A special train carrying President Kim Il Sung, who was on a visit to the Soviet Union, arrived at Novosibirsk station in Siberia on May 21, 1984.
After exchanging greetings with the senior Party and government officials in Novosibirsk who had come to the station to greet him, he had an emotion-filled reunion with Ya. T. Novichenko.
Kim Il Sung had been the first to recognize him. He embraced Novichenko warmly, and then remained silent for a while, as he stroked his shoulder. How long had he tried to discover his whereabouts!
Novichenko, a former second lieutenant in the Soviet army, had lost his arm when he had used his body to smother a hand-grenade thrown by a reactionary at a rally held in the plaza in front of the Pyongyang Railway Station in 1946, a year after Korea’s liberation from the Japanese military occupation, to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the March First Popular Uprising. He had been seriously wounded, and admitted to hospital in Pyongyang. Kim Il Sung had ensured that everything was done for his medical treatment. After Novichenko returned home, he had not forgotten him, and had spent 38 years trying to trace him. Finally, he had learned that he was living anonymously in a remote village in Siberia, his native place. In spite of how busy he was on his official visit, he had invited him to the railway station to see him.
Kim Il Sung asked after Novichenko’s health and living conditions. Apologizing for not being able to talk for long that day because of the lack of time, he asked him to visit Korea, adding that they would have plenty of time to talk when he was there. He warmly embraced Novichenko, before taking leave of him.
The train resumed its journey. Kim Il Sung summoned the officials accompanying him to the conference room on the train, and asked them if they had seen the medal on Novichenko’s chest.
They looked at one another without replying, because they had failed to notice anything.
After a while, he said with confidence that the medal on his chest was the Order of the National Flag of the DPRK. It was a rare act of heroism, Kim Il Sung went on, for Novichenko, a Russian and not a Korean, to have displayed such a self-sacrificing spirit, and he should be awarded the title of Labour Hero of the Republic. He stressed that Novichenko’s action was so great that it was incomparable, and insisted that he should visit Korea within that year, and that a feature film depicting his exploits be produced.
On May 25 that year, four days later, a decree of the Central People’s Committee of the DPRK on conferring the title of Labour Hero on Novichenko was issued.
When Novichenko later visited Korea, Kim Il Sung met him. During their talks, Kim Il Sung said:
“Originally, we should have conferred on you the title of Hero when you performed your heroic feat. But in 1946 we were yet to found the Republic. The Provisional People’s Committee of North Korea existed then. We founded the DPRK in 1948, when you were no longer in Korea.”