Friends forever: Rodman warms to North Korean dictator

Former NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman declared North Korean leader Kim Jong-un his 'friend for life' after watching the Harlem Globetrotters in the isolated country today.

Jason Mojica, VICE Media/AP
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, left, and former NBA star Dennis Rodman watch North Korean and U.S. players in an exhibition basketball game at an arena in Pyongyang, North Korea, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Rodman arrived in Pyongyang on Monday with three members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team to shoot an episode on North Korea for a new weekly HBO series.

Former Chicago Bulls basketball star and 1990s bad boy Dennis Rodman may not have run into K-Pop star Psy during his “basketball diplomacy” jaunt to North Korea this week, but he reportedly met secretive leader Kim Jong-un.

“You have a friend for life,” The Associated Press reports Mr. Rodman telling Mr. Kim today. The two men were watching the Harlem Globetrotters and North Korean basketball players face off on the court in front of a crowd of thousands, and later dined on sushi together, according to the news agency.

Rodman traveled to the isolated country along with three members of the Globetrotters and producers from VICE media to film an HBO series. The scene, described by VICE employees at the game, sounds like quite a sight:

Dressed in a blue Mao suit, Kim laughed and slapped his hands on the table before him during the game as he sat nearly knee to knee with Rodman. Rodman, the man who once turned up in a wedding dress to promote his autobiography, wore a dark suit and dark sunglasses, but still had on his nose rings and other piercings.

The high-profile visit comes at a precarious time for North Korea, which recently launched its third nuclear test, raising already sky-high tensions with neighboring South Korea and garnering condemnation from the international community.

Pyongyang has engaged in high-profile saber-rattling in recent weeks, including a warning this past weekend of "miserable destruction" if the United States and South Korea go ahead with a planned joint naval exercise next month,” The Christian Science Monitor notes.

“The North is trying to persuade the world – and in particular the United States – that it is a full-fledged nuclear power that can threaten others as much as it is threatened by them,” The Monitor reported in a separate story after the nuclear test.

That Pyongyang chose the day of President Obama's State of the Union address on which to conduct its test indicates how much the test was meant as a message for the US, regional analysts say.

The test was also directed at an internal audience. Leader Kim Jong-un, in power for just a year, is still establishing his credentials, observers say, and a successful test adds to his prestige and legitimacy, thus strengthening internal security.

The true aims of North Korea, however, remain officially unstated, and therefore open to speculation.

But Kim reportedly told Rodman that he hoped the former NBA player’s visit could help “break the ice” between the US and North Korea, VICE founder Shane Smith relayed to the AP.

“They bonded during the game,” Mr. Smith told the AP.

Rodman and the film crew reportedly returned the invitation, according to the Los Angeles Times, asking Kim to visit the US.

If Kim visits, and relations between the US and North Korea improve, will Rodman win the Nobel Peace Prize? Now that would be crazy.

The game ended in a tie of 110 all.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.