In off the cuff remarks made to our nation’s finest news source, TMZ, Dennis Rodman made some interesting comments about North Korea. First, he stated that he was planning on returning to the country in August. Second, he said he planned on getting Kenneth Bae, the American currently sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea for unspecified crimes (possibly for preaching Christianity), released from prison by personally convincing Kim Jong Un to let him go. Finally, he went on a bit of a rant about Obama’s inability to do all this himself, saying:
I’m not a diplomat, man, I’m just trying to go over there,” he told TMZ. “But I’m going to do one thing for you. We got a black president can’t even go talk to him, how about that one? … I’ll put it like this, Obama can’t do s**t. I don’t know why he won’t do it. So do that bulls**t.
Not sure how being a black president makes not talking to a country that we haven’t talked to since the 1953 ceasefire makes a difference but Dennis Rodman is not happy. Also, like a true friend, he is just trying to get the two sides to talk, like that time my two best friends were fighting and I had to say “hey, Chad may be dreamy but he is NOT worth the three musketeers fighting like this! Let’s hug this out!”
Dennis Rodman also stated that he doesn’t “do politics”, which I guess absolves him for overlooking the vast human rights violations that Kim Jong Un is committing – part of his inheritance from his father – on his own people. The reality that Dennis Rodman is ignoring while he talks hoops courtside with “Kim” is that the Dear Leader is presiding over quite possibly the most tyrannical government in current existence. The majority of his people suffer from malnutrition and border on starvation (largely due to U.N. sanctioned that prevent most trade from entering or leaving the country). The great architectural marvels that Dennis saw while he was there hid a world of such abject desperation that it’s almost unimaginable. North Korea has some of the largest, and most secretive, prison camps in the world (Kenneth Bae may be at one of these now), which survivors and former guards have described in chilling detail here.
When Dennis Rodman says he doesn’t “do politics”, what he really means is he doesn’t want to look. He obviously had a great time in the country, and enjoyed the star treatment that he doesn’t often get to experience in America any more, and seems to sincerely think of Kim as a friend but this doesn’t change the facts that he is essentially being used as a propaganda tool to add to the prestige of Kim Jong Un’s court. Being seated next to a (kind of) basketball star, photographed laughing and chatting, it serves as a re-enforcement that he is so respected on the world stage that even great celebrities come to pay tribute (I doubt the average North Korean family has been keeping up with modern basketball or they would have invited Lebron).
Rodman’s visit (and planned second visit), also reflects the madness that is the current diplomatic relations between North Korea and the West. Because no official talks have, or can, occur between the two parties, its up to whoever is willing, and desperate enough, to visit North Korea on their own. And Dennis Rodman doesn’t even “do politics”. Bizarrely, he also may be Kenneth Bae’s best chance at getting home. It’s unclear exactly how much pull Dennis Rodman has with Kim Jong Un but the young leader may be content to release the prisoner in the hopes of securing more visits from Rodman and his friends. It’s a long shot, and one even Dennis Rodman seems hesitant to be cocky about but hey I’m sure Kenneth Bae will take anything at this point.