North Korea sends handpicked cheerleaders across the border in pre-Olympics charm offensive

North Korea’s cheerleading unit — dubbed the Hermit Kingdom’s “army of beauties” who are handpicked by Kim Jong Un himself — are set to make their fourth visit to South Korea for the Winter Olympics, and the beauty brigade is already drawing major attention in the hopes of raising ticket sales.

It isn’t easy to get on the elite cheerleading squad. Kim and North Korean leaders “cherry-pick” the women, who are mostly in their 20s, based on their looks and family background, North Korean defector and researcher An Chan-Il told AFP.

Members of North Korean cheering squad in traditional costume sing during cultural performance in Inchon.  Members of the North Korean cheering squad in traditional costume sing during a cultural performance in Inchon, west of Seoul, September 1, 2005. About 100 members of the squad arrived on Wednesday for the Asian Athletics Championships. REUTERS/Nicky Loh - RP6DRNANJAAB
North Korea’s cheering squad sings at 2005 Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon, South Korea.  (Reuters)

“They must be over 5 feet 3 inches tall and come from good families,” An told AFP. “Those who play an instrument are from a band and others are mostly students at the elite Kim Il-Sung University.”

Kim Jong Un’s reclusive wife, Ri Sol Ju, was previously part of the cheer group and even went to the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon, South Korea before marrying the NoKo dictator four years later.

North Korean singers perform during a cultural event in Inchon, west of Seoul, September 1, 2005. About 100 members of North Korean cheering squad arrived in Inchon on Wednesday for the 16th Asian Athletics Championships. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon  KKH/TY - RP6DRNACTDAA
Members of the North Korean cheering squad in traditional costume sing during a cultural performance in Incheon. (Reuters)

The crew is anticipated to appear at the Pyeongchang Winter Games from Feb. 9-25 after the reclusive regime agreed to send a delegation that comprised of a 140-member art troupe, officials, athletes, journalists and a taekwondo demonstration team.

Olympic organizers are already foretelling higher ticket sales because of the popular cheer squad.

“It will help with ticket sales,” Pyeongchang Organizing Committee spokesman Sung Baik-You said. “It will fulfill our desires for a peace Olympics.”

The “army of beauties” first performed at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan with nearly 300 North Korean cheerleaders arriving at the event dressed in traditional Korean dresses, called hanboks, and waving unification flags, AFP reported.

North Korean women dressed in traditional robes wave "Unification"flags on the deck as their ferry arrives at the Dadaepo port in Busan,
September 28, 2002. A North Korean group of 368 supporters arrived to
cheer their athletes during the 14th Asian Games, which begin here on
Sunday. REUTERS/Ahn Young-joon/Pool

AHN CHI - RP3DRIEUQDAA
The North Korean cheer squad made its first appearance in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan.  (Reuters)

Their customs include singing, dancing and sometimes using fans as props — promoting more cheers and enthusiasm among onlookers, according to the report.

One North Korean cheerleader, Cho Myung-Ae, even grew so much popularity in South Korea that she reportedly appeared in a Samsung commercial in 2005 with South Korean pop star Lee Hyo-Ri.

Kim Jong Un may also send his favorite girl band, the Morangbon Band, to the Olympics. Delegations from the North and the South met on Monday and agreed to send an art troupe that would involve the Samjiyon band, the 80-member North Korean orchestra and 60 other singers and dancers that will perform in Seoul and Gangneung, where some of the Olympic games will be held.

North Korean women cheer for North and South Korean athletes at Asian Athletics Championships in Inchon.  North Korean women cheer for North and South Korean athletes during the women's 5,000 metres final at the 16th Asian Athletics Championships in Inchon, South Korea, September 3, 2005. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon - RP6DRNACTSAA
North Korea often sends a brigade of women to sporting events to cheer on the athletes.  (Reuters)

While the joint statement didn’t particularly mention “North Korea’s only girl group,” Hyon Song Wol, the ensemble’s manager, was one of the four people in North Korea’s delegation at Monda’s meeting — feeding rumors the Moranbong Band will be making an entrance at the 2018 Winter Games.

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