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

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid