At the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, those who arguably garnered the most attention at the various events they attended were the North Korean cheerleaders. On Feb. 7, North Korea sent 229 cheerleaders along with the 22 athletes to the Winter Games. The cheerleaders were comprised only of women in their early 20s and from prestigious families.
The North Korean cheerleaders were sent to every event in which the North Korean athletes were competing. Dressed in the same red jackets, hats, and sunglasses, they each had in their hands one North Korean flag and one Korean peninsula flag. Under the leadership of a head cheerleader, they collectively went through their cheer routine. Most of the cheers, chants, and songs consisted of messages that promoted a unified Korea, such as “Korean unification, we are one.”
At an alpine skiing event on Feb. 18 with two North Koreans competing, a section of the seating area was dedicated to the North Korean cheerleaders. They quickly became the spectacle of the event, with a large number of people crowding around them to take selfies, videos, and photos. At every move made by the cheerleaders, whether that was a new song or a change in flags, the crowd reacted with awe.
Interestingly, there was also a group of South Koreans who were participating in several of the chants with the North Koreans. Wearing posters with Korean peninsulas on their heads, the South Koreans responded to the chants of the North Korean cheerleaders. They chanted passionately when the head North Korean cheerleader signaled them, in support of the unification cheers.
After a round of unification cheers, as the first of the two North Korean skiers began his race, they quickly switched gears and took out their North Korean flags. A large flag was raised at the back of the cheerleading squad as all the cheerleaders enthusiastically waved their own.
Once the North Korean cheerleaders finished their routine, they promptly exited the area. It is the first time North Korean cheerleaders have come to South Korea since 2005. The members were selected with strict standards in order to ensure absolute loyalty to the regime in face of the capitalistic influences they would be exposed to in South Korea. Furthermore, supervisors from the North made sure that there was no extensive contact with foreigners during their stay.
The North Korean cheerleaders have greatly aided in promoting the PyeongChang Olympics as an event of peace, free of danger from the North. As the cheerleaders have now been deployed several times to various international sporting events, it is clear that the North Korean regime is aiming to manipulate its image through these cheerleaders.