PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA—They didn’t go to the bathroom. They didn’t analysis their phones, because they didn’t accept phones. They didn’t attending about in wonder, the way you about would if you had been alone into what was about an conflicting world, because that was not how they were trained. The North Korean cheerleaders were, presumably, not accomplished to gawk.
Hockey was backroom at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Saturday night, as the Korean hockey aggregation — the clothing of the unified team, with three players in the calendar from North Korea — absent to the Swiss 8-0. They didn’t accept a chance: the Swiss were bigger, faster, better. The shots were 52-8.
But they were alone the alibi for the bigger tableau. South Korean admiral Moon Jae-in and Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean baton Kim Jong Un, sat in the stands, afar by IOC admiral Thomas Bach. In advanced of them sat one core of the 200 North Korean cheerleaders broadcast about the hockey rink. South Korea was acceptable its aboriginal gold badge of the Olympics at short-track speedskating, but the bigger players were here.
“It’s bigger than sports, right?” said Yoo Jee-Ho, a sports anchorman for Yonhap, the South Korean new agency. “It absolutely is. It’s bigger than a hockey game.”
Earlier in the day, Kim Yo Jong arrive Moon to what would, if it absolutely happened, be aloof the third inter-Korean summit, afterwards attempts in 2000 and 2007. She presented Moon with a dejected binder with such practised academism — and her brand bossy Mona Lisa smile — that bounded TV replayed it like it was the Zapruder film. The aperture commemoration Friday night featured the unified aggregation boot in, and two of the players from this hockey aggregation aggressive accomplish in accord with the Olympic flame.
Whether it agency anything, cipher should guess. But on this night, it was a assortment of the countries in a way cipher had anytime seen. The cheerleaders sat in their near-Canadian red additional dejected — belted by black-jacketed aegis activity arch counts back groups went to the bath — cutting what looked like knockoff Adidas sneakers. And yes, they cheered. Their aboriginal attack drew a abundant acclamation from the crowd; they continued, on and off, all night.
They were abnormal sometimes: Bruno Mars singing “Uptown Funk” was amphitheatre over the complete system, and they would be singing one of their assorted songs. They chanted “Cheer up!” “Be Strong!” “Win, Win!” “Unification, Unification!” “We Are Together! We Are One!” They brought out acceptable dancers in advanced of the squads, and their added avant-garde blue-and-white funk-style dancers, who wouldn’t be too out of abode in a club.
And it was a arrant contrast, as befits accomplished cheerleaders from one of the world’s best repressive, abandoned regimes, and a hyper-modern technology superpower. They anxiously chanted “We Are One” in the average of a army of South Koreans who stared, took pictures, dressed how they capital and animated back they wanted, and coiled added acceptable Korean flags than the dejected unified adaptation the cheerleaders held.
“They assume like they practise this a lot,” said Jong Kim, a 22-year-old university apprentice sitting abreast one of the teams. “It’s like they’re robots. But I’m with them, also. Not that I’m with the government, but I’m with the collective team. Their bodies — they’ve done annihilation wrong. The players — they appetite to comedy a acceptable bold and do well. So I’m acclaim for that, abreast from politics.”
Jong said a lot of adolescent bodies admiration whether affinity would alike be a acceptable idea. The accountability of modernizing a country so different, so bound in a altered time, weighs on them. But she believes it is a aces goal. Ask a adolescent South Korean what they want, bold that North Korea would never accord up its nuclear weapons afterwards a war, and they anticipate for a second.
“It’s a big question, right?” said Yoo. “I guess, a abiding aeon of peace. I mean, abbreviate of giving up their nuclear weapons, a abiding aeon of peace.”
“Maybe we’ll accept added co-operation,” said Jong. “I’d like to see that. It’s something. It’s bigger than war. We accept a breach government, and it’s a tragedy. I don’t appetite war. I appetite unification, peacefully.”
The dignitaries appeared on the bank afterwards the game, afterwards the amphitheatre had abundantly emptied out, and Bach, Moon, and titular North Korean arch of accompaniment Kim Yong Nam batten to the players, cogent them to accumulate their chins up, that they were allotment of article bigger. The cheerleaders had not larboard their seats, and sang addition singsong tune into the about quiet. Finally, the players larboard the ice.
They talked about how it has been hard: abacus players so late, the difficult translations of hockey terms, accepting to acquaint South Koreans they would not comedy in favour of North Koreans, accepting to acquaint a North Korean who was in a agenda atom because of an abrasion she would not comedy this celebrated game. They are trying.
“We aloof try to accord the players a ton of credit,” said Sarah Murray, the Korean arch drillmaster with Canadian and American citizenships. “‘It’s because of you guys that the allure is good. It’s because of you that our aggregation is working. Not because some political told you it had to happen.’ Our players are the ones that are authoritative this work.”
“I anticipate that the North Koreans are convalescent dramatically. They aloof appetite to learn, they appetite to get better, and they assignment acutely hard. The allure on the aggregation is bigger than I could accept anytime predicted. They beam together, they adhere out together, they eat commons together, chemistry’s absolutely good.
“I’ll airing into the locker allowance and they’re all bedlam together, and you cannot acquaint who’s from the North, who’s from the South. They’re aloof girls amphitheatre hockey.”
They are that. But they are article added appropriate now, too.
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