It is an odd juxtaposition, the stream of starving North Koreans trying to defect from the militaristic country and former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman piping up to say he had such a good time in North Korea he plans to return this summer and vacation with his new BFF, Kim Jung Un.
This is Rodman trying to be au courant with an international version of the time he went on tour for “Bad As I Wanna Be,” in full makeup, blonde wig and a fabulous wedding gown. I suspect Rodman could have just as soon chosen Antartica or Mars.
But the problem with this geopolitical/celebrity conundrum is that there is nothing funny about North Korea. Not in the slightest. The White House chided Rodman for spending more time on North Korea’s despotic leader than on its citizens. Those who think Rodman’s visit could improve diplomatic relations with North Korea are fooling themselves. Yes, Kim Jung Un loves basketball, as did his father. But basketball is not on the North Korean leader’s mind when he’s threatening to rain down missiles on neighboring South Korea or Japan. Even China is growing worried about its bellicose protege.
It is easier to talk about North Korea in a trendy sense of being a place attracting the likes of Rodman than to talk about its human rights violations, work camps and other horrific realities, says Adrian Hong, a strategic consultant who co-founded a U.S.-based non-govermental organization that helps North Koreans escapees. Hong says:
“Everybody involved with North Korea knows what’s happening. There’s no illusion as to how bad the regime is. The illusion is in the sense that we can’t solve it, that we think that this is an inevitable crisis that cannot be fixed or that we have no right or ability to do anything about it. I think that North Korea is not just an issue for human rights. This place is almost this black hole for modern civilization.”