- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2003

INCHON, South Korea — Chung Soon-duk, the last communist guerrilla caught in South Korea, lost her right leg to a wound 40 years ago, and her left side is paralyzed from a stroke. She is hospitalized and gets around by wheelchair.

Yet when she recalls her days as an “anti-American unification warrior,” the 70-year-old woman brims with bravado. She belts out old rebel songs, pumping her arm — the only limb she can use — to the beat:

“Comrades, shoulder your rifles. It’s time for battle. Blizzards hit hard, but our hearts are boiling with hot blood. … We have orders, comrades, orders to search for the enemies.”

Her life on the run ended in a shootout with police in the rugged Chiri Mountains on Nov. 12, 1963 — a decade after the Korean War ended. “Disoriented communist bandit caught!” read a headline at the time.

With her arrest, South Korea finally declared an end to drawn-out operations against peasant “partisans” who fought the pro-U.S. government in Seoul long after the war. For Mrs. Chung, the war never ended.

Her saga began shortly after she married at 16, when North Korea invaded the South in June 1950. Her peasant husband, Sung Suk-jo, collaborated with North Korean troops, who promised “liberation” from landlords. He was among thousands of leftists who fled to the thick forests and jagged ravines of the Chiri Mountains when the tide of war changed.

Mrs. Chung went, too, and found her husband, but married couples were not allowed to fight in the same unit. She last saw her husband in January 1952 sitting before a bonfire in a snowy field. She heard later that he died in battle.

By 1955, most of the Chiri Mountain guerrillas had surrendered or been killed, but Mrs. Chung and others fought on, even though they had no communication with North Korea.

Mrs. Chung’s unit dwindled to herself and two men, and later just one, but they continued to elude capture.

That December, Mrs. Chung’s surviving comrade, Lee Eung-jo, 53, was wounded as police tracked the fugitives. Mrs. Chung says she was unable to carry him and killed him — at his request and in “the true spirit of comradeship.”

The following November, during a foray into a village, a peasant pressed an alarm, alerting two policemen lying in wait. Mrs. Chung was shot in her right thigh.

“Even bleeding, she was crawling to her carbine. I quickly overpowered her,” said Park Ki-duk, one of the policemen who shot Mrs. Chung. “She cursed us endlessly, calling us all kinds of names and demanding to be killed. Later I gave her some milk, and she threw it away. She was a tough one. It’s scary what communism does to an ignorant woman.”

Doctors amputated Mrs. Chung’s leg. She was convicted of murder, arson, robbery and theft and sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1999, Mrs. Chung suffered a stroke. Now she shares a hospital room with five other patients. She reads magazines and books sent by sympathetic activists and is visited by a Christian pastor.


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