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Digital Archive International History Declassified

February 25, 1956

RECORD OF A CONVERSATION BETWEEN SOVIET EMBASSY COUNSELLOR S. FILATOV AND PAK YEONG-BIN

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    Pak says that while he himself has admitted to his mistakes and engaged in self-criticism, Pak Chang-ok continues to deny that he had engaged in factionalist, anti-Party activity. Pak Yeong-bin also describes several factors that may have played a role in the “The Further Strengthening of the Fight Against Reactionary Bourgeois Ideology in Literature” decision made by Kim Il Sung and the Presidium.
    "Record of a Conversation between Soviet Embassy Counsellor S. Filatov and Pak Yeong-bin," February 25, 1956, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, RGANI Fond 5, Opis 28, Delo 412. Translated by Gary Goldberg. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/120773
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Secret

Copy Nº 3

from the journal of Cde. S. N. Filatov,        

Counsellor of the Soviet Embassy in   

the DPRK

Record of a conversation with Cde. Pak Yeong-bin

25 February 1956

Cde. Pak Yeong-bin, who visited the Embassy, said that he had been seriously ill for more than three months and was treated for the first two months in a government hospital, and the rest of the time in a Soviet hospital.

Pak pointed out that, during the illness I was released from the post [I] occupied and from the Political Council and KWP CC membership. I was partially familiarized with the accusations made against me at the December KWP CC Plenum and at the expanded December KWP CC Presidium meeting (400-420 people were present) on 17-18 January, and completely only on 24 February.

Pak pointed out that after the December KWP CC Plenum Pak Jeong-ae and Pak Geum-cheol (deputy chairmen of the KWP CC), who told about Kim Il Sung's speech at the Plenum and KWP CC Presidium, often visited me in the hospital. They pointed out that Kim Il Sung sharply criticized the work of Pak Chang-ok and him, Pak Yeong-bin, in his statements, but they did not tell him that he, Pak Yeong-bin, had been removed from the Political Council and KWP CC membership, fearing for the state of his health.

On 17 January it was suggested that I appear in the KWP CC to see Cde. Choe Yong-geon for a conversation and give explanations for the critical comments made against me at the Plenum and KWP CC Presidium.

In spite of the serious condition of [my] health, without going home from the hospital, I went to the KWP CC, where I was received by Cde. Choe Yong-geon. Cdes. Pak Geum-cheol and Rim Hae, Chairman of the KWP CC Party Control Committee, were present at the conversation. They told me that the December KWP CC Plenum had released me from the responsibilities of chief of the KWP CC Agitprop Department and the CC Presidium had removed me from the Political Council and KWP CC members. These decisions, as they pointed out, were adopted at the suggestion of Cde. Kim Il Sung.

I, said Pak, asked [them] to explain to me my mistakes which [I] had committed during my work in the KWP CC. Pak Geum-cheol said that I had treated Han Seol-ya, the Chairman of the Union of Korean Writers, incorrectly. Using [my] official position and having received slanderous material from the MVD investigative bodies [I] had demanded the release of Han Seol-ya from the position [he] had held. Without receiving Pak agreement to this Yeong-bin gave orders to his deputy to discuss the work of Han Seol-ya in the Writers' Union and seek his release. But during the discussion of the work of Han Seol-ya a majority of writers spoke in his defense and demanded he be kept in the post he held.

Pak Geum-cheol also pointed to my incorrect attitude toward Cde. Seo Hwi, Chairman of the CC of Trade Unions, and other senior officials.

In my explanation, said Pak Yeong-bin, I admitted to my incorrect attitude toward some senior officials, including toward Han Seol-ya and Seo Hwi. But I directed their attention to the fact that the mistakes I made with respect to the aforementioned officials were back in 1953 and the beginning of 1954 and that the Political Council knows about this, and also pointed out that Cde. Kim Il Sung had made comments to me about this issue back in August 1954. Since that time I had said nothing against Han Seol-ya and Seo Hwi and had not concerned myself with their work at all.

