U.S. Congressman, North Korean Exiles Ask Rodman to Call Off Pyongyang Game

Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the upcoming exhibition match in North Korea "bizarre and grotesque."

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KCNA / AFP / Getty Images

Kim Jong-Un and former NBA star Dennis Rodman attend a basketball game in Pyongyang on February 28, 2013.

New York Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel condemned former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s upcoming basketball match in North Korea as “bizarre and grotesque,” likening it to sitting down to lunch with Adolf Hitler.

Engel joined a mother and daughter who escaped North Korea at a press conference in New York City Monday to urge Rodman and his team of former NBA stars to call off the game.

“I don’t think we should ignore the real suffering in this gulag state,” said Eliot Engel, the minority leader of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs who has twice visited the communist state. “And Dennis Rodman wants to go there and play basketball. It would be like inviting Adolf Hitler to lunch.”

“What Dennis Rodman is doing is very ill conceived,” said Engel, who said he is working on bipartisan legislation to expand and enforce sanctions on North Korea. Rodman arrived in the capital Pyongyang Monday with his team—including All-Stars Kenny Anderson and Cliff Robinson—to participate in an exhibition match Wednesday to celebrate leader Kim Jong Un’s birthday.

The NBA star, now on his fourth visit, has drawn the international spotlight for his friendship with the leader of the insular and highly authoritarian nation—a relationship the media has dubbed “basketball diplomacy” even though Rodman says he won’t talk politics with Kim, who he has called a “friend for life.”

“People say so many negative things about North Korea. And I want people in the world to see it’s not that bad,” Rodman told the Associate Press in Beijing before leaving for Pyongyang Monday.

“Whatever he does political-wise, that’s not my job. I’m just an athlete, an individual who wants to go over there and play something for the world,” he told reporters at the airport in Beijing, Reuters reports.

Activists say North Korea has one of the worst human rights track records in the world, with as many as 120,000 political opponents in prison. The nuclear-armed country has also repeatedly threatened its neighbors and the United States.

Rodman, by far the highest profile American to meet Kim since he took power in 2011 from his late father, has disappointed activists by saying he will not raise human rights issues or seek the release of foreigners held by North Korean authorities, including an American veteran of the Korean War who was detained in Pyongyang in October and held for more than a month.

“North Korea is arguably the worst human rights violator in the world,” Suzanne Chelti, chairman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, said at the press conference Monday, organized by the Wiesenthal Center and Museums of Tolerance. “At this point for Dennis Rodman and these players to participate in a propaganda coup for the regime, is a terrible setback for the human rights movement. We’re calling upon these players not to participate in this charade.”

Jo Jin Hye, a 26-year-old North Korean escapee who fled the country with her mother and sister and now lives in Virginia, echoed the appeal to call off the match. Jo had previously testified before a United Nations commission on human rights abuses in the country.

“I want to say, NBA player people, please don’t make Kim Jong Un happy. And I want to say if you want to help North Korea, just help normal people like us. Just the North Korean people, not the North Korean government,” he said.

111 comments
Bright Mhango
Bright Mhango

Richie, that sent me shrieking with laughter ...didnt expect an intelligent quip as a response! Good morning from Jinan, China!

Richard Steven Jones
Richard Steven Jones

Oh shot to death? That's much better. I'm looking into real estate in the area right now.

Chris Feighan
Chris Feighan

Whats with all the negative comments about Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea?

Bright Mhango
Bright Mhango

actually, thats not true, it was a rumour spread by a Chinese comic...he died by the gun like the law says

Richard Steven Jones
Richard Steven Jones

I love Kim Jong Un. It's just too bad he fed his uncle to 120 starving dogs.

etondl88
etondl88

Live and let live. All of us have evil friends and yet we call them friends and continue to associate with them despite of their repulsive character.

Joelene Heath
Joelene Heath

Rodman was - is -& always will be the king of idiots !!!

jefforsythe9
jefforsythe9

Recently I viewed a documentary where a young N Korean man, who escaped to S Korea, told his story how he was born in a slave camp. At fourteen, he heard his mother and older brother discussing an escape and told on them. A few days later  he was escorted to the courtyard to witness his mother's and brother's execution. This is N Korea today. On the other hand, the Chinese Communist Party has treated its people exactly like this since 1949 and is still doing so.
People living in the West have not been allowed to know the truth
concerning the brutal Chinese Communist Party. It is a blood-thirsty
cult that has murdered over fifty million of its own people since 1949
and if it was not for the strength of the American military, it would
have eliminated Western civilization years ago. But because of
insatiable human greed the true nature of this evil Party has never been
  exposed to us in the West. Just keep shopping.

Mikhail Krechmer
Mikhail Krechmer

This situation is very strange and for me too. Exotism have to have a border too.

Heidi So
Heidi So

Dennis Rodman may stay with Kim Jong-un.. confiscate his passport as soon as he leaves the America... and the Great Leader's dogs might find him tasty too ! :P

Becca Beears Hallock
Becca Beears Hallock

Since North Korea is diplomatically no better than Cuba, why hasn't the US government pulled Rodman's passport? It's a real question, not sarcasm. It would be very easy to stop this charade, if the government was really that upset about it. It's why I think this is all sponsored.

