The now retired famous professional basketball player, Dennis Rodman, is now back in North Korea for the third time. The Hall of Fame superstar once played for the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks for the NBA. His popularity is beyond national. He is indeed a world star basketball player and it seems like his favorite place to visit so far is North Korea.
Rodman is back in Korea as a way of expressing what he views as a‘basketball diplomacy.’ His controversial visits to one of the most repressive countries in the world have been considered provocative. In his most current visit to North Korea, he is to spend four days to assist in the training of a North Korean basketball players for a January exhibition in Pyongyang. In a CNN report, it states that the January 8 exhibition — said to be against a yet-unannounced team of former NBA players — will celebrate the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, also a basketball fan, whom Rodman has called a friend and a “very good guy” despite international condemnation of the country’s human rights records. The trip comes at a time of political turmoil in the secretive nuclear-armed nation, ongoing tensions between North Korea and the United States and outcries over North Korea’s human rights record.
What made his first visit controversial was that it came right after North Korea threatened to use missile strikes on the United States, Japan, and South Korea. Though the threats have not been carried out yet, a North Korean policy expert columnist of Forbes, Gordon Chang, expressed that Rodman is “very important” to the North Korean regime. He goes on to state “Got to remember that Kim Jong Un needs to show that his regime, his government, is united, which it isn’t,” said Chang, author of “Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World.” “With Dennis Rodman, we’re going to see a lot of made-for-television events. Everybody’s going to be smiling, everything will appear normal, and this will bolster the regime.”
While Chang’s stance may be debatable, it is clearly evident that Rodman’s visits may be more business friendly than political. When asked about last week’s execution of Mr. Kim’s uncle,, ex ruler Kim Jong-il, Rodman expressed that his visit has nothing to do with the death. “I mean, whatever his uncle has done, and whoever’s done anything in North Korea, I have no control over that. I mean, these things have been going on for years and years and years. I’m just going over there to do a basketball game and have some fun,” he told Reuters news agency.
A more interesting question to raise here is, out of all the countries in the world, why North Korea?
In an interview with the AP news agency in Pyongyang, he said: “I’ve come over to see my friend, and people always give me a little hard time about me saying that…North Korea has given me the opportunity to bring these players and their families over here, so people can actually see, so these players can actually see, that this country is actually not as bad as people project it to be in the media.”