Dennis Rodman must not ignore political tensions
Column | Frontlines
Despite opposition from the United States government, former NBA superstar Dennis Rodman went to North Korea last month for a birthday celebration for dictator Kim Jong-un. After returning to the U.S. this past weekend, Rodman checked into a rehab facility.
Seen as a hero by some and a villain by others, Rodman faces backlash after returning to the country without making an attempt to free an American being held captive, Kenneth Bae, who has been imprisoned since 2012.
While it is understandable that he is only a celebrity and not a political figure, Rodman should still use his relationship with the dictator to try to free Bae. I understand his personal goal is to bring basketball to North Korea, and while it is commendable to connect two cultures over their love of a sport, it must be kept in mind that North Korea is still considered a hostile country to foreigners.
Recent developments in North Korea’s nuclear program have spurred rising tensions between the two countries. During an interview after returning from North Korea, Rodman apologized for the current situations between the countries but did not apologize for his visit.
Rodman is a figure of authority, whether he realizes it or not. North Korea does not allow many foreigners into their country, and with the all-access pass it seems he has, he should use that to his advantage and learn as much about the country as possible.
Even a visit with Bae, just to check on living conditions and see how the American prisoner is holding up, would make a difference to many people. Rodman said in interviews that he is not an ambassador, but when he is in North Korea, he is representing the American people. He should hold himself to a higher standard and use his influence in a positive way.
Instead of drinking heavily during his visit, Rodman should have focused on relations with the country. He said he wants to connect the two countries with basketball, but he has the opportunity to do so much more with the connections he has. He is a friend to the dictator — he should use that to his advantage. I’m not saying he should tell Kim Jong-un how to run his country, but some constructive criticism wouldn’t hurt.
In an interview with CNN, Rodman got visibly upset when asked about political issues and why he did not do anything about them when he was there. He admitted the following day that he was stressed and had been drinking before the interview, but he seemed to imply during the interview that Bae might have done something to warrant the arrest and sentencing of 15 years harD labor.
Rodman has a lot of influence in the country, and if he ever goes to visit Kim Jong-un again, he should consider bringing back a friend with him and try to get Bae released. It could be the start to a beautiful friendship between the two nations.
Shawn Smith is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies. He is a correspondent for The Daily Targum.