After my explanation Choe Yong-geon spoke and began to insultingly accuse me of factional activity, pointing out that I had been brought up in a bourgeois spirit and that it was all the same to me what government would be established in Korea.

Hearing such accusations, I stopped Choe Yong-geon, telling him that he was slandering me. I have had shortcomings and mistakes in [my] work but you do not have the right to accuse me of factionalism and statements against the policy of our Party. I exhibited restraint in the conversation, telling Choe Yong-geon that he had been a member of a petty bourgeois party all his life and its leader for the past five to seven years. After this I could not listen to Choe Yong-geon's statement and left the office.

Two hours later, Cde. Kim Il Sung called me and talked with me for more than three hours. Cde. Kim Il Sung politely tried to show me that I had actually pursued an anti-Party right-opportunist line, that I had participated in factional activity together with Pak Chang-ok.

I directed Kim Il Sung's attention to the fact that the KWP CC does not have any materials describing us as factionalists. During all these years of work in Korea I have worked there honestly and conscientiously wherever the CC sent me. If anyone said anything against me to you, then it is slander, and I can never agree with this.

Cde. Kim Il Sung said that we have held three meetings of the Political Council on this question and we think that the accusations made against you are correct. He said, admit all these accusations and we will end the discussion right away. This will be better. All the same, no one will believe you.

A meeting of the KWP CC Presidium was held on 18 January which lasted eight hours at which I admitted the mistakes of which I was accused. When this was happening I said that I had not participated in factional activity and had not pursued a right-opportunist line.

Cde. Kim Il Sung praised me for admitting mistakes. The entire meeting was devoted to Cde. Pak Chang-ok, who denied his participation in factional and anti-Party activity. He tried to explain to the Presidium the concept of factions and the factional struggle.

None of the CC Presidium members cited any facts about my factional activity. Only Rim Hae said that he had a letter of a group of officials in which the anti-Party activity of Pak Chang-ok is pointed out.

I laid at home in serious condition until 23 January. I was invited to criticize myself at a city Party activists' meeting, which I did.

After the Party activists’ meeting I was delivered to the Soviet hospital in serious condition, where I lay until 28 February.

Pak Yeong-bin points out, I thought that the CC Presidium would not point out our factional and anti-Party activity in their decision since we were not factionalists, and we had carried out the responsibilities entrusted to us honestly and conscientiously. Yes, and at the Presidium meeting no one could cite facts confirming our factional activity.

Then Cde. Pak Yeong-bin said that he had been sent to Korea by the CPSU CC. He was put in important managerial work, not right away, like some of the Soviet Koreans. Only after three and a half [or] four years did the KWP CC promote [him] to an important post.  I understand that I had not justified the trust given [me], and had made many mistakes in my work, which I admitted at the KWP CC Presidium and the city Party activists' meetings. But as a Party member I declare to you that the accusations made against me of factional and anti-Party activity, and also of pursuing a right-opportunist line are incorrect and mistaken.

In the course of the conversation I directed Cde. Pak Yeong-bin’s attention to the fact that the KWP CC Presidium decision, “The Further Strengthening of the Fight Against Reactionary Bourgeois Ideology in Literature and Art”, was discussed at all primary Party organizations and approved by all KWP members.

To this Cde. Pak Yeong-bin replied that he understands the situation was developed for him, the difficulty for his further work in Korea. I think that we will be against subjected to sharp criticism at the 3rd KWP congress, but I think that Cde. Kim Il Sung will soon be convinced of the incorrectness of the accusation made against us by this decision of the KWP CC Presidium. It is already clear right now that some KWP Presidium members, in particular Cde. Pak Geum-cheol and even Cde. Kim Il Sung, have reconsidered their attitude toward us and have begun to assess our mistakes in a different way.

