North Korea is sending an army to the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea — an “army of beauties.”
The exclusive bunch features a select group of North Korean women handpicked by the Hermit Kingdom’s leader Kim Jong Un who are sent to international athletic events in an effort to attract attention and increase ticket sales.
As noted by Fox News, the women, who are mostly in their late teens and early 20s, are selected for their appearance and family background.
An Chan-Il, a North Korean defector and head of the World Institute for North Korea Studies, told the AFP that the women “must be over 5 feet 3 inches tall and come from good families.”
He added that “Those who play an instrument are from a band and others are mostly students at the elite Kim Il-Sung University.”
The group provides entertainment by dancing, singing and using “fans as props” according to Fox News reporter Katherine Lam.
The famous group will join an 80-member North Korean orchestra, a Samjiyon band and 60 other singers and dancers.
A notable alumnus of the group is Kim’s wife Ri Sol-Ju, who was a member of the group that attended the 2005 Asian Athletic Championships in Incheon.
Their entertaining nature and appeal to South Korean citizens even led to the group appearing in a 2005 Samsung commercial alongside Korean pop singer Lee Hyo-Ri.
The “army” is reportedly an object of fascination for South Korean citizens due to the reclusive nature of the North, and this fascination often draws massive crowds — a phenomenon that is not lost on Olympic event organizers who are hopeful that the troupe’s appearance will bolster ticket sales.
“It will help with ticket sales,” Pyeongchang Organizing Committee spokesperson Sung Baik-You stated. “It will fulfill our desires for a peace Olympics.”
As reported by the U.K. Telegraph, North Korea’s beauty brigade is a powerful political tool as the country uses their appearance and entertaining nature as propaganda.
The AFP reported that the North Korean cheer squad made its first appearance at the 2002 Asian Games in the South Korean city of Busan.
There, the group received a warm welcome from hundreds of Busan residents who lined the city’s streets to greet them.
But while the “army of beauties” typically receives a positive response from their southern neighbors, some officials are worried that their presence at the 2018 Olympic Games could present some headaches due to the North’s recent missile tests.
However, the recent opening of the recently dormant North-South Korean hotline and Kim’s comments regarding the creation of “a peaceful environment” between the two nations show a potential move in a positive direction.
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