Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fury of Girl's Fists Lifts Up North Korean Refugee Family


The headline of this article was what caught my eye when I was scrolling through the New York Times Sunday's stories. Perhaps it was because it sounded so weird in my head, like I pictured a pair of fists literally lifting up a family; or maybe it was because of two words, "fury" and "fists" –they are not used often in headlines, but they are so emotive. A safer headline would have been (here's one off the top of my head): North Korean Female Boxer Inspires Her Family. Sure, there's the same message there, but it is definitely not as effective.

The writer, Choe Sang-Hun, delivers her hook in her very first paragraph when she described boxing as a hobby for the past, when the people of South Korea did not have the 13th largest economy in the world. Using a bit of artistic license, Choe Sang-Hun delivers to readers an image of a boxer who should be seen as scrappy, hard-working, and (in South Korea today) rare. She sets up the story of Choi Hyun-Mi, a 17-year-old female boxer, who has recently won the World Boxing Association's Women's featherweight championships. She and her family are also from North Korea, and have been refugees in South Korea for about four years.

Her father was quoted throughout the article, as he was the one who decided to move his family to the South, because he had a taste of what freedom was like through his business travels. However, once they gained asylum to South Korea, he realized that life in South, through free of restraints, was relatively harder since he was not able to find a job. The article said that the family lives mainly off the government handouts, or off of what Ms. Choi earns/wins with her boxing tournaments.

Maybe the writer should have gone into it more, but I kept wondering throughout the article why the father couldn't get a job. If he was a relatively successful business man in North Korea, couldn't he use those same skills to get another job in their new home?

What was also apparent throughout the article was the amount of fear and power that the government of North Korea have instilled in their people. Ms. Choi's father said that he was so worried about being caught by the government after moving to South Korea (note: After gaining legal asylum.) that he changed his family name.

But the writer uses this little detail to end her article, when she had Ms. Choi describing her dreams and aspirations. She said, at the the end, that she wanted to sweep all the world titles in her weight division, and then find some way to break into the entertainment industry. "I'm going to make everyone recognize my name," she said, which I thought was a poetic ending, since it showed that she (and I guess, metaphorically) her family no longer live in fear of the North Korea government.

All in all, I thought it was a good article, and really really interesting. I especially liked the nice gender role switch, since boxing is usually considered such a masculine sport.

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