I asked Pak Yeong-bin what could explain [the fact] that Cde. Kim Il Sung and the KWP CC Presidium had made such a decision.

Pak replied that he had thought much about this question and still had not arrived at a definite opinion. But, considering a number of facts and remembering conversations which Cde. Kim Il Sung had held with us one can suppose the reasons which caused the leadership to make such a decision.

1. Before the April KWP CC Plenum Cde. Kim Il Sung raised the issue in the Political Council of the need to co-opt Cde. Choe Yong-geon to the Political Council. All the members of the Political Council were surprised at Cde. Kim Il Sung's proposal. Cdes. Pak Jeong-ae and Pak Chang-ok opposed this, and other participants of the meeting were silent. Cde. Kim Il Sung, seeing that he was not supported, said that he would make this proposal at the Plenum and closed the meeting. This was the first disagreement in the Political Council. At the Plenum Choe Yong-geon was coopted to the Political Council at Kim Il Sung's suggestion.

2. In April of last year before the departure of Cde. Kim Il Sung for Moscow some Political Council members, including Pak Chang-ok and Kim Du-bong, raised the issue of Cde. Kim Il Sung's having too great a workload and expressed the opinion about the need to release him from a number of the posts he occupied. Kim Il Sung eagerly agreed with this and said that he would be satisfied if they would give him an opportunity to work in the KWP CC. At the same time he said that right then he was not prepared to give any suggestions about his replacement in the post of premier. He asked that members of the Political Council return to a decision of this issue on his return from the Soviet Union.

At a meeting of the Political Council in September of last year Kim Il Sung raised the issue of his overwork and asked the Political Council to decide the issue of promoting a member of the Political Council to the post of premier who was more prepared and having more work experience. He expressed his opinion that the most suitable candidate was Cde. Choe Yong-geon. Cdes. Pak Jeong-ae, Pak Chang-ok, and I (Choe Yong-geon was not present at the meeting) opposed this. We were also supported by Cde. Pak Geum-cheol. Everyone pointed out that Cde. Choe Yong-geon, both during the war and afterwards, did not prove his worth in anything and coped with the responsibilities with which he was entrusted poorly. We pointed out that at his, Kim's, suggestion in January 1955 Pak Chang-ok was put in a small committee and he was charged with the responsibilities of dealing with the questions of the country's defense. This was done because of the poor work of Choe Yong-geon. Cde. Kim Il Sung prevailed us for a long time to agree with his suggestion, but we did not agree with his arguments, after which relations between individual members of the Political Council and Cde. Kim Il Sung started to become strained. He made an attempt to talk with us individually, trying to be persuasive about the need to promote Choe Yong-geon to the post of premier. But, Pak said, as I know, only Cde. Pak Geum-cheol agreed with him, but Cdes. Pak Jeong-ae and Pak Chang-ok opposed [him].

3. We are incorrectly covering the issue of the role of the popular masses and the role of personality in history in all the press. The main and determining [driving force] in the struggle for the reunification of Korea, for the building of a new life is devoted not to the popular masses but to Kim Il Sung. I, and also Pak Chang-ok, stated the incorrectness of such a direction of our ideological work in possible and suitable expressions and in our actions. When I was approved in the position of Chief of the KWP CC Agitprop Department (February 1955) I ran directly into this issue. At one of the meetings of the Political Council I officially raised the issue of the need to make a statement in the press about an explanation on this issue. At the next meeting of CC officials I provided information about Kim Il Sung's instructions on this issue. At the time I could say that after I left the CC the cult of personally again began to be glorified in the press and on a broader scale. I think that Cde. Kim Il Sung reacted badly to its proposal.

