North Korean authorities are recruiting young women to be part of a revived so-called "pleasure squad" that entertains dictator Kim Jong Un, according to a published report.
The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo said that the group that used to perform for Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, was disbanded shortly after the elder Kim's death in December 2011. The members were made to sign a pledge of secrecy in exchange for money and gifts. According to the paper, the women who worked as entertainers received an amount of money worth $4,000 before returning to their hometowns.
The Chosun Ilbo reported that women who worked in Kim's palaces and summer homes as maids and cleaners received about half that amount. Both groups of women also reportedly received home appliances.
Britain's Daily Telegraph quoted Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo's Waseda University described as an authority on North Korean affairs, as saying that Kim believed the women who entertained his father knew too many state secrets.
"After he came to power, Mr. Kim trusted no-one and ordered thorough investigations into every official in the regime, from the highest to the lowest", Shigemura told the paper.
The formation of the new troupe also coincides with the end of the formal three-year mourning period for Kim Jong Un.
The Chosun Ilbo reports that Kim Jong Un became interested in re-forming the troupe while recovering from an undisclosed physical ailment at one of his summer cottages last year.
"Pleasure squads" have existed in North Korea since the rule of the country's founder Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the present dictator. Officials were sent to select women and girls they deemed the prettiest to the dictator's many mansions, where they were expected to be available upon request.
The Telegraph reports that while most of the women were singers, dancers, or maids, those judged to be especially beautiful were made to be concubines to members of North Korea's elite power structure. According to the paper, many of the women were "retired" from the squads in their 20s and paired off with military officers looking for wives.