News / Asia

    Dennis Rodman Makes 4th Trip to North Korea

    Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman, third left, and his entourage arrive at the international airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.
    Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman, third left, and his entourage arrive at the international airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.
    VOA News
    Former American basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in Pyongyang on Monday with a team of retired players to play an exhibition game in honor of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's birthday.

    Before leaving Beijing Monday, Rodman told reporters at the airport that he does not intend to raise North Korea's human rights record during his visit, saying Mr. Kim is a "good guy" and a "friend."

    Rodman walked through Beijing's airport at around 10:00 am local time, surrounded by a crowd of media and security and followed by several players, including Charles Smith. 
     
    Rodman held a bottle of Carlsberg beer, which be propped on top of an x-ray machine as he passed his bag through.
     
    • Dennis Rodman sings Happy Birthday to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seated above in the stands, before an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang, Jan. 8, 2014.
    • Dennis Rodman tips his hat as U.S. and North Korean basketball players applaud at the end of an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang, Jan. 8, 2014.
    • Dennis Rodman cheers after a fellow basketball player makes a jump shot during a practice session with North Korean players in Pyongyang, Jan. 7, 2014.
    • Dennis Rodman meets with former North Korean basketball player Ri Myung Hun at a practice session with U.S. and North Korean players in Pyongyang, Jan. 7, 2014.
    • Dennis Rodman huddles with North Korean basketball players and fellow former NBA stars at a practice session in Pyongyang, Jan. 7, 2014.
    • A North Korean basketball player returns the scarf that Dennis Rodman was wearing and took off during a practice with North Korean and U.S. basketball players in Pyongyang, Jan. 7, 2014.
    • Dennis Rodman stands up to leave after he and fellow U.S. basketball players completed a television interview at a Pyongyang hotel, Jan. 7, 2014.

    Rodman has already visited Pyongyang three times, and during the first two trips spent time dining as a guest of Kim, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship. Rodman made his last trip late last month when he trained North Korean players. He did not meet Kim on that trip.
     
    “People always say that North Korea is like a really communist country, that people are not allowed to go there. I just know the fact that, you know, to me he's a nice guy, to me. Nice guy, you know. Whatever he does political-wise, that's not my job,” Rodman said, referring to Kim.
     
    In March 2013, North Korea's state media broadcast video of Kim and Rodman in Pyongyang.
     
    The video showed basketball fan Kim and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, watching a game with Rodman on February 28, 2013.
     
    Rodman's visit in late December 2013 followed the rare public purge of Kim's powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek, who was executed earlier that month.
     
    South Korean President Park Geun-hye described recent events as indicative of a “reign of terror.” The purging of Jang, considered the second most powerful man in the North, indicated factionalism within the secretive government.

    At a news conference on Monday in Seoul, Park called on Pyongyang to resume family reunions as a way to improve relations, saying it was regrettable that a planned family reunion last year was cancelled by the North with just four days notice.  She said elderly members of separated families should be allowed to reunite in time for the Lunar New year on January 31, so that "wounds in their hearts can be healed."

    Leonid Petrov, a Korea expert at the Australian National University said he doubts any such New Year's reunion can be arranged given the ideological divide between the two Koreas. Petrov says Pyongyang which derives its legitimacy from its possession of nuclear weapons should be engaged with to build trust, and that its nuclear ambitions will have to be dealt with in the future. 

    William Sharp a professor of East Asia studies at Hawaii-Pacific University says Rodman is one of the few Americans Kim has had contact with since assuming power two years ago.  For his part, Rodman said his visit was strictly non-political.
     
    “On the subject of the game, I hope it will open doors a little bit around the world, around the world, around the world. That's what I hope. But of course, everything else, that's not by job. I'm not a president, I'm not a politician, I'm not an ambassador. I'm just an athlete, an individual who wants to go over there and play something for the world. That's it,” said Rodman.
     
    Asked what response he had to critics who say he should not play in the reclusive state, Rodman laughed. 
     
    “Are they going to shoot me? Are they going to shoot me? Come on, man,” he said.
     
    Rodman's first visit in February 2013 came shortly after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in defiance of U.N. resolutions.
     
    Now 52 years old, Rodman won five NBA championships in his prime, achieving a mix of fame and notoriety for his on and off-court antics.

    Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters, and by VOA's Victor Beattie

    You May Like

    Can EU Survive a Brexit?

    Across Europe politicians are asking if the British vote to leave the European Union will set in motion dynamics that will see other member states leave too

    Video Entrepreneurs at Global Summit Tackle Range of Challenges

    Innovators strive to halt sexual harassment in India, improve rural health in Myanmar, build businesses in Africa

    Key African Anti-Venom About to Permanently Run Out

    The tale of Fav-Afrique’s demise is a complicated one that reflects a deeper crisis brewing in global public health

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Britain’s Vote to Leave EU Sends Shockwaves Through Global Marketsi
    X
    June 24, 2016 10:43 AM
    Britain’s historic decision to leave the European Union is sending shockwaves through global markets. Markets from Tokyo to Europe tumbled Friday under the uncertainty the ballot brings, while regional leaders in Asia took steps to limit the possible fallout. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Britain’s Vote to Leave EU Sends Shockwaves Through Global Markets

    Britain’s historic decision to leave the European Union is sending shockwaves through global markets. Markets from Tokyo to Europe tumbled Friday under the uncertainty the ballot brings, while regional leaders in Asia took steps to limit the possible fallout. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.
    Video

    Video During Ramadan, Faith and Football Converge in Lebanon’s Megadome

    In Beirut, a group of young entrepreneurs has combined its Muslim faith and love of football to create the city's newest landmark: a large, Ramadan-ready dome primed for one of the biggest football (soccer) tournaments in the world. But as the faithful embrace the communal spirit of Islam’s holy month, it is not just those breaking their fasts that are welcome.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora