Former North Korean cheerleader describes the 'psychological training' she underwent

  • A North Korean defector living in South Korea told the BBC what it was like being forced to be part of a cheerleading group organized by the North Korean government.
  • The group's members underwent "psychological training" and were supposed to honor North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
  • The cheerleaders garnered massive media attention after performing at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, but critics accused outlets of normalizing North Korea.

A former member of North Korea's so-called "Army of Beauties" cheerleading squad that performed on the sidelines at the Pyeongchang Olympics said the group is used as a form of propaganda.

Han Seo-hee, a North Korean defector living in South Korea, told the BBC that she and the other members of the group were trained "to have this basic mindset that we were on the frontline of promoting the Juche ideology," a state-sponsored belief that the North Korean regime uses to promote its socialist and nationalist agenda.

"We were separated for different kinds of psychological training," Han said. "We were told we should not be surprised or shocked by another world. In particular, the training's focus was that we shouldn’t forget our home country, not even for a minute. And we also shouldn’t forget that we were there to honor General Kim [Jong Un]."

"We were not just there to cheer, but we were told to go into the heart of the enemy," Han added.

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A man impersonating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gestures as he stands before North Korean cheerleaders attending the Unified Korean ice hockey game against Japan during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 14, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / YELIM LEE (Photo credit should read YELIM LEE/AFP/Getty Images)
This Kim Jong Un impersonator walked in front of the North Korean cheering squad at the Olympics, and boy were they… https://t.co/LhyFY6Yv9i
A man impersonating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is removed by security offices after waving a unified Korean flag before North Korean cheerleaders attending the Unified Korean ice hockey game against Japan during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 14, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / YELIM LEE (Photo credit should read YELIM LEE/AFP/Getty Images)
Ice Hockey ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Women's Preliminary Round Match ? Korea v Japan - Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea ? February 14, 2018 - A Kim Jong-un impersonator stands next to the North Korean cheerleaders. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium- Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - Cheerleaders of North Korea await the start of the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Jorge Silva TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - Cheerleaders of North Korea hold unification flags as they wait the start of the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium- Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - Cheerleaders of North Korea await the start of the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium- Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - Cheerleaders of North Korea await the start of the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium- Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - Cheerleaders of North Korea await the start of the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium- Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - Cheerleaders of North Korea await the start of the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium- Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - Cheerleaders of North Korea await the start of the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
North Korean cheerleaders attend the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Sweden and Unified Korea during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders attend the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Sweden and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders attend the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Sweden and Unified Korea during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders attend the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Sweden and Unified Korea during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - North Korean cheerleaders hold the flags of the unified Korean team during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Korea and Sweden, at the Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - North Korean cheerleaders hold the flags of the unified Korean team during the womens preliminary round ice hockey match between Korea and Sweden, at the Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders attend the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Sweden and Unified Korea during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders attend the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Sweden and Unified Korea during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A photo taken on February 10, 2018 shows North Korean cheerleaders wearing masks as they perform during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between the unified Korea team and Switzerland at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung. According to Yonhap, South Korea's unification ministry has denied reports that the masks featured the image of North Korea's late founding leader Kim Il-sung. The masks were worn as the cheerleaders sang 'Whistle', a North Korean song whose lyrics are about a man's unrequited love for a female neighbor. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders perform during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between the unified Korea team loose to Switzerland at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders perform during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between the unified Korea team and Switzerland at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders perform as (top L-R) South Korea's President Moon Jae-in, president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach, North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam, and Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un watch the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between the unified Korea team and Switzerland at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - North Korea's cheerleaders cheer during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Jung Yeon-je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korea's cheerleaders hold the Unified Korea flag and cheer during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Jung Yeon-je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10: North Korean cheerleaders perform during the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round, Group B match between North Korea and Switzerland on day one of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Kwandong Hockey Centre on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
North Korea's cheerleaders hold the Unified Korea flag and cheer after the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Jung Yeon-je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong (middle row R) and North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam (middle row center) and IOC President Thomas Bach (C) sit behing North Korea's cheerleaders waving the Unified Korea's flags before the first period of the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, South Korea on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A North Korean cheerleader waits for the first period of the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, South Korea on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10: North Korean cheerleaders perform during a visit by United States Vice President Mike Pence to Gangneung Ice Arena on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. Mr Pence is on the final day of a three day visit to South Korea where he watched last night's opening ceremony in close proximity to North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam and Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10: North Korean cheerleaders perform during a visit by United States Vice President Mike Pence to Gangneung Ice Arena on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. Mr Pence is on the final day of a three day visit to South Korea where he watched last night's opening ceremony in close proximity to North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam and Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10: North Korean cheerleaders perform during a visit by United States Vice President Mike Pence to Gangneung Ice Arena on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. Mr Pence is on the final day of a three day visit to South Korea where he watched last night's opening ceremony in close proximity to