Woman Pilot Called “Azalea”

Among many war veterans who greet with deep emotion July 27, the day of victory in the Fatherland Liberation War (June 25, 1950-July 27, 1953), is Choe Song Ok living in Ryonhwa-dong No. 2, Central District, Pyongyang.

Choe was born into a poor peasant family in Hwadae County of North Hamgyong Province in December 1935, when Korea was under Japanese military occupation. When she was two, Choe was bereaved of her mother and grew up in misery. It was not until after the country’s liberation on August 15, 1945 that she experienced what the happiness was.

However, she was deprived of her happy life, when the Korean war broke out on June 25, 1950 by the imperialist forces of aggression. She lost her father and house in autumn that year by the enemy’s indiscriminate bombing.

With irresistible indignation and vengeance, she joined the Korean People’s Army the following year, lying about her age to be one year older than she really was. When she was sent to an air corps, she stubbornly insisted that she should become a pilot.

Finally, she and several other girls were allowed to train flights. At that time, she was 16, the youngest of them.

It was very difficult for the girls, who had never before driven a car or even a bike, to acquire the art of flight. But they did not waver in their determination to become pilots, encouraging each other to learn the knowledge and training hard. Eight months later, they were qualified as pilots, which was heralded as the birth of women pilots of the first generation in the DPRK, and that in wartime period.

Choe was usually gentle and reflective, but, once in the air, she was quite a different girl—an intrepid hawk.

Choe’s unit was mainly engaged in night bombing, and she and her comrades-in-arms made air raids on the enemy’s points of military importance in Seoul, Kimpho, Inchon and other parts of the country. Women pilots fought bravely until they greeted the day of victory.

In the postwar days Choe continued her military service, and after her discharge she studied at the then University of International Affairs. She worked in the field of foreign affairs until the age of 65.

The old war veteran, still full of youthful vigour, implants in the mind of the rising generations the noble spirit of defending the country displayed by those in the 1950s.

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