In today’s world, whenever North Korea is mentioned, the word nuclear is always nearby. It’s also noted that the tiny nation is governed by the Kim dynasty who rule the country with an iron fist. But no one talked about Kim Jong-un’s love of basketball until former NBA player Dennis Rodman was photographed watching a game of basketball with the infamous leader in Pyongyang on Feb. 28. Rodman traveled to North Korea with a group which included three members of the Harlem Globetrotters, in order to film for the HBO series “Vice.” However, instead of discussing the positive impacts that can result from this type of interaction, the public instead focused on how it was a disgrace for Rodman to meet with such an “evil” dictator; not to say that Kim Jong-un hasn’t presided over the state which seems like it got some of its methods from Orwell’s 1984. Rodman spent most of the day with the dictator, and even went as far as to tell him “you have a friend for life.” This is an interesting and rare opportunity for the two nations to open more dialogue, and hopefully pursue peaceful ends.
At least, this is what I had thought before it became clear that Dennis Rodman has no idea what he’s doing, and is probably worsening the situation. There was a photo taken of Rodman and Kim Jong-un watching the game together and laughing, which gives the North Koreans prime propaganda material. That’s not entirely Rodman’s fault; propaganda will be made whenever anyone of importance visits the secluded nation. However, I don’t understand how Rodman could possibly claim the dictator as a friend after knowing about all of his crimes against humanity. In fact, Rodman praised Kim Jong-un by stating that he, alongside his father and grandfather, are all great leaders. Apparently Rodman was amazed by the level of respect that Kim Jong-un was given; not really surprising considering anyone who doesn’t give him respect will end up in a work camp. Rodman went as far as to say that there are definitely additional trips to North Korea in his future.
This is not the first gaffe in American history and it will not be the last. However, this series of events reflects a level of either stupidity, naivety, or facetiousness that has rarely been seen before in modern history. It is forgivable to underestimate the atrocities committed by certain individuals when their misdeeds are covered over or not covered at all by the mainstream media. There are a number of countries where unspeakable acts of cruelty occur on a daily basis yet do not get coverage.
But there is no such excuse with North Korea. The miserable quality of life and deplorable political rights within this isolated nation are made clear on an almost weekly basis. One would have had to live under a rock to have not heard of this. Such a lifestyle would also be required for one to believe that playing basketball would give cause to the Kim family to enter the modern world and embrace friendship with developed nations. It is an idea that a writer of a child’s fictional novel would consider too fantastical.
In the end, this will not be an important event for any reason. This will not change the policies of any nation, least of all North Korea. The only reason that this is receiving any attention in the first place is that it is Dennis Rodman going to North Korea and not just another government official. If there is anything truly newsworthy about this event, it is that there is at least one American who has absolutely no idea how horrible life is in North Korea to such a degree that he would want to visit the nation multiple times and consider its strongman dictator, one of the most vilified men in the world, a dear friend.