UPDATE : 2019.3.20 WED 10:28
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N.K. cheerleaders set to travel to S. Korea ahead of Olympics

Hundreds of North Korean cheerleaders are set to visit South Korea on Wednesday and are expected to root for a unified women's ice hockey team and the two Koreas' athletes at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

A total of 229 cheerleaders are among the 280-member delegation that will travel to the South via a western cross-border land route, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

The delegation, led by Sports Minister Kim Il-guk, also includes four officials from the National Olympic Committee, 26 taekwondo demonstrators and 21 journalists, the government said.

A rare reconciliatory mood surrounding the Feb. 9-25 Games set in after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un extended a rare olive branch to Seoul in his New Year's message following a year of tensions sparked by the North's nuclear and missile provocations.

The North has already sent a 46-member delegation that includes 22 athletes and a 140-member art troupe to the South.

The high-level delegation led by North Korea's nominal head of state, Kim Yong-nam, will make a three-day visit to the South from Friday.

This file photo shows the North Korean cheering squad sent to the 2003 Summer Universiade held in South Korea's city of Daegu. (Yonhap)

The cheering squad is expected to root for a unified women's ice hockey team, which was assembled under the two Koreas' agreement and approval by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It could cheer for South Korean athletes at some competitions.

Details about the cheering team have not been released, but the North has previously sent a group of elite female supporters with good looks, arguably as a charm offensive.

North Korea reportedly picks members of cheering squads by thoroughly examining family background, appearance, skills and loyalty to the government.

The North has sent an average of 240 cheerleaders to three international sports events hosted by the South -- the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, the 2003 Summer Universiade in Daegu and the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon.

Ri Sol-ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was later discovered to be one of cheerleaders for the 2005 event.

Meanwhile, North Korea's taekwondo demonstrators will hold a joint performance with their South Korean counterparts on four occasions to celebrate the Feb. 9-25 Winter Games.

The first demonstration will be held as a pre-ceremony event in PyeongChang, the host city of the Olympics, on Friday, followed by one in Sokcho the following day and two others in Seoul on Monday and Feb. 14.

Kim Su-a  edt@koeapost.com

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