The Chosun Ilbo brings us the story of Choi Hyun-mi, a North Korean defector who is now the World Boxing Association women’s featherweight champion.
Born in Pyongyang, Choi showed early talent in sports. She joined the boxing team at the prestigious Kim Chul-joo Educational University in Pyongyang in 2003 at the age of 13. The team had been formed in anticipation of women’s boxing becoming an official event in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
But her life was to change completely in February 2004, when her father, who worked for an international trade company, arranged a family trip to China. They never went back. Choi’s father was the first to arrive in South Korea through Thailand and Cambodia, and five months later, Choi followed with her mother and elder brother. “Adapting to South Korea was a quick process,” she says. “Once I became familiar with life here, my boxing gloves naturally came out of the box again.”
She soon dominated the amateur boxing circuit in the South, but necessity — the prize money for the winner of an amateur competition is a mere W50,000 (US$1=W1,171) — forced her to go professional in her second year of high school in 2007. Then her manager, whom she had trusted, forced her into a 12-year “slave contract,” which meant that even when she became WBA world champion in October 2008, she nearly had to miss the defense bout because she did not have enough money.
Fortunately, she got a more honest promoter, and will be attending university (Sungkyunkwan, I believe) this coming spring. But she will continue to box.
Here she is winning a World championship match:
In victory …
With a messianic aura around her head …
And looking sexy in high heels …
Finally, here’s a video about her. Interestingly, it briefly mentions how she and her family experienced the prejudices against North Koreans in South Korea.
Here is another video that I found. It mentions how she supported her family through her boxing because her father couldn’t find a job, and that North Koreans are looked down upon “because of their poverty and social awkwardness” (1:19). Another item of interest is the image at 0:49. “I’m going to kick your ass, and then hug my Hello Kitty doll.”
On a side note, I didn’t know that AlJazeera could be so good. I thought it was Al-Q’aida TV, but these videos felt like BBC World.