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Shock over Korean beauties' rage

From CNN Correspondent Sohn Jie-Aie

North Korean cheerleaders literally shed tears after seeing the banner.
North Korean cheerleaders literally shed tears after seeing the banner.

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CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae examines just how different the two Koreas have become.
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- For the most part, North Korea's cheering squad for the University Games in South Korea last month lived up to their reputation as "the army of beauties."

Singing and smiling, the women became the center of attention wherever they appeared.

But one incident, captured by South Korean media, has shocked many South Koreans.

It involved a busload of the North Korean cheerleaders who became extremely upset over, what some onlookers said, a very trivial matter.

The cause of the emotional distress was a banner with the picture of what North Koreans they call their "dear leader", North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, which was hung crooked and left out in the rain.

For those North Koreans, it was considered sacrilege.

"How could you place our general in such a place?" a cheerleader said. "He deserves only respect. We cannot stand for this."

Choi Dong-ho, a sports reporter for South Korea's YTN TV was with the cheerleaders at the time, but he said it took him a long time to understand what got them so charged.

The sense of disbelief was not limited to those who witnessed the incident.

The same feeling was expressed by many South Koreans on Seoul's affluent Rodeo Drive where the divide between the capitalist South and the communist North may be at its widest.

"I felt I didn't understand these people," said a woman who was outside a McDonalds restaurant there.

The "army of beauties" hard at work during the student games.

A high school student told CNN that she was afraid of the scene she saw on TV and does not want to be unified with the North.

Choi, who followed the North Koreans during their stay in the South, is not that pessimistic.

He said there were times when he felt the North Koreans made true friends with Southerners.

But he does admit the banner incident opened his eyes to just how different the two Koreas had become.

The strangest part of the whole thing was, he said, that just an hour after the expressions of outrage, the North Korean cheerleaders were back performing -- an army of beauties once again.

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