Choi Hyun-mi, a girl who defected from North Korea in 2003, is South Korea’s only world boxing champion.

Choi Hyun-mi has held the WBA Super Featherweight Championship since 2013. She has been undefeated for more than 2,800 days, becoming the longest-running super featherweight title holder in WBA history. Including featherweight and super featherweight, Choi is undefeated 13 since his first fight in 2008. In May 2021, Choi plans to fight Terri Happer, WBO’s super featherweight champion, to win the fight. belt unification. However, Happer got injured and the match was cancelled.

Choi Hyun-mi is in the top 10 in the world, as voted by ESPN in 2021. Photo: ESPN

Choi Hyun-mi is in the top 10 in the world, as voted by ESPN in 2021. Photo: ESPN

Choi won 18 and drew one of his 19 career matches. The unbeaten record in the Super featherweight category makes the 29-year-old athlete want to return to featherweight to conquer the world championship belts. Choi’s goal is to fight Irish legend Katie Taylor, one of the best boxers in history and currently topping the prestigious rankings of the boxing village.

Choi is seen by the South Korean media as a great ambassador for athletes who defected from North Korea. Before becoming a champion bearing the name and nationality of South Korea, Choi studied boxing at the age of 11 in Pyongyang. An elementary school coach recognized Choi’s potential and told her parents that she could become a martial artist to “please Leader Kim Jong-il”. Choi then joined a special training program for athletes scheduled to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

However, after training for almost two years, Choi defected with his family from Pyongyang. Her father wanted them to have a different life and decided to go to China. They continued to move to Vietnam, before going to Korea for asylum. Like any other North Korean defector to the South, Choi faced a life of poverty and racism.

“I collided with a friend at school and she cursed at me, saying that I should have stayed in North Korea,” Choi recalled of his school days. “It hurt me. I took a week off school. I felt helpless. After that, I resolved not to let myself be ridiculed anymore. And I pursued boxing.”

Choi made a wise decision. In 2006, two years after settling in Korea, she became an athlete of the national team. Choi won five amateur championships, before playing professionally since 2007. In October 2008, she defeated Xu Chun Yan of China in her first WBA featherweight championship. She successfully defended the title seven times, before stepping up to Super Feather in 2014 and defending it eight times in a row.

Boxing is not a popular sport in Korea. This left Choi with a lack of sponsors, to the point where she once considered giving up titles. Her father had to meet politicians and write to the President’s Office to seek help.

Choi Hyun-mi has not lost after 13 years of competition.  Photo: DAZN

Choi Hyun-mi has not lost after 13 years of competition. Image: DAZN

Representatives of some countries such as the US, Japan and Germany have approached to invite Choi for naturalization. But the 30-year-old boxer refused because he did not want to go through another difficult immigration and is proud to represent Korea. “Two years of training in North Korea forged the will to fight. But it is South Korea that creates champion Choi Hyun-mi,” she said in an interview with AP on 7/19.

About 34,000 people have left North Korea for South Korea in search of a better life. Most of them have difficulty integrating and are only seen as second or third class citizens. Jeon Ju-myung, who runs an association for defectors in Seoul, said defectors from the North are very proud of Choi Hyun-mi: “Her inspirational story has a positive impact. to the resettlement of Koreans here”.

“I’m proud to be the champion of Korea. But it sucks when phrases like ‘defector’ appear before my name,” Choi said. “That overshadowed my efforts. It took a lot to get to where I am today, but that hasn’t erased the way many people see me.”

According to John Hwang, manager of the Seoul Boxing Association, Choi is the best female boxer in Korean history: “She has a mind of steel. Maybe that came after she risked her life to come to Korea. Choi is very persistent with her career. Her endurance is extremely respectable.”

Choi is currently managed by an American boxing company. She mainly trains in the country of chess, where she believes she can become a greater boxer. Choi plans to unify the WBA title with the other three official belts of WBC, IBF and WBO in three to five years. “I will retire after fighting Taylor – who I consider the strongest boxer in the world,” Choi said of his ambitions at the end of his career. “Win or lose, I am satisfied with that way of retirement. I will fight without any regrets.”

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