NORTH KOREA: Change of Heart Through Basketball?

Last week, former NBA star Dennis Rodman visited North Korea, watched a basketball game with Kim Jong-un, and in the process showed that there may be hope for better relations between North Koreans and Americans, if not between the governments themselves.

Rodman came to North Korea to work on a documentary with Vice Media, the edgy Brooklyn-based media conglomerate. The game was Vice’s idea, and they even brought the Harlem Globetrotters to play a North Korean team in Pyongyang. Rodman didn’t play, but sat with Kim as they watched the game.

Although the match-up ended in a tie, it’s still a victory. Everyone seemed to enjoy the game, animosity between Americans and North Koreans appeared absent, and Rodman and Kim grew seemingly close to each other. Rodman even declared Kim a personal companion of his. The two also discussed the possibility of future games between North Korea and the United States.

It’s also worth noting that the anti-American sentiment typically found in North Korean news articles was absent in those about Rodman and his visit. But the biggest victory won that night was a possible opening of the lines of communication between North Korea and the United States. After returning from his trip, Rodman relayed a request from Kim. He has mentioned that Kim would like to have a conversation with the President, and apparently would rather not fight the United States. Rodman also stated that he hopes to visit North Korea again to visit the new and somewhat unlikely companion he found in Kim last week. This may lead to more openness and less tension between the United States and North Korea, as long as nobody fouls things up.

Update: Rodman’s magic may have limits, as North Korea ramped up its war talk in the week following Rodman’s return, going so far as to suggest a preemptive nuclear strike against the U.S. was on the table.

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