The horrifying reality behind North Korea cheerleader army

The horrifying reality behind North Korea cheerleader army

North Korea's cheerleader squad have amazed people at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

They made their competitive debut, so to speak, in the Kwandong Hockey Centre in the South Korean city of Gangneung to much attention.

They cheered on the Unified Korea ice hockey team against Sweden - the cheer section of around 100 outnumbers the country's delegation to the games by a factor of around 10 to 1.

The team of cheerleaders were much tweeted about due to their precise and synchronised cheer routines. It's been one of the most-covered non-sporting aspects to the Winter Olympics.

As people have pointed out, the section is a form of propaganda from a totalitarian government. So we shouldn't get too pepped up about it.

The cheer team has made a number of public appearances since 2002, when 300 of them arrived on a ferry at the Asian Games in Busan.

Defectors say they are chosen through extensive background checks and many are members of well-connected families. They are chosen on a strict appearance criteria and analysts say they are less likely to defect. The Mail Online reports these standards are "to be over 1.65 m bar those with exceptionally good looks."

There's also a precedent of motive to not speak about their activities - 21 members of the squad were reportedly sent to a prison camp for speaking about what they saw after a 2005 performance in South Korea.

The Guardian reported that there have been some awkward moments surrounding their orders to perform in cheer:

The North Koreans refused to acknowledge their fellow performers. There were other moments of awkwardness as well. After Team Korea lost and the stadium cleared out, they remained singing to a mostly empty ice rink.

The Korean team was beaten 8-0 by Switzerland in their first match, and 8-0 in their second match to Sweden.

Their final match takes place against Japan on 14 February, however both teams have been eliminated from playoff contention for medals.

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