North Korea’s Winter Olympics cheerleaders are being ‘forced into sexual slavery’
Members of the North Korean cheerleading squad that charmed Winter Olympics viewers are being forced into sex slavery by the country’s top politicians, a defector from the country has said.
“North Korea’s art troupe came here and performed with dances and songs, and it might seem like a fancy show on the outside,” Lee So-yeon, who was a musician in the North Korean military until she fled in 2008, told Bloomberg.
“But not only do they have to be in charge of promoting Kim Jong-un’s propaganda, they also have to go to parties and provide sexual services.”
Lee said that the parties are held “every day” by members of the Central Politburo, and “even if they don’t want this, they have to serve with their bodies, like a human rights infringement.
“The women there, when they attend, they have to undress. They’re asked to undress, like objects. That’s the physical pain they have to go through.”
It is not clear where the parties are held, and it appears that she is talking more about the cheerleaders’ lives back in North Korea, rather than at the Olympics.
It’s also unclear how Lee, who has written books about her time in the North Korean army and is now an anti-North Korea campaigner, knows about the treatment of the cheerleaders.
Bloomberg also spoke to Kim Hyung-soo, 54, who defected to South Korea with his son - a North Korean national league skier - in 2009.
Kim called all of the coaches and athletes “slaves” of Kim Jong-un, though he did not make claims of sexual abuse.
“The cheerleaders, too,” he said. “They select people who are unlikely to defect, and people with loyal backgrounds. This factor is crucial from a very early stage.”
Last month, An Chan-il, a defector researcher who runs the World Institute for North Korea Studies, said the cheerleaders are cherry-picked by the regime based on tough criteria.
“They must be over 163 centimetres tall and come from good families,” An said.
“Those who play an instrument are from a band and others are mostly students at the elite Kim Il-sung University.”
Additional reporting by James Wilkinson