Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has flown from Beijing to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, in his latest round of “basketball diplomacy”. It is the basketball great’s fourth visit to the Hermit Kingdom.
Dennis and crew are planning to spend four days in North Korea, flying back to the United States on Christmas Eve.
While in North Korea, Dennis will coach the Korean National Basketball Team.
Dennis plans to return to North Korea in January with 12 American basketball players, who will play an exhibition game of basketball with the North Korean squad on 8 January 2014, the birthday of Kim Jung-um, the country’s leader.
No word as yet on which NBA players will sign on.
Mutual Admiration Society?
In case you’re wondering, Kim loves basketball – the NBA to be precise. He developed a passion for the sport when he was studying at a boarding school in Switzerland.
And what’s his favouite team? The Chicago Bulls!
Enter the flamboyant Dennis Rodman, a former Chicago Bull, who has about as little in common with the tightly regimented regime as a snowball has in hell. So how does he react when he sees the place for the first time?
“It’s all about love here,” Dennis says.
“It’s all about love.”
And how does Dennis feel about Kim, the country’s 30 year old leader that he repeatedly refers to as “a kid” during interviews? Apparently, it’s something of a Mutual Admiration Society.
“I love him,” Dennis says.
“The guy’s awesome. He’s a good guy to me. He’s my friend.”
Watching video clips of the bosom buddies at a basketball match between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Korean National Team earlier this year I can’t help but think, “This is a bit bizarre!”
To the left is Kim in his perfectly tailored Mao suit. To the right is Dennis, very much the non-conformist. They seem to have so little in common. And yet they seem so relaxed.
They really DO seem to be having such a good time in each other’s company!
The arena, meanwhile, is stuffed to the gills with “fans” dressed exactly the same and hehaving in – who shall I put this? – behaving in unison. Everything seems to be tightly choreographed.
No spontaneity here! This is, after all, a totalitarian state.
Talk about a non-conformist is a HIGHLY conformist society! And yet, Dennis seems so completely at home …
There absolutely MUST be something to that old expression about opposites attracting. A native born Dennis would NOT have lasted long in the DPRC!
But here he seems like a fish in water. Maybe what he doesn’t understand is this: as an outsider, you aren’t always expected to “fit in”.
If you had been born here, things might have been different. VERY, VERY different …
So far, it all seems like sweetness and light. For the record …
Twelve members of the Unhasu Orchestra – an all-female musical group – were publicly machine-gunned to death on 20 August 2013 for allegedly watching pornography and posing naked.
Kim’s former girlfriend, Hyon Song-wol, was among them. Their families were forced to watch the gruesome spectacle.
Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old American visitor to North Korea, was hauled off a Beijing bound airliner on 26 October 2013. He was detained for almost a month.
A few weeks weeks later, Jang Song Thaek, Kim’s uncle – who was believed to be the country’s second most powerful man – was arrested and then executed for alleged treason.
One of the charges against him was not clapping enthusiastically enough when his nephew Kim made an appearance.
I’ve also read that those not crying hysterically enough when Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, died a couple of years back were arrested and sentenced to 10 years hard labour at prison camps.
On many levels I admire Dennis Rodman. He marches to his own drummer. Nobody tells him what to do. And he gets away with it!
But I DO have some advice for any American basketball players brave enough to make the trip to North Korea to play basketball there next month.
You might want to consider throwing the game! Otherwise you might spend more time in the DPRC that you had bargained for.