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February 26 2018

What the U.S. Media Missed: The Real Lives of North Korean Athletes and Cheerleaders

by Charlotte Hays

The winter Olympics, which this year became all about North Korea, whose propaganda chief and sister of the dictator who starves his people, wowed the American press (here and here), ended.

Looking back at the festivities, National Review's Wesley Smith puts his finger on why the American press gave such a warm embrace to Ms. Kim:  

North Korea wins the gold medal for evil regimes. Its people are starved. There is almost no electricity outside the capital. There reportedly are concentration camps. Its leader threatens the world with nuclear weapons.

But who cares?  Too many in the media went gaga over Dear Leader’s wicked sister — after all, at least she’s not Pence! — and they cheered on the cult-victim North Korean cheerleaders as if they had something to cheer about.

Many in the western press expressed pleasure at watching the cheerleaders. Late night's Jimmy Kimmel recognized that they weren't cheering because they were sports lovers but rather that they were cheering at a tyrant's behest and faced consequences for any lapse in enthusiasm. Kimmel somehow found this funny and, encouraging the audience to imitate the cheerleaders, proclaimed, "I feel like a dictator!"

Now Bloomberg, which is to be praised for doing some actual reporting rather than following North Korea's line, is quoting defectors telling of what the lives of the athletes who live in a real dictatorship are like. Many endure sexual slavery, according to the defectors. Bloomberg acknowledges that the recollections necessarily come from before the dissidents escaped from the Hermit Kingdom but says that there is no reason to believe conditions have changed.

A man who defected to South Korea in 2009 with his son, a skier who made it to the North Korean national league and now runs a nonprofit that aides defectors, described the situation:

“In one word, athletes are Kim Jong Un’s sports ‘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. 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.”

A former military musician now living in South Korea told Bloomberg:

“North Korea’s art troupe came here and performed with dances and songs, and it might seem like a fancy show on the outside. However, they also have to go to parties and provide sexual services, that sort of pain also follows. They go to the central Politburo party’s events, and have to sleep with the people there, even if they don’t want it. Those sorts of human-rights infringements take place, where women have to follow what they are told to do with their bodies.”

It is important, according to a former North Korean spy who spoke with Bloomberg, that athletes who've been exposed to more affluent societies, ever how briefly, realize that what they saw was unreal:

“When the athletes go back to Pyongyang, they will be shown the best buildings around town. For some, they might not have had the opportunity to see great facilities or eat good food. So, North Korea tries to show its athletes all these great things. North Korea makes an effort to plant an idea in their head, that everything that they saw in South Korea wasn’t that wonderful. And then they are sent to a political school, or a political education system from one to three months for what they call ‘moral education.”’

The New York Post has a round-up of several stories on the lives of North Korean athletes which the gushing world media overlooked. A publication called Metro U.K. had this:

The cheerleaders are under tight control and monitored 24/7 by older male minders.

They are reportedly even supervised when they go to the toilet and eat breakfast – not making a move without at least one other North Korean teammate with them as well as a South Korean government monitor.

. . .

Minders shield them from interacting with strangers at the Games and they are escorted by police to and from their amccomodation at a remote resort around an hour and a half from the main stadiums to the Inje Speedium, a racetrack complex in Inje County, along the foothills of Mount Sorak.

This is the first I am reading of the surveillance of the North Korean cheerleaders during the Olympics--did the Western media not think this a relevant story?

One can't decide what is worst about the American media's swallowing North Korea's program hook, line, and sinker. Was it their bias against the Trump administration that led them to exalt a vicious regime? Was it just ignorance? I think the biggest sin is the sheer heartlessness involved in exalting such a cruel regime.  

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Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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