In the autumn, with most of the strenuous root collection work having been completed, we were given firewood work. We were instructed to carry 20~30 kilograms of firewood to school, some three kilometers, six times a day. We did not have any wood-carrying equipment. When I put the first load on my shoulder and moved a few steps, I already felt my shoulder breaking and my feet shaking. I had to stop three or four times on the way before I reached school.
When I finished my 4th round and started on my way back to work, I saw my friend, Wung-Mo, lying on the ground motionless. I approached him and tried to wake him up. “Hey, Wung-Mo, get up. Quick! They will beat you to death if they find out.” I tried to help him up with my arms under his arm pits. He didn’t move. He couldn’t even talk. I pushed his load of firewood aside, pulled him under a tree nearby and laid him down comfortably.
Suddenly, I felt the strong blow of a stick on my back. “Who told you to help him?” It was the teacher. Even before I was able to get up, I was hit several more times. “You s.o.b. You better get back to work.” I rolled over to escape his beatings, then I saw him beginning to mercilessly kick at my friend. “I know you are cheating .Get up!” The boy did not move.
The days were getting colder and we were instructed to hurry up with our firewood work. The oldest boys were given the work of cutting down trees high up in the mountain, the second group of boys cutting down the trees to right size with saws, the third group carrying the wood down to the foot of the mountain and the youngest boys carrying the short wood to school.
Another boy fell on his fifth round. I tried very hard to finish my work because if I did not accomplish my work quota, the other boys would have to do more work. I did not want them to think I was not strong enough. But, I could not take it anymore and I fell into a ditch near my school on the 6th round. The whole world looked yellow to me. I felt so weak without any strength in my trembling feet, before I finally fainted. When I woke up some time later, I saw that three other boys had fainted like I did.
The other boys were angry with us because they had to do more work under the collective work quota system. As the boys passed by us, one of them said. “Hey, don’t try to be smart, eh?” Others joined, “Don’t you know it is also as difficult for us as it was for you? We do it so why don’t you?” They all spat angry words at us. I could not blame them.
First, I was angry with my grandfather because I was suffering from all these hardships because of him. Then, I asked, “What was his sin anyway?” They say he betrayed the fatherland and people. But, how? I don’t know any details of his sin. Then, I came to wonder, “Why am I punished because of his crime, anyway?” I could not understand. Why… why… why?