Rodman Visiting North Korea is a Very Good Thing
Former Chicago Bulls champion Dennis Rodman once again was found himself in the news recently due to his ongoing interactions with North Korean. On Wednesday, Rodman sang “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before leading a squad of former NBA stars in a friendly game of basketball. Rodmans relationship with the tyrant leader has been largely criticized due to the North Korean government’s poor human rights record and its threats to use nuclear weapons against rival South Korea and the United States (US).
Since North Korea is considered a pariah state, they almost never interact with foreigners and have a very negative relationship with the US. Rodman, however, has somehow established a relationship with Kim Jong Un; the US government vehemently disapproves of this relationship and his frequent visits.
However, are Rodmans actions really a bad thing? Should he be criticized for having a relationship with a tyrant ruler in a country that has threatened American lives and mistreats its own citizens? I believe that his relationship with Jong Un is absolutely a great thing. Here’s why.
In the 1970s during the Cold War, the US found it virtually impossible to engage in talks with Soviet Union and China to end the war. Even high-profile American citizens such as senators and statesmen expressed interest in visiting China, but were unable to have a trip arranged. Athletes, however, were still invited to and allowed to come to China to compete in various sports. Table tennis was a sport both China and the US were good at, so an unexpected but dramatic meeting between the flamboyant American player Glenn Cowan and the renowned Chinese player Zhuang Zedonga (winner of many other table tennis events) gathered to play. Following the match, hostility softened and meetings between both countries were scheduled. Essentially, Beijing’s invitation to a US table tennis team to play exhibition games in 1971 helped diffuse Cold War tensions and served to cultivate an environment where discussion could be made.
Rodman seems to be attempting a similar form of this “ping-pong diplomacy.” He maintains a solid relationship with Kim Jung Un, visits him often, and considers him his best friend in attempts to soften the friction that exists between North Korea and the US (and the rest of the world for that matter). He is certainly no statesman or political representative of the US, which is why he never talks politics to Kim or to the media. He also refrains from involving himself in political matters that affect the US (eg, the Kenneth Bae imprisonment) for the same reason. Ultimately, his only goal could be to create an environment wherein North Korea will be more open to engage in political and social discussions with the US.
If this is Rodmans intention, the cause is actually very noble indeed. Rodman shouldn’t be criticized for his relationship, but rather thanked for potentially risking his life for the sake of foreign diplomacy. Though he hasn’t spoken directly to doing so (and he shouldn’t), Rodman should be seen as a nationalist and patriot rather than a jester or menace. His attempt at world peace should one day be acknowledged, and acclamation is certainly warranted for his honorable political quest.