in creating a regime that was responsive both to their minimum demand – a friendly border state – and to the desires of the mass of Koreans in the liberation era. … [This was] quite in contrast to the American Occupation. 12

So did the Soviet Army’s cancellation of the original decree really mean that their policy toward their occupied zone in the northern part of the Korean peninsula was changing? If that were the case, the first decree, promulgated in Hamhŭng on 25 August, would have to be regarded as a mistake on the part of the Soviet occupation army. However, Chistiakov’s decree was not such a straigtforward episode. Chistiakov was following the orders of General Shtykov, Commissar for Military Affairs in the Soviet Maritime Provinces, who was responsible for policy toward the Korean peninsula and in turn took orders directly from Moscow. In reality, Shtykov was the Soviet governor of North Korea. 13 Nikolai Lebedev, political commissar on the military council of the 25th Army, said this of Shtykov: “Whether he was in Korea, at the 1st Field Headquarters, or in Moscow, there was no measure that could be taken at that time without his involvement.”

Stalin’s directive of 20 September also confirms that the Chistiakov decree of 25 August was a true reflection of Moscow’s policy. The suppression of spontaneous activities by the Korean people and the maintenance of order for the sake of realising Soviet advantage in the region was always the general thrust of Soviet policy both before and after the 25 August decree was withdrawn. In his 9 September directive Stalin made the following order:

5. Make sure that the local inhabitants continue to work peacefully and ensure that industry, commerce, both public and private sectors function normally. The Soviet Army should carry out the wishes and orders of the authorities in charge, appealing for cooperation in the task of maintaining public order. [Directive from the Supreme Command of the Soviet Army to the Far Eastern Commander, the War Council of the Russian Maritime Province Military District and the 25th Army concerning relations between the Soviet troops stationed in northern Korea and the local authorities and residents.] 14

Contrary to the rather generous interpretation of those on the left who are friendly to the North, the recognition of the People’s Committees15 did not mean a massive change in policy for the Soviets. It meant only that by recognising the people’s committees and controlling them, the Soviets could realise their interests in Korea. This method looked better and offered more stability than using the old Japanese-staffed administrative organs. They had attempted to continue using the Japanese administration, but soon realised that they needed to establish a Korean administration if they were to survive resistance from the Korean people. As Wada Haruki points out, the Soviet Army jumped on the bandwagon of the already-created People’s Committees and made good use of them.

It seems that there were a number of factors behind the ease with which the Soviet Army accepted the demand of the South Hamgyŏng Executive Committee for authority to be transferred to it. First, the Soviets knew that the Communists on the Peoples’ Committee were firmly pro-Soviet and thought of the Soviet Union as their motherland. The Soviet Union believed that through these people it could achieve the control that it wanted. Furthermore, South Hamgyŏng, the province that first requested the transfer of authority from Chistiakov, had the strongest Communist forces in the whole of the northern part of the peninsula. In North P’yŏng’an Province and other places where the Nationalist forces were overwhelmingly dominant the Soviets reorganised the People’s Committees, adjusting the numbers of Nationalists and Communists so that they were in a ratio of one to one.

The fact that the Soviets did not recognise the Seoul ‘People’s Republic’, which was based on the People’s Committees and considered itself to be the central government of Korea, clearly shows that the they approved the People’s Committees only when they had complete control over them. The Seoul ‘People’s Republic’ requested authority over the People’s Committees in the north but the Soviets ignored and then rejected this request. There was no way that the Soviets could turn over authority to the ‘People’s Republic’, which wasn’t even under their control.

Second, and connected to the first factor, was the fact that the Korean Communists slavishly followed Moscow’s line and rejected radical social change. They were aiming for a bourgeois democracy that would eliminate pro-Japanese elements and clear away the remnants of feudalism. So-called ‘people’s democracy’ had been the official Moscow line since the Seventh Comintern Congress of 1935. The Korean Communists criticised spontaneous movements from below as leaping over the current stage of the revolution. From the point of view of the Soviets, this was a great relief as they were anxious about the struggle of workers for the construction of a new society. As we will see again later, ‘people’s democracy’ in Soviet occupied territory was a pretext for blocking workers’ revolution before it could happen.

Suppression of mass movements for self-emancipation

Professor Kang Chŏnggu has insisted that “[The Soviet policy of non-interference] was possible because the historical dynamic of North Korean society was driving in a similar direction to the one the Soviets desired.” However, it is completely mistaken to believe that the interests of the Korean people [masses] and the Soviet Army were in harmony with one another at that time. On the contrary, the first action of the Soviet Army after it had occupied the north of the Korean peninsula was to suppress the wave of popular rebellion that appeared to be spreading.

With Korea’s liberation on 15 August 1945 the people’s long-suppressed demands began to explode into the open. The Japanese surrender created a power vacuum and the people became excited with the hopes of constructing a new state. All over the country organs of self-government were created. The situation in the northern part of the peninsula was not particularly different to other areas.

From 16 August there were popular demonstrations in Hwanghae Province and elsewhere and on 17 August political prisoners were released from jail. At Hamhŭng Prison in South Hamgyŏng Province, some 200 political prisoners were released on 16 August. They rushed to the Hamhŭng townhall and demanded that all power be transferred to Koreans. Crowds stormed the police stations and local government offices and occupied them. The people had started to attack the core of the old regime. On 18 August, the Sinŭiju Self-governing Committee began to pulblish the Apkang ilbo (‘The Yalu River Daily’), a Korean-language newspaper that had been suppressed by the Japanese.

