Dennis Rodman serenades Kim Jong Un for the North Korean dictator’s 31st birthday, sealing Rodman’s position as a lightning rod because of his controversial visits and remarks about North Korea, the Los Angeles Times reported on Jan. 8.
Rodman, now on his third visit to North Korea within the last year, meantime drew heavy criticism from the family of American missionary Kenneth Bae, who has been detained in North Korea since November 2012, allegedly for "hostile acts" and attempting to foment a coup, ABC News reported. The Bae family says Rodman’s remarks about the American detainee undermine efforts to secure his freedom, when Rodman could instead be helping their cause with his so-called “basketball diplomacy.”
Rodman angrily brushed off growing criticism over his visits to North Korea and his apparent friendship with Kim, who recently ordered the execution of his own uncle. Amidst the criticism, video footage shows Rodman as he serenades Kim on Wednesday with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” in a gym before an exhibition basketball game featuring fellow ex-NBA players alongside a local North Korean team, as stern looking spectators watch.
A tour guide who is traveling with Rodman’s group described the events as Rodman serenaded Kim, and a video was posted by Koryo Tours, which arranges visits to North Korea, calling it a “trip of a lifetime.” The guide, Simon Cockerell, described the event as a “bizarre and unusual occasion.”
For some, the video as Rodman serenades Kim sealed their disgust for the basketball player, including several members of Congress and, of course, the Bae family. North Korea is considered one of the world’s most repressive regimes, and last year made a series of threats about using nuclear weapons.
Rodman previously slammed President Obama over North Korea and has tweeted Kim, whom he has called his “best friend.”