“Render genuine service to the motherland and nation”—this was the lifelong creed of Han Tok Su (February 1907-February 2001), chairman of the Central Standing Committee of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), who was a pioneer of the movement of Koreans in Japan and a renowned activist of the movement of overseas Koreans.
Born into a poor peasant family in Kyongsan County, North Kyongsang Province, on February 18, 1907 during the Japanese military occupation of Korea, he keenly experienced the sorrow of the ruined nation from his childhood.
With an ardent desire to learn, he immigrated to Japan at the age of 20, only to do back-breaking labour.
A man with a strong sense of national dignity, he always stood at the vanguard of struggle for national dignity and survival of his fellow compatriots who were subjected to a miserable life in the alien land.
In those days, he heard news about General Kim Il Sung, the Sun of his nation, who was waging a bloody struggle against the Japanese imperialists to win back the country, and conducted the labour movement vigorously full of hope and conviction.
After the country’s liberation (August 1945), he inspired the broad sections of the Koreans resident in Japan to turn out in the patriotic struggle for carrying out the line of building of a new Korea set forth by Kim Il Sung.
On the occasion of the founding of the DPRK in September 1948, he visited the motherland as head of the congratulatory group of Koreans in Japan. In December that year he had the honour of meeting Kim Il Sung for the first time.
That day, Kim Il Sung clearly indicated the way to be followed by the movement of Koreans in Japan and instilled in him the pride and honour of being an overseas citizen of a sovereign and independent state.
Han made a firm determination to devote his all on the road of patriotic work for his motherland and nation.
But the movement of Koreans in Japan was not all plain sailing.
Frightened by the growing united force of the Koreans in Japan who were following the DPRK, the imperialists and Japanese reactionaries instigated by them checked and suppressed their movement in Japan in every way.
Even in such situation, he upheld the Juche-oriented line on the overseas Koreans’ movement set forth by Kim Il Sung, who said that the Koreans, though living in Japan, must wage a struggle for their motherland and nation, firmly maintain the Juche-oriented stand while strengthening their international relations with the democratic forces of Japan and conduct the patriotic work for the reunification and prosperity of their motherland. He aroused the Korean patriots and compatriots in Japan to carry out this line, and finally organized the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) on May 25, Juche 44 (1955) in Tokyo.
Since then, working as the chairman for 46 years, he devoted himself to building Chongryon as an organization of overseas compatriots of the DPRK.
Paying close attention to the work of Chongryon, President Kim Il Sung and Chairman Kim Jong Il met him whenever he visited the motherland, giving him precious instructions and leading him at every step.
As a result, Chongryon established a well-organized system, from its centre to the lowest echelon, and built itself up as a mass, patriotic organization of Koreans in Japan, with affiliated organizations comprising compatriots according to their social standings and jobs.
Han Tok Su led the compatriots to put an end to the national assimilation manoeuvres of the reactionaries at home and abroad and to defend the national identity generation after generation by vigorously conducting the movements of learning and writing Korean and winning back the Koreans among the compatriots. He also established a democratic national education system, ranging from primary schools to a university.
Possessing ardent love for his motherland and nation, he wrote the lyrics of tens of songs, although he was not a poet, including The Affection of the Motherland Is Warm and Endless Is Our Pride, making the Korean community in Japan filled with the peculiar national emotion.
He was awarded the Order of Kim Il Sung, Kim Il Sung Prize, twice Labour Hero, National Reunification Prize, honorary academician, professor and doctor. He lived a worthwhile life as a prominent activist of overseas compatriots and a patriot known by his motherland and nation and even the world.
His remains are buried in the Sinmi-ri Patriotic Martyrs Cemetery, and Pyongyang University of Light Industry was renamed after him.