While the topography of North Korea and specifically its northern border with China is not in the least bit diffuse, since both the Amnok and Tumen Rivers and the Mt.
River Crossings On the first of March in the 19th year I crossed the River Amnok The day will come round every year I'll return when my work is done.
While the Amnok is not the river I am most concerned about, it serves as the narrative model for later events focused upon the Tumen River.
The Amnok River was the first important river crossed by Kim Il-sung and other Korean nationalists, and while that crossing is important, the Amnok is not the location for the stories that are most important to North Korea's later political narratives.
Kim Il-sung's crossing of the Amnok and departure from his homeland, full of revolutionary fervor, is an important future element in North Korea's hagiography.
I don't know whether it was the Tumen River or the Amnok River.
In this section I consider practices that support the use of the Tumen and Amnok River landscapes in contemporary North Korea, as well as other moments that are absent from the current narrative.
Kim Il-sung's crossing in January 1925 of the frozen waters of the Amnok River, according to North Korean narratives, began the period of guerrilla exile and struggle.
Phophyong, according to current North Korean historiography, is the site of Kim Il-sung's crossing of the Amnok River and his departure from colonial Chosen to the spaces of resistance, personal liberation, and struggle in the wild edges of Manchuria.
While Kim Jong-suk settled in Beigou village in Yanji county, her family's less tumultuous journey across the Tumen is remembered in her autobiography in much the same way as Kim Il-sung's crossing of the Amnok in 1925: "I never lost the memory of the river or my hometown after I left it ...
However, in spite of Kim Jong-suk's obvious utility to North Korea's political narratives and memory, it appears her important crossings and recrossings of the Tumen are not as easily reconstructed or rescaled into the present as Kim Il-sung's crossing of the Amnok. While both crossings are vital in the life narratives and later political projections of both, the rather violent, painful, and difficult moments by the banks of the Tumen (Winstanley-Chesters and Ten 2016), though transformative for Kim Jong-suk, are not so easily reproduced in North Korea's contemporary political narratives.