The North Korean cheerleaders at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang have garnered a lot of media attention with their synchronized choreography and chants over the past weekend. While there are weird circumstances surrounding the cheerleading squad, their role in Pyeongchang is pretty familiar as they give North Korea a camera-ready public face as they cheer on the unified Korean team. But what exactly is the “Army of Beauties” saying?
It turns out that North Korean chants at sporting events aren’t that different from American ones. According to Anna Fifield of The Washington Post, the refrain from one cheer roughly translates to, “Go for it, go for it, our players, go for it!” Pretty standard sports stuff.
As part of North Korea’s olympic-sized public relations campaign, the squad of 229 young women has distracted from the tension between North and South Korea. The uncanny uniformed quality of their performances have transfixed major news outlets, and shifted attention away from the North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
This seems to be Kim Jong-Un’s goal: humanize the despotic regime with a group of smiling women. Of course, their inclusion is also a vindication of the North Korean rule; the cheerleaders were specifically selected for their appearance and obedience. In 2005, North Korea sent a similar group of cheerleaders to the Asian Athletics Championship. A couple of those women transmuted their role into a life of wealth, but 21 were sent to labor camps because they praised South Korea.
Clearly, North Korea is very serious about their propaganda. As such, not all of the chants are confined to boiler plate cheerleading. Some of the songs have cultural value and emphasize the significance of a meeting between North and South Koreans.
According to The Washington Post, the above video captures an excerpt from a North Korean song called “Nice to Meet You.” This song is commonly performed during cross-cultural exchanges and is especially meaningful when sung at such an important event.
The unprecedented nature of the cheerleading squad is fitting, given that 2018 marks the first time North and South Korea have competed as a unified team under a unified flag. Perhaps the Winter Olympics portend a real commitment to improving relations between the bordering countries. On the other hand, North Korea is no stranger to sophisticated propaganda efforts, and few things draw attention like singing and dancing.