January 23, 2018 13:16
A ship carrying 290 North Korean cheerleaders docked in Busan when the southern port city hosted the Asian Games in 2002, and South Koreans were mesmerized by the tall pretty women, who had been handpicked by the regime. With their synchronized applause and cheers they even spawned their own fan clubs in the South. North Korean state TV claimed that the women's clothing and makeup sparked fads in the South.
That gave the North its first taste of the publicity pretty women can generate even if they represent a murderous regime. It promptly sent more than 300 of them to the Universiade in Daegu the following year. But this time things did not go as smoothly, and one rainy day the women were spotted sobbing uncontrollably when they saw a banner featuring then-leader Kim Jong-il getting soaked in the street. The cheerleaders got off their bus and collected the precious item, and at least some South Koreans did start to wonder if they were completely mad.
A similar craze threatens to develop now Hyon Song-wol, a bandleader-cum-apparatchik, has visited South Korea, where she was mobbed by press and gawkers at Seoul Station en route to Gangneung. The government deployed 720 police officers to protect her, and it would be no exaggeration to say she stole the show. Why the government has been going all out to accommodate Hyon is a mystery.
A high-ranking Unification Ministry official did not even have the gumption to defend the South Korean press when North Korea threw a tantrum and delayed her visit by one day, apparently because of hostile coverage here. Instead, the government rebuked the press for "excessive and speculative reporting." What seemed to get the North's puritanical goat was that the media here widely reported that Hyon was once leader Kim Jong-un's girlfriend.
During the visit, a National Intelligence Service agent assigned to protect Hyon had the barefaced cheek to upbraid South Korean reporters for asking questions. Maybe that is why North Korea's state media are claiming that the North is actually saving the Winter Olympics, which were destined to be a lackluster event without its trained poodles hopping about. South Korea worked for 20 years for a chance to host the Winter Olympics, but the North Koreans are determined to steal the limelight.
No fewer than 140 North Korean performers and 230 cheerleaders are heading across the border, where they will team up with a rabble of North Korea sympathizers to grab the spotlight at Olympic events. The foreign press is already reporting that the Winter Olympics has become Kim Jong-un's festival (French economic journal Les Échos) or that the North Korean leader is behaving like a sports champion (AP). But this time young South Koreans, who know that Kim is a spoiled little tyrant, will not fall for the publicity stunt and focus on the real meaning of the Olympics.
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