A group of North Korean citizens living in Japan called the Chongryon have proposed sending a cheer squad to the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics.
According to sources close to the group, the Chongryon cheer delegation is set to be around 170 people and may expand if they receive many applicants, Yonhap reported.
According to the Chongryon source, the group is currently consulting with the South Korean embassy to ensure the squad’s entry into the games.
Arranging Chongryon travel can be tricky, as members have North Korean heritage and are loyal to the kingdom, but do not have North Korean citizenship. While members can choose to take South Korean or Japanese citizenship, many choose to remain stateless as a show of loyalty to the Kim regime.
Chongryon members require certificates instead of visas if they choose to travel outside Japan, and require reentry passes upon their return.
The South Korean government typically processes travel passes to Chongryon members within eight days of the application, according to Yonhap.
The Chongryon are long-term ethnic Korean residents who have settled in Japan. Hundreds and thousands of them were brought over to Japan as forced laborers or migrants during Japanese rule over Korea before 1945.
In total, Japan has 600,000 Korean residents, according to the Guardian, and 150,000 maintain loyalty to Pyongyang.
The group has received financial backing from North Korea over the years, and Chongryon children go to special schools taught in Korean that offer a curriculum based on North Korean principles.
The organization says it follows the state ideology of North Korea called is “Juche,” a self-reliant philosophy developed by North Korean leader Kim il-Sung based in socialism.
The insular group exists in Japanese society largely without problem, although members of the group allege they have faced discrimination in the past.
The group faced backlash during periods of increased tension over North Korea’s nuclear program in the 1970s and 1980s. Additionally, North Korean agents abducted several Japanese citizens in the late 1970’s, causing growing resentment within the community.
The group typically faces periods of increased hostility from Japanese nationals during moments of crisis between North Korea and Japan, and has seen several protests over North Korea’s frequent missile testing.
Source: Business Insider