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Where did the North Korean cheerleaders come from – the most unusual cheerleaders at the Olympics

Few people were waiting for the North Korean support group on the territory of their main enemy. In the past, before the Olympics, the authorities of the DPRK organizedterrorist attacks and unleashed firefights to spoil the triumph of South Korea, but in January 2018 something dramatically changed. Warring countries agreed on cooperation for the time of the Games: according to the conditions, artists, musicians, “demonstration teams” of athletes and a support group arrived from Pyongyang.

“They are very beautiful,” an elderly resident of South Korea told The New York Times when he first saw North Korean cheerleaders. Soon the girls proved their effectiveness in the stands: they sang and shouted inspirational slogans even when their athletes lost with the rout.

It seems that there is nothing outstanding in the work of the cheerleader, but in reality it is a prestigious position that can lead young girls to success if they cope with harsh conditions.

From Pyongyang to Pyeongchang

299 North Korean cheerleaders walk in the same clothes and live in the hotel at an hour and a half from the venue of the Olympics. They ride eight buses, accompanied by six police cars, and after the event return to their rooms, each of which usually has two people. Together with them, North Korean reporters and guards were stationed. In most rooms there are two TV sets with cable, but it is not known whether cheerleaders can watch foreign broadcasts.

North Korean cheerleaders change clothes. Reuters photo
North Korean cheerleaders change clothes. Reuters photo


Girls have breakfast separately from other guests and come in groups of 30 people, each accompanied by two adult men. The fans always go to two ranks, and after breakfast they are built and return to their rooms within two minutes. They never go alone: ​​on the platform, the path to them is blocked by silent men, who lead the cheerleader to the toilet by groups at a specific time. Despite the attempts of the public, North Korean girls do not communicate with anyone and only smile and wave when they are photographed by tourists.

On the podium, North Korean cheerleaders mostly shout out standard slogans like “Above the nose!” Or quote lines from folk songs. They do not pay attention to what they are doing on the other stands: during the competition the American made a proposal to his girlfriend, provoking applause, but the North Korean girls seemed not to notice what was happening and continued to chant “We are one!”.

Kim Jong-un’s double is next to North Korean cheerleaders. AFP photo

When the fans sang songs of American singer Avril Lavigne , the cheerleaders of the DPRK started their motive with a completely different rhythm. Apparently, in the support group there are so-called “zavodili”, followed by the rest of the girls. This became apparent when the hockey match against the women’s team of Japan in front of the stand cheerleaders rose comedian Howard in the image of Kim Jong-un. At some point the girls froze and continued only after the guards took the double away.

Prestigious title

Sometimes the cheerleader of the DPRK is called the “army of beauties Kim Jong-un”. According to defectors, the government selects supporters for growth, age, family background, social activism and intellectual skills. Team members must be slightly over 20 years old and above 160 centimeters. Some pretenders were denied if they had relatives in Japan. The support group is not paid, and preparation takes several months, but for young girls this is a prestigious job and the opportunity to fly abroad.

Olympics in South Korea – this is the first exit of “beauties” for the Olympics. In the past, they appeared only at the Asian Games in 2002, 2003 and 2005. The last time among the cheerleaders was and Li Sol Zhu – four years later she will marry the leader of the DPRK Kim Jong-un.

Li Sol Zhu in the support group in 2005. EPA photo
Li Sol Zhu in the support group in 2005. EPA photo

To associates Li Sol Zhu was less fortunate : almost immediately after returning home from the 2005 Asian Games, 21 cheerleaders were arrested. According to an anonymous defector, the cheerleaders violated the ban and told friends in North Korea what they saw in the South.

In conversation with the BBC, a defector from the DPRK Han Sao-Hee reported that beautiful cheerleaders are a way for the North Korean authorities to gain a reputation in the world. During the training they are regularly reminded that they should not be surprised at the world that they will see abroad, and always remember the homeland and power of their leader.

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