From North Korea fighter pilot to Embry-Riddle professor: Remembering Kenneth Rowe

Retired Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Professor Kenneth Rowe, seen here in 2013, holds a photo of himself when he was a fighter pilot for the North Korean Air Force during the Korean War. Rowe, at age 21, escaped from <a href=North Korea in 1953 by flying his MiG-15 fighter jet to a U.S. air base in South Korea. He died at his Daytona Beach home on Dec. 26, 2022, just a couple weeks shy of his 91st birthday.” />
Retired Embry-Riddle Aeronautical College Professor Kenneth Rowe, seen right here in 2013, holds a photograph of himself when he was a fighter pilot for the North Korean Air Drive in the course of the Korean Warfare. Rowe, at age 21, escaped from North Korea in 1953 by flying his MiG-15 fighter jet to a U.S. air base in South Korea. He died at his Daytona Seashore residence on Dec. 26, 2022, only a couple weeks shy of his 91st birthday.

DAYTONA BEACH − No Kum-Sok’s dramatic escape from North Korea by flying his MiG-15 fighter jet to a U.S. air base in South Korea in 1953 made him a world celeb.

He wound up shaking arms with Vice President Richard Nixon, explaining how his Soviet-built fighter jet operated to legendary American take a look at pilots Chuck Yeager and Tom Collins, and appeared on tv reveals, together with “To Inform the Reality” and “In the present day.” He additionally regularly spoke on Voice of America radio broadcasts.

However after shifting to Daytona Seashore together with his household in 1983, No Kum-Sok who modified his identify to Kenneth Rowe, loved a quiet life as a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical College. He taught plane engineering for 17 years till his retirement and remained within the space after that together with his spouse Clara.

Rowe died on Dec. 26 at his Daytona Seashore residence, surrounded by household, only a couple weeks shy of his 91st birthday.

“He appeared to love Daytona Seashore rather a lot,” stated his daughter Bonnie Rowe. “He preferred the nice and cozy climate and he thought the individuals have been good.”

‘Wished to be an everyday American’

Kenneth Rowe’s paid obituary in The Daytona Seashore Information-Journal as soon as once more made him the topic of worldwide headlines, together with articles in each The New York Occasions and Washington Publish.

“He wasn’t looking for to be a star,” stated Bonnie Rowe. “He needed to be an everyday American.”

Retired Embry-Riddle professor Bob Oxley remembers his former colleague as “an upstanding man. He was open and trustworthy. He was in favor of the sort of values People are presupposed to have: freedom of speech and a tolerance of different factors of view.”

Laksh Narayanaswami at the moment teaches aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle the place he has been a professor for the reason that late Nineteen Eighties. He remembers Rowe most for his humor. “He laughed lots. He was right down to earth.”

Kenneth Rowe in 1996 recounted his life story in an autobiography titled “A MiG-15 to Freedom,” which he co-wrote with one other Embry-Riddle professor, the late J. Roger Osterholm. His escape was additionally the topic of one other e-book, “The Nice Chief and the Fighter Pilot” by Blaine Harden (2015).

Vice President Richard Nixon shakes No Kum-Sok's hand in Washington, D.C., on May 5, 1954. No Kum-Sok, who later changed his name to Kenneth Rowe, was a North Korean Air Force pilot who escaped the communist regime a few months earlier by flying his MiG-15 fighter jet to a U.S. air base in South Korea. Also pictured are Congressman Joe Holt (R-California) and U.S. Army Major James Kim, right.
Vice President Richard Nixon shakes No Kum-Sok’s hand in Washington, D.C., on Could 5, 1954. No Kum-Sok, who later modified his identify to Kenneth Rowe, was a North Korean Air Drive pilot who escaped the communist regime just a few months earlier by flying his MiG-15 fighter jet to a U.S. air base in South Korea. Additionally pictured are Congressman Joe Holt (R-California) and U.S. Military Main James Kim, proper.

Born in the course of the Japanese occupation

Rowe was born on Jan. 10, 1932 in a small city in North Korea in the course of the Japanese occupation. His father labored for a Japanese company that constructed and operated electrical energy stations and railroads. His mom was a homemaker. Each noticed the USA as a utopia and beacon of freedom and didn’t purchase into characterizations of People as evil enemies pushed first by the Japanese after which by the Communists who took over after World Warfare II.

Bonnie Rowe stated her dad shared his dad and mom’ views. “He was very vital concerning the communist system. He might see it did not serve the frequent man,” she stated.

His father’s demise from most cancers in 1949 left Kenneth Rowe and his mom impoverished. “He ended up becoming a member of the navy so he might eat,” Bonnie Rowe stated.

At age 17, Kenneth Rowe started coaching on the North Korean Naval Academy however discovered the expertise grueling and unbearably harsh. Cadets have been fed meager meals. He jumped on the alternative to grow to be an Air Drive cadet as a result of he noticed it as an opportunity for a greater life − and higher meals.

