The 229 members of the North Korean cheerleading squad became the unlikely center of attention during the Winter Olympics 2018 because of their highly synchronized and over-the-top routines.
North Korean speed skater Jong Kwang Bom appeared to trip his Japanese opponent Keita Watanabe during a 500 meter short track heat.
Although these instances may be chalked up to overenthusiasm, the acts were more likely born of desperation to not look like a failure in the eyes of North Korea’s despotic Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.
According to a soldier who defected from the hermit kingdom, the cheerleading squad is forced to perform sex acts for members of DPRK’s Politburo party, as part of their trip to PyeongChang, to attend the Olympics.
Off the cameras, the art troupe is dubbed as the “Pleasure Squad” and are effectively sex slaves, said Lee So-yeon, a military musician who escaped the regime in 2008
Lee told Bloomberg, “North Korea’s art troupe came here and performed with dances and songs, and it might seem like a fancy show on the outside. However, they also have to go to parties and provide sexual services, that sort of pain also follows. They go to the central Politburo party’s events, and have to sleep with the people there, even if they don’t want it. Those sorts of human-rights infringements take place, where women have to follow what they are told to do with their bodies.”
“The women there, when they attend, they have to undress. They’re asked to undress, like objects. That’s the physical pain they have to go through,” she said.
Lee Il-nam, a nephew of Kim Jong Un’s father wrote in his book, “Kim Jong-Il’s Royal Family,” that such parties were often held at the tyrant’s own home and included perverted games where women were forced to strip and shave their pubic hair. Men were also forced to take off their clothes and shave their heads if they lose a game, he wrote.
Other parties were devoted entirely to sex.
These claims are more chilling than some other accounts of how women are mistreated in the hermit kingdom but are certainly not surprising.
Cheerleaders have to undergo an extreme vetting process. Anyone who is related to a defector or have ties to Japan is automatically disqualified. The women whose families have strong loyalty to the Worker’s Party are preferred. However, they are unpaid and remain under guard 24 hours a day. They also can face prison time for any slip-ups.
Last month, An Chan-il, a defector who runs the World Institute for North Korea Studies said, “They must be over 163 centimeters tall and come from good families. Those who play an instrument are from a band and others are mostly students at the elite Kim Il-sung University.”
Olympian athletes are subjected to similar excruciating exercises. They have round-the-clock security guards who tackle them if they try to run away and even follow them into bathrooms.
Defector Kim Hyung-soo, who defected to South Korea with his son, a former league skier, in 2009, also described the women as “slaves,” although he did not claim the abuses were sexual.
“Even the coaches are slaves to Kim Jong Un and to the North Korean regime,” he said. “The athletes and the cheerleaders, too. They are all Kim Jong Un and North Korea's slaves.”
North Korea is notorious for dealing with people it believes have brought disgrace to its regime. Former Supreme Leader Kim Il-Sung reportedly had the country’s entire football team arrested for losing to Portugal in the 1966 World Cup, after they were caught drunk.
Instead of going home to their families, the team was allegedly sent to the nation’s most infamous prison camps.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon