Rodman: You know, North Korea “is not bad”

posted at 1:21 pm on January 6, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is back — back in North Korea, that is, and this time he’s taking along some friends. Rodman, who palled around with DPRK dictator Kim Jong-un not long after he ascended to his position of hereditary rule, brought some of his former NBA colleagues to play exhibitions in the tyrannical “people’s republic.” Rodman told an AP reporter on his way to Pyongyang that North Korea “is not bad,” all evidence to the contrary:

Rodman calls the game his version of “basketball diplomacy.”

“My previous travels have allowed me to feel the enthusiasm and warmth of fans,” Rodman said. “The positive memories and smiles on the faces of the children and families are a testament to the great efforts we have put into fulfilling our mission wherever we go voiding any politics. We are all looking forward to arriving in Pyongyang, meeting the citizens, visiting various charities and using the opportunity to develop new relationships that result in our annual return.”

Basketball diplomat, or (in Cold War terminology) a “useful idiot”? If it’s the latter, he’s found a few kindred intellects:

Rodman leads a team that includes former NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, and Vin Baker. Craig Hodges, Doug Christie and Charles D. Smith are on the team, as well. They will play against a top North Korean Senior National team on Wednesday, marking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s birthday.

AP, via USA Today, notes this carefully:

Rodman is the highest profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power after his father died in late 2011.

That’s a thinly-veiled insult to Kim rather than a flattering description of Rodman, by the way, whose only profile-lifter in years has been his visits to Pyongyang. Still, the question here is who’s the player, and who’s being played.  A diplomat would use his influence to change conditions in a tyranny and the brutal oppression that takes place.  A useful idiot would be used to tell the world that those conditions are “not bad” in order to help the tyrant continue his oppression.

Here’s a quick refresher course on that scorecard from a former guest at Kim’s labor camp, penned just before Christmas:

I want to tell you about myself. I was born in 1982 in Camp 14, a political prison in the mountains of North Korea. For more than 50 years, Kim Jong Un, his father and his grandfather have used prisons such as Camp 14 to punish, starve and work to death people who the regime decides are a threat. Prisoners are sent to places like Camp 14 without trial and in secret. A prisoner’s “crime” can be his relation by blood to someone the regime believes is a wrongdoer or wrong-thinker. My crime was to be born as the son of a man whose brother fled to South Korea in the 1950s.

You can see satellite pictures of Camp 14 and four other labor camps on your smartphone. At this very moment, people are starving in these camps. Others are being beaten, and someone soon will be publicly executed as a lesson to other prisoners to work hard and obey the rules. I grew up watching these executions, including the hanging of my mother. …

Mr. Rodman, I cannot presume to tell you to cancel your trip to North Korea. It is your right as an American to travel wherever you wish and to say whatever you want. It is your right to drink fancy wines and enjoy yourself in luxurious parties, as you reportedly did in your previous trips to Pyongyang. But as you have a fun time with the dictator, please try to think about what he and his family have done and continue to do. Just last week, Kim Jong Un ordered the execution of his uncle. Recent satellite pictures show that some of the North’s labor camps, including Camp 14, may be expanding. The U.N. World Food Programme says four out of five North Koreans are hungry. Severe malnutrition has stunted and cognitively impaired hundreds of thousands of children. Young North Korean women fleeing the country in search of food are often sold into human-trafficking rings in China and beyond.

I am writing to you, Mr. Rodman, because, more than anything else, I want Kim Jong Un to hear the cries of his people. Maybe you could use your friendship and your time together to help him understand that he has the power to close the camps and rebuild the country’s economy so everyone can afford to eat.

No dictatorship lasts forever. Freedom will come to North Korea someday. When it does, my wish is that you will have, in some way, helped bring about change. I end this letter in the hope that you can use your friendship with the dictator to be a friend to the North Korean people.

Not bad? Hey, at least uncle-killings are expected to decline in 2014. That’s a start, huh?

Update: My cousin Nick Emmons, a anchor for WHDH in Boston, noted this tweet from CNN’s Anderson Cooper:

What does that say about the NBA has-beens who followed him to Pyongyang?


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They should have fed him to their starved dogs.

Schadenfreude on January 6, 2014 at 1:26 PM

I was at a party of old friends last week, one very liberal, who was explaining to me that North Korea isn’t that bad. I just smiled, and said something … which escapes me at the moment. Some people are just not worth engaging.

Paul-Cincy on January 6, 2014 at 1:26 PM

Let him move there, then…

OmahaConservative on January 6, 2014 at 1:27 PM

His picture s/b in the dictionary next to the word “Ugly” – ugly face and ugly mind. Maybe he will inadvertently say something unflattering to North Korea’s monster and he will have him eaten alive by 100 dogs … or maybe 10,000 rats.

VorDaj on January 6, 2014 at 1:32 PM

OC, best wishes for much strength to you and family for this week and always.

Schadenfreude on January 6, 2014 at 1:32 PM

China hates him and his potentate.

Schadenfreude on January 6, 2014 at 1:32 PM

If China wants credibility they should do something about them.

Schadenfreude on January 6, 2014 at 1:33 PM

I like it there to. I hope it stays there.

Tsar of Earth on January 6, 2014 at 1:33 PM

With any luck, Rockhead and his team will humiliate the Nork BB team (and Dear Leader), and be summarily secreted to Camp 14 never to be heard from, again.

Shepherd Lover on January 6, 2014 at 1:33 PM

You know, Obamacare is not that bad.

John the Libertarian on January 6, 2014 at 1:34 PM

Rodman is the epitomy of the Soviets’ “useful idiots”.
Russia’s Potemkin Villages would have also had him spouting the wonders and greatness of the Soviet Union.

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 1:34 PM

Credible candidate for Democrat nomination for Senate in:

Minnesota

Washington, Oregon, California

Wisconsin

Florida

Vermont

Illinois

…..and he could probably BEAT the gop nominee in each state.

Let that sink in for a minute…..

PappyD61 on January 6, 2014 at 1:35 PM

…..and he could probably BEAT the gop nominee in each state.

Worth posting again.

Rodman 2014, because we deserve this.

PappyD61 on January 6, 2014 at 1:36 PM

PappyD61 on January 6, 2014 at 1:35 PM

You forgot New York.
He’d be a shoe-in for any office there – maybe Mayor of NYC if they get tired of DeBlasio….

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 1:38 PM

Remember ping pong diplomacy?

FOWG1 on January 6, 2014 at 1:40 PM

Sean Penn levels of ignorant stupidity.

Midas on January 6, 2014 at 1:46 PM

I’m sure it’s a fine place if you happen to be a multi-millionaire celebrity friend of the dictator, who agrees with his rules.

For everyone else though, it might not be so great.

UltimateBob on January 6, 2014 at 1:47 PM

Remember ping pong diplomacy?

FOWG1 on January 6, 2014 at 1:40 PM

Featuring PFC Forrest Gump, right?…..

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 1:47 PM

It is your right as an American to travel wherever you wish and to say whatever you want

A right? No it isn’t. Americans can travel abroad but that doesn’t mean they can travel wherever they wish. DR is a guest of the Norks. And I’m willing to bet that he won’t be saying anything critical of his hosts while he is there.

Happy Nomad on January 6, 2014 at 1:47 PM

We can only hope that Kim Jong Un and his cohorts will reap the same fate as Mussolini and the Ceaucescus.

And Kim Il Song and Kim Jong Il will, like Oliver Cromwell, have their disinterred bodies hanged in chains, and then thrown into a pit, while their severed heads would be displayed on poles.

If the North Korean people finally wake up, we can only hope that’s the least of what they would do to these POS.

NavyMustang on January 6, 2014 at 1:48 PM

OC, best wishes for much strength to you and family for this week and always.

Schadenfreude on January 6, 2014 at 1:32 PM

Thanks Schad…

OmahaConservative on January 6, 2014 at 1:49 PM

They will play against a top North Korean Senior National team on Wednesday, marking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s birthday.

No doubt the “citizens” will root for the Nork team as required but the hungry dogs are secretly hoping for an All-Star blowout.

Cicero43 on January 6, 2014 at 1:53 PM

It is your right as an American to travel wherever you wish and to say whatever you want
A right? No it isn’t. Americans can travel abroad but that doesn’t mean they can travel wherever they wish. DR is a guest of the Norks. And I’m willing to bet that he won’t be saying anything critical of his hosts while he is there.

Happy Nomad on January 6, 2014 at 1:47 PM

Good point about that very faulty statement.
As an American, you can travel freely around the US (just not on federal property if the gubmint is shutdown and the NPS Gestapo is activated), and you can leave the US.
It does NOT mean you can go to any other country you might wish to visit – THEY have something to say about that.
And in many countries, if you say the wrong thing, even though you’re American, you might spend the rest of your life in a prison that’s not nearly as nice as our Club Med facilities – or be summarily executed.

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 1:55 PM

Oh Ed…. just…. WHY?

dpduq on January 6, 2014 at 1:55 PM

I read the “uncle fed to dogs” story was a hoax, but as awful as that country is, who knows…

brak on January 6, 2014 at 1:56 PM

If the North Korean people finally wake up, we can only hope that’s the least of what they would do to these POS.

NavyMustang on January 6, 2014 at 1:48 PM

Hard to say if that will ever happen. I think it’s highly probable by now the entire population has a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome.

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 1:57 PM

I read the “uncle fed to dogs” story was a hoax, but as awful as that country is, who knows…

brak on January 6, 2014 at 1:56 PM

The best point I’ve seen indicating that story was a hoax was that they aren’t likely to have that many dogs still alive in a starving country that eats dogs.

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Rodman in 1995: Herpes is not that bad

faraway on January 6, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Nice mug….not sure who’s uglier?

This thing, or Rachel Maddow…

ToddPA on January 6, 2014 at 2:00 PM

If these two stood side-by-side for a photo op, I wonder which one would wear the “I’m with stupid.” T-shirt?

Missilengr on January 6, 2014 at 2:03 PM

Rodman: You know, North Korea “is not bad”

Well, if Dennis Rodman says so….

There Goes the Neighborhood on January 6, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Calling Dennis Rodman a “useful idiot” is insulting to all idiots.

SubmarineDoc on January 6, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Someone forgot to tell Rodman that Asians are the one type of non-white that you are allowed to say bad things about.

DethMetalCookieMonst on January 6, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Walter Duranty would be so proud.

Gothguy on January 6, 2014 at 2:08 PM

What does that say about the NBA has-beens who followed him to Pyongyang?

Vin Baker gotta eat too…?

JohnGalt23 on January 6, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Its amazing what drugs can do to a person.

tommer74 on January 6, 2014 at 2:20 PM

I’m guessing this impressed him.

whatcat on January 6, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Legalize marijuana!

Murphy9 on January 6, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Are you sure Rodman is not an NFL player suffering from post-concussion syndrome?

Shy Guy on January 6, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Every time I read another story about Rodman & N.K. my mind immediately goes to that tearful doc. about the grizzly hugger who got ate…

I am waiting… for Rodman to get “eaten” by NK for his stupidity.

jffree1 on January 6, 2014 at 2:50 PM

Every time I read another story about Rodman & N.K. my mind immediately goes to that tearful doc. about the grizzly hugger who got ate…

I am waiting… for Rodman to get “eaten” by NK for his stupidity.

jffree1 on January 6, 2014 at 2:50 PM

Tearful? I thought it was funny as he!!!!!
As would be “Globull Warming researchers freeze to death in Antarctic ice” and “Rodman’s team wins exhibition game in NK, all executed by mortar”.

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Tool.

labrat on January 6, 2014 at 3:09 PM

And when the North Korean team loses, what will happen to them?

cheeflo on January 6, 2014 at 3:16 PM

And when the North Korean team loses, what will happen to them?

cheeflo on January 6, 2014 at 3:16 PM

Everyone stand here in circle for group photo.
Don’t look up.

