Just who are these North Korean cheerleaders appearing at the Olympics?


They wear matching tracksuits. They appear at events by the dozen. They sing and cheer in unison. They enter the venues together and they leave together. And they don’t say a word to anyone near them.

The exuberant and mysterious North Korean cheerleaders have had spectators at the PyeongChang Olympics buzzing, descending on events featuring North Korean athletes. They’re a topic of fascination for their southern neighbors and the rest of their world, an extremely visible branch of a closed-off dictatorship.

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You won’t get any personal details directly from this 229-woman group or their supervisors, but a report from the Wall Street Journal has the facts, and they are something. For one, Kim Jong Un’s wife was once part of the squad back in the mid-2000s before he was supreme leader.

In fact, the whole squad is apparently composed of women from elite families in North Korea. Most are likely students from performing arts schools. And while they might be fun to watch, they do have a purpose. The Journal cites one expert who explains they’re making emotional appeals to loosen sanctions against North Korea and push the idea of “national cooperation.”

Cheerleaders of North Korea await the start of the Opening Ceremony. (Reuters)
Cheerleaders of North Korea await the start of the Opening Ceremony. (Reuters)

A report from The Sun details stringent beauty standards for the cheerleaders, who are closely supervised and subjected to intense training. To be a cheerleader, they must be above 5-foot-3 and, well, attractive.

Getting darker, this report from the U.S. State Department also mentions that 21 of them had been sent to a prison camp for discussing what they had seen in South Korea during the 2002 Busan Asian Games.

These cheerleaders have appeared at athletic events in the past when North Korea has competed, but their presence in PyeongChang obviously carries the largest spotlight. However comely and/or creepy they might appear, they sure are a reminder of what kind of a regime we’re dealing with.

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