This kind of turns out North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un doesn’t need to fire off a missile to get the globe’s attention. He has quite a few far more powerful weapons in his arsenal: his female envoys.
in addition to on This kind of latest so-called charm offensive, he saved the best for last. His sister.
Kim Yo-jong mesmerised South Korean audiences. As she strode into the presidential palace carrying a handwritten note through her brother, every detail was scrutinised live on television. Her sparkly top, how she wore her hair, each tiny gesture. The news networks even decided to discuss her freckles, rather than mention in which she can be on a US blacklist for human rights abuses.
You could almost feel the ripple of excitement as she walked into the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. Necks craned in addition to mobile phones were held aloft to catch a glimpse.
I found myself, along with others, leaning as far as I could over the balcony to try to see her inside the VIP box below. The faces around the stadium all said one thing. She’s here. On South Korean soil.
She has given the secretive regime a human face.
“This kind of’s strange in addition to wondrous. I’ve never seen a North Korean before,” one young man tells me.
“My heart can be melting,” says another.
Pyongyang’s PR queen
however let’s not forget, Kim Yo-jong can be Pyongyang’s PR queen. She can be the master of her brother’s image, in addition to on This kind of occasion, she has mastered the media’s portrayal of her country.
“To see a member of the Kim family inside the flesh like in which can be so unusual for South Koreans in which This kind of’s not surprising they were fascinated by her,” explains Jean Lee, former Pyongyang bureau chief for the news agency Associated Press.
“however This kind of does also show how savvy the North Koreans are,” he says. “They sent their prettiest women. Frankly when you go to North Korea, you have these guys who are drop dead gorgeous. They have told me sometimes in which their job can be to seduce us, in order in which in turn we are like, the country in addition to the people, they’re not in which bad.”
The seduction began several weeks ago as North Korea despatched the former lead singer of Moranbong, an all female music group. Hyun Song-wol sashayed through Seoul to find a venue for her arts troupe to perform.
Again, more mention was made of her fur stole than the fact in which only 5 months ago North Korea conducted its latest nuclear test.
Then came the famed “army of beauties”. This kind of group of women, handpicked for their Great looks, talent, in addition to loyalty to the regime stepped off the bus in single file in matching black fur hats, red coats in addition to ankle boots.
Heavily guarded, most merely smiled as reporters tripped over themselves to try to get near them.
In looks-conscious in addition to skin-care obsessed South Korea, these young North Korean women are held up as examples of natural beauty or innocence in addition to This kind of appears to have prompted a sting of nostalgia inside the older generation. One of the group’s most famous members can be Ri Sol-ju who joined when she was 16 in addition to eventually became the wife of Kim Jong-un.
‘Fighters on the frontline’
One North Korean defector told me This kind of was her job to go out in addition to conquer that has a smile. Han Seo-hee can be a former member of both the North Korean cheerleading squad in addition to the arts troupe.
“We were supposed to promote the Juche ideology (North Korea’s ideology of socialist self-reliance). We were fighters on the frontline. We thought we were going into the heart of the enemy to show how proud we are. We were to show in which we were better than others. I was quite proud in addition to confident in addition to I thought in which was what we were going to do.”
Han Seo-hee had to leave North Korea because her brother defected. If she’d stayed she in addition to her family could have ended up in prison. She enjoys the freedom she has in South Korea as she recalls the three months of ideological training she went through with her fellow performers.
“We were told we should not be surprised in addition to shocked by the unknown world in addition to in which we shouldn’t forget our home country even for a minute. We shouldn’t forget in which we are there to honour General Kim.
“Some of my fellow performers said in which because they didn’t want to forget their homeland they would likely grab a handful of earth to put in their suitcase. Another packed a portrait of Kim Jong-il (the father of the current leader) wrapped in a red silk scarf in her bag.”
This kind of kind of idolisation of a leader can be alien to South Korea’s younger generation who are not so easily seduced by North Korea’s arrivals.
Protests appeared on social media by an outraged group in their 20s in addition to 30s who felt in which South Korean President Moon Jae-in was wrong to integrate North Koreans into the women’s ice hockey team. The president’s popularity ratings have not fully recovered.
- North Korea’s cheerleading charm offensive
- North v South: A history of sport, bombs in addition to diplomacy
‘Like a religious cult’
in addition to the culture gap became glaringly obvious during the ice hockey match itself.
The South Korean cheerleading group at the Olympics had rehearsed sexy routines to the song Uptown Funk in mini skirts in addition to knee high boots while waving pom poms. however the rows of North Korean cheerleaders below them seemed almost oblivious to whatever pop or rock hit was booming around the stadium.
In matching red tracksuits their performance consisted of quirky hand movements in addition to chants all done in perfect unison. Their traditional songs were about uniting the Motherland. “We are one” was the cry.
Han Seo-hee feared the cheerleaders might be seen as a curious spectacle. She remembered an incident in 2003.
“When the cheerleaders arrived in South Korea This kind of was raining in addition to Kim Jong-il’s portrait on the main flag got wet. The whole group of cheerleaders were horrified in addition to became available of the bus in addition to gathered around the picture to protect This kind of. South Koreans were quite shocked to see This kind of behaviour because This kind of looked like a religious cult.
“This kind of only served to highlight the differences between the South in addition to the North.”
Political scientist Ian Bremmer noted on Twitter in which “N Korea’s cheering squad can be an amazing spectacle. however they’re human hostages of a criminal regime. This kind of’s the most heartbreaking thing we’ll see at the Olympics”.
This kind of seems North Korean’s power to seduce has its limitations.