Rodman dismisses politics, expected to train North Korea’s team for 4 days

dennis-rodman-conferenceFormer NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman said on Thursday, December 19, that North Korea’s politics were not his business as he prepared to visit his “friend” Kim Jong Un.

Speaking to Reuters at his hotel in Beijing before boarding a minibus to the airport, Rodman said he was looking forward to seeing supreme leader Kim Jong Un again.

“I felt like, you know, we’ve been friends for years, so it’s like, I haven’t seen him in a few months, so it will be cool, it will be cool to see him again. I mean, we have a good time together,” he said.

Rodman has visited Pyongyang on two other occasions, during which he spent time dining as a Kim’s guest.

But his third trip comes amid political tension surrounding the execution of leader Kim’s uncle.

In a rare admission of factionalism within the North Korean government, Jang Song Thaek was purged and then executed last week – a period South Korean President Park Geun-hye described as a “reign of terror”.

“It has nothing to do with me, it has nothing to do with me. 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 mean, whoever is going to be a political insider over there, from America or somewhere else in the world wants to come over there and try to get a hold of it, great. But I’m just going over there to do a basketball game and have some fun,” Rodman said.

On December 18, prominent North Korean rights activist Shin Dong Hyuk, who says he was born in a labor camp before escaping to the South, sent an open letter asking Rodman to use his friendship to help Kim “hear the cries of his people.”

When asked about Shin and the letter, Rodman said it wasn’t his business. However, Rodman appeared instead to refer to Kenneth Bae, the Korean-American Christian missionary who was arrested in North Korea last year and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for plotting to overthrow the government.

“Like I told you, I really don’t pay attention to it. It’s the fact that, I think that the Marshall has heard of everything in the world and his country, I think that’s there’s nothing that I could say to him to make him forthcoming to release him, or do anything that’s going to endanger the lives of the camera crew here and the lives of other people, so I have no control over that. So you know,” he said.

Asked whether he would raise the human rights situation in the North, Rodman said it wasn’t his place.

“If it happens that he wants to talk about it, great. If it doesn’t happen, I just can’t bring it up. Because I don’t want him to think that I’m over here trying to be an ambassador and trying to use him as being his friend, and then all of a sudden I’m starting talking about politics. It’s not going to be that way,” he said.

Rodman is expected to provide North Korea’s national basketball team with four days of training.

He also intends to return to Pyongyang in January with a team of fellow former National Basketball Association stars to hold basketball games on Kim Jong Un’s birthday.

In Washington, a State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, sought to distance the U.S. government from Rodman’s visit.

Rodman played in 911 NBA games (573 started), averaging 7.3 points and 13.1 rebounds per game. He also won 5 NBA championships (2 with Detroit Pistons, three with Chicago Bulls).

Rodman had his best rebounding season with the Detroit Pistons in 91-92, when he led the league in rebounds per game, with 18.7 rpg.

He was a two-time All-Star, and won the “Defensive Player of the Year” award twice, in 89-90 and 90-91. He led the NBA in rebounds per game 7 times.


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