If you’ve been following the Olympics this year, you might have picked up on the fact that the North Koreans are there (and it’s kind of a big deal). The South has been very welcoming to their northern neighbours, even merging their teams and walking into the Opening Ceremonies together. In a historic moment, Kim Jong Un’s sister even shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. To mark the importance of the whole occasion, NK also sent over their “Army of Beauties” (A.K.A. their cheer squad) and people are a little … uncomfortable.
The squad consists of 230 women who were selected for their “natural beauty” and patriotism. They are so in sync, it’s a little terrifying but that’s nothing compared to what happens if they’re out of sync. According to Business Insider reporting, if these women fall out of step, they could end up in prison. That’s led to some pretty creepy visuals around the Games.
North Korean cheering squad is a well polished hype machine, getting a good reception from the crowd at short track speed skating pic.twitter.com/QWfXQsayz3
— Kim Brunhuber (@kimbrunhuber) February 10, 2018
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) February 10, 2018
— Sohee Kim (@soheefication) February 10, 2018
The ladies also do an interesting routine using paper masks of a young man’s face. News outlets are speculating that the picture is of a young Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s first leader, “Eternal President” and grandfather of Kim Jong Un. That’s sparked it’s own little controversy with critics in the South accusing the North of using the Olympics to spread propaganda. The North insists the photos on the masks are just a “good-looking man.”
A huge controversy brewing in South Korea over mask worn by North Korea’s cheerleaders. Was it or was it not the face of North Korean founder Kim Il-Sung in his youth https://t.co/4MV3VnSFIf pic.twitter.com/Imm0vLYQxp
— NorthKoreaRealTime (@BuckTurgidson79) February 11, 2018
Kim Il-sung or not, people at the games are finding the cheerleaders unnerving. They don’t just cheer in perfect synchronicity, they also wear matching clothing even when they’re not at events, walk in perfect step and live aboard a ferry when they’re not performing to prevent them from learning too much about life outside North Korea. According to South Korean media, 21 cheerleaders were imprisoned in 2006 for sharing what they saw in the South after they returned from a trip there with the team. The women at the games had to agreed to view the South as “enemy territory” to discourage them from trying to defect.
Some observers are finding the whole group terrifying and others are concerned for the young indoctrinated women who are essentially prisoners of the totalitarian regime.
North Korea’s ‘Army of Beauties’ at the opening ceremony. They all look so happy.. and militant. pic.twitter.com/Ey0NjLPyGc
— Michael Scanlan (@MScanlan7) February 9, 2018
— Hertz Nazaire (@Nazaire73) February 10, 2018
They probably practice for years and told them that if they messed up they would be punished. Very creepy pic.twitter.com/Mba4lxp9Sb
— Pedro Izaguirre (@txpedro410) February 12, 2018
Glad to see they were able to get a reprieve from the hell that must be North Korea. But I’m a little freaked out by the synchronized cheers. Why do I have a feeling that Kim Jong-un actually has an Army of cheerleaders? Giving a whole new meaning to cheerleading training camp.
— Jason Hannigan (@CaptinMoonlite) February 10, 2018
Hey people of earth. North Korea’s Olympic cheer squad, “the army of beauties” should not be celebrated. This is propoganda. Those poor women are just pawns in a corrupt regime that wants to destroy America.
— Haley Victory Smith (@Haley_Victory) February 10, 2018
Hate to be a downer, but this seems exactly like what you’d expect of a “cheer squad” from a totalitarian country. Official government enthusiasm. https://t.co/L6VOkRN6zf
— Paul Farhi (@farhip) February 10, 2018
Whether you’re worried about the women or concerned for your own well-being, it looks like the general consensus is that this is all quite terrifying.