Dennis Rodman and North Korea?
There are a lot of weird things in the world: volcanoes, deep-sea creatures, Macklemore—you name it. If you’re keeping a list of these things, make sure to make room for something else—Dennis Rodman. The former NBA player has recently stated his intention to open up a form of “basketball diplomacy” between the United States and North Korea. Yep, this is real.
Last week, Rodman announced his plans to train a North Korean basketball team for a pair of matches against a U.S. team in North Korea sometime in January. “I would love to make this a gimmick and make a (bunch) of money, but it’s not about the money,” Rodman noted. “It’s about trying to open Obama’s and everyone’s minds and, guess what, you don’t have to talk about politics. Talk about anything in the world. Meet him in Switzerland, meet him in London, meet him in Ireland, just meet him or even give him a call. That’s all he wants” (Reuters).
Of course, many people are a bit leery about Kim Jong-un’s intentions. It was only earlier this year that the leader of North Korea was throwing out a series of seemingly never-ending threats. In addition, many reports say that the country treats its citizens in some rather unpleasant ways. Prison camps are filled with people who have been charged with political crimes. In fact, U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae is one of these unfortunate people who are currently imprisoned. He was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor for alleged “crimes against the regime.” It is unknown when, or if, he will be released (CNN).
Nuclear threats, unfair treatment of citizens, and imprisonment are typically factors that would lead one to believe that you’re not a great guy, but Rodman insists that Kim Jong-un is his friend. “I’ve said this to him,” Rodman said when questioned about the aforementioned issues. “I said, ‘Your grandfather and your father did some bad things,’ I said, ‘but you are trying to change something” (Reuters). There has been no indication that Kim Jong-un has made any attempt to change the country for the better, but defectors continue to report “extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, arrests of political prisoners, and torture,” according to the 2012 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report.
When addressing reporters, Rodman said, “He’s my friend for life – I don’t care what you guys think about him” (BBC). Rodman also said that Kim Jong-un asked him to “tell the American people we’re very cool” (CNN). After this event, I think it is safe to say that most people feel that North Korea is just as cool as Rodman.
It is unlikely that this situation will do much to bridge the gap between the U.S. and North Korea. Still, we are left wondering why Dennis Rodman, former NBA star and winner of the main prize of the Celebrity Mole: Yucatan television show, is doing this strange “diplomatic” action. I think Rodman himself can accurately answer it with a tweet he made on Sunday: “Being me. Always.” You certainly are, Mr. Rodman.