According to PRI, in September 1953, a young North Korean fighter pilot on a training mission flew across the 38th parallel dividing North and South Korea to an American military base located near Seoul. When he landed, he ripped up a picture of North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung and was greeted by Americans who wanted to shake his hand and take photographs (Photo from www.nationalmuseum.af.mil).
No Kum Sok (as he was known then) subsequently received $100,000 from the United States as a reward. PRI reports that the reward was offered to any Chinese, Russian, or Korean pilot who defected with an enemy aircraft.
No Kum Sok changed his name to Kenneth Rowe, and his story is now included in the book, The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot, by Blaine Harden.
Rowe was able to attend college in the U.S. and become an aeronautical engineer. He is now retired and lives in Daytona Beach, Florida. To read more about his incredible journey, listen to Rowe tell his story and the influence Imperial Japan had on his life, visit PRI.
You can watch news footage of No’s story below.