| United states Today
GANGNEUNG, South Korea — It was about 10 minutes in advance of puck drop in the a great deal-predicted unified Korea women’s hockey team debut, when the North Korean cheerleaders stole the demonstrate.
Kanye West blared on the arena speakers, and the cheer squad of young North Korean women decked out in matching pink and white outfits resolved it was time for their initially regime.
They waved compact unified Korean Peninsula flags, and swayed in unison and sung “ban hole seup nee da,” or awesome to meet you.
The crowd was quickly transfixed.
“It felt like I was competing in my own nation,” Jong Su Hyon, one particular 12 North Koreans on the joint team’s roster, claimed of the environment adhering to Korea’s lopsided defeat to Switzerland.
The initially weekend of the 2018 Winter season Olympics integrated no shortage of extraordinary times.
American snowboarder Red Gerard nailed a thrilling frontside double cork 1080 on his way to a gold medal. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen skied her way into history immediately after winning her 11th Olympic mefal. And significant-stakes diplomacy on the sidelines of the Olympics by South Korea President Moon and significant-run North Korea officials has loomed substantial.
But the sights and seems of the North Korean cheering squad at the Game titles could show to be one particular of the most indelible reminiscences of these Olympics.
North Korea leader Kim Jong Un deployed the much more than 200 women — dubbed in the Asian media as the hermetic despot’s “Army of Beauties” — to be portion of the nation’s formal delegation to the Game titles and cheer on their countrymen and women.
North Korea sent 22 athletes in determine skating, hockey, snowboarding and pace skating. Their presence right here was not confident until eventually just a few weeks in advance of the Game titles opened. The IOC had openly spoken of executing almost everything it could to guarantee North Korea would be right here, and South Korea agreed to share its women’s hockey roster and to walk in as one particular Korea for the opening ceremony.
When the country’s participation for athletes was at last settled, North Korea announced it would also send out the cheer squad and that Kim Jong Un’s 30-calendar year-aged sister, Kim Yo Jong, would head the delegation.
Routine-accredited cheering squads have been around for several years, and they are not devoid of controversy.
In 2006, 21 associates of a North Korean cheering squad that experienced traveled to South Korea for an international athletic celebration ended up sent to a jail camp for chatting about what they noticed in the South, the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo claimed.
Yet another cheerleader who represented North Korea at the 2006 Asian Athletics Championship, Ri Sol Ju, would go on to marry Kim Jong Un a number of several years afterwards.
Throughout Workforce Korea’s pummeling in hockey, associates of the cheer squad were indifferent to the scoreboard.
When Korea managed to shift the puck from Switzerland, they broke into chants of “go for it.” And immediately after every single Swiss target, they implored their team to “cheer up.”
At small-observe speedskating in the Gangneung Ice Arena on Saturday, the cheerleader team enthralled the crowd with their chants, tunes and waves.
At breaks in the skating the cheerleaders sang in unison, to the delight of the property crowd, who gave them a rousing ovation at the conclusion of every single rendition.
American speedskaters Lana Gehring and Maame Biney also grew to become prompt lovers.
“Oh my god, it was brilliant,” claimed Gehring. “They ended up just executing their tiny chants and flag waves. I have by no means observed that in advance of. And their (tunes) are so in sync it is like they’ve been training them for several years.”
“They are genuinely beautiful,” extra Biney. “I genuinely appreciated it.”
United states Today attempted to job interview associates of the cheer squad at both equally the hockey video game and speedskating celebration. But the women provided only tight smiles and turned away.
Sung Baik You, spokesman for South Korea’s Olympic host committee identified as POCOG, claimed the corporation has transformed seating assignments for functions so substantial clusters of the North Korea cheer squad can sit alongside one another at the venues.
At this weekend’s hockey video game, they sat in a number of clusters of 30 or 40 all through but managed to cheer in unison all through the matchup.
“This does not arrive from the formal channel of POCOG,” claimed Sung, when requested his impressions of the squad. “But all through the online games, I consider they are likely to catch the attention of a good deal of fascination from men and women.”