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Young Defector, Boxer Eyes Olympic Gold in Beijing
Choi Hyun Mi resumed her training after months of waiting in a third country to come to South Korea
Text & Photography ©Nayan Sthankiya
A 14-year-old female North Korean boxing hopeful, Choi Hyun Mi, came to Seoul along with her father and 468 other North Korean defectors in July — the biggest single arrival of North Korean defectors into South Korea. She has resumed her training in Seoul after an extended layoff while waiting for authorization to come to South Korea.
Choi is determined to represent the South at the Asian games in 2006 and then at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
While in North Korea, Choi trained four times a day from six in the morning until eight at night. This is very different to her current training regime in Seoul of six days a week, two hours a day after school.
After leaving Hanawon, a government education facility for North Koreans that provides a three-month crash course in integrating into South Korean life, Choi and her father chose a gym in the Gwangjin district of Seoul to resume her training. It is owned by Chang Jeong Goo, a former world boxing champion in the light flyweight division.
According to Mr. Choi, his daughter has been groomed since September 2001 by North Korean authorities to represent the North at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Her talent was recognized early and she trained with college students at Kim Cheol Joo University in Pyongyang, where she beat all the male boxers at the college and was given special consideration as a top athlete.
Today she trains under Chang, who with the help of the Korean government believes that Choi can win gold for South Korea at the Beijing Olympics. “She has good fundamental skills and strong desire,” said Chang. He plans to step up her training once she has regained her conditioning from a prolonged layoff do to her defection.
Choi trains to 1980’s North American pop music and is struggling to learn English at her new school. She was welcomed to life in the South Korean school system by soundly beating up the local school bullies who decided to test her abilities. She has made many friends at her school and has become quite popular in a short time, enjoying the activities that most girls her age in South Korea enjoy.
Recently her teacher had asked her if she would like to go on a school tour to Mt. Geumgang in North Korea, which see eagerly responded, “Yes, very much so.” However, her father thought it would not be very prudent to go to North Korea at this time.
Choi has her sights set on the Asian games and then the Gold at the Beijing Olympics. She also hopes to follow in the footsteps of former South Korean International Female Boxers Association flyweight champion, Lee In Young.