N. Korean cheering squad to support S. Korean athletes during PyeongChang Olympics
In this file photo taken on Sept. 5, 2005, Ri Sol-ju (C), currently wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, leaves South Korea from Incheon International Airport after attending the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon as a member of the North’s cheering team. She was a teenage girl educated at a elite school for entertainers. (Yonhap)
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) — North Korean cheerleaders, who are set to visit PyeongChang for the Winter Games, will support South Korean athletes in addition to their own Olympians, a senior organizing official said Saturday.
The North offered to send athletes, a 230-member cheering squad and an art troupe to PyeongChang, host of the first Winter Olympics in South Korea. They also agreed on a unified women’s hockey team, with 23 South Koreans joined by 12 North Koreans.
But the cheering team could steal the athletes’ thunder. Pyongyang has yet to disclose details on how the cheering squad will be composed. But given past athletic competitions in the South, the North may send a group of elite female supporters, who fascinated their southern compatriots in the past with their good looks, charming demeanors and well choreographed moves.
Members of the team are reportedly picked through a vigorous examination of family background, appearance, skills and loyalty to the government.
Not every North Korean cheering squad going outside of the country is composed of young, beautiful women. The North sent a team of mostly middle-aged women and men to cheer at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In this file photo taken Oct. 1, 2002, members of a cheering squad from North Korea show support for their athletes at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan. (Yonhap)
But the Kim regime is expected to send to PyongChang an elite team fit for a mission to embellish its image in the eyes of South Koreans and the wider world.
“As the Olympics is an event that draws the world’s attention, North Korea may want to imprint a positive image through visual effects,” said Kim Young-soo, a political science professor specializing in North Korea issues at Sogang University in Seoul.