• The North Korean cheerleaders at the Winter Olympics have captured the world’s attention.
• They’ve also prompted criticism of what many perceive as the media’s overly-exuberant coverage of the authoritarian regime’s Olympic delegation.
• The cheerleaders are all young women who’ve been hand picked based on certain stringent physical requirements.
• The cheerleaders all go through an intense vetting process, to minimize the risk of defection.
• Along with the North Korean athletes, they’re heavily guarded at the Pyeongchang Games.
North Korea’s highly-synchronized, chanting squad of 229 cheerleaders has accomplished its mission.
The large group’s coordinated cheers haven’t helped North Korea’s athletic prospects — they’ve yet to win a medal.
But they did cause a stir in the media. The press has received a lot of blowback for what critics see as its chipper coverage of North Korea’s Olympic delegation. Business Insider reported that a range of news organizations, from CNN to Reuters, were criticized for their “surprisingly cheery” reporting on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister — and propaganda minister — Kim Yo Jong. Fox News, The Washington Post, and BBC also received criticism for comparing Kim to First Daughter Ivanka Trump.
And that dose of normalization may have been the goal for the North Korean regime, which has tortured, killed, and imprisoned millions over the years and has recently threatened nuclear war with the United States.
North Korea’s “army of beauties” have certainly garnered much attention for their coordinated routines, Business Insider’s Jim Edwards reported. But, despite the cheerleaders’ matching smiles and upbeat chants, the individual members of the squad will likely be in danger if they slip up or attempt to defect.
Here’s a look into the rigorous requirements it takes to join the squad — and what the cheerleaders’ closely guarded experience is like:
The gig isn’t a year-round job, and it’s not a paid position. The squad typically convenes for months-long training sessions before big events, like the Olympics.
Source: The New York Times
There are stringent physical requirements for joining. The cheerleaders must be taller than 5’3, and have a round face, large eyes, and clear, high voices.
Source: The Guardian
The squad members are all their late teens or early 20s. Former cheerleader Ri Sol-ju — Kim Jong-Un’s now-wife — was 16 when she performed with in the group in 2005.