The North Korean cheerleading squad’s impossibly synchronised chants have stolen the show at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang – but one tweet has reminded us why we shouldn’t be cheering them on.
In North Korea they are reportedly known as “the army of beauties”.
And there’s no denying that North Korea’s cheerleading squad – dressed in matching red outfits – have been getting plenty of attention at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The troupe of 230 women are in South Korea to give their vocal backing to athletes from the North who will be competing in Pyeongchang over the course of the Games.
They first appeared during a preliminary round ice hockey match against Switzerland on day one of the competition – and, since then, their precise chants, claps and masks have gone viral on Twitter.
“The North Korean cheering squad is a well-polished hype machine,” wrote one.
Another added: “North Korea’s cheerleaders are so mesmerising. They’re so in sync!”
However, one tweet has since reminded social media users of the stark reality behind the squad: they are there to, at least theoretically, normalise and humanise the regime.
Essentially, they are propaganda in fashionable person form.
An Chan-Il, a defector researcher who runs the World Institute for North Korea Studies, said the cheerleaders are cherry-picked by the regime based on specific criteria, including height and family background.
“They must be over 1.63m tall and come from good families,” he said.
“Those who play an instrument are from a band and others are mostly students at the elite Kim Il-Sung University.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many critics are worried that, by focusing on the quirks of the cheerleading squad, North Korea’s authoritarian and repressive regime may be glossed over.
“Don’t get deceived by all this about sending people to the Olympics, these are just gestures to confuse” Shogo Toyota, Japanese government’s senior co-ordinator for Japan-US security affairs, told the Independent.
“It means nothing. We don’t see them doing anything towards finding a peaceful solution. What we do know is Kim Jong-un intends to finish his nuclear project and his missile project as well, what they are presenting now is a false dialogue. They are trying to drive a wedge between South Korea and the allies.”
It’s worth noting that a 2014 UN report stated that the North Korean regime employs murder, torture, slavery, sexual violence, mass starvation and other abuses as tools to prop up the state and terrorise “the population into submission.”
Images: Rex Features