North Korean Defector Claims Olympic Cheerleaders Are Used As 'Sex Slaves'
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Several defectors from isolated North Korea have made claims against the country's ruling elite including an accusation from one former military musician that Olympic cheerleaders are forced to perform sexual 'favours'.
With just days to go, North and South Korea agreed to compete together at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, a huge diplomatic boost for the two countries.
Viewers were impressed by North Korea's smiling cheerleading troupe, nicknamed the 'Army of Beauties', though during Olympics their movements were carefully monitored by officials from both the North and South.
More disarmingly, one defector has alleged that the women involved in the carefully orchestrated spectacle are victims of sexual abuse back in their native North Korea.
Speaking to Bloomberg, former military musician Lee So-yeon claimed that in addition to playing a key role as part of Kim Jong Un's propaganda machine, the cheerleaders also have to 'go to parties and provide sexual services' during parties held at the Central Politburo, the centre of government in North Korea.
"They have to serve with their bodies, like a human rights infringement," she added.
Another North Korean who spoke to Bloomberg was Kim Hyung-soo, who defected to the South in 2009 with his son, a skiier who competed in the North Korean national league.
Hyung-soo emphasised that cheerleaders are carefully chosen at a young age from families unlikely to defect and more inclined to support the North Korean political and economic system.
He said: "In one word, athletes are Kim Jong Un's sports 'slaves.' Even the coaches are slaves to Kim Jong Un, and to the North Korean regime. Because in North Korea, Kim Jong Un and the regime is the entire world.
"The athletes and the cheerleaders, too. They are all Kim Jong Un and North Korea's slaves. The cheerleaders, too. They select people who are unlikely to defect, and people with loyal backgrounds. This factor is crucial from a very early stage."
Various experts have written about the sexual abuse in North Korea, while many former soldiers (women must complete seven years' mandatory military service; ten for men) have spoken about rape and other forms of abuse within the armed forces.
In her book Corée du Nord (100 Questions), French North Korean expert Juliette Morillot wrote about the extreme traditionalism of North Korean society.
"Women are still seen as ttukong unjeongsu, which literally translates as 'cooking pot lid drivers', and means that they should 'stay in the kitchen where they belong'," she wrote.
A BBC report last year explored abuse in the North Korean (and South Korean) military in depth, noting the harsh conditions faced by citizens throughout the country.
Featured Image Credit: PA
Topics: SPORT, World News, South Korea, Winter Olympics, North Korea