All Dennis Rodman wants for Christmas is to return to North Korea. The celebrity former NBA star will be flying from China to North Korea with a documentary crew next Thursday. It will be Rodman’s third trip to the infamous country, where he is scheduled to coach the North Korean basketball team as they prepare for a big exhibition game in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, this coming January.
Known for having one of the most oppressive political regimes in the world, North Korea is sometimes referred to as the hermit kingdom. The Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked it as the lowest country in its Democracy Index. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch report of severe restrictions on human rights, but the government consistently rejects these claims.
Apparently Dennis Rodman is moving and shaking with international flair. On January 8, the upcoming exhibition game in North Korea will be played with a team of former NBA players organized and recruited by Rodman. The team members have not yet been announced.
Is there a conflict of interest brewing since Rodman is coaching the North Koreans, but also organizing and recruiting the NBA players they will be playing in January? Not really, since everybody already knows that Dennis Rodman plays for the other team. Americans are curious to see who among his NBA friends Rodman will be recruiting.
The event is set to celebrate the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The focal point of the trip is Rodman’s flourishing relationship with Kim Jong-un. Rodman has called Kim Jong-un his friend and he maintains Kim is a good guy. This flies in the face of steady international condemnation of the country’s human rights record.
Rodman’s trip is being sponsored by online betting company, Paddy Power, which claims the trip only proves the power of sports to transcend worldly issues. Apparently, this trip will be transcending the importance of North Korea’s reported food crisis. Adding insult to injury, upon his most recent arrival, Rodman was regaled by Kim Jong-un at a gala feast including seafood and chocolate cake. It seems that Rodman’s affections for Kim Jong-un have nothing to do with the fact that Kim’s government has been accussed of failing to react appropriately to severe malnutrition in that country, which UNICEF claims is effecting 40,000 children annually.
This did not dampen the celebration. After dinner Rodman entertained Kim and the state minister of sports with a Karaoke tribute to Pearl Jam.
Indeed, Rodman’s coaching trip and avowed allegiance to Kim Jong-un will also be transcending the recent execution Kim ordered of his own uncle, Jang Song Thaek, the number two man in the country. Supposedly, Jang Song Thaek was an enemy of the state.
Apparently, Rodman sparked this unusual friendship with Kim Jong-un during his first trip to North Korea last February. They sat next to each other at an exhibition game, they chatted, and Rodman emerged declaring they would be friends for life. There are probably not many people in North Korea, or anywhere, who would want to claim to be best friends with Kim Jong-un.
However, by playing for the other team, Dennis Rodman has turned his back on more than just the people of North Korea. There is also the international controversy surrounding the detention of Korean-American Kenneth Bae.
Arrested in North Korea in November 2012, Bae was tried and found guilty of hostile acts and attempting to bring down Kim Jong-un’s regime using religious activities. Bae was then sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. The Administration has called for his release. Apparently, Bae’s biggest crime was being a Christian missionary.
Using social media giant Twitter to speak his mind last spring, Rodman naively tweeted it was his avowed wish to help Bae. However, after his second trip to visit Kim Jong-un this past September, Rodman had changed his mind.
Suddenly, Rodman was explaining to the press that it was not his job to talk about Bae. That retraction indicates that Rodman is Kim’s boy, through thick and thin. Now the country waits to see which NBA celebrities will be announced as traveling to North Korea in January to play basketball, sing karaoke, and make friends with Kim Jong-un. Rodman seems ignorant of the fact this man just orchestrated the world’s most recent political purge, killed his own uncle, imprisoned a Christian missionary, and turned his back on 40,000 starving children. It is already known Dennis Rodman plays for the other team. The question now is: which of his NBA friends has he recruited to do the same?
By: Alex Durig Ph.D.