Georgia University professor says Rodman’s trip to North Korea might actually be helpful


rodman-kim-4Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman’s unexpected visit to North Korea and his kind words about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un may turn out to be good for the prospects of peace, according to a University of Georgia professor who’s one of the world’s leading experts on the communist nation, OnlineAthens reported.

“This may open up the door a little bit wider for both sides, which is in my point of view a good thing, to have better mutual understanding,” said Han Park, director of UGA’s Center for the Study of Global Issues.

Park has for many years been a behind-the-scenes negotiator between North Korea and the United States during times of crisis.

A 1994 meeting Park helped arrange between former President Jimmy Carter with North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung may have actually averted war, some historians believe.

In 2009, Park set the stage for former President Bill Clinton to get two U.S. journalists out of North Korean custody.

In a peculiar way, Rodman also may have set the stage for more peaceful interaction between the two countries, Park said Monday as he got ready to tape an interview with ESPN about Rodman’s trips and subsequent comments.

“I love the guy. He’s awesome. He’s so honest,” Rodman said of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the world’s youngest head of state.

Rodman’s trip could help promote more contact between the two countries, which could promote better understanding, Park said.

“The impact will be there, but it will be marginal,” he said.

Rodman won five NBA championships and was the NBA’s leading rebounder for seven straight years, but may be better known for his affair with Madonna, his brief marriage to Carmen Electra and his multiple body piercings and tattoos.

Rodman played in 911 NBA games (573 started), averaging 7.3 points and 13.1 rebounds per game. He also won 5 NBA championships (2 with Detroit Pistons, three with Chicago Bulls).

Rodman had his best rebounding season with the Detroit Pistons in 91-92, when he led the league in rebounds per game, with 18.7 rpg.

He was a two-time All-Star, and won the “Defensive Player of the Year” award twice, in 89-90 and 90-91. He led the NBA in rebounds per game 7 times.

“Does Dennis Rodman represent the United States? I don’t know,” Park said. But the North Korean people could get that impression, he said.

Rodman said he liked Kim Jong Un because he is a basketball fan, and it’s no surprise to Park that the young ruler differs from his father and grandfather, who ruled North Korea from 1948 to 2011.

Kim Jong Un spent four years in a Swiss private school where classes were taught in English, Park said. “He is not unaware of what’s going on in Western Europe, and he has some command of English. So he knows the world.”

Rodman was accurate when he said the North Korean leader doesn’t want war with the United States, Park said.

“He’s very insistent about this view — North Korea as a sovereign state is entitled to the means of national defense. He knows other states are doing pretty much the same thing. Why is North Korea picked out for penalties (the leader asks),” Park said. “He is definitely realizing that he needs economic development. He would like to see relations improve with the United States.”

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