Busan: One-time foes North Korea are the new fad in South Korea thanks to the Stalinist state’s participation in the Asian Games.
The neighbours are still technically at war but that has not stopped ‘North Korea’ from becoming the brand of choice among trendy South Koreans. Websites devoted to the North Korean contingent and their 280-strong cheering squad taking part in the Games have opened up regularly on the web since the Games began.
Ri Yu-kyong, the 21-year-old captain of the cheerleading squad who has featured in numerous television close ups, is the darling of the netizens. Three fan clubs devoted to her have opened up in the last seven days.
South Koreans are dedicated followers of fashion and trends and the North Korean team at the Asian Games has taken over from the ‘be the reds’ craze which swept the country during the World Cup when the country’s football team surged to the semi-finals.
Kye Sun-hui, the star of the North Korean judo team, is enjoying cult status similar to that of South Korean World Cup star Ahn Jung-hwan. A number of online fan clubs are devoted to Kye and supporters displayed a huge banner encouraging her at the judo arena.
While the North Korean women have commanded most of the attention, towering basketball player Ri Myong-hun also has his fans. Ri, who is 2.35 metres tall, was once tipped as a possible pick in the NBA but ruled out a move to the United States. That has not lessened his popularity, which is centred on his physical attributes rather than his talent.