NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea this week came as a surprise to just about everyone. Scores of diplomats and foreign policy analysts have all attempted to come into contact with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, but few have come as close as Rodman. From being personally invited by the Dear Leader himself to watching a basketball game between North Korean players and the Harlem Globetrotters, Rodman’s visit has further blurred the world’s understanding of the mysterious country. Though many have praised Rodman for his quest of diplomacy, it’s hard to believe that Kim’s intentions are any different than they were a year ago after this short visit.
Kim has garnered a global reputation for his hostile view toward the United States and the UN. From conducting prohibited nuclear tests to threatening acts of of violence toward other nations, Kim’s actions demonstrate an unwillingness to see eye-to-eye with the rest of the world. Despite this, Rodman praised the young leader’s hospitality after his visit, even telling reporters that Kim is “an awesome guy” and “a friend for life.”
Although Rodman’s visit may have shown a more personable side of the Dear Leader, it is not enough to remember that North Korea holds one of the poorest human rights records in the world. Rather than spending the nation’s funds on helping its citizens, it was revealed that nearly a third of the nation’s GDP was spent on military and nuclear development program. In comparison, the United States, which spends nearly as much as the rest of the world combined on its military, spent only 4.06% of its GDP to its military.
Furthermore, the extent of Kim’s oppressiveness was made clear when Google Maps recorded some of the country’s landscape in January, which exposed the nation’s gulag camps that were still in operation and growing.
“As far as the human rights in North Korea are concerned, we have seen no improvement,” said Executive Director of The Committee of Human Rights in North Korea, Greg Scarlatoiu.
While Rodman and Kim were enjoying their feast at the young leader’s abode, millions of North Korean citizens were being deprived of the necessary amount of food and water to live healthy lives. Furthermore, the 200,000 people who are believed to be imprisoned in North Korea’s gulags face the reality that they may soon join the estimated 400,000 who have already died in such camps. Although Rodman explained that Kim’s citizens were in love with their leader, it’s hard to believe that citizens could be content with a government that made the top 25 rank in nation’s that are most likely to collapse.
Kim’s regime is one of isolation and independence. Although Rodman was only shown what North Korea’s government wanted him to see, it’s important to note that the act of reaching out to individuals is a sign of some change, as little as it may be. However, it is very unlikely that President Obama and Kim Jong-un will be seen sharing some sports jokes with each other anytime soon.