Dennis Rodman In North Korea For The Holidays, With Bestie Kim Jong-un
Nothing says holiday spirit like the firm friendship between an eccentric ex-NBA star and a reclusive dictator. Yup, the bizarre love-fest between Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un continues: On Thursday, Rodman flew to Pyonyang to finish training the North Korean basketball team. He'll also help organize the Jan. 8 game for Kim's birthday, which is scheduled to involve 12 ex-NBA players.
A basketball match between America and North Korea? What could go wrong? Well, good old Kim has reportedly had his ex-girlfriend and uncle executed this year... so he'll probably take a loss on the courts just fine.
Rodman told press: "I've come over to see my friend, and people always give me a little hard time about me saying that. I'm very proud to say he's my friend, because he hasn't done anything to put a damper, to say any negative things about my country."
Not strictly true: Last year, Kim threatened to annihilate America with a nuclear weapon.
The visit comes less than a week after Kim apparently executed his uncle, once one of the most powerful men in North Korean politics, for treason, womanizing, doing drugs and gambling. Aside from treason, Rodman has a history of all of the above.
Still, Rodman insists he's there to have fun. And despite the efforts of human-rights organizations to persuade him to talk to Kim about violations against both North Korean and American citizens, Rodman doesn't want to entangle himself with political issues — human rights, executions, or otherwise.
"It has nothing to do with me," Rodman said. "I mean, whatever his uncle has done, and whoever's done anything in North Korea, I have no control over that. I mean, these things have been going on for years and years and years. I'm just going over there to do a basketball game and have some fun."
The U.S. government is also very quick to point out that in no way do they have anything to do with this trip (which, randomly enough, was actually organized by the Irish betting agency Paddy Power) or Rodman's friendship with Kim.
"Dennis Rodman is not a representative of the US government in his trip to North Korea," Department of State spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “We need to focus on what's really important here when it comes to North Korea ... The brutality of the North Korean regime he's going to meet.”
The two have been friends ever since a VIBE-produced HBO documentary brought Rodman over the pond with the Harlem Globetrotters last March. When Rodman returns with a different basketball team in January, he says he'll have "done his job" if the players come away saying "really, really nice things, some really cool things about the country."
"North Korea has given me the opportunity to bring these players and their families over here, so people can actually see, so these players can actually see, that this country is actually not as bad as people project it to be in the media," Rodman said.
And never let it be said that Rodman isn't taking his position as inadvertent diplomat seriously. As we reported when Rodman returned from his trip to North Korea earlier this year:
“Syria, really?!” declared Rodman at a press event Monday. “Why, Obama, are you afraid to talk to Dennis Rodman? You’re not afraid to talk to Beyoncé and Jay-Z — why not me? I’m pretty important now, right?”