A major feature of the North Korean representation at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will be the cheerleaders. The North Koreans are good at cheerleading because, rather than individual skill and athletic prowess, it involves highly choreographed performances by rigorously trained nubile young women.
At past Winter Games, all eyes have been trained on the ski slopes, ice rink and luge track. But at next month’s Olympics in Pyeongchang, the showdown of the cheerleaders will also be the focus as the two Koreas compete for accolades with their best moves....
Pyongyang still pursues the traditional approach to cheerleading, with a heavy emphasis on synchronised dance and jump routines on the sidelines, while the South and other international competitors now pursue what is called sports cheerleading, with a focus on tumbling, and acrobatics such as pyramids — an activity that is on its way to being recognised as an Olympic event.
There is also a marked gender divide. The South’s team of 25 is split between women and men, nearly all students selected after open trials last year, while the North’s all-female squad is hand-picked by the regime based on strict criteria of physical appearance and ideological purity.
The women are in their late teens or early twenties, good-looking and devotees of the North’s regime.
These women don't only need to be young and attractive: they also need to be ready with the bribes:
Training is underway for North Korea's new cheerling squad for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. Girls hoping to make the team not only need to meet aptitude requirements, but must also pay bribes to officials in order to stand a chance at selection. North Korea has in the past use cheer squads as a key propaganda tool during international sporting events...
According to an additional source in Pyongyang, the final selection for those going to Pyeongchang will be announced towards the end of January. The regime prefers girls that are between 165 and 170 cm tall, meaning that even if someone displays extraordinary skills, they will not be selected if they fail to meet the height requirements.
The authorities also pay special attention to the songbun (political class based on family background) of all applicants, as they must ensure that no defections to South Korea occur during their time there. The source noted that the squad members must not have any 'problematic' family members to the 8th degree in order to qualify, which includes defectors and other social classes that the regime does not trust. Officials are now meticulously scrutinizing the ideological purity of applicants and their family members.
"Most of them will not have any problem qualifying in terms of their songbun because they already come from prestigious schools like the Kumsong School, and competition is quite close in terms of skills as well. So the girls with money will be the successful ones. Whoever is able to provide the largest bribes to the central government agency in charge of the selection (the Youth Enterprise Department) will see their names on the final list," the additional source said.
According to South Korea's Chosun Ilbo, the North are also keen to put the propaganda on overdrive by sending the Moranbong band, a girl group famous for its adulation of the Young Marshal in an overblown pop style full of bombast but somewhat short on originality.
Here are the leggy lovelies, performing Without a Break, in which the backdrop pictures of Kim Jong-un give way to a rocket launch, and - with the audience cheering wildly - the nuclear destruction of the world.
It'd certainly make a change from the downhill slalom.
Update: Moranbong's leader (and rumoured former girlfriend of Kim Jong-un) Hyon Song-wol was among North Korean officials who met their South Korean counterparts yesterday, at the border village of Panmunjom, to discuss details of the North's participation in the Winter Olympics:
One Unification Ministry official who was there said, "I could feel an air of composure and confidence." Another South Korean delegate said North Korea's chief delegate Kwon Hyok-bong and Hyon "spoke almost equally" -- a noteworthy detail in obsessively hierarchical North Korea.
There was speculation that Hyon's clutch bag was a Hermes product costing W25 million, but others said it was [a] knock-off (US$1=W1,064).