Vijay Vittal Rao
Vijay Vittal Rao

Why they are calling Adolf Hitler, why not Mr. Raja Rajaratnam too? :)

Maciej Wojcieszek
Maciej Wojcieszek

incredible, Democrat and he's actually pretty smart . There's hope for the world

Godson Nnamdi John
Godson Nnamdi John

Wat z wrng wit inviting hitler to lunch? He is a human being znt he? Dnt define ppl by d paths they choose!

Ernie J Freeman
Ernie J Freeman

But I cannot give hitler all the credit because majority of his success was taking from others.

Ida Yiu
Ida Yiu

However if I am a crazy dictator and some guy I invited over telling what I did bad and wrong, I would tell him to go back to his own country or worse. Not to say Rodman has political motives but good for Kim to know not everyone comes around to criticise him and might be able to change his thinking towards foreigners.

Daniel Paul
Daniel Paul

There is always the "why" in every situation? Noticing Dennis through his NBA career he always did the unthinkable (on and off the court) for attention and to get a reaction. Same behavior is occurring now. He wants to get noticed by doing the unthinkable. It's attention seeking behavior. Personally I think "the why" is because Kim and Dennis love attention. They are made for each other and love the strange connection they have. I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to kill Rodman or hold him hostage.

Laurie Morstad
Laurie Morstad

How is it that Mr. Rodham has approval to go to North Korea. How can a basketball "team" go somewhere closed to travel from citizens of many countries, including the U.S.? There is more to this story. For some reason it is in the best interest of the U.S. that Dennis and Kim stay friends. Hmmm.

Crewdogg15
Crewdogg15

Those of you who ask what the big deal is remember that not only is this leader a sicko but we have lots of american troops inside south Korea away from their families protecting the ROK (south korea) from this whack job. So dennis rodman is hanging out with the very cause that forced american troops to spend more than 50 years over their away from their loved ones protecting people from that side show

Cedric Phoenix
Cedric Phoenix

I don't think Hitler ate dog, in fact, he loved them

Mary Ann Salinovich
Mary Ann Salinovich

The team better do well or they'll be singing "Who let the dogs out?!"

Jon Tejuco
Jon Tejuco

And there's nothing you can do about it...so shut up....!

Ernie J Freeman
Ernie J Freeman

Dennis Rodman is only doing good with this movement between unlikely nations and bringing them together, showing our people around the world more unity is what we need rather than a violent planetary society and to always our young generation. Now understand we talking about Dennis Rodman a superstar NBA player chilling with the president of N. Korea! Peace & love, unity!

Jeremy Williams
Jeremy Williams

So thousands of Americans and South Koreans gave their lives so Dennis Rodman can make headlines to sell his Vodka? Millions more service members spent years of their lives in harms way to preserve the South so Rodman can scratch out the last it of his dying 90s fame? No, theres a wall between them and us because they are the definition of all that the world has to fear.

Jocster
Jocster

Excellent comment from Jo Jin Hye: "I want to say if you want to help North Korea, just help normal people."

I hope that Eliot Engel listens. The legislation he supports to expand and enforce sanctions will only hurt the normal people in N.Korea, who make up the vast majority of the population. It will not hurt the N.Koren government.


However, Eliot Engel motives are nothing to do with concern for the North Korean people or concern about human rights. His motives are purely his image in US politics.

Kim Tapio-Nuzzo
Kim Tapio-Nuzzo

For U.S. government electeds and officials, "evil" is relative and arbitrary… they've openly and secretly jumped into bed with leaders and organizations just as bad or worse than North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

Jessica Laal
Jessica Laal

Yet we have had so many hitlers in the White House.

Jonathan Housley
Jonathan Housley

That's not very diplomatic, also kind of hyperbolic I'd say. Words hurt, Time!

Eriq Tendo
Eriq Tendo

I'm sorry which of the two would be Hitler Adolph?

Byron Robinson
Byron Robinson

N. Korea's NOT ON The LEVEL w "The Worm", MOCKING USA.

Kyle Mccormick
Kyle Mccormick

Going to lunch with Hitler probably wasn't bad, as long as you weren't a Jew.

Michael Allmendinger
Michael Allmendinger

How do you he is not CIA...could there possibly be a better cover...he is up close to the Leader..

Ernie J Freeman
Ernie J Freeman

We should only look at this in a positive view & that is Dennis Rodman is only bringing peace between unlikely nations together! We all like sports or casual entertaining activities.

Kane Mcmighty
Kane Mcmighty

It is, why would anyone want to go near the little fat brat...

GeorgeDumblione
GeorgeDumblione

"Don't define people by the paths they choose?" Wtf is wrong with you?

tonyquan
tonyquan

This is a misconception.  The US government doesn't bar travel to North Korea, and the North Korean government routinely gives visas to US citizens to allow them to visit North Korea.  The only restriction is that to visit North Korea, you must fly in from China and your travel must be set up with one of a few travel agencies authorized by the North Korean government.  


See this article:  http://travel.cnn.com/how-travel-north-korea-042681

tkulaga
tkulaga

@Crewdogg15American troops in harms way in South Korea are all volunteers. The draft ended in early 70's. If any US troop does not like being there or anywhere else for that matter, he/she should not have enlisted and should not re-enlist.

Vanessa'Satsu'Faye
Vanessa'Satsu'Faye

@tkulaga@Crewdogg15You could say they are forced to be there based on their own moral grounds. Think of it like witnessing a mugging on the street. Are you just going to turn a blind eye because you're not technically required to do anything about it?