international affairs

Dennis Rodman Is Back From North Korea With Some Valuable Insights

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and former NBA star Dennis Rodman watch North Korean and U.S. players in an exhibition basketball game at an arena in Pyongyang, North Korea, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Rodman arrived in Pyongyang on Monday with three members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team to shoot an episode on North Korea for a new weekly HBO series.
Photo: Jason Mojica/VICE Media/AP

Dennis Rodman has returned from his visit to North Korea with more personal experience with Kim Jong-un than any other American. In fact, he and the Harlem Globetrotters and Vice staffers who accompanied him on last week’s mind-boggling trip are the only Americans to have met the oppressive dictator/really big Chicago Bulls fan since he came to power in 2011. The State Department says it has no plans to debrief Rodman, so the task was left to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who interviewed the former NBA star on Sunday’s This Week. Here’s what Rodman learned during his time in North Korea: 

Kim claims that he wants a phone call, not war: “He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him. He said, ‘If you can, Dennis – I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war.’ He said that to me.”

Obama should try some of that “basketball diplomacy“: “[Kim] loves basketball. And I said the same thing, I said, ‘Obama loves basketball.’ Let’s start there.” 

Kim thinks like a dictator because he is descended from other dictators: “He loves power. He loves control, because of his dad and stuff like that.”

But he still has time to change: “He’s only 28 — 28. He’s not his dad. He’s not his grandpa. He is 28 years old.”

Kim’s human rights abuses are bad, but he’s still a nice dude: When Stephanopoulos brought up the 200,000 people currently residing in North Korea’s prison camps, Rodman responded, “This is all politics. He don’t want to do that … I’m not apologizing for him. He’s a good guy to me. He’s my friend. I don’t condone what he does, but as far as a person to person? He’s my friend. As far as what he does? He can deal with it.”

Keeping 200,000 people in prison camps is not unlike sleeping with your intern: “It’s just like we do over here in America. It’s amazing, though, we have presidents over here do the same thing, right? It’s amazing that Bill Clinton can do one thing — have sex with his secretary and really get away with it and still be powerful.” To be fair, when Stephanopoulos asked Rodman whether he stood by that comparison, he conceded, “No prison camps do one thing, we don’t need to do one thing. Reject that.”

Rodman wrapped up the interview by saying that he planned to return to North Korea so he could “learn more.” He also had a simple request for the American people: “Don’t hate me.” Honestly, we’re not sure how to feel.

Rodman Returns From North Korea With Insights