January 18, 2018 12:19
North Korea on Wednesday said it will send no fewer than 230 cheerleaders to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month on top of the 140-member Samjiyon Orchestra, all to cheer on less than a dozen athletes.
The total North Korean delegation will reach about 400 to 500 counting North Korean Olympic Committee delegates, a taekwondo demonstration team and reporters.
Only two North Korean winter sports athletes have qualified for the Olympics -- a figure-skating pair -- and even when a number of others are granted wild-card status they will number no more than 10.
Some 650 North Koreans came to South Korea in 2002 for the Asian Games in Busan and 527 in 2003 for the Summer Universiade in Daegu, but most of them were athletes. For the Asian Games in Incheon in 2014, it only sent 237 athletes without cheerleaders.
Most of the North Korean visitors, including cheering squad members, will likely be from the Pyongyang elite and thoroughly vetted for ideological soundness.
The South will foot most of the bill, although the IOC pays part of the cost for the athletes.
There is already some anger here over a decision to field a unified women's ice-hockey team, and fears are growing of anti-North Korean protests marring the Olympics.
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