The 2018 Winter Olympics are well underway in PyeongChang, South Korea, and there is one group that viewers cannot stop talking about. The North Korean cheerleaders are showing their spirit through highly choreographed cheers, and spectators are definitely noticing them. It's undeniable that people can't take their eyes off of the cheerleaders, but making sense of what people actually think about Kim Jong-un's national cheer squad is a more difficult task. So, who are the North Korean cheerleaders?
The peppy group of North Korean women cheering on their country's Olympic team is also known as the "army of beauties," according to The Straits Times. Some North Korean defectors relayed that the nearly 230-person cheer squad is reportedly assembled based on the women's appearance, skills, family backgrounds, and their loyalty to the Korean Workers' Party. This loyalty to Kim Jong-un's ruling Workers' Party is where the fascination with the North Korean cheerleaders becomes problematic.
North Korea launched its latest missile test near the end of 2017, and the missile launched on Nov. 28 reached an altitude of 2,800 miles, according to CNN. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the Hwasong-15 missile was the highest one yet launched out of North Korea.
That brings me back to the cheerleaders. As North Korea continues to build its nuclear missile supply, as evidenced by the North Korean military parade on Thursday, Feb. 8, the country is using the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea to send a more modest message to the world. This group of national cheer-filled beauties is simply part of a planned North Korean charm offensive, according to The Washington Post.
The videos of the cheer squad in action are quite mesmerizing.
Dressed in red winter coats and waving the blue-and-white Korean Unification Flag, the "army of beauties" did their part to conjure team spirit.
The North Korean cheer squad was on hand at the joint Korean women's ice hockey game.
In a Winter Olympics filled with symbols of possible peace and diplomacy between North and South Korea, the two countries combined forces for an Olympic women's hockey team comprised of 12 North Korean players and 23 South Korean players. The joint national squad lost their debut game to Switzerland's women's ice hockey team, but watching the North and South Korean players compete as one was still meaningful for many South Korean fans in the crowd, according to NBC News.
Here's another video of the North Korean cheer squad in action.
While the unity of the women's ice hockey team gave some people hope, feelings about the North Korean cheer squad remain iffy.
"How any person can see that and not be creeped out is beyond me. Imagine the brutality that led to that symmetry."
Some people appreciate their performances but cannot separate them from Kim Jong-un's militaristic regime. That connection to Kim Jong-un is reportedly a very strong one as The Straits Times reports an extreme display of loyalty from the cheerleaders as they traveled by bus during the the 2003 Daegu Universiade. The cheer squad drove in the rain past a banner with then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's picture, and they reportedly broke into tears as they rushed to save the banner from the rain because they could not allow their adored leader to get wet.
With devotion like that in mind, viewers are perplexed by the North Korean cheer squad.
"I’m not sure if I find the North Korean cheer squad funny, weird, or just really, really sad."
"Am I the only one who's completely terrified by the North Korean cheer squad?"
"We live in a strange, strange world."
"I am boggled by the North Korean Cheer Squad."
In the end, it appears that an appreciation for the North Korean cheerleaders' efforts cannot be reconciled with the fact that they are seemingly a pawn in North Korea's efforts to splinter the relationship between the U.S. and South Korea, according to The Washington Post.
While the reactions are dubious of the cheerleaders' motives, you can expect to see the North Korean cheer squad throughout the duration of the 2018 Winter Olympics, so stay tuned.