North Korea announced Monday that it will send cheerleaders along with its 150 athletes to the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, on Sept. 19. Kim Jong Un's announcement is a surprising one, given recent discord in the region.
Reuters reports that North Korea's cheerleaders have been praised in the past for building tolerance between North Korea and South Korea.
"It is necessary to put an end to all kinds of calumnies and vituperation that foster misunderstanding and distrust among the fellow countrymen," the North said in a government statement, according to North Korea's state KCNA news agency. "We have decided to dispatch a cheerleading squad along with the athletes to the 17th Asian Games in order to improve relationships between the North and the South and to create an atmosphere of national reconciliation."
North Korea and South Korea are at odds over a civil war from 1950 to 1953, which ended in a truce. Last week, North Korea fired rockets into the sea prior to Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Seoul, South Korea's capital, to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear program. North Korea also demanded that Seoul end its annual military drills with the U.S., but South Korea rejected the demand and urged the North to end its nuclear weapons program.
In 2005, North Korea also sent cheerleaders to the Asian Athletic games in Incheon. One cheerleader, Ri Sol Ju, is now Kim Jong Un's wife.