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
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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs