Forget about his nuclear bombs and button. North Korea’s chief Kim Jong Un has one other arsenal up his sleeves to unsettle and attraction South Koreans.
It is a military of lovely women, who will function cheer leaders to his nation’s group in the course of the Winter Olympics.
Dubbed the “army of beauties” in South Korea, the younger North Korean girls — principally of their late teenagers or early 20s — have attracted large publicity each time they’ve been despatched to the South.
North Korean chief Kim Jong-Un’s future spouse Ri Sol-Ju was among the many group who attended the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon.
The cheerleaders are set for his or her fourth look within the South after Pyongyang agreed this week to ship a delegation to subsequent month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, simply 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the Demilitarized Zone that splits the peninsula in two.
North and South have been completely separated because the finish of the Korean War in 1953, with no direct phone or postal hyperlinks between them.
Any North Korean delegations to its neighbour are fastidiously chosen by Pyongyang, and their actions are tightly managed within the South. According to reviews, the Winter Olympics group may very well be accommodated on a cruise ship moored in Sokcho, making it simpler to watch them.
An Chan-Il, a defector researcher who runs the World Institute for North Korea Studies, mentioned the cheerleaders are cherry-picked by the regime based mostly on robust standards.
“They must be over 163 centimetres (5ft 3ins) tall and come from good families,” An informed AFP. “Those who play an instrument are from a band and others are mostly students at the elite Kim Il-Sung University.”
The Koreas’ separation makes residents of the North an object of some fascination for Southerners.
The cheerleaders made their first look on the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, hitting the headlines when almost 300 of them arrived on a ferry wearing vibrant hanboks — conventional Korean clothes — and waving so-called unification flags, a pale blue silhouette of the entire Korean peninsula.
Hundreds of Busan residents lined the port to greet them, with a number of properties additionally flying unification flags.
With their tight choreography — generally utilizing props equivalent to followers — the cheerleaders have been lavished with consideration as they sang and danced within the stands.
In 2005, former North Korean cheerleader Cho Myung-Ae — whose attractiveness had gained her an enormous following within the South — appeared in a tv industrial for a Samsung cell phone with South Korean pop star Lee Hyo-Ri.
The supporters have all the time confirmed to be a serious ticket draw, and their attendance is sweet information for the Pyeongchang Games organisers.
“It will help with ticket sales,” mentioned Pyeongchang Organising Committee spokesman Sung Baik-You. “It will fulfil our desires for a peace Olympics.”
When North Korean groups have performed within the South with out accompanying supporters, pro-unification South Koreans have turned out to assist them, equivalent to at a girls’s ice hockey match final 12 months in Gangneung, an Olympic venue.
“A joint cheering squad would be phenomenal,” mentioned Lee Sun-Kyung, who organised the group.
But the Northerners’ presence additionally has potential to create some diplomatic complications.
There are considerations that South Koreans is probably not as welcoming as up to now, given their opposition to North Korea’s nuclear programme and its more and more belligerent behaviour.
And displaying the North Korean flag and taking part in its anthem are unlawful within the South, the place they’re thought to be symbols of sedition beneath Seoul’s nationwide safety legal guidelines, therefore the usage of the unification flag at previous inter-Korean matches.
When a North Korean flag was draped over a railing at a North-South soccer sport in the course of the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon it was eliminated by officers.
The rule won’t be enforced throughout the Olympic venues, the place IOC protocol applies, however may turn out to be a difficulty elsewhere.
The two groups marched behind the unification flag once they entered the stadiums collectively for the opening ceremonies of the 2000 and 2004 Olympics in Sydney and Athens, and the 2006 Winter Games in Torino.
But in the event that they achieve this once more on the opening ceremony on February 9, it will imply the South’s emblem wouldn’t seem on the stadium ground at its dwelling Olympics.
How may the South settle for that actuality, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper requested in an editorial Wednesday, having secured the Games “through tearful efforts after two failures”?