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The North Korean cheerleaders at the COR-JPN women''s ice hockey game on Wednesday.© OCA

Olympic Games News

Three cheers for the North Korean cheerleaders

Date : 15 Feb 2018

Gangneung, Korea, February 15, 2018: No emotions? Everything regimented and coordinated? No spontaneity? Don’t you believe it! The North Korean cheerleaders at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang have been attracting more interest and publicity than the DPRK athletes themselves.

And it is no surprise, considering their impeccably well-drilled movements and routines from both sitting and standing positions and also their beautiful, high-pitched lullabies that sweep the listener into a new world and an old tradition.

There were two groups of cheerleaders at the Kwandong Hockey Centre on Wednesday afternoon to watch the unified Korean women’s ice hockey team (COR) take on Japan in a Group B encounter. The cheerleaders arrived in bright red jackets and pants but soon removed the jackets, as one, to reveal striking blue, white and red tracksuit tops, with a white winter hat and blue trim.

Someone, somewhere began each chant, song or flag-wave, and cries of “We are one”, “We are proud of you” and “Go win” were interspersed with delightful folk songs that, despite being delicately delivered, drowned out the shouting and rapping of the official entertainers. North Korea 1 South Korea 0.

They even tried to start a Mexican Wave with an extravagant sway of the arms and coordinated shriek, but when it did not catch on they simply referred to the next page of their Pyongyang cheerleading manual. The move where they held the shoulder of the girl next to them with one hand, and waved with the other, was particularly impressive.

But just when you thought there was no individuality, no room for self-expression, no possibility to break out from the group…..Korea scored a goal! The place went crazy, and leading the way were the North Korean cheerleaders. This was no coordinated routine with each sequence set in stone; this was pure passion and excitement in a momentous sporting occasion – the first goal for COR at the Winter Olympics.

They were standing and cheering and waving their white and blue unification flags, and any hopes of their unsmiling, no-nonsense minders keeping them under control or restoring order were gone. After the bedlam had calmed down and the game re-started with Korea now trailing by only one goal at 2-1 to Japan, the home team charged forward again in search of an equaliser – and the noise level rose to hysteria mode. 

Having had no time to return to their planned programme, the North Korean cheerleaders were letting loose again and screaming encouragement as loud as anyone among the crowd of 4,110.

The red masses of North Korean cheerleaders will be remembered long after the Winter Olympics, but it is also important to remember how South Korean hockey player Randi Heesoo Griffin described her new North Korean team-mates after the game: “They are just people.”



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