North Korea will send cheerleaders to the Winter Olympics in South Korea

The North Koreans arrive for talks.
The North Koreans arrive for talks.
Image: Yonhap via Reuters
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North Korea and South Korea held high-level talks today (Jan. 9) for the first time in over two years. Representatives from the two sides focused mainly on how North Korea could participate in next month’s Winter Olympics, to be hosted by South Korea.

After the meeting, Chun Hae-sung, South Korea’s vice unification minister, said North Korea had offered to send a delegation that includes athletes, cheerleaders, cultural performers, Taekwondo performers, and government officials. The International Olympics Committee said Monday it would extend the deadline for North Korean athletes to register for the games.

Cheerleaders might seem like an odd choice, especially in contrast to the strained relations between the two nations, and the setting of the meeting—at one the world’s tensest, most heavily guarded borders.

Cheerleading, though, might well become an official Olympic sport in the years ahead. Last year the International Olympic Committee granted it provisional recognition. It won’t be part of the Olympic Games this year, but cheerleaders from various nations will still perform at the opening and closing ceremonies.

The US, for its part, is sending cheerleaders from the University of Kentucky, which has frequently produced national championship teams. Cheerleaders from Kentucky, then, might share performance space with ones from North Korea—also notable given the war of words between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

North Koreans might very well excel at cheerleading, with their highly choreographed performances in honor of the Kim family regime being, admittedly, impressive.

People take part in a performance during the celebrations for the National Liberation Day in the city of Pyongyang, North Korea August 15, 2005. Picture taken August 15, 2005.
Choreographed cheer in Pyongyang in August 2005.
Image: Reuters/Yuri Maltsev