No Kum-sok

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No Kum-sok
No Kum-Sok.jpg
No Kum-Sok circa 1953
Birth name Hangul: 노금석
Hanja: 盧今錫
RR: No Geum-seok
MR: No Kŭm-sŏk
Born (1932-01-10) January 10, 1932 (age 83)
Sinhung, Japanese Korea
Allegiance  North Korea
Service/branch NKAF flag.svg Korean People's Air Force
Flag of the Korean People's Navy.svg Korean People's Navy
Years of service 1949-1953
Rank Lieutenant

No Kum-Sok (later Kenneth H. Rowe; born January 10, 1932 in Sinhung, Korea)[1] is a former lieutenant of the North Korean Air Force. A few weeks after the Korean War was over, he defected to South Korea. On the morning of September 21, 1953, he flew his Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 to the Kimpo Air Base in South Korea, claiming that he wanted to get away from the "red deceit."[2] He was able to land his airplane unchallenged; he had not been detected while crossing into South Korea as the US radar near Kimpo had been shut down temporarily that morning for routine maintenance.[3]

He received a $100,000 ($890,831 in 2014 dollars) reward offered by Operation Moolah for defecting with his aircraft, which he claimed not to have heard about prior to his defection.[4]

No's MiG-15[edit]

After No surrendered his aircraft, it was taken to Okinawa, where it was given USAF markings and test-flown by Capt. H.E. "Tom" Collins and Maj. Chuck Yeager. The MiG-15 was later shipped to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base after attempts to return it to North Korea were unsuccessful.[2] It is currently on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Post-defection life[edit]

In 1954, Kum-sok emigrated to the United States. After emigrating, he anglicized his name to "Kenneth H. Rowe".[1] He was joined in the U.S. by his mother, who had been evacuated from North Korea earlier in 1951. He subsequently graduated from the University of Delaware, with degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering.[3] He married an émigré from Kaesong, North Korea, they raised two sons and a daughter, and he became a U.S. citizen.[3] He worked as an aeronautical engineer for Grumman, Boeing, Pan Am, General Dynamics, General Motors, General Electric, Lockheed, DuPont, and Westinghouse.[3][4][5]

In 1970, he learned from a fellow defector that, as punishment for his defection his best friend Lieutenant Kun Soo Sung was executed. He learned four other pilots in his chain of command were also executed by firing squad. One of the pilots and a friend in his squadron became the General of the Korean People's Army. General O Kuk-ryol, who became the vice chairman of the National Defence Commission in 2009, is considered the second most powerful man in North Korea.[3][4]

In 1996, he wrote and published a book, A MiG-15 to Freedom[1] about his defection and previous life in North Korea. Rowe retired in 2000 after working 17 years as an aeronautical engineering professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.[3][6]

In February 2004, while a guest at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, USA, he was offered the opportunity to fly in a MiG-15UTI operated by the Red Star Aviation Museum. After the flight, his first in a MiG since the day he defected, he commented "It is a fast, fast car".[7]

In popular culture[edit]

No's defection is the basis of one of the missions within the video game Chuck Yeager's Air Combat.



  1. ^ a b c Rowe, Kenneth H. (No Kum-sok); Osterholm, J. Roger (1996). A MiG-15 to Freedom. McFarland & Company Inc. ISBN 0-7864-0210-5. Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "The Story of the MiG-15 On Display". Factsheets. National Museum of the United States Air Force. July 8, 2010. Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Lowery, John (July 2012). "Lt. No". Air Force Magazine 95 (7). The Air Force Association. Retrieved May 14, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c "Operation Moolah - The Plot To Steal A MIG-15"
  5. ^ "Leadership." Red Star Aviation.[dead link]
  6. ^ Zenobia, Keith (September 2004). "Ken Rowe, a.k.a. No Kum-Sok: A MiG-15 to Freedom" (PDF) 19 (9). Pine Mountain Lakes Aviation Association Newsletter. p. 1. Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  7. ^[dead link]