4. In October and November 1954 at the order of Cde. Kim Il Sung all of us members of the Political Council went to the countryside to identify opportunities to organize grain purchases. After this the results of our trip were discussed in the Political Council. Cde. Pak Chang-ok and I spoke and reported that the peasants have little grain and, if the grain purchase was to be organized, then it needed to be a free purchase through a consumer cooperative system as is done in the Soviet Union. Cde. Kim Il Sung opposed [this] and proposed reducing the grain purchase plan to each household. When excesses and mistakes were made during this campaign I, as Pak points out, was careless and expressed my opinion to Kim Il Sung about this issue, saying that he had not taken into consideration the objections which we had made at one time. What I also said was that in the CC we had no collective nature in the work and that the opinions of members of the Political Council were not always taken into consideration.

5. A number of senior local officials and especially Deputy Premiers Choe Chang-ik, Jeong Il-yong, and others had a very poor attitude against Soviet Koreans. Kim Il Sung told us about this repeatedly. How obviously they used the mistakes we had made and used them against us actively.

6. Pak Yeong-bin directed attention to the fact that after Cdes. Pak Chang-ok and Kim Il Sung left the CC for work in the Cabinet of Ministers I was essentially left alone in the CC, but Pak Jeong-ae was often on business trips. Kim Il Sung was badly overworked in the Cabinet of Ministers. It was hard to reach him. I repeatedly raised the question in the Political Council of the need to staff the CC with trained people who knew industry and agriculture well. I also proposed increasing the size of the Political Council. Cde. Kim Il Sung always answered, the main people in places should be good. Select good managers in ministries and departments and everything will be good. I understood that Kim Il Sung underestimated the importance of the CC as a governing body, and he directed all his attention and that of his deputies to the improvement of the work of the Cabinet of Ministers. We had cases when the Political Council did not meet for months, and meetings of the CC Presidium were rarely held. All this had a negative effect on the work of the CC and the Party in general.

It seems to me that the facts I cited allow a [possible] explanation why the issue of our work was raised this way at a time when it was also, of course, necessary to bear in mind the mistakes we made in work.

Pak Yeong-bin pointed out, as regards the work of Hegai, then I do not understand why he is called an enemy of the people and why Kim Il Sung has been mentioning him here there and everywhere for nearly three years. I had no connection with Hegai, but at the last CC plenum I was accused of ties with Hegai.

I directed Pak Yeong-bin’s attention to the fact that in his speech at the KWP CC Presidium Cde. Kim Il Sung expressed the opinion that many positions in the KWP CC, in the Cabinet of Ministers, in the army, etc. were vacant until recently and that some CC officials, and he pointed especially to you, thought that we do not have enough personnel and some need to be promoted. Cde. Kim Il Sung said that this opinion was incorrect.

Pak Yeong-bin replied that he actually often expressed such an opinion with respect to senior personnel at a Political Council meeting, that he had exhibited unnecessary caution in promoting personnel, he had promoted more Soviet Koreans to senior positions, and that they, as he had pointed out, are more competent and trained officials. In addition, they have been checked and we trust them. This, of course, created the opinion among some local senior officials that they are not trusted and that they are underestimated. It is also necessary to recognize that [I] poorly studied the personnel, and [I] had worked little with them. All this led to an alienation from the main senior officials and it is entirely correct that the main composition of the CC and the Cabinet of Ministers, and the leaders of the provincial Party and people's committees, were inclined against them, but I was guided on this issue by the instructions of Cde. Kim Il Sung. Until recently he had always pointed out that the Soviet Koreans will not let [us] down, we trust them. When we promoted a local comrade to the leadership of a military academy Kim Il Sung himself proposed sending Cde. Gi Seok-bok there to work. [To] our arguments that he was not a military man and knows nothing Kim Il Sung replied, to study. We agreed with this.

In conclusion Pak Yeong-bin said that he recovered quickly in the Soviet hospital and now he can start work. Yesterday he was received by Pak Geum-cheol and said that Cde. Kim Il Sung would receive him and decide about his work. I will try to take the mistakes I have made into consideration and justify the trust placed in me.

The conversation lasted four hours.

S. FILATOV

[signature]

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