News / Asia

Rodman Celebrates North Korean Leader's Birthday After Outcry

Rodman Sings Happy Birthday to N. Korea's Kim Jong Uni
X
January 08, 2014 2:57 PM
Retired U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman led North Koreans in singing "Happy Birthday" to the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, before a planned basketball game Wednesday in Pyongyang.

Rodman Sings Happy Birthday to N. Korea's Kim Jong Un

TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Dennis Rodman led an auditorium of North Koreans in singing “Happy Birthday” to their leader on Wednesday, a day after the former U.S. basketball star sparked controversy by appearing to suggest a Korean-American was to blame for his captivity in North Korea.

Rodman brought a team of fellow former National Basketball Association stars to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to mark the birthday of leader Kim Jong Un with an exhibition game. The birthday is believed to have been on Wednesday though that has not been confirmed.

“It started out as surreal, then people joined in and it sort of faded a bit, but it seemed pretty heartfelt from Rodman's side,” said Simon Cockerell, a tour guide who watched the game in Pyongyang, said of Rodman's birthday singing.

“It was unexpected, and probably unplanned,” he said. “Kim Jong Un appeared to smile, but he didn't appear to expect it.”

Cockerell, whose company Koryo Tours took a group of tourists to the game, said the audience had stood and cheered Kim for up to six minutes when he appeared with his wife.

“Dennis Rodman gave a charmingly shambolic speech where he thanked Kim Jong Un and his wife for showing up, along with the other players for being brave enough to come with him and join in his 'engagement effort,'” he said.

This was Rodman's fourth trip to Pyongyang. On previous visits, he spent time dining as a guest of Kim, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship, though he did not meet Kim on his third trip.

FILE - Kim Jong-Un (R) applauding at the Unhasu orchestra concert at the People's Theatre in Pyongyang, as his uncle,Jang Song-Thaek, looks on.FILE - Kim Jong-Un (R) applauding at the Unhasu orchestra concert at the People's Theatre in Pyongyang, as his uncle,Jang Song-Thaek, looks on.
x
FILE - Kim Jong-Un (R) applauding at the Unhasu orchestra concert at the People's Theatre in Pyongyang, as his uncle,Jang Song-Thaek, looks on.
FILE - Kim Jong-Un (R) applauding at the Unhasu orchestra concert at the People's Theatre in Pyongyang, as his uncle,Jang Song-Thaek, looks on.
The visit comes weeks after the execution of Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who until then was one of the most powerful figures. South Korean President Park Geun-hye has described events in North Korea as a “reign of terror.”

Rodman has said he would not interfere in North Korea's politics but he raised an outcry at home when, in a television interview on Tuesday, he appeared to suggest that Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae was to blame for his captivity.

During an expletive-ridden interview with CNN about his trip, Rodman seemed to say Bae, held in North Korea since November 2012 and convicted in May on charges of crimes against the state, was responsible for his situation.

“If you understand what Kenneth Bae did ... Do you understand what he did in this country? Why is he held captive in this country?” Rodman said, declining to respond to questions to clarify what he meant.

FILE - Kenneth Bae being interviewed by Japanese pro-North Korea newspaper Choson Sinbo at North Korean labor camp, June 26, 2013.FILE - Kenneth Bae being interviewed by Japanese pro-North Korea newspaper Choson Sinbo at North Korean labor camp, June 26, 2013.
x
FILE - Kenneth Bae being interviewed by Japanese pro-North Korea newspaper Choson Sinbo at North Korean labor camp, June 26, 2013.
FILE - Kenneth Bae being interviewed by Japanese pro-North Korea newspaper Choson Sinbo at North Korean labor camp, June 26, 2013.
Bae's sister, Terri Chung, said her family was “outraged” by his comments and he could “do a lot of good” by using his access to the North Korea leader to advocate on Bae's behalf, rather than “hurl outrageous accusations” at her brother.

“He is playing games with my brother's life,” Chung said in a statement. “There is no diplomacy, only games, and at my brother's expense.”

“He is clearly uninformed about Kenneth's case, and he is certainly not in any position to pass judgment,” Chung said, adding that Bae never had hostile intentions against the state.

“Only 31”

Asked about Rodman's comments, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, “I'm not going to dignify that outburst with a response,” emphasizing that the trip was private travel that was not endorsed by the U.S. government.

“I'm simply going to say that we remain gravely concerned about Kenneth Bae's health, and continue to urge DPRK authorities to grant his amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds,” Carney said.

Bae, 45, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for state subversion in North Korea. He was detained in 2012 as he led a tour group through the northern region of the country. The country's Supreme Court said he used his tourism business to form groups aimed at overthrowing the government.

FILE - Myunghee Bae, the mother of Kenneth Bae, is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Lynnwood, Washington, Aug. 7, 2013.FILE - Myunghee Bae, the mother of Kenneth Bae, is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Lynnwood, Washington, Aug. 7, 2013.
x
FILE - Myunghee Bae, the mother of Kenneth Bae, is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Lynnwood, Washington, Aug. 7, 2013.
FILE - Myunghee Bae, the mother of Kenneth Bae, is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Lynnwood, Washington, Aug. 7, 2013.
Following a visit to her son in October, Bae's mother, Myunghee Bae, said her son was “alone and ailing.”

A devout Christian, Bae has acknowledged he conducted religious services in North Korea, which has long been hostile to Westerners advocating religious causes.

U.S. Representative Eliot Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized Rodman and the other Americans for what he called an “ill-advised” trip.

“As North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un continues to starve and oppress his citizens, it is unthinkable that a few fading celebrities would use such an opportunity to reward his brutal regime,” he said.

Rodman has faced both ridicule and harsh criticism for his trips to North Korea, which some U.S. politicians and activists view as serving only as fodder for North Korean propaganda.

But he defended his visit, saying it would help “open the door” and was a “great idea for the world.”

“It's amazing how we thrive on negativity. Does anyone know this guy's only 31 years old?” he said of Kim, whom he calls his friend.

“Dennis, he could be 31, he could be 51,” said CNN interviewer Chris Cuomo. “He's just killed his uncle. He's holding an American hostage.”

You May Like

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Kafantaris from: Warren, Ohio
January 08, 2014 1:46 PM
Sometimes all you've got is the three-legged dog that wants to go hunt in the woods. And he can't see from the other eye to be of much use.


by: Markt from: Virginia
January 08, 2014 11:30 AM
If Rodman likes North Korea so much, and considers their leader a friend, then by all means, move there Rodman and don't come back. If he thinks he is the 'face' and 'voice' of America in North Korea, then we are in serious trouble. The North Koreans are probably laughing at him, and us, because of this.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid