Go to contents

Modern military academy recruited students through secret bases

Modern military academy recruited students through secret bases

Posted May. 30, 2017 07:20,   

Updated May. 30, 2017 07:23

“Jang Se-dam is an influential person among young Joseon men who are defiant of the Japanese (colonial rule). He is moving back and forth to and from Gyeongseong (current Seoul) and Andong County (Dandong) and Bongcheon (Shenyang) in China, and is making all-out efforts to recruit comrades.”

This is part of an intelligence report written by the Japanese military police on Oct. 24, 1914. The military police concluded that Jang Se-dam’s business was meant to guide young men to Shinheung Military Academy. Jang Se-dam is an alias of Jang Hyeong (1889-1964), the independence fighter with penname Beom Jeong who founded Dankuk University in Korea. Born in Seoul, he would bypass the tight surveillance network of the Japanese colonial authority that spanned from Seoul to Manchuria, and carried out mission to recruit students of the school. Due to his activities, Kim Yeon-woo and Goh Jeong-shik, who were students of Boseong College, were able to join Shinheung Military Academy in 1914.

Shinheung Military Academy was founded by members of Shinmin-hoi including Lee Hoi-yeong (1867-1932) with penname Woo-dang in 1911, the year after Korea was annexed to Japan, in Liuhe County in China’s Jilin Province. The academy served as the beachhead for Koreans’ armed struggle against the Japanese colonial forces, and nurtured more than 3,500 military independence fighters. Most of the leaders of Korea’s armed independence fighters who led Cheongsan-ni and Bongodong battles against the Japanese military to victory were alumni of the school. However, it was a mystery in the history community how and where Shinheung Military Academy was able to recruit so many students during the dark age of Japanese colonial rule.

In his research paper presented at the international academic conference commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Woo-dang Lee Hoi-yeong, Dankuk University Professor Park Seong-soon suggested for the first time that Shinheung Military Academy recruited students through secret bases that scattered in the Gando region in China. According to Park, new recruits of the school assembled initially at Andong County after traveling from Seoul to Pyongyang and Shinuiju. Some of them went into Liuhe County through Huanren and Tonghua, or travelled through Meihekou after passing the bustling district of Shenyang to dodge Japan’s surveillance.

Notably, secret communication bases in Andong County, which disguised themselves as rice dealers, merchants or hotel owners played an important role in the process. They worked to link new recruits and independence fighters who moved there from the Korean Peninsula to Shinheung Military Academy. For example, Confucian scholar Maeng Bo-soon who was born in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, took asylum in Andong County in 1910, and served as liaison for Shinheung Military Academy while operating a shop there. There was a cluster of Koreans living in Andong who had moved to the region when Japan’s Dongyang Cheokshik (Oriental Development) Company forfeited land from Koreans in 1911.

Sang-Un Kim sukim@donga.com