Relations between the United States and North Korea have never been good and they just took a turn towards the “weird.” Strange things are happening in both countries as the two leaders continue to threaten each other with war.
President Donald Trump recently held his first White House Cabinet meeting, and senior officials from the White House staff lauded praise on the President in such an exaggerated way that it seemed like something that could have happened in North Korea, which seems to be living in its own alternative universe. Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Marshall Kim Jong Un keeps having one missile test after another while threatening to launch a nuclear attack on the United States. This is the moment when Dennis Rodman decided to make another trip to North Korea.
Add to this tense situation the release of an American student, Otto Warmbier, who was arrested in North Korea for trying to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel. For this minor offense, he was sent to a hard labor prison with a sentence of 15 years. He was released just hours after Rodman arrived in North Korea. Warmbier was sent home after serving only one year and a half of his prison sentence, which should have been a time to celebrate. Unfortunately, he is in a coma. Warmbier fell ill shortly after being sentenced by a North Korean court. After his incarceration, he was given a “sleeping pill” according to his jailers and never woke up. He has been in a coma for over a year. BBC News reports that his family says he was brutalized by North Korea; however, they are happy he is now home. Three other Americans are still held in prison by North Korea.
A company named PotCoin, makers of a cryptocurrency which marijuana buyers and sellers can use anonymously, sponsored Rodman’s trip. SB Nation reported that the purpose of Rodman’s diplomatic mission to North Korea is “to try to bridge the gap and bring peace and dialogue to both nations.”
Kim Jong Un may not have much respect for America, but he does like basketball, the NBA, and specifically Dennis Rodman. Rodman began visiting Kim Jong Un in North Korea during February 2013. Kim Jong Un invited Rodman to come, Rodman came, and together the two watched an exhibition basketball game at a huge stadium with tens of thousands of fans. Rodman returned again later in 2013.
In 2014, Rodman came back to North Korea once more. This time it was to play basketball in an exhibition game composed of ten former NBA players. This was controversial because it happened right after Kim Jong Un executed his Uncle to maintain his absolute power over the country. Rodman was criticized by many for visiting North Korea and he lashed back at reporters who challenged him about making the trip. After this, Kim Jong Un and Rodman became friends with a pledge to be “lifelong” friends.
Another surprising twist to this saga is that Rodman is also good friends with Donald Trump – they worked together on Celebrity Apprentice.
To say that Dennis Rodman is a bit eccentric is an understatement. He is known for his outlandish dress, flamboyant fashion, and outspoken style. He also likes to smoke pot. Smoking weed in North Korea is actually perfectly legal. Marijuana is grown all over the country and enjoyed by many of the people there.
Time reported conservatives in the U.S. immediately came out against the private peace mission, saying things like, “We cannot leave U.S. diplomacy to Dennis Rodman.” Others think this is the best reason we have to create America’s reengagement with North Korea for diplomatic talks, instead of the intensified saber rattling on both sides. Since Rodman is the only person who can talk directly to Kim Jong Un and to Donald Trump on a friendly basis, it is certainly worth it to let Rodman give it a try. Maybe he can help open a door to further communication and possibly diffuse some of the tension and threats.
Right now, Rodman is touring North Korea, sightseeing and, according to him, “having fun.” He said that he will make a public statement about the results of his trip after he returns to the United States.
The price of Potcoin went from $10 per coin to $14 per coin due to all the media coverage and publicly of this event, so the company already had the marketing success they were hoping for. Actually, they are having a “success disaster” – their servers crashed due to all the web traffic they received.
We hope Rodman fares better and has some real, lasting success. We can only hope that this weird combination of the friendships can somehow improve the dire situation in North Korea.