Olympics as N. Korea propaganda: Cheerleaders’ Kim Il-Sung masks outrage S. Koreans

by WorldTribune Staff, February 12, 2018

Any doubts that Kim Jong-Un’s squad of cheerleaders was sent to the Winter Olympics for propaganda purposes may have been erased during the Feb. 10 women’s hockey game between the Korean unified team and Switzerland.

During the game, which Switzerland won by a score of 8-0, the cheer group was seen wearing a mask of a young man that many observers said was undoubtedly North Korea founder Kim Il-Sung.

North Korean cheerleaders don masks ruing the unified team’s women’s hockey game against Switzerland on Feb. 10. / Yonhap

The South Korean Unification Ministry insisted the mask was of a generic “handsome man” and not Kim Jong-Un’s grandfather.

According to the ministry, which quoted North Korean officials, the image on the mask is not Kim Il-Sung, it is a generic good looking man which is similar to the mask in “Talchum,” the Korean traditional mask dance, Yoon Min-Sik reported for The Korea Herald on Feb. 11.

Many South Koreans, including elected officials, were not buying that explanation.

“Will they (the ministry) say it’s not Kim even after seeing the picture of the younger Kim? Even the hair is identical,” said Ha Tae-Kyung of the South’s minor opposition Bareun Party.

“Do you have to lie when it is clear that it is a Kim Il-Sung mask? Do you want to make PyeongChang Olympics a ‘lie Olympics’ ”? he said, taking a jab at the Seoul government’s slogan to make the games “Peace Olympics.”

The ruling Democratic Party of Korea released a statement saying that “Considering the North Korean system and culture, it is impossible to use Kim Il-Sung’s face – which is held in the highest dignity – for cheering for their team,” said Rep. Back Hye-ryun, spokesperson for the ruling party. “The Unification Ministry has directly made an inquiry to the North Korean cheering squad and confirmed that it was not a Kim Il-Sung mask.”

One analyst said it is unlikely that the North Koreans made a Kim Il-Sung mask.

“In North Korea, Kim Il-Sung is a ‘divine’ figure. Christians generally don’t cheer with a Jesus mask, and Muslims don’t wear mask of Allah (in such events)… It is hard to imagine making Kim’s face into a mask in North Korea, where losing a Kim Il-Sung badge was a sin that could land you in a concentration camp,” Cha Du-Hyeogn, a visiting research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, wrote on his Facebook page. “It’s more likely that the image is that of a star in North Korea… They (North Koreans) don’t use Kim Jong-Un’s face, would they use Kim Il-Sung’s face? Really?”

Whether the mask was indeed of Kim Il-Sung or not, the cheerleading squad’s effectiveness at this year’s Winter Games is not likely to have the same success as in its previous appearances, an author said.

“Thirteen years since the cheerleaders’ last visit to the South in 2005, some of their exoticism has worn off,” author Suki Kim said.

“Over 30,000 defectors now live in South Korea, and they’ve helped remove some of the sense of mystery. At the same time, reality TV shows featuring North Korean women – called ‘defector beauties’ – telling all about their lives back home or participating in ‘The Bachelor’-type searches for love have chipped away at the sense of the North as a land of innocents.”

The author added: “The younger generation of South Koreans not only has more exposure to the North but is more jaded about the united-Korea propaganda that the cheerleaders represent.”

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