Dennis Rodman is planning to travel back to North Korea to train the nation’s basketball team, despite the news of the execution of leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek that might be inopportune, not least for himself, such was his sporty confidence.
The execution, announced to the media 13, December (2013), in Pyongyang, marked not only an unprecedented fall from grace of one of the most powerful figures in the country and likely its most serious political upheaval in decades, but also unusual and speedy transparency about the hitherto secretive government’s doings. Jang was North Korea’s second most power figure, with only Leader Kim Jong-un above him.
Mr Rodman considers Leader Kim a close friend and has a long-scheduled trip to train the national team. Rodman has also organized an exhibition game that will include former professional basketball players that have committed to the game, that’s in January in Pyongyang, to celebrate the leader’s birthday.
Better known for his piercings, tattoos and bad-boy antics than he was for basketball, Mr Rodman was the highest-profile USA citizen to meet Leader Kim since Kim inherited power from father Kim Jong Il in 2011. The basket-baller travelled to North Korea for the first time in February 2013 with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO series produced by New York-based VICE television.
“Yes, I’m going to North Korea to train the basketball team,” he told The Associated Press in a phone call. “I’m going to bring American players over there. Yes I am. I’m going to be the most famous person in the world when you see American people holding hands and hoping the doors can be opened. If they can. If they can. If they can. I’m going. I’m going back for his birthday. Special.”
The sportsman has been criticized for not highlighting North Korea’s much publicised human rights record but for him that’s not his role, rather he is concentrating on bringing the politically and economically isolated country back into the international fold.
Also playing a role in this sports and touring saga is the little known Uri Tours travel company that speaks of ‘basket-ball diplomacy’. The advertising blurb runs: “We’ve gotten permission from DPRK tourism authorities to watch Dennis Rodman’s next game in the DPRK. We’ll enter the stadium to watch what just may be the most memorable sporting event you ever attend. Don’t miss your chance to be part of history.”
Tzung Tse Dong’s Ping Pong diplomacy comes to mind, which has gone down in history as a mightily important change in the fortunes of USA and China relations, during the Nixon Era, with Kissinger.
A comment on ping-pong.net has it: “After the Pingpong Diplomacy, Mao Tse Tung remarked to his top diplomats that Tzung Tse Tung, the person who initiated the contact with an American player, was his best diplomat. So, ping-pong is a diplomatic tool.”
Now it might be basket ball…