News / Asia

South Koreans Show Outrage Over Rodman's Pyongyang Trip

A protester wearing a mask depicting former U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman, attends a rally in central Seoul, South Korea, Jan.8, 2014, denouncing Rodman's visit to North Korea and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Kim's birthday.
A protester wearing a mask depicting former U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman, attends a rally in central Seoul, South Korea, Jan.8, 2014, denouncing Rodman's visit to North Korea and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Kim's birthday.
Junghwa BaekSeoyeon Je
American basketball star Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea is not winning him many friends in South Korea.

South Korean social media sites are filled with sneering comments about the former National Basketball Association All-Star - accusing him of going to North Korea for money and calling him names like “psychopath.”

One Twitter user wrote, “Dear North Korea: Rodman is a gift.  Happy (belated) holidays” @MangJang_chb(01.06).

Comments became especially angry after a video showed him singing “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Rodman, who is on his fourth trip to North Korea, calls Kim his friend.  This time, he brought along a group of former NBA players and others to play basketball with North Korean players, an effort in what Rodman calls sports diplomacy.

  • 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.

South Koreans were skeptical.  “He is doing ding-dong diplomacy, which is useless.  If you are doing basketball diplomacy, you should have a result because time has passed pretty much since you met Kim Jong Un for the first time,” Wolf10 wrote on the Korean website “Daum”.

Rodman said the proceeds from the game would be used for helping the deaf.  But many were doubtful.  “Don’t you really believe that it will be used for his people, not Kim Jong Un?”  “JOEE” wrote on Korean website Nate.

And many South Koreans mocked Rodman’s on-camera outburst when a CNN journalist interviewed him about the trip and his relationship.  Rodman also indicated that Kenneth Bae, an American who has been held by North Korea for more than a year, had done something wrong to justify his detention.

One comment said, “I think it is not sports diplomacy to sing “Happy Birthday” to him [Kim].  If you do, you can’t be so sensitive when you got the question from Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor.”

Rodman has quite a number of fans in Korea, and many are disappointed by his trip to North Korea. 

One fan, “Dhqk” wrote, “When he was active in his basketball game, I was really a big fan of him whom is pitted against other center players very well.  But after his retirement, he seems to act as Kim Jong Un’s tool ...  I feel sad as a fan.”

The two countries have been divided for nearly 70 years.  Communist North Korea is considered one of the most isolated and repressive nations on the world, while democratic South Korea is among the wealthiest advanced nations.

Some South Koreans are angry that Rodman won’t discuss international concerns about North Korea, such as its nuclear weapons program and its poor human rights record. 

But a few posts saw a potential for good in the trip.  NAVER blogger “Ssminss80” wrote, “It is hard for us to get information about North Korea.  But, Rodman gave us information on how North Korea is.  It is not totally bad.”

Clll**** wrote, “It looks like [they are] just having fun.  Because North Korea’s treated him as a king, [a man] who is already a retired basketball player.  What if ... he wanted to dedicate to world peace and visit the North to conciliate and then become unified? He would deserve to win the Nobel Prize for peace."

But at least one blogger had a sarcastic warning for Rodman, “You have to be careful you don’t want to be like a Jang Sung Thaek who was executed by his nephew, Kim Jong Un.”

Below are more comments from South Korean media sites: 

“Is there no pride as an American??”
clie****(01.08 KST 21:31 )

“He is a Redman, not Rodman.”
s2ke****(01.08 KST 21:30 )

“I’m a Korean who lives in Boston.  This is not a funny thing.  U.S. [is]worried about Rodman’s action very seriously.  Once he gets a lot of media exposure [in North Korea], Americans will not consider North Korea to be a hostile country anymore.  The negative image of North Korea will disappear.  It’s not helpful at all for the policy against the North.”
arma****(01.08 KST 22:33)

“Let’s talk after he lives in North Korea for a year.”
Askh***(01.07 KST 12:06 )

“It seems the CIA or U.S. government gives him a mission for spying.”
Psy8**** (01.07 KST 14:00)

“I watched the interview with CNN.  He looks like a typical psychopath.”
SJ Kim @worldendboy (01.08)

“I hope he realizes the North should not exist on the earth.”
SH. Hong ‏@Reasia8912100 (01.08)

“They attended basketball game for Kim Jong Un’s birthday?  What a jerk.  They’re more like just poor old men.  Kim Jong-un gave them a lot of money.  I can’t understand either of them.”
@zdgd (01.08)

“In a word, Rodman is insane.  He knew what’s going on the North.  When he interviewed with CNN, it seemed a dog is barking.”
@SanChoLong15 (01.08)

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by: moomoo from: usa
January 10, 2014 3:43 PM
by looking at his picture here I can't help... saying ...what an ugly guy !


by: steven from: Taiwan
January 10, 2014 7:28 AM
I consider that Korean was unified in future,but which conquer another,that's a lot space to think.


by: John Roberts from: Australasia
January 10, 2014 12:06 AM
For 70 years, no diplomacy has worked, and torture continues in North Korea. What Rodman is doing may seem insane and traitorous, but by befriending Kim Jong Un, he may in fact be able to condition him slowly into a more liberal, western thinking, and THEN approach more sensitive issues with a better result. It may be, in fact, a stroke of genius and more effective than anything else since Korea was divided by the west (let's not forget). Let's wait and see. It cannot really get much worse, now can it.

In Response

by: David from: The US
January 10, 2014 5:15 PM
"he may in fact be able to condition him slowly into a more liberal, western thinking, " You do understand that you are talking about Rodman here?


by: wag from: United States
January 09, 2014 11:23 PM
Kim Jong Un is a barbaric murderer. He is the one that should be shot....The hundreds and hundreds of innocent poor people that have been killed. He is another Hitler. And Poor Mr Rodman is no longer in the limelite....so he decides to be a insult and a disgrace to the free country he lives in. It says to me that it's OK whatever this communist does..."he's my friend". Maybe he should go over there and live, and he will probably end up like the communist's uncle when his favorite friend turns on him.


by: DJ
January 09, 2014 9:43 PM
He is another Hanoi Jane fonda

In Response

by: Dav from: Gangnam
January 11, 2014 8:20 AM
DJ - I understand what you're thinking, but I remember Fonda and her comments and actions go a lot farther than Rodman who we'll just consider an idiot. I could and never will forgive Fonda standing behind an anti-aircraft twin-Dishka machine-gun and saying "I wish I had one in my sights right now" meaning she wanted to kill an American.


by: butterball
January 09, 2014 9:41 PM
. U and Jane Fonda would make a great pair ur both crazy


by: df from: hall
January 09, 2014 8:13 PM
Rodman illiterare moron


by: Jay Locke from: Boston
January 09, 2014 5:46 PM
First thing that came to mind upon reading the title of this article: South Korea, welcome to the club.

Don't be confused brothers, you will find it very difficult to find an American who does *not* think Rodman is a fool. Read any American newspaper. He is a circus clown that we've tried to ignore for a long time now. Our only hope is that one of these days, North Korea will keep him. Many Americans despise the NK government as much as you do.


by: j.webster from: seattle
January 09, 2014 5:00 PM
re-posting comments from various websites is not journalism or generally even close to educated commentary. It is more appropriately termed "mob mentality in a semi-disorganized framework". Is that helpful?


by: Shawn from: California
January 09, 2014 4:36 PM
Jong Un and Rodman appear to be a lot alike.. 2 guys who feel vastly insecure and will both do anything to open the social spotlight on themselves. They'll ride this out as long as it gives them both attention. It's not about diplomacy or foreign relations - it's just "hey.. everyone's paying attention to me again!"

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