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 3:20 PM

If China wants credibility they should do something about them.
Schadenfreude on January 6, 2014 at 1:33 PM

Perhaps the PRC, ROK and USA could come to an agreement along these lines:

- PRC will quietly mass forces near North Korea’s border.

- The ROK and USA will expect this, as agree, and be ready.

- The PRC will then launch a sudden attack across NORK’s northern border.

- Shortly after, with the NORKs in a state of confusion, the ROK launches a massive ground attack from the south with US air support.
- The PRC and ROK forces fight their way to Pyongyang.

- After the situation on the ground is stabilized, PRC forces move back across their border, leaving the ROK to clean up.

- Simultaneously the US moves all of its forces out of Korea.

DarkCurrent on January 6, 2014 at 3:22 PM

I recently saw an episode of Pawn Stars where Rodman’s ex-wife was selling some of his old game jerseys so she could put their daughter through college. Fine judge of character that Rodman is.

pain train on January 6, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Here’s a quick refresher course on that scorecard from a former guest at Kim’s labor camp, penned just before Christmas

Great letter and great message to Rodman from Shin Dong-hyuk. I just finished watching (on Netflix) last night “Camp 14: Total Control Zone” which is his first person account of his life in the camp, his escape, and his life since then. It is riveting…and disgusting to think about what he (and so many others) have had to go through. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it.

Also disgusting: Rodman & his cohorts sucking up to the leader who drives all of this evil.

dont taze me bro on January 6, 2014 at 3:26 PM

DarkCurrent on January 6, 2014 at 3:22 PM

I like it – but would PRC ever go for that?

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Shouldn’t someone tell him that the Koreans view him as a large talking ape?

claudius on January 6, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Also disgusting: Rodman & his cohorts sucking up to the leader who drives all of this evil.

dont taze me bro on January 6, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Somethin’ tells me Rodman is getting the services of little nork boys, or something unseemly/illegal like that – videotaped of course by the norks….
Much like what’s probably been going on with other Hollyweird useful idiots who keep pushing propaganda for Venezuela, Cuba, and other 3rd world dictatorships.

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 3:32 PM

I like it – but would PRC ever go for that?

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 3:26 PM

I suppose they might, on condition the US were to agree to remove all of its forces from reunited Korea.

DarkCurrent on January 6, 2014 at 3:32 PM

I recently saw an episode of Pawn Stars where Rodman’s ex-wife was selling some of his old game jerseys so she could put their daughter through college. Fine judge of character that Rodman is.

pain train on January 6, 2014 at 3:26 PM

OTOH – what does that say about Rodman, that his ex has to do that to pay for HIS daughter to go to college?

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 3:34 PM

DarkCurrent on January 6, 2014 at 3:22 PM

This was roughly McCarther’s idea. Unfortunatly, the PRC did not go along. I do not think the Chinese position has actually changed. If anything, the Chinese would likely prefer to see the North overrun the south so that they could bully the winner w/o any repercussions.

Freddy on January 6, 2014 at 3:35 PM

IF Kim Jong-un decided to KEEP Rodman on a permanent basis, would anyone in the US care?

Freddy on January 6, 2014 at 3:36 PM

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Um, I believe that was my point.

pain train on January 6, 2014 at 3:45 PM

If anything, the Chinese would likely prefer to see the North overrun the south so that they could bully the winner w/o any repercussions.

Freddy on January 6, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Except, from what I’ve read, SOUTH Korea is one of China’s biggest trade partners, if not THE biggest.

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Um, I believe that was my point.

pain train on January 6, 2014 at 3:45 PM

OK – my mistake.
I read it as saying his ex was a bad character, and he was just bad at judging character.

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Except, from what I’ve read, SOUTH Korea is one of China’s biggest trade partners, if not THE biggest.

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 3:47 PM

China is South Korea’s largest trading partner. South Korea is China’s 4th or 5th.

DarkCurrent on January 6, 2014 at 3:54 PM

Rodman: You know, North Korea “is not bad”

He sure looks like an intelligent man, so maybe it’s true!

