South Korea foots bill for North’s cheerleaders

Pyeongchang: South Korea is paying $2.7 million for the visit of hundreds of North Korean cheerleaders and entourage to Pyeongchang for the Olympic Winter Games, the Ministry of Unification confirmed on Wednesday.
The South Korean ministry, which is responsible for cooperation between the two countries, said they had given the green light for state funding of their northern neighbours’ trip.
A fan group of 200 cheerleaders, members of a marching band and an orchestra were among those who made their way to the Games on South Korea’s dime, with the ministry confirming their expenses at 2.9 billion won ($2.7 million).
Relations between the nations had thawed on the eve of the Games after a long period of radio silence, with North Korean leader Kim Jon Un saying that he wanted closer cooperation. Both nations agreed that 22 North Korean athletes would attend the Games, including 12 ice-hockey players who joined their southern counterparts to make up an all-Korean women’s team.
The participation costs of the North Korean athletes are being met by the International Olympic Committee.
North Korean cheerleaders caught off guard by fake Kim Jong Un
A group of North Korean cheerleaders were briefly wowed by the apparent, sudden arrival of their leader, Kim Jong Un, at a Winter Olympics ice hockey game on Wednesday.
Some cheerleaders immediately averted their gaze as the impersonator, who later only identified himself as Howard, smiled and waved to crowds who came to watch a unified Korean team play Japan at the Pyeongchang Games.
“They are playing a good game, they scored one goal. As a president, it’s all I can ask for,” Howard told Reuters, shortly after plain-clothed officials from South Korea’s National Counter-terrorism Centre moved him away from the cheerleaders, who he said had been doing a very good job.
“I mean I trained them by myself so, of course, they’re the best in the world,” Howard said.
Howard had caused a commotion during last Friday’s opening ceremony when he and a person dressed as US President Donald Trump were swiftly shown out of the stadium by security staff.
He said he was briefly detained inside a police office during Wednesday’s match then “politely asked” to leave.
“My face is too political,” the dejected impersonator said as he walked slowly out of the ice hockey stadium. “I was born with this face, I’ve got to live with it.”
In North Korea, anyone impersonating a member of the ruling Kim family would be considered blasphemous.
Still, Howard’s entrance was so spectacular that the North Korean cheerleaders struggled to stifle a quick laugh in between chants of “We are one!” and “Unify the motherland!” “It shows you we’re human after all,” Howard said. “Doesn’t matter if they’re South or North Koreans, a sense of humour and a bit of political satire is always needed.”
— Agencies