Rodman Says He Won't Go Back to North Korea

Monday, 10 Mar 2014 02:04 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is insisting he visited North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un, twice to "do happy things," not to create any controversy, but he won't go back if that's what people want.

Rodman two months ago paid a birthday visit to the North Korean dictator, holding an exhibition basketball game with other NBA stars and singing "Happy Birthday" to him. But in a recent interview with ESPN's Mark Schwarz, Rodman insisted his motives were pure, and he wishes people "understood the whole purpose of why I went to North Korea."

He doesn't think his trips make him a bad or immoral person, even if he went after Kim's decision to execute his powerful uncle, Jang Song-taek, and during the country's imprisoning of American Kenneth Bae.

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"What makes me so damn bad?" Rodman told Schwarz. "What makes me this bad, awful person? At least someone tried."

Rodman said he doesn't "want to be a hero; I don't want to be this, I don't want to be that. I just wanted to be, just do happy things and do great things in life. That's all I wanted to do. That's it."

But shortly after he returned to the United States in January to face a firestorm of criticism for his association with Kim, Rodman became the subject of a federal investigation for possibly violating U.S. and international sanctions by bringing more than $10,000 in luxury birthday gifts for the 31-year-old leader.

Reportedly, Rodman brought his North Korean friend hundreds of dollars worth of Irish Jameson whiskey, European crystal, an Italian suit, fur coat, an English Mulberry handbag for Kim's wife, Ri Sol Ju, as well as at least several bottles of his own liquor brand, Bad Ass Vodka.

But U.N. Security Resolution 1718, which was adopted in 2006 after North Korea's nuclear test, bans the export of "luxury goods" to North Korea. In addition, an American law called the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, also makes it illegal to export luxury goods to North Korea.

Rodman also has had some time to think about his trip, spending three weeks in a New Jersey alcohol rehabilitation facility shortly after his return. He claims he didn't seek treatment for alcoholism, but to "decompress from all the things I was going through." He plans to return to the facility every six months for evaluation.

But he insisted to ESPN that he doesn't want people to consider him "the devil or evil person," and if he put anyone in harm's way, he's sorry.

"If you don't want me to go back there ever again, I won't go back," he told Schwarz, looking at the camera filming the interview and waving his arms.

Rodman, who won championships playing with the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls, also created controversy during an angry outburst on CNN after he returned from North Korea, angrily defending his decision to take the team of former NBA players and saying he went because he "loves" his friend Kim Jong Un.

"It's a great idea for the world. And people always turn down the things I do," he complained to CNN's "New Day" host Chris Cuomo. "Why? I love my friend. I love my friend. This is my friend."

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