North Korea's "army of beauties" will cheer on Olympic athletes

North Korean cheer squad
North Korean cheer squad 01:48

BEIJING -- North and South Korea remain bitter enemies, but at next month's Olympics they plan to march together at the opening ceremonies and form a joint women's hockey team.

North Korea already knows how to put on a show. Elaborately choreographed spectacles in its capital are designed to impress the leader, Kim Jong Un.

Now North Korea is taking its show on the road, sending its state-sponsored cheering squad to the Olympics. The 230 person squad has been called Kim's "army of beauties." The young women are chosen for their loyalty to the regime and their looks, and reportedly must pass a tough audition to land one of the coveted spots.

North Korea's cheering squad, known as the "army of beauties" CBS News

Ri Sol Ju was a member of the squad in 2005. She later became Kim's wife.

Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju CBS News

The cheerleaders are part of North Korea's Olympic charm offensive. Its involvement is being negotiated as part of the first talks between the Koreas in two years. South Korea is hoping the detente will jump-start sluggish ticket sales for the games, which have been hurt by fears of war.

Figure skaters are the only two North Korean athletes who have actually qualified for the games, and the cheerleaders will dwarf the actual number of competitors. But the North's Olympic delegation will also include a 140-person orchestra. No word yet on whether it will play in front of the usual propaganda videos, which often depict North Korea's weapons of war.

  • Ben Tracy

    Ben Tracy is a CBS News White House correspondent based in Washington, D.C.