North Korea sending cheerleaders to Asian Games in Seoul to soothe tensions with South
Communist leaders are fans of the American tradition
Monday 07 July 2014
North Korea’s Communist regime might seem an unlikely supporter of cheerleading but the all-American tradition is being used by the authoritarian state to improve international relations.
The dictatorship is sending a squad of cheerleaders to the upcoming Asian Games in South Korea to soothe tensions with its neighbour.
The event, starting in Incheon in September, sees more than 40 Asian countries compete and is the second-largest multi-sport event in the world after the Olympics.
North Korea has boycotted the games in the past but is sending athletes this year.
A statement from the Government said the cheering squad aimed at promoting reconciliation between rivals.
Released by state media, the announcement added demands that both Korean countries stop trading accusations and Seoul scraps military drills with the US.
North Korean cheerleaders show support for their team before a match against Germany in the women's football World Cup in Wuhan in 2007. South Korea has previously rejected similar demands, saying North Korea must take steps towards nuclear disarmament first.
The South's Unification Ministry called the demands by its neighbour “unreasonable” on Monday but said it will discuss the proposal to send athletes and cheerleaders.
North Korea boycotted the 1986 Asian Games and the 1988 Olympics, both in Seoul, but attended sporting events in other cities.
Since the early 2000s, it has dispatched cheerleaders to three tournaments in South Korea.
The mostly female squads were called an “army of beauties” by the country's media and have often received more attention than the North’s athletes.
Among the squad sent to the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon was Ri Sol Ju, who later reportedly become the wife of Kim Jong-Un, according to South Korean officials.
The North has not confirmed who this year’s cheerleaders will be or given more details.
Analysts believe the country is seeking to improve ties with the South and other countries to attract foreign investment and aid to revive its economy.
A series of missile and rocket tests conducted before Chinese President Xi Jinping visited South Korea last week was seen as a protest against him becoming Beijing's first leader visit the South before its northern ally.
North and South Korea have been divided along a heavily fortified border since the 1950s, with families separated for decades after the border closed.
Additional reporting by AP
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