It’s hard to say who’s exhibiting worse judgment here: Rodman or Dr. Evil. I guess neither has much to lose, image-wise. Kim rules through mass starvation and slave labor and threatening random nations with nuclear annihilation. Also, he recently murdered his uncle. Rodman, on the other hand, was on Celebrity Apprentice. So it’s hard to single out one guy.
I just finished the book The Orphan Master’s Son. Besides being a haunting novel, it’s a pretty harrowing account of what North Korea was like under Kim Jong Il, the father of Rodman’s new best friend. Everything we hear from the few North Koreans who manage to get out these days suggests that things haven’t gotten better, and have probably gotten worse. If that is so, then Kim Jong Un makes Joseph Stalin look like Mahatma Gandhi.
Rodman gets annoyed with that kind of talk. He casts himself as a diplomat. It’s all about opening doors through the universal language of pro basketball. But when he speaks about North Korea, his only coherent sentences concern the pleasures he’s shown while there. Kim’s private island, for example: “It’s like going to Hawaii or Ibiza, but he’s the only one that lives there. He likes people to be happy around him. He’s got 50 to 60 around him all the time … just normal people, drinking cocktails and laughing the whole time.”
These are the things that matter to an aging clown: To be in a circle of sycophants and servants, drinking and laughing all the time. Normal people? I don’t think most North Koreans would agree.
Someday, maybe, Dennis Rodman will be sorry. But that would require a certain level of self-awareness. So probably not.