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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs