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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Arkansas, North Carolina have approved similar laws that gay-marriage opponents say help maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More