After 19 days, N Korean cheerleaders return home

After 19 days, N Korean cheerleaders return home
North Korean cheerleaders arrive at the inter-Korea transit office to leave for North Korea after attending the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

A group of North Koreans, including 229 cheerleaders and 22 athletes, returned home Monday after participating in the PyeongChang Olympics.

A total of 299 North Koreans crossed the inter-Korean border at 12:38 p.m. after going through the customs, immigration and quarantine office in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on the southern side of the border.

This year, Pyongyang dispatched nearly 500 athletes, musicians, cheerleaders and taekwondo demonstrators, to the Feb. 9-25 Winter Olympics in South Korea, following its leader Kim Jong-un's rare New Year's overture to Seoul.

As of Monday afternoon, the only North Koreans left in the South are an eight-member delegation led by Kim Yong-chol, a key official handling inter-Korean affairs. A 140-member North Korean art troupe and a taekwondo demonstration team returned home on two separate occasions earlier this month.

North Korean cheerleaders stand in line at the customs, immigration and quarantine office in Paju, just south of the inter-Korean border, on Monday to return home.Photo: AFP

The divided Koreas' Olympic co-operation led to a unified women's hockey team competing, athletes from respective Koreas marching under the unified Korean flag, and the sight of North Korean cheerleaders' unique performances at the games.

At the checkpoint in Paju, an unidentified female ice hockey player told the press pool that every match played alongside South Korean players was "impressive."

Asked whether she believed a unified hockey team will be reassembled in the future, she replied, "There will be, definitely."

The North Korean figure skating pair of Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik, who finished 13th and achieved a personal best of 184.98 points in the Olympics, were also among the athletes at the CIQ.

"Thank you for the enthusiastic support," male figure skater Kim Ju-sik told the pool reporter as he was leaving.

See North Korea's cheerleading 'army of beauties' in action

The cheerleaders -- who captured the eyes and hearts of the Olympic audience after making their first cross-border trip in 13 years -- also left the South. They rooted mostly for the joint hockey team throughout their South Korean trip, which lasted a total of 19 days.

A cheerleader expressed her hope for a unified Korea saying that the Olympics was an opportunity that showed inter-Korean co-operation was the answer to unification.

"I thought that the two Koreas could be unified as soon as possible, as we are one," another cheerleader said. "I was so happy as I could cheer for the unified team."

Kim Kang-kuk, a reporter under the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency said all games were "memorable" and lauded the joint hockey team as the most "special" part of the games. Kim had also attended last month's vice-ministerial-level meeting between the two Koreas held at the truce village of Panmunjeom.

Meanwhile, the eight-member delegation that crossed the border from North Korea on Sunday, will remain in the South until Tuesday.

Kim Yong-chol, the leader of the group and head of the United Front Department came to the Olympic closing ceremony, which both President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump's daughter and senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump also attended.

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.