On Monday, Dennis Rodman and his basketball entourage traveled to the DPRK. Why? To celebrate the “Supreme Leader’s” birthday on Wednesday. And of course, as an added bonus, they will play a friendly game of pick-up to mark the occasion:
He's been mocked in the USA as the propaganda plaything of North Korea's young dictator. His corporate sponsor pulled its name last month. And he's admitted to difficulty persuading other ex-NBA stars to visit one of the world's most repressive regimes.
But Dennis Rodman, self-appointed "basketball diplomat," led 12 U.S. players to Pyongyang Monday for an exhibition game there Wednesday to mark the birthday of his friend Kim Jung Un, the third generation of the Kim dynasty that dominates North Korea, and regularly threatens peace in northeast Asia.
The flamboyant, former Chicago Bulls forward has struck up an unlikely friendship with the reportedly basketball-loving leader, who had his powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek executed last month. Highly isolated North Korea controls information on its ruling family to such an extent that even Kim's actual age remains unconfirmed.
Again, Rodman had nothing but kind things to say about his dear “friend”:
Rodman has so far declined to criticize his host, whose government has jailed American-Korean missionary Kenneth Bae in one of its many labor camps, but he hinted at raising broader issues with Kim at a future date.
"(It's) not my job" to talk human rights, he said Monday. "This game is for his birthday, and hopefully this open the doors and we can actually talk about certain things and we can do certain things. But I'm not going to sit there and go 'hey, guy, you're doing the wrong thing.' It's not the right thing to do, he's my friend first. .. I love him," said Rodman
How anyone could “love” someone who reportedly unleashed* a pack of wild, starving animals on his own uncle in order to consolidate power, not to mention everything else he's allowed to happen, is beyond me. Nevertheless, despite Rodman’s weird and affectionate obsession with the North Korean dictator, some do concede Rodman’s intentions are not necessarily bad:
Despite the skepticism back home, one veteran United Nations officer urged people to take Rodman "at face value" and recognize his charity work. "Dennis has been very active in humanitarian work and I applaud him for that," said Theodore G. Schweitzer III, 71, from Las Vegas, who worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Rodman met with the Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled in Pyongyang, said Schweitzer, who took the same flight to Pyongyang Monday and will attend Wednesday's game. "It's a great thing that Dennis is raising awareness about the disabled in Korea," a "new concept" there, he said. Schweitzer recently established a charity, the Korea Children's Fund, to produce high-energy biscuits for young orphans in a planned factory in the Pyongyang suburbs. "It's just children, needy children, babies, there's nothing political about it," he said.
North Korea’s government routinely threatens war against its southern neighbor and the West, starves and executes its own people, and purges its inner ranks when and if it feels threatened. And yet, Dennis Rodman has seemingly found it in his heart to befriend the country’s tyrannical head of state. Why? Even if Rodman is doing great charity work on behalf of the people of North Korea, isn't there something profoundly unseemly about an American celebrity defending and honoring a man who undoubtedly has innocent blood on his hands?
Yes, I believe there is.*Editor's note: This story is probably apocryphal, but the man was executed nonetheless.