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While athletes have defected at international competitions before, it’s rare. North Korea is notorious for threatening families and rewarding people for informing on each other.
North Koreans are constantly under threat of being imprisoned and tortured along with three generations of their families if they step out of line, and defecting during the Olympics is an especially dangerous proposition.
“I wouldn’t have even considered it,” defector Han Seo-hee, who was once part of a North Korean cheerleading troupe, told CNN. “It will be the same for the cheerleading squad this time. They have family back home, they know if they defect, their family will be terrified and punished.”
A former North Korean police officer told CNN that the athletes are likely under constant surveillance. They wouldn’t be staying in their rooms alone or even allowed to go to the bathroom unaccompanied.