The North Korean official press, Korean Central News Agency, enthusiastically covered Chicago Bulls retired basketball star Dennis Rodman’s visit to Pyongyang, quoting the player as saying that the current impasse between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is, “regrettable.” Global news agencies had varied approaches in their reporting of the meeting, but most agreed that the encounter was a great success.
Americans may have been surprised at the hostility that greeted Rodman, as the 6’ 7” retired athlete, affectionately known as “The Worm,” attempted to convey his feelings to television watchers worldwide. George Stephanopoulos, on ABC News, came close to being outright insulting to the celebrity ballplayer for his apparent lack of insight into the young North Korean leader. Stephanopoulos chose to hear only what he wanted to hear, and Rodman has never claimed to be a student of either history or world affairs. The talk show host refused to be led away from what he considered the important issues of nuclear proliferation and cruelty.
Rodman said of Kim Jong-Un, “He’s my friend.” Rodman noted Kim’s humility, and that the people of North Korea love their leader. Dennis Rodman, 52, a Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, was barely able to squeeze into the conversation that he cared deeply that both Kim and President Obama love basketball. Kim, Rodman said, would be happy if Obama were to call him.
On Thursday, Kim Jong-Un, dressed in his customary blue Mao suit, laughed and enjoyed the game between teams which featured two Americans each playing alongside North Koreans.
Following the match (which ended in a 110-110 tie), Rodman addressed Kim in a speech before tens of thousands of North Koreans. Rodman is a tribute to America; emotional and loving. He called Kim a “Friend for life!”
Later that evening the gentlemen shared an “epic feast,” with sushi and drinks. Ryan Duffy, a correspondent with VICE Media, was also on hand. Rodman’s trip to North Korea was in connection with an HBO series episode to be shot on location there. Duffy at one point invited Kim to visit the United States in the near future, a proposal met with noncommittal laughter from the world leader. Kim Jong-Un, according to a report from the Korean Central News Agency, said he, “hoped these sport exchanges would promote mutual understanding between the people of the two nations.”
At the Sunan airport in Pyongyang, Rodman declared it “amazing” that the North Koreans were “so honest.” He said that Kim Jong-Il, the young Kim’s father, and Kim Il-Sung the founder of the North Korean government, and Jong-Un’s grandfather, were “Great leaders.” “He’s proud, his country likes him. Not like him, love him, love him,” Rodman said “Guess what, I love him! The guy’s really awesome.”
The Times of India published an interesting point of view on the meeting of the basketball aficionados. It reported Rodman as saying, “Kim is like his grandfather and his father, who are great leaders. He is an awesome kid, very honest and loves his wife so much.”
At this point, Dennis Rodman may have more knowledge of the personal side of Kim than any other American. There is little known about his high fashion wife, Ri Sol-Ju, who was unknown globally until just last July.
Critics rightly will mention the North Korean prison camps where enemies of that state are held for life, sometimes tortured, while their family members are held as well. The North Korean people are hungry and apparently only the military receives relief. Rodman had only this to say: “We do the same thing,” perhaps a reference to the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, the American detention camp in Cuba, and the waterboarding extensively used there.