Like several of my readers, I had additional questions after I filed last week’s column, “Mr. Rodman goes to Pyongyang.” If you’ll remember, during his recent overseas trip with Vice Media, former basketball star Dennis Rodman became possibly the only American to ever meet North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un face-to-face. If I was baffled, I wondered what residents of the Korean Peninsula must be thinking.
Luckily, I have a primary source at my disposal. For the last six years, my friend and college roommate, Jonathan, has lived and worked in South Korea, educating the youth there in the ways of the English language. To get a better understanding of the situation on the ground, I asked Jonathan to conduct a man-on-the-street interview for me. Before he did, he told me there might be complications.
“I don’t think most Koreans know enough about who Rodman is or how crazy all the stuff he has done before was,” he told me. “Unfortunately, the meeting has now been further complicated by Kim Jong-un’s threats to turn Washington and Seoul in Sea(s) of Fire since the U.N. sanctions are going forward in response to their third nuclear test.”
A few days later, I received a string of messages from Jonathan. It seems in the meantime, he had interviewed Mr. Sang-Yoon Cho (“James”), 42, a resident of Gunpo, a city in Gyeonggi Province, located about an hour south of Seoul.
“At first, when I heard that story on television, I was so surprised. [I remembered America’s] ping-pong [diplomacy] with China, so at first I thought it might be like that [but with basketball.] If Rodman really decided to visit North Korea by himself, it is ridiculous,” said James. “In my case, [if I want to go up there], I have to get permission from the [South Korean] government. If I [went] up there [without permission], when I came back I [would] have to go to jail.”