A source from rural North Hamkyung Province has revealed how ordinary North Korean people felt about the appearance of former NBA star Dennis Rodman and the members of the Harlem Globetrotters when they visited North Korea last week. The answer? Not so good!
The source told Daily NK on the 5th, “The news about a top group of U.S. basketball stars visiting North Korea spread like wildfire, but when they saw the team on TV, for many it was as if they were looking at some kind of ‘American mafia’!”
“The people here, who are raised on a diet of propaganda about the U.S. being a ‘rotten culture’ populated by a ‘bunch of delinquents’, were asking each other ‘where did they find that group of goblins?’ and ‘So they invited those scandalous individuals here and then held a No.1 Event [an event featuring the North Korean leader]?’” the source went on to recall. “They were really shocked by the image of a guy with not only earrings but also pierced lips and tattoos everywhere, even on the palms of his hands.”
In North Korea, piercings and tattoos are generally portrayed as symbolic of the yellow wind of capitalism. Tattoos have also long been associated with criminal culture across East Asia more broadly, so the reaction of people from the region’s least globalized society is hardly surprising.
Rodman and the Harlem Globetrotters were in North Korea for four days, though Rodman left early. The basketball game at which he and Kim sat together took place on the 28th, and was repeated on Chosun Central TV on the 4th. The group also visited the full range of regime propaganda sites during their brief stay, including Keumsusan Sun’s Palace, where the embalmed remains of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie in state.