We may have angered one backwater totalitarian dictatorship with nuclear ambitions by having our First Lady award the Oscar for Best Picture to Argo, but the United States is bent on avoiding the same embarrassment with another.
As part of filming an HBO special that will air later this year, America is sending former basketball star and current reality show casting list mainstay Dennis Rodman (along with three members of the Harlem Globetrotters) to North Korea on a “basketball diplomacy” mission.
Arriving in Pyongyang, the American athlete and showman known as “The Worm” became an unlikely ambassador for sports diplomacy at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. Or maybe not so unlikely: Young leader Kim Jong Un is said to have been a fan of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, when Rodman won three championships with the club…
Rodman and VICE’s producers said the Americans hope to engage in a little “basketball diplomacy” by running a basketball camp for children and playing with North Korea’s top basketball stars.
The State Department told the Associated Press they were not informed directly of Rodman’s visit, and that Americans who pay for and conduct their own travel privately are still free to visit there, though North Korea is unlikely to receive them with happiness and parades. But if anything can smooth relations over, it would be a member of the Chicago Bulls basketball team. Both Kim Jong Un and his late father Kimg Jong Il were (and are) obsessed with Michael Jordan and the Bulls’ 90s-era success, and the country celebrates American basketball alongside it’s own propaganda. North Korea even has a 7-foot-2 “basketball star” who, last year, changed his name to “Michael” in honor of Jordan. So, you know, progress.