Dennis Rodman: People Will 'Kiss My Ass' When North Korea Democratizes

Dennis Rodman: People Will 'Kiss My Ass' When North Korea Democratizes

Dennis Rodman is patiently waiting for the moment when the West credits him for single-handedly opening up North Korea to the rest of the world. The former basketball star and failed vigilante-diplomat told ESPN’s Mark Schwarz that he “hated” America’s reaction to his trip to the country, but apologized “if I put anybody in harm’s way.”

Rodman, who returned from the limelight after a hiatus and trip to rehab, told Schwarz that he had high hopes for North Korea. “It’s so intriguing to hear him talk about sports,” Rodman told Schwarz of the nation’s dictator, Kim Jong-Un, the foremost violator of human rights in the world. Rodman insisted that Kim was “moving to the twenty-first century,” and added that he was “hoping for, long term, it does open,” referring to the North Korean state. He insisted that he expected the state to fully open, and “if it does happen, watch all these people kiss my ass.”

Rodman was not all bravado, however. He also expressed some remorse, particularly regarding his handling of the case of American citizen Kenneth Bae, imprisoned in North Korea without being charged of a crime. During his last trip to the country, CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Rodman about the case during an interview, and received an aggressive defense of Kim Jong-Un, with Rodman repeatedly asking Cuomo, “Do you know what he did?” Rodman seemed to apologize specifically for that interview by apologizing for “being on TV having drinks and stuff like that and saying something that people thought was way out of line.” He did have an explanation for it, however: he was not asking Cuomo that question rhetorically. “I said, ‘Do you know what he did?’–I didn’t know what the hell he did!”

Asked whether he was responsible for knowing more about the terrors of the North Korean regime before promoting their government, Rodman did not agree that he did. “I don’t want to be a hero. I don’t want to be this. I don’t want to be that,” he said to Schwarz, “I just want to do happy things and do great things in life.” He added an apology “if I ever put anybody in harm’s way,” and promised he “would never go back there” if such a person requested it.

Rodman has retreated from the limelight since his return from North Korea after traveling to the country to organize an exhibition basketball game for the nation’s dictator, Kim Jong-Un. A number of those players, including Charles Smith and Kenny Anderson, have expressed remorse or outright apologized for making the voyage. The trip not only embroiled Rodman in the Kenneth Bae affair–Bae was forced to work in a penal colony despite various health problems and is now detained in a state hospital–but coincided with the execution of the nation’s second-in-command, Kim’s uncle Jang Song-Thaek. Rodman said of Kim Jong-un upon being confronted with the purges following Jang’s execution, “He’s my f—ing friend. I love him.” 

Watch a segment of the interview with Rodman via ESPN here.