The workers’ movement was also raising its head. At the time of liberation the number of workers in the north was estimated, at the very least, to be more than one million. According to the Chosŏn Governor-General’s (Japanese colonial administration) statistics for 1943 there were 4743 industrial enterprises in the northern part of the peninsula employing 236,359 workers. But between 1940 and 1945 the number of factory workers in the whole of Korea rose rapidly from 200,000 to 600,000. If we add to this figure those working in mining, construction and other areas the total number of workers in Korea in 1945 was more than two million. Taking this into consideration, the north, where industry was particularly important, must have had at least 300,000 factory workers at the time of liberation, which added to workers in the mining, construction and other industries would give a total figure of more than one million. A working class of at least one million out of a population of 10 million, or more than 10 percent of the total population of the north, was certainly not small. What is more, these workers were mainly concetrated in large factories.

In the case of Hamgyŏng Province the level of concentration was particularly high and there was also a tradition of militancy. In the port cities of Hamgyŏng Province and places like Hamhŭng and Wonsan the factory workers drove out the Japanese managers and formed factory management committees centred on the labour unions. In Wonsan an organisation called the Korean Labour Union (Chosŏn nodong chohap) was formed and took charge of keeping public order. Factories in Haeju, Hwanghae Province including Chosŏn Cement and Chosŏn Chemicals went over to workers’ control.

This movement had barely got off the ground before, unfortunately, it came to an end. The Soviet Army, having fully occupied the north a few days after liberation, stifled this atmosphere completely. Everywhere they went they insisted on the ‘maintenance of order’.

The Soviet Army enforced the normal operation and “peaceful working” of the major factories under their control. The Soviets dismissed the Korean workers’ self-management of the factories as syndicalism. It became impossible for the workers to operate their factory committees. In the south too, the National Council of Korean Labour Unions (known as Chŏnp’yŏng) was against the movement for workers’ control, showing the influence of the Korean Communist Party, which in turn, was at the beck and call of the Soviets.

The Soviet Army also simultaneously shut down the two Korean-language newspapers, Apkang Ilbo and the Hwanghae Ilbo. Subsequently the P’yŏngbuk Ilbo and Chayuhwahae (‘Freedom and Reconciliation’) were founded but their domestic news coverage was censored by the Soviets. The occupying army suppressed the freedom of the press and publishing in general. Even the newspapers of the pro-Soviet Communists were not exempt from Soviet censorship. The Soviet Army also denied freedom of gathering and association. The Democratic Youth Association of Hamhŭng, for example, saw itself as helping to maintain public order and carry out educational activities, but in September 1945 its members were arrested on suspicion of being anti-Soviet and anti-Communist and the organisation was banned.

In this way the Soviets nipped in the bud popular movements that might otherwise have broadened further. This provides us with one of the answers to the question of why it was that the mass struggles that erupted so fiercely in the south immediately after liberation did not occur in the north. The masses of the north had to face the Soviet occupation army before they had even had a chance to wake up properly. Whereas the US Army was not stationed in the south of the peninsula until 8 September, the Soviets had started to advance into the north on 12 August. Even if we accept that the Soviets did not formally establish their headquarters at P’yŏngyang until 26 August, the power vacuum did not last more than 10 days.

It is very revealing to compare the surprising speed with which the People’s Committees were formed in areas of the north where there had been a power vacuum with those areas such as North Hamgyŏng Province which had been occupied since 12 August and where autonomous organisations were slowest to form and even then only did so under the ‘guidance’ of the Soviets.

Another important factor is the fact that the Korean Communists only followed the Soviet line and did not lead the mass struggles. Any activities which escaped from the control of the Soviet Army and were organised from below were criticised as “leftist deviations”. “The insistence on the founding of a Workers’ and Peasants’ Soviet in South Hamgyŏng, that’s to say the slogan of ‘factories to the workers’ and the organisation of a ‘committee of poor peasants’,” were highlighted as examples of “leftist deviations” and suppressed.

Soviet repression of popular movements was exactly the same in its other occupied territory in Eastern Europe. After the end of the Second World War Eastern Europe did actually experience a revolutionary explosion. With their military defeat, a wave of revolution washed through those countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, where the former rulers had cooperated with Nazi Germany. The most striking among them was Bulgaria. In October 1944, the Economist carried the following report.

Reports on the Bulgarian forces of occupation in Western Thrace and Macedonia vividly recall the picture of the Russian Army in 1917 [wrote a Westerrn observer]. Soldiers’ councils have been set up, officers have been degraded, red flags hoisted, and normal saluting has been abolished. 16

The Soviets quickly intervened and Molotov declared:

If certain Communists continue their present conduct we will bring them to reason. Bulgaria will remain with her democratic government and present order… You must retain all valuable army officers from before the coup d’état. You should reinstate in service all officers who have been dismissed for various reasons. 17

Following orders from the Soviets, the leaders of the Bulgarian Communist Party put all their efforts into holding back the struggle and restoring order in the Bulgarian Army. The Minister of War “issued a stern order for troops to return immediately to normal discipline, to abolish soldiers’ councils and to hoist no more red flags.” Bulgarian troops were placed under the command of Marshall Tolbukhin who had “had no patience with Balkan repetitions of 1917.” 18

Some people believe that the Soviet tanks transplanted socialism to North Korea and Eastern Europe. But the socialist revolution that Marx talked about did not mean the mass of the people being mobilised on the orders of a minority but rather the self-conscious movement of the majority. In other words, it meant a decisive social transformation brought about by the mass of the working people acting according to their own interests. The Soviet Union, far from bringing socialism to North Korea as a gift, actually destroyed the potential that existed for a real socialist transformation.

