Former NBA star Dennis Rodman gave North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife with US$10,000 worth of gifts, including expensive whiskey and luxury handbags. Rodman brought an entourage of former pro basketball players to Pyongyang on Jan. 7 to play in a friendly marking Kim's 30th birthday.
Dennis Halpin at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies said the total cost of the gifts was "reportedly well over $10,000” and included "several hundred dollars' worth of Irish Jameson whiskey." The bling also included European crystal, a fur coat, Italian clothing and a Mulberry handbag.
Jameson's whiskey costs between $30 and $1,300 per bottle varying by age and type. Halpin said the whiskey was included among the gifts because Irish betting company Paddy Power sponsored Rodman's trip to North Korea.
Paddy Power later withdrew its sponsorship after news of Rodman's trip stirred up international controversy.
The Mulberry bag Rodman gave Ri was made in the U.K. When the U.S. website Business Insider surveyed the 130 most-searched luxury women's handbag brands on the Internet in 2012, Mulberry ranked eighth. The most expensive version of the Suffolk handbag, Mulberry's top product, costs 5,000 pounds and the latest Mulberry tote bag sold at Harrod's in London 1,600 pounds.
Halpin, who was an Asia expert at the U.S. House International Relations Committee, said Rodman appears "oblivious" to the starvation, human rights abuses, political prison camps and nuclear provocations of North Korea and "unconcerned" that he may be violating UN sanctions with his gifts.
UN Security Council Resolution 2094, adopted in March last year after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test, includes jewelry and other luxury goods among banned exports to the North.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Washington would look into whether Rodman's gifts violated international sanctions.
In an editorial, the Washington Post called Rodman's trip "flagrant foul behavior" and criticized the ex-NBA star of "serving as a propagandist for one of the world's cruelest and most brutal dictators."