Mimzey on January 6, 2014 at 3:56 PM

This was roughly McCarther’s idea. Unfortunatly, the PRC did not go along. I do not think the Chinese position has actually changed. If anything, the Chinese would likely prefer to see the North overrun the south so that they could bully the winner w/o any repercussions.

Freddy on January 6, 2014 at 3:35 PM

It’s not 1950 in China anymore. Average people in urban China at least view North Korea as a badly failed state.

I often ask people here if they’ve ever been abroad. Many say they’ve been to Korea. When I ask if they went to north or south Korea they look stunned by the stupidity of the question.

Of course South Korea. Who’d go to North Korea?

(actually they’re called by different names without a ‘north’ or ‘south’ in Chinese, so this only works when speaking in English)

DarkCurrent on January 6, 2014 at 3:56 PM

China is South Korea’s largest trading partner. South Korea is China’s 4th or 5th.

DarkCurrent on January 6, 2014 at 3:54 PM

OK. I knew it was big trade one way or the other.
Where does North Korea fit into the “trade” equation with China – versus welfare/propping up?

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 4:01 PM

Where does North Korea fit into the “trade” equation with China – versus welfare/propping up?

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 4:01 PM

Not sure exactly. North Korea gets about half of its imports from China, but is a tiny market so not particularly important from China’s perspective.

DarkCurrent on January 6, 2014 at 4:15 PM

I’d like to think I wouldn’t go play a game of basketball in North Korea. But hey, for a few million dollars who knows…I’m sure Rodman is getting compensated nicely.

Aplombed on January 6, 2014 at 4:38 PM

Nick Emmons is being very charitable.

Quartermaster on January 6, 2014 at 5:25 PM

Careful over there, “Uncle” Dennis.

Jaibones on January 6, 2014 at 5:27 PM

I’m sure Rodman is getting compensated nicely.

Aplombed on January 6, 2014 at 4:38 PM

Ya – he gets to leave in one piece – IF the right team wins and he doesn’t PO the little emperor (Kim, not Obama…)…..

dentarthurdent on January 6, 2014 at 8:14 PM

Rodman in 1995: Herpes is not that bad

faraway on January 6, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Very illustrative article.

I liked the second story for the contrast:
after seeing that Rodman gave away herpes to 3 women in less than 3 weeks, we read that Hakeem Olajuwon gave away 5 $1000 scholarships to school kids in the Houston area.

Olajuwon: devout Muslim, far from my preferred religion, but in contrast to Rodman, he’s a saint. (Irony intended.)

Rodman: atheist. Kindred spirit with Pyongyang, just a different level on the evolutionary ladder. Not sure who is higher.

Also disappointing to see Kenny Anderson on his team. He was a good Ga Tech boy. You know, intellectual and reason-based existence and all that. Then again, he went pro after his freshman year, so maybe he couldn’t handle the intellectual rigors of becoming a lifelong Yellow Jacket.

rwenger43 on January 6, 2014 at 8:37 PM

If ever there was a foreign policy issue to converge over, this would be it. Can anyone, anyone think of a reason to oppose a measure taken against state-sponsored generational genocide as is practiced in North Korea?

If there was ever a worthwhile resolution to pass in the UN, it would be about these North Korean death camps.

Dennis Rodman is the light-relief side-show covering this naked state violence. Who is afraid of North Korea? The fear is all around China, their wealthy uncle (who cannot be executed), but even the Chinese would not try to defend the indefensible, when it is adequately explained to the world.

If the United States is afraid of North Korea because of its tired nuclear threats, then it is clear to everyone that all the US military superiority meant nothing after all. One little dictator with a bomb holds back a superpower while it brutalizes and starves a whole nation.

But the truth is we don’t care. We would rather watch the Iran/ Israel Punch and Judy Show.

virgo on January 7, 2014 at 12:56 AM

If Rodman is so sure that North Korea is “not so bad”, why doesn’t he stay there?

Steve Z on January 7, 2014 at 11:27 AM