The recomposition of the people’s committees under the Soviets

In Rewriting Korea’s Modern History, Pak Segil writes, “The People’s Committees in the north, unlike those in the south, could step forward and take a credible lead in later events because the conditions for their continuous exercise of autonomy had been ensured.” 19

However, this was absolutely not the case. The Soviet Army formally handed the administration and maintenance of order over to the people’s committees but did not allow them to exercise any substantial power. The people’s committees did not enjoy real autonomy. The Soviets saw the committees as a safety valve which could maintain order and prevent resistance from below.

If one considers the background to the formation of the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence (Kŏn’guk chunbi wiwonhoe / CPKI) in Seoul, it can be seen how the Soviets came easily to this conclusion. The request of Endō Ryusaku, Commissioner of State for the Japanese colonial government in Korea, that Yŏ Unhyŏng take charge of maintaining public order on 15 August, formed the immediate background to Yŏ’s formation of the CPKI. Endō Ryusaku was worried that if a power vacuum arose Koreans might attack Japanese or their property and therefore saw the need for the maintenance of public order. Thus, someone who had credibility among the Korean people was needed.

Having accepted this request, Yŏ addressed the people in a leaflet issued in the name of the CPKI on 16 August:

Fellow Koreans! We are currently entering a momentous stage which requires the utmost prudence and stability. Our future looks bright, and any rash or thoughtless actions are therefore completely prohibited. Remember the great influence that all of you can have on the peace of our nation! Make sure that you follow the decrees of your leaders with the greatest self-control.

In the absence of a nation state the establishment of the CPKI was certainly a step forward, but it was already showing its bourgeois limitations. As one goes down to the level of the provincial People’s Committees there was certainly more mass participation. However, these committees were still organisations of a completely different character to the workers’ councils (nodongja p’yŏng’ŭihoe), which were organs of workers’ power. At a press conference, Yŏ Unhyŏng clarified that the People’s Committees “were not formed by the people”. He continued, “Revolutionaries first form a government and then afterwards it can receive the approval of the people. These things appear as emergency measures in periods of transition when there is rapid change… they are formed by revolutionary organisations in revolutionary periods, and obviously not formed by the people.”

The People’s Committees were coalition governments that included both the left and right. In the south, as the US Army’s occupation strategy began to take effect in early September, the rightwing left the CPKI and began to form their own political powerbase. However, in the north the left and right remained in coalition after the Soviets had occupied the area. Although the Soviets kept the power of the nationalists in check by ensuring that representatives of a pro-Soviet inclination formed half of the people’s committee in each province, as long as the nationalists did not interfere with Soviet interests they were not really a problem. In the early days of the occupation the Soviets even thought of installing Cho Mansik, a nationalist and chairman of the South P’yŏngan branch of the CPKI, as leader of North Korea.

Even at times when left and right came into conflict, the Soviets adopted a policy of putting the maintenance of order before all else. When conflict between leftists and rightists intensified in Hwanghae Province and the situation became violent, the Soviets returned administrative power to the former Japanese provincial governor. And when Chistiakov met Governor Susui on 9 September, it was Susui who expressed the hope that power would return to the People’s Committee as soon as possible. 20

The Soviet Army therefore thought of the People’s Committees as a safety valve and a way of maintaining order and they began to take systematic measures to ensure that the committees were composed in such a way that they would carry out their orders without any hitches. Professor Kang Chŏnggu has this to say about the central administrative body, the ‘Five Provinces Administrative Bureau’ (Odo haengjŏng sipkuk), that was formed for this purpose in November 1945:

Even though local authorities had been established spontaneously throughout the North Korean region and were carrying out administrative duties effectively from a local point of view, there was still a vacuum to a certain extent in terms of central administrative and government functions, as well as the problem of providing a stable livelihood for the people. The ‘Five Provinces Administrative Bureau’ was created to satisfy this real need [for something to fill the vacuum]. Of course the Soviets could have proclaimed a military administration as the Americans did. However, each local People’s Committee had already been allowed its autonomy, so from the point at which the Korean people were allowed to govern themselves on a local basis, any move toward establishing a military government could have provoked resistance from the people. Also, as I have pointed out before, because there was no need for them to interfere in the domestic affairs of Korea, there was no need for the Soviets to insist on a military administration, which would have been a manifestation of the occupying army. 21

However, the ‘Meeting of Representatives from the People’s Committees of the Five Provinces’, which provided the opportunity for the establishment of the Five Provinces Administrative Bureau, was not convened on the initiative of the various People’s Committees but at the request of Commander Chistiakov. At his meeting he raised the problem of establishing a chain of command and administration for the five provinces and at the joint meeting of the People’s Committees on 19 November the formation of the Five Provinces Administrative Bureau was completed. A section of the leadership of the People’s Committees opposed the creation of an administrative bureau only covering the northern part of the peninsula, worried that this would become the basis for a divided administration. This was also the reason that Cho Mansik rejected the position of chairman of the new body, offered to him by the Soviets. 22

In actual fact the Five Provinces Administrative Bureau was a centralised administrative body, following Soviet orders, that covered only the north of the peninsula. A hierarchy of People’s Committees at the different levels of local government (to, si, kun, _ŭp_, myŏn) was established and the Five Provinces Administrative Bureau served as a central organ with control over this system, the head of each of the bureau’s ten departments being given credentials as an advisor by the Soviet Army Headquarters. In addition, from the chain of command point of view, the Five Provinces Administrative Bureau received directions from the Soviet civil administration. The Soviet civil administration was already organised into ten departments, so from the start, even the formation of the Five Provinces Administrative Bureau was designed to facilitate effective Soviet control over the five provinces it occupied.

Each department of the Soviet civil administration had the power to give orders and instructions to each of the ten departments of the Five Provinces Administrative Bureau which they had to carry out unconditionally. All of the proclamations made by the Five Provinces Administrative Bureau had been adopted following orders from the Soviet civil administration or army headquarters.

Although a great many others apart from Professor Kang Chŏnggu also praise the Soviets, believing that unlike the Americans they did not rule through a military government, this was actually not the case. While formally the Soviets may have created a civil administration separate from the 25th Army headquarters, in substance this was no different to a military administration. The civil administration actually came under the military council of the 25th Army. This military council received its commands directly from the military council of the Far Eastern Maritime Province Military District (headed by Shtykov). This point is further demonstrated just by looking at the fact that the head of the Soviet civil administration, Romanenko, was also vice-commander of the 25th Army. Romanenko’s rank was lower than that of 25th Army commander, Chistiakov, and he therefore was not in a position to decide occupation policy over the heads of either Chistiakov or Shtykov.

Moreover, from a local point of view, it was ensured that the People’s Committees did not go through the civil administration but came directly under the control of the headquarters of their local Soviet garrison, in turn controlled by the 25th Army headquarters. In the whole of northern Korea a total of 133 such garrison headquarters were established. Not only did these cover the Soviet Army’s total of 89 military units, but separate garrison headquarters were also set up in cities where there were large factories or at industrial facilities, to maintain control over them.

The Five Provinces Administrative Bureau and the People’s Committees did not have full authority in matters of personnel or even when giving orders. The people’s committee of Ch’ŏlwon County in Kangwon Province, for example, planned to restructure the domestic banking system and replace the head of the Commercial Bank, but Soviet Army Headquarters released ‘Order No. 10’ forbidding any intervention by the people’s committees in the personnel or operation of the banks.

The People’s Committees suddenly found themselves reduced to mere representatives of the administration, rubber-stamping decisions at the request of the Soviets. The South P’yŏng’an People’s Committee head of finance, Kim Pyŏng-yŏn had no choice but to obey the orders of his Soviet Army financial advisor and furnish Soviet Army Headquarters with 30 million yen – half of the funds deposited in the provincial bank – “while knowing that this would bring provincial finances to the brink of bankruptcy.” When the Soviets allocated quotas to each province for the delivery of grain to the government, once again the People’s Committees in each province, “were unable to express any discontent or opposition.” 23 In contrast to the evaluation that “the power of the provincial People’s Committees rested upon the popular masses,” 24 real power lay with the Soviet Army.

Soviet interests

Some people insist that while the methods chosen by the Soviets were not particularly good, their intentions were good. Some people are also prepared to be generous in their understanding of the acts of intimidation, plunder and rape committed by the Soviet army, seeing these as individual cases of bad conduct which the Soviets could not control.

However, the acts committed by the Soviets in the northern part of Korea were not the mistakes of individuals but clearly part of a programme of plunder carried out by the Soviet state. The Soviet Union wanted to make gains from the territories it occupied and it took from North Korea a considerable quantity of industrial facilities,machinery and equipment as well as rice and livestock. According to one report, the rice taken by the Soviets amounted to 2.54 million sacks25 in 1945 and 2.9 million sacks in 1946.

In addition to this, each local people’s committee had to contribute money to the Soviet Army to meet its expenses for stationing troops in Korea. In the credit crisis that followed liberation this method soon stopped being effective and, without consulting the people’s committees at all, the Soviets decided unilaterally to issue military payment certificates. With no guarantee that they would be settled, the residents of North Korea had no confidence in these military notes, but the Soviet Army pasted up intimidating declarations everywhere announcing that ‘anyone not using the military certificates will be severely punished.’ With this encouragement, the use of the certificates rose in no time at all so that by 1947 they made up 92.3 percent of all circulating currency.

