N.Korea's Army of Cheerleaders Needs to Stay at Home

  • By Sonu Jong from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk

    January 17, 2018 13:24

    Sonu Jong

    Ambush marketing has become a major source of controversy during each Olympics event. It refers to companies associating themselves with, or "ambushing," a big event without being its actual official sponsors. SK Telecom was guilty of this practice during the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup and is now stirring up controversy again, but this time it has met the mother of all rivals in North Korea.

    North Korea has the advantage of total shamelessness. It does not care whose toes it treads on, certainly not if they are South Korea's, and is determined to snatch the limelight from the hands of the host. First, the national flag of the host country will be phased out of the picture to be replaced by a "unification flag" during the opening and closing ceremonies. South Korea made the suggestion before the North even asked for it, and now it is in the same situation as poor Taiwan, which can never hoist its own flag at international events due to mainland China's global clout.

    The government here says this is no big deal since the same thing happened during the Asian Games and the Universiade. But the Winter Olympics are a much bigger event and watched by 3.2 billion people around the world.

    North Korea is sending fewer than a dozen athletes, of whom only two have officially qualified. But tagging along behind them is an army of clowns, bell-ringers and other assorted rabble, led by 140 performers from the Samjiyon Orchestra, which exists to extol the achievements of the regime. There a strong chance that the Moranbong girl band is also coming, which has endeared itself to North Koreans with songs like "Dear Leader is Always on My Mind" or "Peace Comes Only Through Might," and the all-time favorite, "I Cannot Live Without Him," meaning Kim Jong-un. It makes one shudder to imagine what they will be warbling about once they arrive here.

    The North Korean cheerleading squad is filled with hand-picked beauties who, aside from their lipstick and smiles, are remembered here for going into hysterics when they saw a picture of their leader hanging from a tree as they were driven through the streets of South Korea.

    North Korea is used to leading South Korea around by the nose. The Asian Games in Busan took place just three months after North and South Korean warships clashed on the West Sea in 2002. The North sent 288 female cheerleaders, and state TV boasted then that South Koreans were enthralled by their beauty. That was not far off the mark. Nobody in the South Korean government wanted to disturb the honored guests with news of the six South Korean sailors who were killed during the naval clash. North Korean cheerleaders who visited the following year put on another hysterical show over a placard depicting their leader that had been allowed to drench in the rain, but again South Koreans swooned over their beauty.

    This is the third time South Korea hosts a big global sporting event. During the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988, North Korea blew up a South Korean passenger plane killing 114 people. It provoked the naval clash ahead of the World Cup in 2002. This time, it is threatening the South with nuclear weapons. A healthy dose of suspicion of North Korea's sudden shift in tactics is in order, but instead government is too entranced by the North's overtures to think straight.

    Kim Jong-un made his New Year's resolution clear in a speech earlier this month. He has been turning the North into a nuclear power last year and wants to show that off in 2018. The Winter Olympics that South Korea worked so hard to host could be a perfect venue for that. Without athletes who stand a snowball's chance in hell in their actual Olympic disciplines, North Korea wants to steal the show with some pretty women and a lot of flimflam. The Moon Jae-in government here trudges humbly along in the hope that the North wants to get back into bed and relive the honeymoon.

    Yet this is a country that has threatened the world with its nuclear weapons and has no regard for human lives. It is well to remember that Germany was already preparing for World War II when it hosted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and that Japan fully expected to host the Olympics in Tokyo in 1940.

    The North only needs to send 10 athletes and some coaches and support staff. The rest should stay at home. What is happening in Pyeongchang next month is a sporting event and not a propaganda platform.

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