Monday, March 28, 2005


don't seem to do very well in the rough and tumble of South Korean society. Choi Hyun Mi, however, might have a chance. Why? She's a boxer with Olympic dreams.
Choi said she was walking with friends on a street in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, when a boxing trainer spotted her and saw the makings of a fighter.

Her parents were at first opposed -- her mother wanted her to take up art or music. But the trainer kept coming to their house and urging Choi to sign up, so she left her ordinary schoolgirl life for the privileged world of North Korea's top athletes.

Choi's parents said their daughter told them she wanted to make it to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing because "I want to make Kim Jong Il happy," referring to the North Korean leader.

North Korea relies on outside food aid to feed its people, and Choi's parents said adults receive rations of about 700 grams (25 ounces) of rice a day that is actuality cut down to 500 grams (18 ounces) after what they called "taxes."

As a potential star athlete, Choi was guaranteed the full 700-gram (25-ounce) ration along with meat and cooking oil, and all the clothes and equipment she needed.

It wasn't easy, though: She would wake up at 5 a.m. six days a week for a eight-kilometer (five-mile) run, then take classes, then train from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. After dinner she would have another hour of training. She saw her parents on Sundays only.
Things have changed some for Choi since she left the DPRK with her parents and ended up in the south:
Now Choi trains only an hour a day, bobbing and weaving to the beat of Korean and American pop music. She wears a plastic suit to help her sweat off weight to compete in the 63-65 kilogram (139-143 pound) division.

She also has had to learn new boxing vocabulary: South Korea uses English words like "jab" while North Korea sticks with the pure Korean variants.

She goes to school and is home every day now.
A success story? Time will tell.

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