Today, North Korea insists that, “The military certificates were a way of securing a supply of cash funds for the construction of a new economic and political life for the benefit of the liberated people of the northern half of the country. Their socio-economic character and role was fundamentally different to the military certificates issued by imperialist states as a tool for plundering the countries that they occupied.” 26

But not only was the issue of the military notes wholly determined by the needs of the Soviet Union, they were paid or through the sacrifices of the North Korea people. Some 95.5 percent of the military certificates issued went to pay for the maintenance of the Soviet Army stationed in North Korea and the expenses of Soviet governing bodies. As a result of the increase in circulating currency caused by the issue of the military notes, market prices soared. If we set the price of daily necessities at 100 in 1945, then they increased very rapidly to reach 373 in 1946 and 742.5 in 1947.

Seeing this turn of events, the Soviets began to worry that the use of military certificates might give rise to resistance. So they made the North Korean Central Bank (the president of this bank was the Bebrikov, a high-level governor of the Vladivostok branch of the Soviet State Bank) issue a new currency. This meant that the Soviet Army and the Soviet government could avoid repaying the military certificates and convert them into the new currency. So the burden fell entirely upon the residents of North Korea. 27

Despite this, the North Korean People’s Committee announced that the currency was being reformed because “devalued Bank of Chosun notes have entered in large quantities from South Korea and, along with the great numbers of counterfeit notes that are being used, this is hindering the flow of goods and thus making it difficult to stabilize and regulate prices, resulting in considerable difficulties for the development of our people’s economy and the livelihood of the people.” But this was really just a PR job for a decision that had already been made by the Soviet government. 28

After the new currency had been issued the Soviets continued to demand money from the People’s Committee for the maintenance of their army. These expenses were even appropriated from the official projected budget of the North Korean People’s Committee. Maintenance expenses for the Soviet Army amounted to 8.9 percent of the North Korean People’s Committee’s annual expenditure and 27.5 percent of its annual defence spending. The Soviet Army thought of these expenses as a form of reparations. But why in the world did the people of North Korea, who had suffered under Japanese imperialism, have to pay war reparations?

Aside from the expenses for the maintenance of their army, the Soviets took much else from North Korea in reparations. The Soviets seized Japanese-owned factories and directly controlled the “plan of systematic operations required for the procurement of material and technical resources” and the “plan for the transportation of produce”. In this process, equipment and facilities were removed from gas, steel, fertiliser and chemical plants as well as from powerplants, shipbuilding yards, oil refineries and metal processing plants in the principal industrial cities of the north, including Hamhǔng, Wonsan, Ch’ǒngjin, Sǒngjin and Kyǒmip’o. The Soviets even created a special railway security force so that they could safely transport important industrial plant from North Korea to the Russian Far East. 29

The Soviet government also put structures in place for this purpose. The Soviet Interior Ministry established an agency in the North which could utilise Japanese POWs and Korean workers for the construction of the Korean-Soviet cross border railway. The Soviet Ministry of Trade also set up a representative bureau in North Korea so that it could establish control over industrial facilities formerly owned by Japanese, along with other spoils of war.

It is well known that the Soviet Union provided aid to the North during this period. However, not only did this aid come at a price, most of it was invested so as to produce goods which could be taken back to the Soviet Union. In February and March 1946 the Soviets provided North Korea with a loan of 200 million yen, but this money was used for the operation of factories producing metals which were destined to be taken back to the Soviet Union. Loans were also provided in September and November that year, but these were spent on the running costs of requisitioned Japanese-owned factories producing goods for the Soviet Union. 30

Trade was also extremely unequal; payment for goods taken from North Korea back to the Soviet Union was not made on time and the North Korean Bank of Chosŏn constantly faced a shortage of funds for industrial loans.

The Soviets also made profits through by running Soviet-owned factories in the North and creating ‘joint companies’. The Soviet Fisheries Ministry ran a marine products processing plant employing North Korean workers while the ‘Korean-Soviet Oil Refining Company’ and the Korean-Soviet Shipping Company’ among others, were run as joint companies. Due to a lack of documents it is impossible to know just how unequal were the profits taken by the Soviets through these joint companies. However, on the basis of the management methods used by joint Yugoslavian-Soviet companies, revealed after Tito’s split from Moscow, we can broadly guess at the way in which the Korean-Soviet companies were run.

Chris Harman has written about the two joint transportation companies that were created in Yugoslavia:

In theory the capital for these companies was to come equally from both participants. In practice, while the Yugoslavs had paid up 76.25 percent of their contribution after 15 months, the Russians had paid only 9.83 percent of theirs. Yet Yugoslavia got only 40 percent of services from the companies. Moreover, Juspad [one of the joint companies] charged the Yugoslavs 0.40 dinars per kilometre-ton moved, as against 0.19 dinars to the Russians. 31

Rising anti-Soviet demonstrations

Today, the pro-North left dismisses the varied testimony relating to the behaviour of the Soviets in North Korea as nothing more than rightwing slander, but by no means all of the testimony is like that. Former North Korean People’s Army officer, Chu Yŏngbok wrote the following about the situation immediately after liberation:

As the number of Soviet soldiers gradually increased, a number of conflicts arose. … There were endless cases of intimidation, looting, violence, theft, rape and sometimes even murder committed by Soviet soldiers every day. … The rape of women was a particular cause of insecurity and fear among the people. This state of affairs… was the same in small and medium-sized towns wherever the soldiers were stationed. … This was not the logic of an army of liberation but the logic of an invading army. … Phrases like ‘Great Red Army thieves’ and ‘Go home Russians’ could be heard everywhere.