North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam and Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / YELIM LEE (Photo credit should read YELIM LEE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders prior to the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between the unified Korea team and Switzerland at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / YELIM LEE (Photo credit should read YELIM LEE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / YELIM LEE (Photo credit should read YELIM LEE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korea's cheerleaders cheer during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders members the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / YELIM LEE (Photo credit should read YELIM LEE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korea's cheerleaders cheer during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korea's cheerleaders cheer during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10: North Korean cheerleaders sing and wave during the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round - Group B game between Switzerland and Korea on day one of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Kwandong Hockey Centre on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10: North Korean cheerleaders sing and wave during the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round - Group B game between Switzerland and Korea on day one of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Kwandong Hockey Centre on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders cheer during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korea's cheerleaders cheer before the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korea's cheerleaders arrive to watch the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
9th February 2018, Pyeongchang, South Korea; 2018 Winter Olympic Games; PyeongChang Olympic Stadium; North Korean cheerleaders waving their arms in support of their team during the Opening Ceremony (Photo by Roland Harrison/Action Plus via Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders wave their country's flag as they gather ahead of the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korea's cheerleaders arrive to watch the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: North Korean cheerleaders sing and wave prior to the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: North Korean cheerleaders sing and wave prior to the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: North Korean cheerleaders sing and wave prior to the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders gather ahead of the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - North Korean cheerleaders wave ahead of the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Martin BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A South Korean girl (C) wearing traditional dress looks at North Korean cheerleaders performing during a welcoming ceremony for North Korea's Olympic team at the Olympic Village in Gangneung on February 8, 2018 ahead of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders perform during a welcoming ceremony for North Korea's Olympic team at the Olympic Village in Gangneung on February 8, 2018 ahead of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean athletes (top) watch North Korean cheerleaders performing during a welcoming ceremony for the team at the Olympic Village in Gangneung on February 8, 2018 ahead of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders wave as they gather ahead of the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders arrive to participate in a welcoming ceremony for North Korea's Olympic team at the Olympic Village in Gangneung on February 8, 2018, ahead of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders arrive to participate in a welcoming ceremony for North Korea's Olympic team at the Olympic Village in Gangneung on February 8, 2018, ahead of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders perform during a welcoming ceremony for North Korea's Olympic team at the Olympic Village in Gangneung on February 8, 2018 ahead of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders prepare to perform before a welcoming ceremony for North Korea's Olympic team at the Olympic Village in Gangneung on February 8, 2018 ahead of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - North Korean cheerleaders leave after a welcoming ceremony for North Korea's Olympic team at the Olympic Village in Gangneung on February 8, 2018, ahead of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders walk to their accomodation at the Inje Speedium, a racetrack and hotel complex, in Inje, north of Pyeongchang, on February 7, 2018 ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders walk to their accomodation at the Inje Speedium, a racetrack and hotel complex, in Inje, north of Pyeongchang, on February 7, 2018 ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders walk to their accomodation at the Inje Speedium, a racetrack and hotel complex, in Inje, north of Pyeongchang, on February 7, 2018 ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders walk to their accomodation at the Inje Speedium, a racetrack and hotel complex, in Inje, north of Pyeongchang, on February 7, 2018 ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders arrive at the Inje Speedium resort complex, where they are staying during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 7, 2018. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A North Korean cheerleader sits aboard a bus as their convoy arrives at the Inje Speedium resort complex, where they are staying during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 7, 2018. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders arrive at the Inje Speedium, a racetrack and hotel complex, in Inje, north of Pyeongchang, on February 7, 2018 ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders arrive at the Inje Speedium, a racetrack and hotel complex, in Inje, north of Pyeongchang on February 7, 2018 ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders arrive at the Inje Speedium, a racetrack and hotel complex, in Inje, north of Pyeongchang on February 7, 2018 ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders arrive at a rest stop, or service station, as their bus convoy carrying a 280-member delegation on its way to the 2018 Pyeongchang winter Olympic games, makes its way past Gapyeong on February 7, 2018. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders arrive at a rest stop, or service station, as their bus convoy carrying a 280-member delegation on its way to the 2018 Pyeongchang winter Olympic games, makes its way past Gapyeong on February 7, 2018. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders arrive at a rest stop, or service station, as their bus convoy carrying a 280-member delegation on its way to the 2018 Pyeongchang winter Olympic games, makes its way past Gapyeong on February 7, 2018. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean cheerleaders arrive at a rest stop as their bus convoy carrying a 280-member delegation on its way to the 2018 Pyeongchang winter Olympic games, makes its way past Gapyeong on February 7, 2018. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - North Korean cheerleaders arrive at a rest stop as their bus convoy carrying a 280-member delegation on its way to the 2018 Pyeongchang winter Olympic games, makes its way past Gapyeong on February 7, 2018. More than 200 young North Korean women arrived in South Korea to root for athletes from both sides of the peninsula at the Winter Olympics. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
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The US press has received a lot of blowback for what critics see as its chipper coverage of North Korea's Olympic delegation. Business Insider reported that a range of news organizations, from CNN to Reuters, were criticized for their "surprisingly cheery" reporting on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister — and propaganda minister — Kim Yo Jong, who attended the Games. Fox News, The Washington Post, and BBC also received criticism for comparing Kim to President Donald Trump's daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump.

Normalization may have been the goal for the North Korean government, which has tortured, killed, and imprisoned millions over the years and continues to threaten the Korean peninsula and the US with nuclear war.

Members of the "Army of Beauties" are actually college students who have been chosen by the government to represent the country abroad, Suki Kim, a Korean-American author, told Business Insider in a recent interview.

"It's almost like a beauty contest, except it's not a beauty contest because you've been forced to take this position," Kim said. "And you don't have an option as a North Korean citizen. So when we're seeing these young women cheering, they're not like cheerleaders that you see. They didn't come there on their own will. They've been ordered by their regime."

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