Everything We Know About North Korea’s Secretive, Elite Cheerleading Squad
For decades, North Korea has been one of the world’s most secret societies, due in large part to its being one of the few countries that is still under communist rule. What you don’t hear much about regarding North Korea is its cheer squad, which is scheduled to accompany its athletes to the Winter Olympics.
The Olympics will be held in Pyeongchang County, South Korea, and the world will be watching the North Korean cheerleading squad. Read all about them here, so you’ll really know what you’re watching.
1. An all-female team
According to Business Insider, North Korea’s cheer squad is all female. Women who are around 20 years old compose the group, and they typically are in music school, attending a university, or participating in a propaganda squad. The cheer squad can include hundreds of members.
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2. From cheerleader to wife
According to Business Insider, the North Korean cheer squad has performed in South Korea three times: in 2002, 2003, and 2005. And in 2005, Kim Jong Un discovered cheerleader Ri Sol Ju, who is now his wife.
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3. Cheer criteria
Kim Gyeong-sung, the South Korean head of the Inter-Korean Athletic Exchange Association, told the BBC that squad members have clear criteria. They include having the right “appearance” and maintaining the correct “ideology.”
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4. Background checks
Each member of the team goes through a background check. This, according to Business Insider, is to ensure that the cheerleaders don’t associate with — or have in their families — those who are pro-Japan or those who have defected.
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5. The cheer team must prepare
Andray Abrahamian, research fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS and North Korea expert at the Griffith Asia Institute, spoke to Business Insider about the team trips, which apparently take months of preparation.
“It’s about preparing a group of young people to go into what North Korea sees as ideologically hostile territory and be on show for the world’s media and for the South Korean public,” Abrahamian said. “They want to make sure they’re resistant to ideas and images that may impact how they see their own country or other countries. The more people you take, the more difficult it is.”
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6. North Korea was sneaky about attending the games
Abrahamian also spoke to Business Insider about North Korea’s timing regarding attending the Winter Olympics. He said the nation must been planning this long before Kim Jon Un said he was open to talking about to South Korea about attending.
Abrahamian believes North Korea must have already prepared carefully to send such a large group to the Olympics, and he thinks “… they wanted to get their last big missile test done, so they could claim completion of their testing cycle and then begin a charm offensive.”
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7. Only 2 athletes are slated to attend
Several hundred cheerleaders on the squad will be going to the Winter Olympics in South Korea — and only two competitive athletes will attend. But those two figure skaters will certainly have a lot of support. According to Business Insider, the squad will help bulk up the size of North Korea’s Olympic attendees.
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8. American cheerleaders will go to South Korea
The North Koreans won’t be the only cheer squad at the Winter Olympics. The University of Kentucky cheerleaders announced on Instagram they will attend the event, where they will perform at the closing ceremonies and engage in a cheerleading championship with teams from other countries.
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