At the time Chu constantly found himself thinking of the same slogans: “Go home army of liberation! Die Red Army!” 32

The Soviet army of occupation itself recognised that cases of intimidation, looting, violence, theft, rape and murder committed by its soldiers were prevalent. The Soviet Army reported to Moscow: “The occasional immoral behaviour of our soldiers stationed in our North Korean territory is provoking discontent among the local population. In South P’yŏngan Province alone, between the middle of January and February seven Koreans were killed and there were seven cases of serious injury, two cases of rape, five cases of robbery, one case of looting and five cases of theft.” 33

In the face of this sort of behaviour by Soviet soldiers, feelings of antipathy and acts of resistance were bound to emerge. Clashes between the Soviet Army and Korean people were normal occurrences in areas where the soldiers were stationed. Dissatisfaction with the servile pro-Soviet Korean communists was also high. The mass of the people had a particular hostility toward the Poandae (peace preservation corps) commanded by Kim Il-sung. In secret internal meetings, the security forces acknowledged the grievances of the people. A secret Poandae document written at the time summarised public sentiment as follows: “We are receiving even more severe criticism from the people than the former Japanese police force did.”

The Sinŭiju Incident of November 1945 and the Hamhŭng Students’ Demonstration of March 194634 therefore arose in a situation where antagonistic feelings toward the Soviets were widespread. At the third meeting of the Central Expansion Committee of the North Korean section of the Korean Communist Party (NKCP) Kim Il-sung reported that the Sinŭiju Incident had been instigated by the Christian Social Democratic Party. To this day, these incidents are generally only known as anti-communist demonstrations. So, while they have won high praise from the far right, the left has either seen them as “covert operations by rightists” or denies that such events ever occurred at all.

It is a fact that protestant intellectuals, who included a section of the landowning class, played a leading role in the anti-Soviet demonstrations. But it is not correct to draw the conclusion that these demonstrations were therefore rightwing demonstrations. These anti-Soviet demonstrations were completely different in character to incidents such as the attempted assassination of Kim Il-sung or the bombing of the houses of northern leftists Kim Ch’aek, Ch’oe Yonggǒn or Kang Yang-uk, which were carried out by ‘political operations squads’ sent from the South. 35 In both the Sinŭiju Incident and the Hamhŭng students’ demonstration almost all the students living in these areas participated and the anti-Soviet slogans they raised gained widespread sympathy. Would rightwingers alone have been enraged by the plunder and criminal behaviour of the Soviets?

The Yong’amp’o Incident of November 1945 formed the prelude to the Sinŭiju Incident. On November 18 a citizens’ rally was held in the First Church of Yong’amp’o under the auspices of the Citizen’s Committee. At this meeting, a representative of the students’ self-government body condemned the tyranny and misgovernment of the Communist Party and demanded that the local fishery school, requisitioned by the Communists, be returned. As a result, a fight broke out between the students and local Communists, leaving one person dead and 12 injured.

Ham Sǒkhǒn, who had been the chairman of Yong’amp’o People’s Committee immediately before this incident and was later a well-known figure in South Korea’s pro-democracy movement, has recalled the origins of the Yong’amp’o incident:

It was said that he [Ham’s successor as Yong’amp’o People’s Committee chairman, the communist Yi Yonghǔp] had studied in Germany but he did not seem to have a good understanding of matters and it is not known what he did during the years under Japanese colonialism. He was someone who appeared suddenly after liberation, popping his head up here and there, and he was not in possession of a moderate character. However, until the Soviets arrived he had not been like that, it was after they came that he suddenly started to behave in a reckless and violent way. There were many points on which he was not suited to the role of county People’s Committee chairman. As the demands of the masses streadily increased and they continued to be ignored, the indignant university students decided to hold a ‘questioning’ demonstration. It was the extremely inhuman suppression of this demonstration that provoked the rage of society. 36

After two days the unrest in Yong’amp’o had been put down, but the flames slowly spread to Sinǔiju.

Ham Sŏkhŏn points out that the direct cause of the Sinǔiju Incident was the occupation of the local law courts by the Communist Party and the establishment of their local headquarters there without consulting the provincial People’s Committee. “The behaviour of the Communist Party became more arrogant, absurd and violent by the day. This was the single most important cause of the incident.”

The students who came out to demonstrate on 23 November at Sinŭiju condemned the looting by Soviet soldiers, the improper conduct of Han Ung, security chief of North Pyŏng’an provincial People’s Committee, interference in the local school and the inhuman mistreatment of Korean refugees returning from China and Manchuria. At the time there were some 3500 middle and high-school students in the city and the most of them took part, marching in three different directions to hold demonstrations. About 1000 of these students laid siege to the former Sinŭiju court building, where the Communist Party had set up its North Pyŏng’an headquarters. The students crowded their way up to the third floor with the intention of occupying it. But at that moment, from somewhere on the third floor the sound of a pistol shot fired by a Soviet officer rang out and one student collapsed with blood pouring from his head. Around 100 members of the Poandae then appeared from the basement of the building and began beating the students with their rifle butts. The sound of machine gun fire could be heard coming from behind the fleeing students as they scattered in various directions.

