North Korea's cheer squad captivated Winter Olympics viewers and the American media, but what occurs beyond the camera frame may not be as praiseworthy.
According to the Associated Press, as reported by the Taipei Times, in 2002, a similar cheer squad was sent to South Korea for the Asian Games. North Korean cheer squads were also sent to South Korea for other events in 2003 and 2005.
While their pristine performance dazzled the crowd, 21 members of the 2005 cheer squad were reportedly sent to a prison camp for talking about life in South Korea.
The AP reported that a defector who had fled to China told South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo that the detained females violated a promise to not speak about anything they saw while out of the country.
Another defector said the cheer squad pledged that they would treat South Korea as “enemy territory” and would accept punishment if they broke any part of the promise.
The Daily Mail reported that members of the squad undergo a strict screening process and are traditionally picked from colleges in Pyongyang and wealthy families that prove more loyal to the regime.
While in South Korea for the Olympic Games, members of the squad must report any conversations with South Koreans and have daily meetings with officials.
According to The New Yorker, before the Pyeongchang Olympics, North Korea had not sent its cheer squad to South Korea since 2005, when girls were reportedly detained.
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