Korea, Rodman style

Dennis Rodman’s skill as a basketball All-Star is matched by his penchant for making “outrageous” statements that hit home — to use a metaphor from another sport. In other words, he often says what others may be thinking but dare not utter out loud.

He has certainly touched a prickly nerve of the U.S. imperialist foreign policy establishment by going to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, not once, but twice now. And he has plans to return with a team of All-Star and Hall of Fame players from the U.S. to put on an exhibition game with the north Koreans.

The explosion of media attacks and slurs against him — all the way from the straight-laced channels and newspapers to the supposedly hip comics and “alternate” media — was to be expected.

It was a publicity stunt, say some. He is just promoting himself. But why would they vilify him for that? Isn’t that what all celebrities are supposed to do? U.S. culture is 98 percent based on promoting the latest superstar.

Rodman had the audacity to say nice things about the 30-year-old leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong Un. This really drives the media nuts. Hello? Are U.S. cultural figures supposed to insult foreign heads of state they meet? If they go to Saudi Arabia, or Turkey, or France for that matter, are they required to make snide remarks to reporters about their hosts? But it seems that different rules apply when the country visited is the DPRK.

In reports about Rodman’s visits, the media here love to describe north Korea as a “hermit kingdom,” meaning that it isolates itself. Hello again? They invited Rodman in, didn’t they? TV talk show hosts gasp, as though it’s impossible to go there. But Workers World for years has had articles and interviews with people who have visited the DPRK — U.S. citizens as well as people from south Korea. It must really enrage the National Security Agency minders who read our paper that we greatly admire the accomplishments of the DPRK, which has a socialist economic system.

Korea has been divided since the end of World War II, when U.S. troops occupied the south. They have remained ever since. The Korean people, north and south, passionately want reunification. Every political party has to profess its support for reunification, at least on paper. Not to do so would enrage the people, who have been divided from their relatives on the opposite sides of the demilitarized zone for almost seven decades now.

However, it is a crime in the south for its citizens to visit the north. Actually, under the National Security Law there, it’s a crime just to possess postcards of the north’s beautiful capital city, Pyongyang. Several leaders of the United Progressive Party, which has representatives in the south’s legislature, are in jail today on charges of “treason.” One of the accusations against them is that they praised the north.

If the media here are worried that the DPRK is “isolated,” why don’t they demand that the south let its people visit the north, so they can see the situation for themselves?

South Korean troops at the demilitarized zone that separates the two halves of Korea just shot and killed a south Korean man they said was trying to “sneak” across the border into the north. (New York Times, Sept. 16) “Sneaking” is the only way they can go, unless they are among the very few south Korean managers and officials who get permission to work in a special economic zone located in the north that is operated by both sides.

All these facts are totally ignored when the mass media, forced to cover something as newsworthy as Rodman’s trips, talk about the situation in Korea. All the old clichés come out and are repeated as fact: the people in the north are starving, it’s a brutal dictatorship that imprisons huge numbers in concentration camps, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

None of this is true. The DPRK has survived 65 years of military attacks and pressure from U.S. imperialism not by oppressing its people but because the people are united and ready to fight for their country and their socialist system. And the Pentagon knows it — they suffered their first defeats at the hands of the north Koreans, after the U.S. invaded in 1950.

Despite three years of that most brutal war, followed by sanctions meant to cripple their economy and annual war exercises by the U.S., south Korea and now Japan right off their shores, the north Koreans have made great material progress while building up a strong defense.

What is the basis for this unity and determination? Korea’s socialist system, which is based on public ownership of the means of production, not private property and the profit motive. There are no billionaires in the DPRK, no 1% growing richer at the expense of the 99%.

Of course, to the corporate U.S. media, this is the greatest crime ever. And so they are outraged when a Black man from the U.S., who is supposed to be grateful for what he has achieved, pokes a hole in the web of lies they have constructed about a small but stalwart, independent Asian country — and refuses to apologize for it.