NORTH KOREAN cheerleading squad and performers taking part in the Winter Olympics in South Korea appear to be isolated supreme leader Kim Jong Un’s display of diplomatic candor with the rest of world, but several defectors allege a more sinister side to the charm offensive.
Beyond the cheering and often-intricate song and dance displays, 42-year-old Lee So Yeon, a former military musician who fled in 2008, said the droves of performers and cheerleaders at the games are forced into sex.
“North Korea’s art troupe came here and performed with dances and songs, and it might seem like a fancy show on the outside,” she told Bloomberg. “However, they also have to go to parties and provide sexual services, that sort of pain also follows.”
The defector now heads New Korea Women’s Union, a group that helps female defectors adapt to South Korean lifestyle and assists those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Although it’s been nearly a decade since So Yeon left her home country, she believes not much has changed in terms of the treatment towards the performers.
“They go to the central Politburo party’s events, and have to sleep with the people there, even if they don’t want it,” she said. “Those sorts of human-rights infringements take place, where women have to follow what they are told to do with their bodies.”
Another defector, Kim Hyung Soo, 54, described the horrors of athletes being treat as “slaves”.
“Even the coaches are slaves to Kim Jong Un, and to the North Korean regime. Because in North Korea, Kim Jong Un and the regime is the entire world. The athletes and the cheerleaders, too. They are all Kim Jong Un and North Korea’s slaves,” said Hyung-soo, who defected to South Korea with his son, a skier who competed in the North Korean National league.
“The cheerleaders, too. They select people who are unlikely to defect, and people with loyal backgrounds. This factor is crucial from a very early stage.”