North Korean cheerleaders abandon beach visit in South Korea after getting mobbed by media

North Korea's Olympic cheerleaders have drawn much attention since arriving for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics last week.
North Korea's Olympic cheerleaders have drawn much attention since arriving for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics last week. PHOTO: AFP

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA (AFP) - North Korea's Olympic cheerleaders were forced to abandon a visit to the beach when they were mobbed hundreds of excitable media on Tuesday (Feb 13).

The cheerleaders, dressed in red uniforms with red and white woolly hats, managed a quick walk before hopping back on their bus after they were met by a huge scrum of journalists.

The North's 229-strong cheering squad, dubbed the "army of beauties", have drawn much attention since arriving for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics last week.

"We haven't been able to see the beach," complained one of the cheerleaders as they returned to the bus.

The cheerleaders drew another crowd when they held an impromptu performance at Ojukheon House, one of the oldest traditional Korean houses in the South, for South Korean and foreign tourists.

The cheer squad, all in their late teens or early 20s, are said to be handpicked from elite universities and undergo strict background checks.

Their most famous alumna is Ri Sol Ju, better known these days as the First Lady of North Korea.

"When I saw them on television, I had a bad image of them but they are so pretty," said Hwang Ji Woo, a 12-year-old student from Anyang.

"It feels like North and South have reunified," Hwang added.

But others were more wary about the presence of the North Korean delegation, which numbers more than 500 - in support of just 22 athletes.

Cho Hye Joon, a 23-year-old student from Seoul who was interviewed by a North Korean TV reporter, said: "She asked me about what I thought about the current rapprochement between the North and South.

"I had no comment, because if I say something wrong, that would be bad."