“I liked O Jin U as much as the President had liked Kim Chaek.”
This is what Kim Jong Il said in remembrance of the anti-Japanese war veteran.
O Jin U died of sickness on February 25, 1995.
That day, mourning the deceased for long hours, Kim Jong Il said: Nothing is more heartrending than to see revolutionaries of the older generation departing this world one after another. Even though they cannot work any longer, we find a great encouragement in them as long as they live. I feel heartbroken when they pass away. To our Party, such a senior revolutionary cadre as O Jin U was more precious than most. Indeed, his death is a great loss to our Party and revolution.
O Jin U, the then minister of the People’s Armed Forces, was Kim Il Sung’s and Kim Jong Il’s closest comrade.
The following happened on his 60th birthday.
Kim Jong Il gave him a call saying that he must come quickly for an important meeting.
The old minister hurried along and walked into a room where he could see several anti-Japanese war veterans.
Kim Jong Il appeared from the adjourning room, saying that it was time to guide the bridegroom to the table as he arrived.
All looked in confusion at one another, as there was no young man in the room.
He opened the door and urged the veterans in their sixties to enter the room, stressing that the ceremony was about to begin.
Thinking that he was in a deadpan humour to please his old comrades as he used to be, O Jin U stepped inside.
To his surprise, however, a wedding spread caught his eyes as he entered the small room.
Kim Jong Il declared solemnly:
This frugal spread is for the 60th birthday of the minister of the People’s Armed Forces, a revolutionary forerunner who has traversed the long journey of the revolution unwaveringly in support of the great leader.
As this birthday spread has been modelled on a “wedding spread,” I will be the best man.
O Jin U stood overwhelmed with gratitude.
Kim Jong Il filled a cup of wine for him and proposed a toast to his health.
With the mood growing congenial, he asked the “bridegroom” to tell about his wedding on this happy day.
Amid a burst of applause the old veteran stood up and began to tell a story.
Immediately after the country’s liberation he was appointed as the secretary of the Party Committee of Anju County. One day he met a beautiful and good-natured girl but her parents did not like him because he was an orphan. He went to her house and said to them, “I am the chief of this county and you must know that the land and factories in it are all mine. I am governing the county according to General Kim Il Sung’s order. You know an old story about Pongi Kim Sondal who sold off the Taedong River. And to me, a man of the General, governing Anju is a cakewalk. As a guerrilla, I accomplished much more difficult tasks.” Then he stood up to leave and the father, who was sitting cross-legged with an air of importance, dissuaded him and asked, “Are you really a man of General Kim Il Sung who employs the art of shortening distance? Then you must have wings under your arms. When do you spread them?”
When O Jin U said this with a poker face, all split their sides with laughter.
Kim Jong Il said, “After all, you came to marry a girl you liked thanks to General Kim Il Sung.”
The old man resumed: On his wedding day, as he was sitting politely behind the table one of the naughty boys threw a paper roll towards him. It read, “You are a thief. You have come in full daylight to steel a girl in this village. You must choose between the wedding spread and the girl.” Seeing through this attempt at testing his courage, the bridegroom scribbled something on the paper and threw it back. The old man with a grey beard, who was presiding at the ceremony, read it with a smile and roared, “Get out, naughty boys. You shall pay for this. The stick on the paper means he can beat ten rivals at one blow, and the three Xs and one dot mean he can defeat more than 30. Below these symbols he has written that he is a soldier of the General. This means that he has mastered the art of shortening distance.” Overawed, the young boys took to their heels.
As the story-telling was over, all clapped their hands. Kim Jong Il, too, laughed heartily, saying that the minister was knowledgeable and adroit.
He continued to tell O Jin U: Some days ago, the President instructed that a spread should be prepared for your 60th birthday. I told him that I would have his birthday spread modelled on a wedding spread, out of my wish that the minister retains a mind of vigour although he is growing old. The President was quite delighted at this idea.
He told an official that the spread should be sent to the minister’s house for his wife to see, so that they could pose for a photo as they had done on their wedding day.