The well-prepared Poandae crushed the attempted occupation in an instant. According to witnesses, between 15 and 24 people were killed and 168-350 injured. Immediately after the demonstration a wave of arrests began with around 1000 people rounded up. The Soviet secret intelligence service intervened directly in the interrogation of the arrested students. Of those arrested, a certain number were transferred to Soviet jails while the rest were detained in the Poandae police cells. Ham Sŏkhŏn, who at that time was head of education and culture on the North Pyŏngan Peoples’ Committee, was among those arrested. During the Japanese colonial period he had been in and out of jail on at least five occasions, but after liberation he suffered his sixth period of imprisonment at the hands of the Soviets.

The Soviets and the North Korean Communist Party began to worry about he growing hostility toward them and they were forced to acknowledge that they had made mistakes. Kim Il-sung visited Sinŭiju immediately after the students’ demonstration and held a series of citizens’ rallies and students’ meetings. He was at pains to placate public feelings, saying, “the incident in Sinŭiju was the result of mistakes made by the leadership of the local Communist Party and by those in charge of the security department of the local people’s committee and they must absolutely be held to account.”

However, the resistance did not come to an end so easily. At the beginning of 1946 the anti-Soviet atmosphere spread to Hamhŭng, the main industrial city in the north of the country. Just as in Sinŭiju, students were at the centre of the demonstrations that flared up in Hamhŭng.

Students taking part in the Hamhŭng demonstration brought the slogan of ‘Soviets go home’ to the foreground. While students at the Sinŭiju demonstration had shouted ‘Long live the Soviet Union’ before attempting their occupation, this was a somewhat more intense confrontation. On 3 March 1946, around 1000 middle and high-school students held a vehement demonstration in the centre of the city. Among the ten different slogans they shouted were, ‘Soviet Army, stop taking Hamhŭng rice to the Soviet Union,’ ‘The people of Hamhŭng are starving’ and ‘Withdraw the Soviet troops immediately’.

Chairman of the South Hamgyŏng provincial people’s committee, To Yongho tried to talk the demonstrators around, but the students ridiculed him, replying “go away you agent of the Soviets.” Having linked arms and marched around the centre of the city, the students gathered outside the South Hamgyŏng Communist Party offices where members of the Poandae began to threaten them with pistols. The students did not retreat and began to attack the offices. At this point, Soviet soldiers who had answered a request for support from the Poandae, fired into the ranks of the demonstrators, forcibly dispersing them.

Using photographs they had taken at the scene of the demonstration, the Poandae were able to trace the students to their houses and round up the leadership, who were exiled to Siberia without trial. Many were also imprisoned. According to the internal records of the North Korean security forces, by 1946 the jails of North Korea were already full and certain areas were requesting that prisoners be transferred or that new prisons be built.

The demands of the demonstrations that erupted in Sinŭiju, Hamhŭng and elsewhere were reasonable. But antipathy toward the Soviets was never organised effectively. This was entirely the fault of the Korean Communists who slavishly toed the Soviet line. The Communists used the fact that this movement was lead by nationalists unconnected with the labour movement and wealthy Protestants as a pretext for crushing the demonstrations. The Korean Communists defined anti-Soviet as being the same as anti-working class, thus suppressing the demands of the masses.


1: ‘Kim Il-sŏng suryŏng ŭn Chosŏn ŭi hanŭnim’ [Kim Il-sung is the God of Korea], Chollima. Quoted in Sŏ Chae-jin, Tto hana ǔi pukhan sahoe [Another North Korean Society]. (Seoul, Nanam Publishing, 1995) p122.

2: Kulloja [Worker], July 1987.

3: Pak Segil, Tasi ssŭnŭn Han’guk hyŏndaesa. [Rewriting Korea’s modern history.] (Seoul: Tolpegae, 1988).

4: Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Vol VI. (London: 1954). Quoted in Chris Harman, Class Struggles in Eastern Europe, 194583. (London: Bookmarks, 1988). p16.

5: Chris Harman, Class Struggles in Eastern Europe, 194583. p16.

6: Zhukov and Zabrodin, “Korea Short Report.” June 1945.

7: VI Lenin, “The Fall of Port Arthur.” January 14, 1905. LCW Vol. 8, pp47-55.

8: Colonel-General Ivan Mikailevich Chistiakov (1900-1979).

9: Kim Hak-chun, Pukhan 50 nyŏnsa [Fifty Years of North Korean History], (Seoul: Tonga Publishing, 1995) p77.

10: Wada Haruki, “Soryŏn ŭi taebukhan chŏngch’aek 1945-1946.” [Soviet policy toward North Korea, 1945-6], Pundan chŏnhu ŭi hyŏndaesa. (Seoul: Irwŏlsŏgak, 1983).

11: Kang Chŏnggu, T’ongil sidae ŭi pukhan hak. [North Korean Studies in the Age of Unification]. (Seoul: Tangdae Publishing, 1996) p22.

12: Bruce Cumings, Origins of the Korean War, Vol I. p426.

13: During 1946-7 Shtykov was the chief representative for the Soviets on the US-Soviet Joint Committee. After the Soviet troops were withdrawn, he served as the Soviet Union’s ambassador in North Korea between 1948-1951. Shtykov was a Communist Party bureaucrat loyal to Stalin. In 1938 he became second secretary of the Leningrad branch of the party while his father-in-law Zhudanov was first secretary and also a member of the central politburo of the party. Shtykov participated in the 1929 war between the Soviet Union and Finland as a member of the 7th Army’s military committee and was deeply involved in the process of establishing a puppet government in Finland.

