SEOUL – A large North Korean delegation, including 229 cheerleading squad members, crossed the border to South Korea on Wednesday to take part in the Winter Olympic Games that will be held in PyeongChang county.
The group of 280 people crossed the military demarcation line at 9:26 am local time (0026 GMT), according to statements from the South Korean Unification Ministry.
Headed by the North Korean Sports Minister, Kim Il-guk, the delegation also includes North Korean Olympic Committee officials as well as 21 journalists and 26 members of a Taekwondo exhibition team that will perform during the Games.
It is expected that the all-female North Korean cheerleading squad will be sent to the women’s ice hockey games that the two Koreas will field together as a joint team.
It is the first time in 13 years that the North’s cheerleading squad has visited the South for a sporting event.
The regime is thought to have carefully selected the cheerleading members for their beauty and family credentials. Ri Sol-ju, wife of the current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was in the cheerleading squad that attended the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon, South Korea.
In addition, a delegation consisting of about 20 officials, 22 athletes and a 140-member band that will perform during the Games also arrived recently in the South.
The North Korean delegation’s trip to the South for the Olympics is the outcome of a historic agreement reached this month between the two countries – which technically have been at war for more than 65 years – facilitating the participation of the North in the Games.
The two Koreas will parade together during the opening of the Games on Feb. 9.
Kim Yong Nam, president of the North Korean Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly and its top representative for the PyeongChang Olympics, will arrive Thursday in the South and will be accompanied by other political representatives of the regime for a three-day stay.