Winter Olympics

Pyeongchang Winter Olympics: Joint Korean ice hockey women’s team thrashed 8-0 by Switzerland

A first-period treble from Switzerland striker Alina Muller set the tone of the match.

North Korea’s cheerleaders serenaded South Korean fans with tender love songs Saturday as a joint Korean ice hockey team’s emotional Olympic debut ended in tears before the sister of Kim Jong Un. The first Kim dynasty member to visit the south since the 1950-53 Korean War, Kim Yo Jong sat alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in to watch the Koreans suffer an 8-0 shutout by Switzerland in Pyeongchang.

However, the result mattered less than the political symbolism as around 200 of North Korea’s famed “army of beauties” charmed a crowd of 3,600 besotted locals with nostalgic oldies – and even broke out a Mexican wave.

The powerful Kim sister also attended Friday’s opening ceremony, but before the hockey match there were none of the flag-burning protests over the North’s Olympic presence that had marked the previous few days. Outside, many locals wore the joint team’s jersey with “KOREA” emblazoned across their chests and waved mini unification flags – a pale blue silhouette of the Korean peninsula.

After delivering an invitation for Moon to visit Pyongyang earlier on Saturday, Kim arrived dressed in a black fur-collared coat and took her seat next to North Korea’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam, with Olympic chief Thomas Bach also present.

The Kim sister put her hands to her mouth early in the match when North Korean forward Jong Su Hyon went close. But a first-period treble from Alina Muller set the tone and effectively dashed any hopes of a homemade fairytale.

“The chemistry on the team is better than I ever predicted,” said Korea coach Sarah Murray, brushing off the heavy defeat. “They laugh together, they hang out together, they eat meals together. I walk into the locker room and you can’t tell who is from the North and who is from the South. They’re just girls playing hockey.”

Decked out in red tracksuits and woolly hats, North Korea’s cheerleaders sang “uri nun, hana da” (we are one) and clapped in perfect unison as local hip hop artists rapped on a stage behind them and K-Pop blared over the loudspeakers in a stark clash of cultures.

Stolen underwear

Local fans took pictures of the cheerleaders, who smiled for the cameras before unfurling a unification flag at the final buzzer.

Moments later, Kim Yo Jong approached the ice with the other dignitaries to applaud the Korean players and take part in a group photo. The players shook hands with South Korean President Moon but Kim did not offer her hand.

“(President Moon) said a lot of nice things,” said goalie Shin So-jung after the game. “Like that we have come a long way and that we should be proud of ourselves because we have written history.”

Meanwhile the cheerleaders continued to chant long after the rest of the arena had emptied. The troupe, cheered by dozens of fans as their bus pulled up under tight security before the game, have been dispatched south as part of a North Korean charm offensive after months of fiery rhetoric threatening nuclear war and provocative missile tests.

The ladies, all in their late teens or early 20s, are said to be handpicked from elite universities and undergo strict background checks.

Its most famous alumna is Ri Sol Ju, better known these days as the First Lady of North Korea. The North only agreed last month to attend its first Olympics in the South, but each time Pyongyang considers sending a delegation to a sporting event in South Korea drama often seems to follow.

At the 2003 University Games in Taegu, accusations that local right-wing groups had “ransacked” bedrooms and stolen underwear at the North Korean delegation’s hotel prompted the cheerleaders to down pom-poms in protest.

North and South Korea have shared a heavily fortified border since the Korean War ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.

-Inputs from AFP

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.