14: Pukhan hyǒndaesa 1: yǒn’gu wa charyo [History of North Korea I: research and materials.], Kongdongch’e.

15: Immediately after liberation, Nationalists and Communists who were in the country began to form provincial committees taking charge of administration and peace-preservation duties. Initially these had a variety of names, but were commonly called Committees for the Preparation of Korean Independence (CPKI, or in Korean Kŏn’guk chunbi wiwonhoe 建國準備委員會). Branches were quickly formed at levels below the provincial administrations and soon there were hundreds of these committees all over the peninsula at every level from provincial down to town and village committees. By early October 1945 these committees were uniformly known as People’s Committees (inmin wiwonhoe 人民委員會). See Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War I ; Andrei Lankov, The Formation of North Korea 19451960.

16: Economist, 7 October 1944. Quoted in Chris Harman, op cit. p23.

17: New York Times, 16 January 1945. Quoted in Chris Harman, op cit. p23.

18: Chris Harman, op cit. pp23-24.

19: Pak Segil, op cit. p82.

20: Morita Yoshio, “Soryŏn’gun ŭi pukhan chinju wa inmin wiwonhoe ŭi kyŏlsŏng.” [The occupation of North Korea by the Soviet Army and the formation of the People’s Committees.] Han’guk sahoe yŏn’gu 5.

21: Han’guksa 21Pukhan ŭi chŏngch’i wa sahoe (_1_), (Seoul: Han’gilsa, 1994), pp102-3.

22: The leadership of the Soviet Army met Cho Mansik on a number of occasions and asked for his cooperation. Grigory Konovich Mekler, political officer at the political headquarters of the Soviet 25th army has testified that he, along with Kim Il-sung, met Cho Mansik and asked that he take charge of the Odo haengjŏng sipkuk (Five Provinces Administrative Bureau) and cooperate with the Soviet Army. (Pirok Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk (sang), pp48-56.) Mekler was Kim Il-sung’s Soviet advisor and worked closely with him until 1946, touring the country with him and helping to write many of his speeches.

23: Ryu Kilchae, “Pukhan ǔi kukka kǒnsǒl kwa inmin wiwonhoe ǔi yǒkhal 1945-1947.” [The establishment of the North Korean state and the role of the People’s Committees.] Korea University doctoral thesis.

24: Han’guksa 21Pukhan ûi chŏngch’i wa sahoe (_1_). p102.

25: A Korean sŏm or sack of rice is equivalent to 180 litres.

26: Uri nara inmin kyŏngje palchŏn, [The development of the people’s economy of our nation.] (P’yŏngyang: Kungnip Publishing).

27: Chŏn Hyŏnsu, “1947 nyŏn 12 wŏl pukhan ŭi hwap’ye kaehyŏk.” [North Korea’s currency reform of December 1947.] Yŏksa wa hyŏnsil no. 19.

28: Kungnip munsŏ pogwanso munsŏguk 5466.

29: Ch’oe Wan’gyu, “Chosǒn inmin’gun ǔi hyǒngsǒng kwa palchǒn.” [The formation and development of the Korean People’s Army.] Pukhan ch’eje ǔi surip kwajŏng. (Kyŏngnamdae kŭktong munje yŏn’guso) p151.

30: Chŏn Hyŏnsu, “1947 nyŏn 12 wŏl pukhan ŭi hwap’ye kaehyŏk.”

31: Chris Harman, op cit. p44.

32: Pak Myŏngnim, Han’guk chŏnjaeng ŭi palbal kwa kiwon II.

33: Tang chungang munsǒ pogwansǒ charyo 2-1, ‘Pukchosǒn ŭi chǒngch’i kyǒngje sanghwang e taehan pogo.’

34: More information on the Hamhung Demonstration can be found here:

35: On 1 March 1946, at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the March 1st Movement of 1919, members of a right-wing terrorist group (the White Shirts Society, Paekŭisa) threw a grenade at the platform on which Kim Il-sung and a number of Soviet officers were standing. Kim’s life was saved by a Russian officer named Novichenko who grabbed the grenade, losing his arm when it exploded. Members of the same group who were able to escape capture then attacked the house of Ch’oe Yonggŏn on March 3rd and 5th and the house of Kim Ch’aek (a close ally of Kim Il-sung) on March 9th. These assassination attempts failed because the intended victims had already vacated their houses. On March 13th, they attacked the house of Kang Yang-uk, massacring his family but once again failing to kill their intended target. See Park Myung-lim [Pak Myŏngnim], “The Internalization of the Cold War in Korea.” International Journal of Korean History, Vol. 2, December 2001; “An Tuhŭi nŭn Paekŭisa yowon i anida.” Wolkan Chosŏn, September 2001.

36: Ham Sŏkhŏn, “Naega kyŏkkŭn Sinŭiju haksaeng sagŏn.” [My experience of the Sinŭiju students’ incident.] Ssial ŭi sori. November 1971, p41. (Quoted in Wada Haruki, “Soryŏn ŭi taebukhan chŏngch’aek 1945-1946.”)