“He thought to fly an plane it’s important to be very match, which meant they fed you higher,” stated Bonnie Rowe.

‘Residing a huge lie’

Kenneth Rowe grew to become a extremely embellished fighter pilot in the course of the Korean Warfare. He flew greater than 100 missions and earned the rank of lieutenant. However he by no means really shot at People. “He preferred to only fly round and never have interaction in precise fight,” stated Bonnie Rowe.

Kenneth Rowe wrote that he suffered nervousness as a fighter pilot that he “is perhaps compelled into killing one among my beloved People.” As an alternative, he resorted to firing his jet’s cannon “too far-off to hit something (as a result of) I didn’t need to hit something.”

The ruse labored. “Articles about my flying talent and my devotion to Communism, together with my {photograph}, appeared in Crimson magazines and newspapers,” he wrote. “All that point I used to be dwelling a huge lie.”

When the armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, to halt the preventing, Kenneth Rowe noticed it as his likelihood to lastly make a touch for freedom.

Assigned to check a brand new North Korean air base runway on the morning of Sept. 21, Rowe initially flew his MiG-15 as instructed, however as a substitute of returning, he abruptly veered in the direction of South Korea.

Kenneth Rowe wrote that he knew there was a very good likelihood he can be shot down. Thankfully, he caught the People off guard and safely landed at Kimpo Air Base − however solely after practically colliding with an American fighter jet that was concurrently taking off from the identical runway.

“I unfastened my oxygen masks and breathed free air for the primary time in my life,” he wrote. “I jumped to the bottom. Then I threw the image body (containing a photograph of North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung) to the concrete apron to destroy it.”

Rowe was shocked to be taught an American Basic beforehand publicly provided a $100,000 reward to the primary North Korean defector who might ship an intact MiG fighter jet to the U.S.

Rowe stated he was unaware of the supply, however gladly accepted the reward cash.

The Washington Publish reported that Air Drive Maj. Donald Nichols in Harden’s e-book praised Rowe as a useful supply of knowledge on the navy operations and capabilities of each the North Koreans, Russians and Chinese language. “He was in a position to recall air items, personnel power, construction and variety of plane assigned to respective items,” Nichols informed the writer.

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This is the MiG-15 fighter jet that No Kum-Sok (who later changed his name to Kenneth Rowe) used to escape from North Korea by flying it to a U.S. air base in South Korea on Sept. 21, 1953. This photo was taken after he landed.
That is the MiG-15 fighter jet that No Kum-Sok (who later modified his identify to Kenneth Rowe) used to flee from North Korea by flying it to a U.S. air base in South Korea on Sept. 21, 1953. This photograph was taken after he landed.

‘Incorrect to say that I defected’

Rowe bristled at being labeled a defector. “It’s incorrect to say that I defected from the North Korean communist regime as a result of I had by no means been a communist in my coronary heart and, subsequently, I couldn’t have defected from an ideology I had by no means believed in,” he wrote in his memoir. He most well-liked to be known as “a North Korean pilot who sought freedom in the USA since his childhood.”

Rowe moved to the USA in 1954 the place he earned an engineering diploma from the College of Delaware. Upon graduating, he launched into a profession working for “15 of the biggest corporations” together with DuPont, Boeing, Basic Motors, Basic Electrical, Grumman, Lockheed and Westinghouse.

Bonnie Rowe stated she as soon as requested her father why he stored switching jobs and shifting the household. “He stated, ‘This can be a huge nation and I need to see each a part of it.’ He did not need to be oppressed. He needed to go to a land the place individuals might stay freely. He was not ashamed to be a Korean, however he was proud to be an American.”

Kenneth Rowe grew to become a U.S. citizen in 1962. He additionally modified his identify to at least one that he thought sounded extra American. Rowe was a spelled out method of how his authentic surname No was pronounced in Korean. He selected Kenneth as a primary identify due to it began with a Okay like Kum-Sok. “He needed to slot in,” stated his daughter.

‘Well-known American patriot’

Rowe in 1960 married Clara Kim who additionally was initially from North Korea. Along with his daughter and spouse, he’s survived by a son Raymond and grandson Ben. The household adopted Rowe’s needs by celebrating his life privately.

“Embry-Riddle Aeronautical College was honored to have a well-known American patriot on our school,” stated P. Barry Butler, the college’s president. “By fleeing North Korea and delivering an intact MiG-15bis fighter jet to the U.S. Air Drive in 1953, former Lt. No Kum-Sok served the USA effectively. As an educator, Professor Kenneth Rowe served our college students effectively, too. He shall be remembered fondly by all who knew him.”

Rowe’s MiG-15 is on show on the Nationwide Museum of the U.S. Air Drive in Dayton, Ohio.