I would like to nominate Dennis Rodman and the crew of VICE media as the next recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. They have successfully done what no other Americans can claim to have done: They have wined and dined with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un after sharing an unforgettable evening of friendly basketball diplomacy together.

Who could suppress a smile after seeing the heartwarming photographs of Rodman and Kim laughing heartily side by side at an exhibition game of North Korean and Harlem Globetrotter basketball players? How perfect the evening was, with the game ending in a 110-110 tie! What are the odds? Everyone wins! There are no losers here!

According to The New York Times, Rodman gave a post-game speech to the North Korean onlookers and directly addressed Kim, saying, “You have a friend for life.” (Please, feel free to take a moment to wipe away your tears.)

This is an extraordinary accomplishment with a nation with whom South Korea — and by extension, the United States — are still officially at war. VICE founder Shane Smith had been allowed into North Korea previously to film documentaries, and it was his connections that opened the door for a return visit with a handful of American hoopsters. After the game, the American basketball players, VICE staffers, and of course, Rodman, were invited to feast at the Supreme Leader’s residence, where they took full advantage of the opportunity to advance U.S.-North Korean relations.

VICE correspondent Ryan Duffy e-mailed this to the AP:

Dinner was an epic feast. Felt like about 10 courses in total. I’d say the winners were the smoked turkey and sushi, though we had the Pyongyang noodles earlier in the trip and that’s been the runaway favorite so far.

And VICE producer Jason Mojica tweeted this:

Well, good for Rodman and the VICE staff to dine with Kim, without judgment. How nice to fellowship over food and drink and to make no mention of the starvation and countless atrocities that North Koreans have endured for the past five decades. (Repeat: FIVE decades.) No, to do that would get in the way of peaceable merry-making! The true path to peace means that all that negative blathering has to be swept aside. After all, there are documentaries to be made and tweets to be tweeted about love, peace, and harmony!

I asked my father — who is originally from North Korea but was forced to flee his homeland at age 13 when the conflict between North and South Korea began in 1950 — what he thought of this display of diplomacy. He was not amused. “Terrible, it’s terrible,” he said. “It’s a total joke, it just gives Kim the attention he wants.”

Nah, that can’t be right. It’s too narrow-minded to assume that Kim, like his father and grandfather before him, has extreme narcissistic tendencies and a desire to be in the world’s spotlight for no redemptive reason. No, we must be more supportive of novel ideas to pursue peace, love, and understanding like Rodman, who is so far ahead of us.

According to the Chinese news agency Xinhua, Rodman said that Kim is “like his grandfather and his father, who are great leaders, he is an awesome kid, very honest and loves his wife so much.” Clearly, he deserves to go to Oslo and accept the award from the Nobel Committee. I certainly never could.

It’s one thing to forgive Kim and his family for their unspeakably horrible leadership over the years. But it’s another thing to publicly condone their atrocities by pretending they never even happened. Rodman and VICE media might think of themselves as players on the global stage, making a splash in one of the hardest places in the world to do so. But perhaps they have been played by a 30-year-old dictator who knows exactly what he is doing.

Image via Jason Mojica/VICE Media.


  1. Thanks Helen – yes, I’m surprised that Rodman and crew are not getting more negative backlash for their visit and comments. And how did they get the Harlem Globetrotters to sign on? What’s in this for Rodman – a big paycheck? Sad.

  2. I think a major issue here is that this story, of a unusual basketball player who “gets wasted” with a dictator, may be most intriguing to young folks who may remember Rodman, but no little or nothing about North Korea. It’s a punchline – something to retweet or laugh about – for a generation of individuals who don’t know the cruelty and suffering the Kim family has inflicted on their own people.

    But it’s nice of Rodman to ignore the past – after all, being a basketball fan (and finding a way back into the spotlight) is much more important than all that.

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