Dark side to North Korean cheer squad
THERE has been much coverage of North Korea's cheerleaders throughout the Winter Olympics.
The famed "army of beauties" squad garnered a huge amount of attention, with South Koreans admiring their fashion sense and appearance.
The cheerleaders are reportedly the results of a careful selection process in North Korea, screened for their family backgrounds, looks, skills and loyalty to the ruling Workers' Party.
But according to a former North Korean soldier, there's a sinister side to the glamorous roles they undertake.
Lee So-yeon, 42, was a military musician in North Korea who fled the reclusive country 10 years ago.
She told Bloomberg that outside of their public duties, they are expected to provide sexual services regardless of whether they want to or not.
"North Korea's art troupe came here and performed with dances and songs, and it might seem like a fancy show on the outside," she told Bloomberg. "However, they also have to go to parties and provide sexual services, that sort of pain also follows.
"They go to the central Politburo party's events, and have to sleep with the people there, even if they don't want it. Those sorts of human rights infringements take place, where women have to follow what they are told to do with their bodies."
According to Metro, the squad is tightly-controlled and monitored 24/7 - even when they eat breakfast or go to the bathroom.
It may sound far-fetched, but Ms Lee's claims tie into many other defectors' reports of North Korea's elite hand-picking schoolgirls to join Kim Jong-un's "Pleasure Squad".
Defector Mi-hyang told Marie Claire in 2010 that she was only 15 years old when two men in bemedalled green soldier uniforms stormed her classroom and "selected" her.
The girl was isolated from her family and made to spend a full decade servicing Kim Jong-il, the father of Kim Jong-un.
Lee Il-nam, a nephew of Kim Jong-un's father, who defected in 1982 and was assassinated in 1997, also described the Pleasure Squad in a memoir he penned before his death.
The book, Kim Jong-il's Royal Family talked about exclusive parties at Kim's official residence in Pyongyang were common. These could last until 3am, and centred on alcohol, sex and extravagant food. Only 40 people out of his 200 associates were selected.
"The routine at the parties included eating, drinking and dancing, but usually ended with erotic games," he wrote.
"A favourite was a game in which the losers had to take off clothes one by one. It was enforced, regardless of men or women. If they got heavily drunk, the also played a hair-shaving game. If men lost, part of their head hair was shaved, as if it was mown. For women, their pubic hair was shaved."
He also wrote there were parties devoted entirely to sex, for when the leader was in a "particularly good mood".
When the girls "retire", they're married off to any elite guards looking for a bride, kept under close watch and paid to keep quiet about the state's secrets.
Any girl found to have broken this pledge of secrecy would be executed immediately.